Articles Tagged with plan

Don’t let your hangover be the only awareness of your award win

An award win gives you a big opportunity to obtain press coverage.
If you’re a finalist, Robert Zarywacz suggests preparing in advance so you don’t waste your big moment.

It’s the morning after the regional awards. What a hangover! But what a win! And, boy, did we celebrate!” 

(Enough to warrant three exclamation marks.) 

“Now it’s time to tell everyone about how great we are. I’ll just get another cup of coffee and sit down to write the press release.”

pressme: Don’t let your hangover be the only awareness of your award win

Make best PR use of your award win

It can be a big achievement to win an award and it’s definitely useful for obtaining media coverage, but an award win isn’t always enough on its own.

As our bleary-eyed winner sits down to compose their press release at 9.30am on the morning after, a journalist on their target publication has already been writing an article on these awards since 9.00am.

What’s more, another four businesses won awards last night, one of them winning two awards, so they are going to be the main focus of the newspaper article. The journalist has received a press release from one of the other winners and has already spoken to the winner of the two awards.

Add to this press releases sent to the newspaper from two other businesses which have each won national awards that outrank the regional awards, and our friend’s press release is an also-ran even before it’s written.

Does this really happen? Yes, this is based on my experience as a journalist when I observed award winners working to get my attention when it was too late.

Now, there are other ways of generating publicity from winning an award – in newsletters to customers, on social media and on web sites – but free coverage in the press and media is usually worth a lot. Think how much you would pay to advertise.

What can you do to improve your chances of media coverage?

Plan – write your winner’s press release before the awards event. You won’t be able to put in all the details, such as judges’ comments, although ask the awards organisers at the event when you have been named a winner. Get as much material as you can in advance.

Competitors – you will not be the only award winner. What makes you different? Will you win two awards? Will it be the third year you’ve won this award? Have you won other awards this year? What is it that will get you noticed by journalists so that your story becomes the focus of their awards articles?

Photos – usually an official photographer takes photos at awards ceremonies. Find out how the press can obtain photos of your award win. Sometimes photos can be a pain to obtain, so any help you can give journalists will make their job easier.

Move fast – contact the media as soon as you can. If the awards were announced during an evening event, do it first thing the following morning. Remember our journalist who was writing the article at 9am. You may be hungover, but the journalist will probably have a clear head and be writing to a deadline.

Respond – if a journalist calls you or emails, respond immediately. They’ll have other articles to write if they can’t get a response from you.

With a small amount of preparation you can do a lot to help your chances of getting media coverage of your awards wins. And that’s another reason to celebrate.

How firm is your footprint in the social media sand?

How firm is your footprint in the social media sand?Whoosh! Look at the timeline flying past.

A blog that has taken hours, maybe days to formulate and minutes or hours to write pops up on Twitter or Facebook and rushes past in a second.

Trying to catch hold of a post reminds me of my puppy when trying to trap moving water with his paw: it was there a moment a go, but where is it now?

Dissolving in the tide

We can lay footprints in the social media sand, but how long do they last before the tide washes their features away and we have to create another impression, then another and another?

The torrent can seem relentless.

And it’s not just social media but all forms of communication.

Plan and breathe

That’s why planning and preparation are essential.

Where can we find new ideas, a different twist on an old theme, a photo of a familiar scene at a different angle?

Drawing up a schedule for most forms of communication provides control, lets us plan and gives us time to breathe.

It also creates the space necessary for inspiration and lets those ideas we seek tumble into our minds. Where do they come from? Why weren’t they there before?

We can use these ideas in our social media, blogging, PR and marketing.

Ride the waves

We can’t fix our presence, as the sand starts blowing away as soon as we make an impression, but if we plan and schedule we can ride the social media wave and catch those moments that thrill.

How sure must we be of facts?

If a customer asks for a written quotation, most businesses will honour it, even if they attach a time limit to it.

If a customer places an order on the basis of that quotation, they’ll very likely get angry if they get charged more or lots of extras are added without warning. Depending on the wording, they could even take the business to court if they had been misled.

Is there any difference with PR? Not really. Even if what we say is vague, people are likely to remember it and hold us to it. If we maintain we made a spur-of-the-moment remark, it does our reputation no good to withdraw it. Will people trust us again? Probably not.

That’s why it’s important to ensure that information we give out publicly – in a press release, article or spoken interview – is accurate.

Don’t be tempted if you’re not sure

Sometimes journalists will press for figures, especially if they seem impressive. It can be very tempting to blurt them out, like a bee unable to resist sweet honey, but the negative publicity if we get it wrong could be damaging. We could say our profits had increased by 15% and then find they had actually fallen by 5%. Not a good idea.

And remember not to mention sensitive information, especially if it has to be approved by a third party. If a partner organisation or customer or supplier finds out that we have given out information about them that they considered confidential, it could be disaster for our business.

We need to be sure of our facts before making them public.

Keep data at hand

If you find it hard to remember details, create a one-page summary of key information about your business or specific projects on your laptop, tablet device or phone or print it out to carry with you so you always have it to hand.

Build a checklist for details and data into your PR plan so that it becomes part of your business process and you are always prepared for journalists’ questions.

And remember that in the long run it is usually better to say we don’t know the answer rather than fudging it and looking stupid later.

 

What can I say about my business?

When everyone else already seems to be saying everything that could possibly be said about business, there are times when the choice of going outside and enjoying the sunshine can appear preferable to thinking about something original to say about your own business.

However, no business survives without customers and most of us have to promote or advertise our products and services to attract those customers.

So what can you say that hasn’t already been said a million times before?

Ideas rarely come out of thin air, so it’s good to start with your business plan and objectives, as all communications should be based on these. If you’ve got a communications plan, this should also give some ideas of what you want to achieve.

Start by listing topics based around products, services, launches, events, achievements, changes or industry developments. If your business is seasonal, do you change your products every quarter? If your business is linked to events triggered within your industry, list key changes about to occur or important dates. If you have product launches or events, list these too.

When you’ve made your list, start to fit these to dates when you need to blog about them, issue a press release, update your web site or produce a new brochure. If you don’t already have a communications plan, this could be the basis of one.

Announcements don’t need to be major, although the appointment of a junior employee is unlikely to hit the broadsheet newspapers and you should have realistic expectations of what each piece of news is capable of achieving. That doesn’t stop you aiming as high as possible, especially when you do have a really good story.

Also, you may have a great story without knowing it. Ask colleagues or contacts what they think about specific issues. If they’re excited about them, will your audience also be interested in them? What appears uninteresting to you could be exciting to your audience.

By creating a store of ideas, which you can add to regularly, you’ll never be short of an interesting topic to write or talk about.

After yesterday’s blog, have you thought about how well you check your written material?

z2zine tomorrow: Think before engaging typing finger!

Follow us on twitter @z2zine

Measuring your communications success

So we’ve developed a communications plan and are putting it into practice by working towards long-term goals and taking short-term actions daily, but how do we know if anything’s working?

Like anything we do in business, it’s essential to measure success, especially where we’re putting a lot of time or money into an activity.

Our business plan will suggest appropriate targets to us, but we have to work out how to tell if we are meeting these.

There are many different ways of measuring the success of communications. One of the simplest is to ask people, such as asking customers how they found out about your company or product. You can do this in person or on the phone or develop a more comprehensive survey for people to fill in.

You can also develop specific response mechanisms so that customers respond with a unique code printed in an advert (letting you know they saw that advert) or access a special web page so you can count how many responses your activity generated. While simply measuring increases in responses or sales tells you that your communications are working, it won’t tell you why it’s working or which activities work better than others. If you advertise in three publications, it’s useful to know which one generates a bigger response as you might wish to increase your advertising in that one and stop advertising in the other two. You can use this in any form of communication, not just for advertising and marketing.

By discovering what works best, you can focus on successful methods and stop or improve less productive activities. Your planning and use of communications will become more sophisticated and you will get more value from your communications budget.

After our last blog, are you taking action every day?

z2zine next Monday: Realistic communication objectives

Follow us on twitter @z2zine

Moving your plan forward

If you’ve been doing everything we’ve discussed so far, your communications should be starting to work effectively for your business.

Knowing what we want to achieve, being clear about how we’re going to achieve it and working on our communications every day ensure that we continue to progress, even when we’re busy with client work. Having a plan and doing a little towards it, even just 10 minutes a day, is good practice. It helps to keep us focused on what’s important, reminds us to keep in touch with customers and makes sure all our material is up to date.

Some elements of the plan will probably be long term and, especially if they are major projects, progress can seem slow. Perhaps you’re building a new web site, writing a business book, developing an employee communications programme, all of which can take a lot of time. It’s important not to be put off by this and to continue with daily tasks so that short, medium and long-term activities continue in parallel. As long as your development work continues behind the scenes then your web site, book or employee programme will be launched on target to achieve your aims.

Effective communication requires daily action. As your activity increases, you will start achieving your objectives and need to update your plan to set new ones. This will be easier as you’ll know what questions to ask and will have seen what works, what doesn’t and what can be improved.

After our last blog, have you started writing?

z2zine tomorrow: Measuring your success

Follow us on twitter @z2zine

Continuous communication with a plan

Last week I went to see a production of The Wizard of Oz that was very slick, probably because the cast had rehearsed the show again and again to make their hard work look very easy. This can also apply to communication, especially the production of marketing and promotional materials.

Some people are natural writers with the ability to jot down text almost without thinking, while others can stand up in front of hundreds of people and deliver an informative and entertaining off-the-cuff presentation, but many people probably can’t do either or lack the confidence to try. That’s where planning and preparation come in. While tight deadlines can aid creativity to some extent, they can also result in slapdash presentation full of errors when there really isn’t enough time to do a job properly.

Focusing on deadlines and schedules enables you to manage communications more effectively.

Deadlines vary from hours and days for the internet to weeks and months for magazines and up to a year for annual directories. What’s important is to find out what the deadlines are for relevant publications, to put the dates in your diary and to schedule your activity so you get everything done in time.

Creating a communication or marketing plan is useful because you can see from it in an instant when a specific trade journal is published or an event takes place and what the deadline is if you want your contribution included. It’s easy to forget deadlines when you’re busy with other aspects of business, only to remember when the magazine drops on to your desk without the article or advert you wanted in it.

Planning also enables your communications to continue when you are busy.

It can also prevent a stop-go pattern from developing when you don’t have much time to keep your communications flowing. Many activities, such as blogging, web sites, articles and PR, can actually be more effective when you do a little on a regular basis rather than leaving large intervals when you do nothing.

What should I include in my plan?

The planning process should raise important questions, such as: What do I want to achieve for my business? What activities will achieve these objectives? When do I need to do them? Are they working? Your business objectives should suggest some of the answers and, if you’re not clear about them, it’s worth spending time considering precisely what you want to achieve.

A communications plan can be as simple or as complex as you choose. A single side of A4 text is better than no plan at all. A spreadsheet or schedule linked to an automated diary or customer relationship management system sounds ideal, but only if you have the time to use it properly. Whatever you choose must work for you and it’s a waste of time to prepare a vast plan if you don’t have time to put it into action.

Knowing what activities to choose can be difficult and we will examine many of the options available in the coming days and weeks. What is important is to start thinking about what you want, what you need to do and how you will do it. This puts you firmly in control of your communications and enables you to start thinking about how you approach the actual activities.

Plan today

Just thinking about your communications will help you to start planning and preparing them effectively.

 

Marketing your business plan into action

We’re getting more enquiries from businesses needing to do something fast . . . a sales letter, a blog, revised web site text. Unsurprisingly, businesses in every sector are having to work harder to attract and retain clients, and their marketing tools need to be in good shape to help them do this.

Before we can write a sales letter or blog, we ask questions so that we understand clients’ objectives and usually the answers are in their business plan, if they have one. A useful business plan is one used to direct the business, not an academic exercise to please banks or lenders, which can often bear little resemblance to reality. Even a brief plan of a page or two can be effective.

A good plan will remind a business about its core objectives, key markets, required level of sales and other important targets. In a challenging marketplace, it’s useful to review your business plan and objectives, and modify it to reflect changing circumstances. For example, with the difficulties being experienced by sectors such as financial services and car manufacturing, should an existing focus on one of these be switched to another sector? It’s also possible for difficulties in a specific sector to open up new opportunities and the business plan can be adapted if you want to take advantage of these.

Businesses with an understanding of current market conditions and an up-to-date business plan can monitor their progress easily to see what is working and how they are doing against their targets. They can also see what is not working and stop or modify unsuccessful activities.

When you have clear objectives, know your target audience and understand what they want, it’s much easier to develop marketing tools that will put your plan into action and help it succeed.

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