Dos and Don’ts for your Profile Photo

    Dos and Don’ts for your Profile Photo

    If you’re one of those people who thinks that the new year is a good time to post an updated profile picture to your Pinterest page and other social media sites, I would agree. Visuals are a key component of many social networks. Let’s face it: We have all shaken our heads those unfortunate profile photos of people doing tequila shots in their bathrobe. Don’t let this be you.

    This is a short excerpt from a blog post written for Entrepreneur.com. Read the rest of the article.

    Pinterest Boards to Boost Your Brand

    Pinterest Boards to Boost Your Brand

    As a growing number of consumers jump on the Pinterest bandwagon, the opportunities to use the social-media site for business have grown exponentially.  What is Pinterest? The bulletin-board-style social image sharing website is a relatively new social-media phenomenon, created just two years ago and rapidly became one of the largest online social networks.

    This is a short excerpt from a blog post written for Entrepreneur.com. Read the rest of the article here.

    Reporter Services Can Be Key To Media Coverage

    Reporter Services Can Be Key To Media Coverage

    In a survey, the Society of New Communications Research, explored how media and journalism are evolving. In the study, journalists reported using more social media in their reporting including:

    • 78% of the journalists surveyed said they use company websites in their reporting
    • 75% use Facebook
    • 69% use Twitter
    • 54% use online video
    • 31% use LinkedIn

    In addition, 68% of journalists said that their reliance on social media has increased significantly, and 58% sometimes quote bloggers in stories.

    So what does all this mean to the small business owner? It means that effective use of social media is key and critical to being found and written about by the press. But to score these PR points and get reporters to respond to you in the first place, it pays to be proactive by signing up for reporter services such as HARO (Help A Reporter Out) and ProfNet.

    At least three times a day, I diligently check my email for queries from these sites showcasing serious reporters looking for qualified sources. I comb through the postings journalists have placed and respond with my best pitch — promoting myself, or one of my clients, as the perfect person to fit the bill.

    While services such as ProfNet and HARO can provide you with the opportunity to connect with reporters from top-tier media outlets, the chances of a writer using you as a source increase when you respond in the right ways, including:

    Go straight to the point and give the reporter what they ask for up front. If they request your two best tips, send them. Don’t tell the reporter to call you or email you for them.

    Make your bio short and specific. Avoid submitting endless paragraphs on all your fabulous achievements since grade school — reporters don’t have the time to sort through it all. To get their attention, write a few short sentences that show the journalist exactly why you would be a good source for their story and what, specifically, makes you an authority on the topic.

    Respond right away. Whenever possible, respond to a posted inquiry within two hours. Yes, I know you’re busy, and you have a life, but most reporters get hundreds of responses to a single request and are usually on a tight deadline. After a certain point, they stop looking. So if you want to be seen, be among the first to respond.

    While a well-written response to a reporter’s query can’t guarantee you a call back every time, just keeping these few small things in mind when you do reply can help you score big more often.

    Have you used reporter services? What results have you had? What has worked best? We would love to hear your comments.

    Build Brand Awareness With A Survey

    Build Brand Awareness With A Survey

    In today’s crowded media landscape, businesses are continually on the lookout for ways to stand apart from their competitors. Enter surveys, a cost-effective method to promote brand awareness. A survey worthy of media attention is more than just a few questions randomly asked. Instead, it’s a carefully crafted instrument that, when done right, can make the media sit up and take notice. Here are a few suggestions for making your survey something a busy editor will want to pick up publish.

    Use a combination of questions: “A common belief among people who use PR for coverage is that they have to ask quirky and zany questions,” says Nathan Richter, a senior PR pollster at Wakefield. While a few creative questions that grab an editor’s initial attention are fine, they need to be balanced with credible ones, which compel an editor to cover a story. For example: when online discount travel service Travelzoo.com sponsored a survey, they asked people more creative questions, such as, “Would you be willing to stand on a cross-country flight in order to save 50% off the cost of the airline ticket?” But they also asked more traditional market research questions, such as, “Do you expect to be traveling more or less than last year for the upcoming Fourth of July holiday?”

    Avoid obvious commercial messaging: Many PR executives and business owners assume that it’s OK to make their pitch a commercial message, so long as they put survey data behind it. “Not so,” says Richter. “If company X wants to be branded as the ‘hip’ company, they don’t write a press release with a headline that reads, ‘Survey shows company X is the hippest.’”

    Instead, make your release about the bigger picture of the survey and the story behind it. The idea is that by being the sponsor of a great story — not the star — you will achieve media coverage and visibility with your target market.

    Emphasize the scientific: As more businesspeople include surveys as part of their PR strategy, they are turning to do-it-yourself tools to accommodate their needs. But whether you conduct the survey yourself or hire a professional firm to conduct it on your behalf, to be credible, it needs to be conducted in a scientific manner. To emphasize to the media that the survey your company conducted is based in proper research protocols, Richter suggests it include:  

    • Name of the research vendor 
    • Margin of error
    • Dates the study was conducted
    • Sample size used
    • Methods used in conducting the survey

    Remember, the press and media are constantly on the lookout for relevant and timely surveys that they can “hook” a story around. Provide them with a well crafted, properly researched and interestingly reported study or survey and your company could find itself swimming in ink.

    eBooks: The New Darlings of Small-Business Branding

    eBooks: The New Darlings of Small-Business Branding

    In the world of small business marketing, it sometimes seems like there is a never-ending tension between the “what’s hot now” social media to do and the actual way to execute for maximum business benefit. Consider for example all the small businesses that have a Twitter account because they know they “should” but are really not using it effectively. The current darlings of small business branding — eBooks — are no exception.

    Despite their meteoric rise in popularity — American publishers reported that in February of 2011, eBooks ranked as the #1 format among all categories of trade publishing — I still find that many small business owners are confused about the part eBooks play in their overall marketing plan. Here are the four most common questions I get asked about using eBooks to build a small business’s brand.

    1. What exactly is an eBook?

    In short, an eBook (electronic book) is an electronic document that can contain text, images, audio and video. They can be viewed on a personal computer, smartphone and eBook reader, such as a Kindle, and are sold through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and dozens of other outlets.

    One important distinction to note, however, is that only eBooks that are created as PDF documents and downloaded as such retain their formatting and graphics. eBooks that are not downloaded as PDFs fall into the category of e-publishing, and when viewed on a Kindle, iPad or other device, they are simply a straight translation of the text only. Currently the Kindle and other such devices can only support the text from these documents, not graphics.

    Most of my small business clients find that because they are creating eBooks primarily for branding and marketing purposes, they use the PDF format — being able to include graphics, format, audio, video, etc is a distinct advantage.

    2. How could an eBook help my small business become better known?

    eBooks can be the perfect calling card for potential customers. Offering an eBook free on your website in exchange for a prospect’s email, providing a link to a free downloadable eBook via your newsletter, or even having a link to your eBook in your email signature line provides a much greater opportunity to show your client your knowledge, expertise and point of view.

    3. What’s the basic process for writing a small business eBook?

    Step #1 Choose a topic: Brainstorm ideas that that use your expertise, knowledge base or specific information and/or research. Consider smaller slices of bigger topics for eBooks. Books that can fit into the “how to” topic area are some of the most popular.

    Step #2 Create Your eBook Outline: Decide what five to ten basic topics you are going to address in your eBook, and then outline the three main points you are going to make under each of those topics.

    Step #3 Begin Writing Your eBook: Oddly enough, the easiest part of eBook publishing is getting the finished product up and running for distribution. Many can be uploaded with just a click of a few buttons. But where most entrepreneurs face a challenge is in finding the time, or having the writing chops, to craft the eBook in the first place. I get weekly calls from small business owners asking me to ghostwrite their eBooks because, although they have great content and ideas, they don’t have the writing skills.

    Even if that’s the case, it’s no excuse, since there are scads of eBook-savvy small businesses whose sole purpose is to ghostwrite, edit, design and publish your eBook.

    Step #4 Edit and design your eBook: A few things to keep in mind:

    Unless you were an English major, hire a proofreader to go through your manuscript to check spelling, grammar and punctuation.

    Unless you were a graphic design major, hire a designer to create the layout, cover and formatting of your book.

    Unless you are an illustrator, hire a graphic artist to add pictures or drawings to your eBook.

    Consider embedding video in the eBook.

    4. How do I get word out to my customers about my eBook?

    Like any other marketing effort, creating something stellar is just the first step. Once your eBook is ready, your next job is to tell everyone. Some of the best practices include: writing about your new small business eBook on your blog, providing excerpts of your eBook to other blogs with a link back to the full eBook download, issuing press releases about your eBook, promoting your eBook in your newsletter, and offering your eBook as a follow-up to any webinars or live presentations.

    If after reading this you are feeling like writing an eBook sounds like a whole lot of work, you’re right. A professional, well-written, content-rich eBook requires a fair amount of effort and energy. But think of it like this: As soon as that eBook baby is born, it’s done and out in the world, helping to build your small business brand.

    Have you used an eBook to build your business brand? What results did it produce? We would love to hear about your experience.

    Inspiration Breathes Life Into Branding

    Inspiration Breathes Life Into Branding

    One of the first things I do when I start working with new clients on their personal or business brand is to ask them to consider what mood or energy they consciously strive to bring to anything they do.  In other words:

    What is it that you can be counted on for in terms of your presence? Not what do you do (the description) or even the how (the mechanics) of what you do, but the way you do it.

    You can think of this as the style, the energy, the mood you bring to any situation you are a part of.  Clearly identifying and consciously practicing the inspirational aspect of your brand is key.

    For example, one of my highest goals is to always bring creative inspiration to my clients. No matter what I’m doing — be it a speech, a writing assignment, a consulting session or a strategic off-site — I aim to leave my clients with creative inspiration about who they are and what they do. 

    A good deal of the marketing and branding I see out there today is sorely lacking in inspiration. The marketing spin may be an accurate description of the service or product being offered, but it misses the boat in terms of the essence of the brand. 

    So how do you breathe inspiration into your personal or business brand and marketing? To begin, let’s look at a few meanings of the word and how your business might bring this into the way you express your brand in the world.

    To affect, guide or arouse by divine influence. When you think back on what your past and current clients say about you, what is their experience of how you have guided, influenced or affected them? What words and phrases have they used?  Consider integrating these into your marketing message.

    To fill with enlivening or exalting emotion. While this may seem like a high bar to reach, in what ways are you going beyond simply providing a service or product to enliven your clients? Learn how to talk about this when you present what you do.  Speaking to the higher ideals of your client (keep in mind Maslow’s hierarchy of needs) helps to connect them to the bigger purpose of why they do what they do.

    To stimulate to action; motivate. In what ways does your business get others into action? A big part of my brand is that I help entrepreneurs and executives overcome inertia and make their personal brand, goals and objectives manifest in the world.  How do you inspire others to go from talking, thinking and hoping to making something happen?

    To affect or touch.  Are your clients and customers ever deeply touched by what you do? If so, how? What is the difference that you make personally in the lives of your clients? Think about what you generate emotionally with your products or services. Is it peace of mind, confidence, certainty, love, creativity?  

    To stimulate energies or ideals. How do your clients or customers expand their thinking by working with you? The more you can articulate the specific ways in which you enhance and expand your customers’ world by what you do, the bigger an impact your brand has. 

    Remember, in the end, people do business with people they like and trust. By breathing inspiration into what you bring to your clients, you elevate your brand from business as usual to a higher plane of purpose — and that’s a marketing message you can take to the bank.

    Email Headlines With Emotional Value

    Email Headlines With Emotional Value

    Anyone who has ever sweated over the phrasing of an email subject line has probably longed for a magical marketing solution that would tell them which combination of words would shoot their open rate through the roof.  Well the wait is over.

    The Advanced Marketing Institute offers a no-cost Headline Analyzer that calculates the Emotional Marketing Value (EMV) of a headline. The program uses special algorithms to quickly compare the words of an email headline with the words from the EMV Impact list. According to the company, the list measures words in three specific categories:

    Intellectual Words effective at offering products and services that require reasoning or careful evaluation,

    Empathetic Words, which bring out strong positive emotional reactions in people,

    Spiritual Words, which have the strongest potential to influence people at a deep emotional level.  

    “As you know, reaching your customers in a deep and emotional way is a key to successful copywriting, and your headline is unquestionably the most important piece of copy you use to reach prospects,” say the fine folks at AMI.  

    Using the Headline Analyzer is straightforward and simple. Just enter up to a 20-word headline onto the form on their site; select a category from the dropdown menu, such as Arts & Entertainment, Business & Professional Services, Food & Dining and more; and then click “submit” for analysis.  

    Zip, bang, boom — you are instantly rewarded with a score from 0-100 that tells you how emotionally impactful your headline is. According to the company, professional headlines contain 30 and 40 percent EMV Words, and the best of class headlines have 50 to 75 percent EMV words.  One hint: If you can keep your headline to five words or fewer, your chance of scoring higher is increased.
     
    If you come out below the magical number, you can then try again with other words until you get the score you’re looking for. For specifics on how to improve your EMV rating, the company offers a sign-up for a newsletter with tips and techniques.  

    No plug-and-play analyzer is foolproof, nor is it the be-all, end-all of the topic, but the EMV tool is a good place to start, and worth the few moments it takes to see if your headline has at least a touch of the marketing magic you’re looking for.

    Want more information like the one in this post? Sign up for my free monthly newsletter and get a copy of my new e-Book: 4 Principles and 21 Practices Of The New Marketing Mindset To Grow Your Brand And Business

    Karen Leland is a best-selling author, marketing and branding consultant and president of Sterling Marketing Group where she helps businesses implement modern marketing, hone their business and personal brands, and create winning content. For questions or comments, please contact her at karen@sterlingmarketinggroup.com.