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Posts Tagged ‘blogs’


Public Relations for Small Businesses: Interview with Robb Deigh

August 16th, 2010 :: Monika Jansen
Robb Deigh

Robb Deigh

Robb Deigh is President of RDC Communication, a strategic communication, marketing, and public relations firm located outside of Washington, DC.  He worked in journalism and PR at PBS, AOL, Blackboard, Inc., and a large PR agency before venturing out on his own 12 years ago.  He’s the author of How Come No One Knows About Us?, as well as numerous articles for trade journals and other publications.  In the following interview with Robb, he offers suggestions on how to get a PR program in place, what mistakes to avoid, and how to track the ROI of your PR efforts.
 
What are the biggest challenges small businesses face when it comes to planning and executing public relations?

Besides the obvious—budget—there are two.  First, their language and messages might be all over the place.  I take clients through a messaging exercise that helps create a strong, solid set of messages that can then be used on their website and in presentations, print materials, and other communications.  If everyone on the team uses the messages, it is a very powerful tool. 

The second challenge is knowing how to get attention using traditional and social media.  Make a list of stories you can pitch to the media and match those stories to the right publications and appropriate reporters.  Knowing how to pitch a story is THE most important PR skill to have.  In terms of social media, small businesses need to get their messages and website in order before deciding to start a blog, use Facebook, or even publish an e-newsletter.  Make sure that before you say something to the world, you have something to say.  If you use Twitter, you know that there is a lot of jibberish out there right alongside useful information.
 
What are some easy ways for small businesses to get going with PR?

Start out by creating your organizational messages.   Get your team together and brainstorm a list of all of your company’s attributes.  Use those attributes to build 5-6 great messages that tell prospects, “Here is what we can do for you.”  Update your website with those messages, since all of your communication is designed to steer prospects there first.  Then, try some press.  If budget is tight, build your own small press list.  What do you and your audiences read?  The reporters at those publications are your targets. Get their email addresses and send them announcements when you have real news.  Put yourself in their place and call them with great story ideas about your industry.  

What should small businesses avoid doing?

Three things immediately spring to mind:

  1. Don’t assign a non-communications person in your organization the task of doing PR.  It will end up taking a back seat to his/her real job.  Hire someone with applicable experience and, if needed, get some outside help.  
  2. When pitching stories, do not call reporters with non-news.  
  3. Don’t blog, use Facebook or Twitter, or publish an e-newsletter unless you have something useful and non-self-promotional to say.   Educate your audience and give them the advantage of your expertise.

How can you track the ROI of your public relations efforts?  Seeing a mention in the press is great, but figuring out if it’s generating leads is probably not so easy.

Absolutely!  A stack of clips with your company’s name in it is definitely not a measure of success.  But clips that include at least one of your 5-6 main messages are of immense value.  That’s part of your long-term public relations ROI.  Make sure that when you do an interview, publish an article, or make a presentation, you use your messages.  In time, you will hear them echo back to you in the news media and elsewhere.  That’s how you know it is working.  Of course, you’ll also know it’s working when your sales increase, because good PR leads to high visibility which leads to higher sales.     

Care to share a couple of success stories?

I’ve helped dozens of companies go from being virtually invisible to being strong brands, but I think my biggest PR/media successes over the years have occurred when I have found good story ideas within client organizations and packaged those stories with 2-3 good sources for the right reporters at the right time. 

When you have a great story pitch, make an initial phone call and then send details by email. If you are doing it correctly, you really are doing part of the reporter’s job—finding good stories and sources.   Make it easy for them to say “yes.”  It works the same whether you are pitching your community paper or CNN (although CNN will be harder to reach on the phone!).

Leveraging Your Blog for your Inbound Marketing Efforts

August 12th, 2010 :: Steven Fisher

In these days of social media marketing there are all sorts of tools that help you market but the most fundamental is your blog. It is funny that only six years ago all that everyone talked about was blogging. Now it has seemed to fade into the background and that is actually a good thing. A blog has become a fundamental component in an organizations communication strategy that if you do not have it included or have one running you will be perceived as behind the times.

But let’s face it, writing for writing sake can be fun in some cases but in this case you are looking for customers. The term inbound marketing is the opposite of outbound marketing (i.e. cold calls, email marketing) and it is focused on getting the customer to come to you on their own. One of the best way to do this is through blogs.

A few great ways to use you blog for inbound marketing are:

Forms for downloading content – You want to drive leads to your site and the best way to do that is give something away. These can be white papers and ebooks or other types of content that people want. One thing to keep in mind is that your content doesn’t have to be completely new. It can be repackaged blog posts in a new context along with some updated content.

Surveys and polls – This is a great and quick way to engage the reader. People that read your blog have an opinion and if you are looking to learn from them, do a survey or a poll. It can also be a great way to test new features or content types that people might want in the future. Don’t forget to make a blog post about the survey, it will bring people to the site to engage.

Most of all….provide fresh content – This continues to establish you as an authority and search engines love it. They see that as a site that is new and with linking and trackbacks it builds your search engine juice.

So don’t just look at a blog as a necessary evil you have to “deal with” and “write for” but a real communications channel that can engage and make new sales in ways you never thought possible.

9 Ideas for Great Blog Posts

June 21st, 2010 :: Monika Jansen

Last fall I met a woman at a networking lunch who is a wedding planner.  When I suggested she start a blog, she asked me, “But, what would I write about?”  I almost spewed out my water all over the table!  Here is someone working in a zillion-dollar industry that is filled with drama, out-of-whack budgets and emotions, food and wine and open bars, and a diverse range of vendors and venues, and she thinks she has nothing to write about.  She could probably write a blog post every day, for pete’s sake!

While not all of us work in action-packed industries, thinking up ideas for blog posts is not that hard, especially when you consider that blog posts should not be that long. Here’s a list of topics that you can base your blog on, no matter what you do:

Industry best practices. You probably don’t think much about the products and knowledge you rely on to get the job done, so share it with the rest of us non-experts.  For example, if you’re a landscaper, tell me how short I should cut my grass during a hot summer when it’s not raining much.

What not to do. This is the opposite of best practices.  If you’re a dermatologist, write about how not to use sunscreen: put it on once, don’t reapply it after swimming, skimp on it, use a bottle from two years ago, use too low of an SPF, etc.

Helpful tips. Give people ideas on how to best use your product or service that they may have overlooked in the manual, on your website, or in your marketing materials. If it’s a nifty feature that no one else has, definitely write about that.

Success stories. Share how you’ve helped clients succeed.  It’s a great way to highlight how great your product or service is without sounding like you’re selling.  Include quotes if you can.

Lessons you’ve learned. By “lessons learned”, I do not mean broadcasting mistakes you’ve made but rather problems you’ve overcome for both clients and your own business.

Client interviews. Also known as a full-length testimonial!

Conferences and seminars. Write about the people you met, what you learned, new products you got to test out, etc. at conferences and seminars you attend.

Profiles of/interviews with industry leaders. You’ll look not only look plugged in and well-connected, but as a great source of information on where your industry has been, is right now, and headed in the future.

Vendors. I am hard-pressed to think of anyone who works in a bubble.  Write about the people and companies you work with to create and deliver your product or service.

On the very day I started writing this blog post, good old Hubspot published their own list of topics for great blog posts.  There is, surprisingly, very little overlap between our lists, so take a moment to read Hubspot’s tips for more ideas.

How Much SEO Can I Do By Myself?

June 9th, 2010 :: Monika Jansen

After months of procrastinating, I really need to get my website tricked out with some SEO.  Because it’s such a technical process and can be rather expensive, I started wondering how much I could do myself. I have zero knowledge of or experience in HTML and web programming, and a budget of…well, let’s say not enough to pay an SEO expert what their service is worth. 

Robot with Magnifying Glass

liferoiblog/Flickr

Based on my research, which consisted of my limited knowledge, a Google search, and finally asking SEO guru Ken Fischer of Click for Help, there is quite a bit you can do on your own.  Needless to say, it’s not going to be nearly as effective as adding all those tags and metadata and technical gee gaws to your website, but it will certainly help. 

Here’s what you need, in no specific order:

Keywords.  Research keywords for your industry simply by plugging words and terms related to what you do into any search engine.  You probably already know what some key terms are, but get really creative.  Ask friends and family for their thoughts—you might get even more ideas. 

Once you have a list of keywords, add them to your website’s content wherever possible.  To make your content both readable and effective, you’ll want to craft your messaging and positioning statements around the keywords rather than just randomly inserting keywords into your content. 

Strong, original, well-written website content.  If your content is poorly written, no one’s going to click through your website, let alone contact you.  Remember that the reason you want your site to be optimized for search engines is not just so people can find you, but so those people become customers.  Without good content, that goal is a lost cause. 

If you’re not a good writer, find someone who is.  If you think you’re a good writer, find a good editor.  Make sure your content uses plain English rather than jargon and is thoughtful and original.  Most importantly, make sure your content speaks to your audience’s needs.  Explain to them how you are going to solve their problems and how you are going to do it better than the other guy. 

Links from other websites.  Link from websites to yours (aka, a backlink) are gold in the SEO world.  Think about it: why would someone provide a link to a website if it didn’t contain useful or interesting information?  Links drive traffic to your website and make web pages more likely to appear at the top of a search engine’s results page, which, in turn, pushes more traffic to your website.  It’s a nice little cycle once it gets going.

Publish articles to the LinkedIn groups you belong to and to an online article distribution service like EzineArticles or GoArticles.  As long as what you are writing is relevant and interesting, it will be shared over and over again.  You can also distribute press releases, sprinkled with backlinks to your website, to an online news release service like PR Web.  It will get picked up by news services, and because PR Web is recognized as an authority, backlinks from their website can drive a lot of traffic to your website.

Social media.  When you post to your favorite social media platforms, be sure you are offering advice, tips, and success stories with relevant links back to your website.  Avoid outright sales pitches at all costs.  Of course, if you’re running a special promotion, a sale, or launching a new product or service, you’re going to advertise that.  But people are more likely to pass along good advice than an announcement regarding a new product launch.  If your company sounds interesting, people will visit your website.      

Blog.  As with social media, blog posts that offer useful, relevant information and contain links back to content on your website will spur web traffic.  Publish a great blog, and people will pass it along, post it to Facebook, tweet it, and refer to it and ultimately drive traffic to your website.

12 Easy Ways to Use Social Media for Inbound Marketing

April 14th, 2010 :: Monika Jansen

I have blogged before about how much I love Inc. Magazine.  Not only is their magazine packed with valuable and useful information for entrepreneurs and small business owners, their website is, too.  Best of all: everything is well-written in an accessible, friendly, and encouraging tone of voice. 

Gifts

.tomate d'epingles.'s/Flickr

On my birthday in January, they published 30 Tips for Using Social Media in Your Business on their website.  It was a great, totally unintentional gift on their part, and it has been a wonderful source of inspiration for me.  Sometimes I open up Twitter and Facebook and just sit there, trying to think of something useful or witty or funny to post.  Being able to refer to the things other business owners have done to drive business and market themselves through social media is much easier! 

I am not going to regurgitate what the author, April Joyner, wrote.  Some of it didn’t strike me as easy to do, and some of it was “don’t do this!” What follows are my favorite ideas.

  1. Sneak peeks.  Whether you provide a service or product—or both—offer a behind the scenes look at, or preview of, whatever it is you’re working on.
  2. Post videos.  Use videos to quickly demonstrate what your company does.  People like to watch well-made, funny videos, and they love to share them (just look at the success of YouTube!).
  3. Interact.  This really goes without saying, but it is worth repeating.  Always respond to comments on your blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, LinkedIn page, etc. 
  4. Promotions.  Offer coupons and other special promotions through social media only.  Just make sure they are easily redeemed!  You can also offer coupons through Groupon or, in certain cities, Living Social.
  5. Read what they’re saying.  Search your company’s name on Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp to see what people are saying about you—and join the conversation.
  6. Broadcast your location.  If your business is mobile (dog groomer, street performer, food truck), use Twitter, Facebook, and/or Foursquare to update your location so customers can find you.  
  7. Search for customers.  By conducting keyword searches on Twitter that are related to your business, you can reply to people who have posted them—and hopefully snag some new customers.
  8. Target your online ads.  Facebook lets you to target your ads based on specific information in users’ profiles.
  9. Customer forums.  Add a customer forum to your website or social network so customers can interact with each other.  Great way to build a community for both your business and industry!
  10. Tap evangelists.  Ask your top customers to spread the word about your company as guest bloggers, or ask them to make a short (2-3 minutes, tops) video of why they like your company’s product or service so much, which both of you can share. 
  11. Follow your industry.  Read blogs related to your industry and join industry groups on Facebook and LinkedIn—and post comments!
  12. Help others.  Scan LinkedIn’s Answers for questions relating to your industry.  Spend an hour or so a week answering them, and you may very well find new customers. 

Get Great SEO Results with Your Small Business Blog

February 17th, 2010 :: Steven Fisher

Blogging has become a staple in every company’s marketing strategy yet, very few understand it. Still, people upgrade their web sites to include a blog, they might start out with trying to publish every day and after a week or two realizing that this is actually work, they give up. The blog then languishes dead on arrival and people wonder if you even care about your business. Yeah, it can look that bad.

The upside of utilizing a blog goes beyond thought leadership, communicating with customers or whatever mission you have set for the blog. The biggest upside is that it can help your small business get found far easier and faster with the right people coming to your site. You want traffic to your web site, but you want the right kind of traffic. A blog is catnip for search engines and we have put together some great tips from our experience and a few from some other places to help get great SEO results and get your business found.

Do Your Setup Right from the Beginning

Get Your Titles and Blog Links Right – You should closely look at your titles because great blog links to great SEO results. Glen over at the viral marketing firm, Viperchill, has a few great points in the blog setup:

  • Tweak the Permalinks – Permalinks are simply the URL’s of your blog posts and pages. By default, your URL’s are setup like http://www.viperchill.com/p=8 which isn’t very pretty and doesn’t give an indication to what the page is about. In Settings >> Permalinks I use the custom option and type %postname%. This means that my URL’s can be something like http://www.viperchill.com/launching-new-blog/ which is both pretty and informative.
  • Enable Threaded Comments – In the past I would have installed a plugin for this, but now WordPress offers this as standard. In Settings >> Discussion you can choose to enable nested comments and select how many levels deep you would want these to go. This enhances the conversation in your comments and allows you and other readers to reply to specific comments directly.
  • Add Ping Services – You probably won’t have to do this, but when I installed my blog there were no ping services in the Options >> Writing section of my WordPress admin panel. Adding ping services means that you can send trackbacks to other blogs which lets them know when you link to their posts. It also gets your site listed in Technorati and other blog aggregation services.

Add Some Critical Functionality

Once you are setup on your blog, there are a few basic things I usually do with a blog for a client. First is to add a few pages. If this is a self-standing blog, you should have an about page or a navigation that leads to your about section. You should also have a contact page and form especially if you are trying to gather leads. This should be extensive and in different places if lead generation or specific landing pages are a part of your marketing campaigns.

You also should have a few posts right out of the gate that do two things – give people something to read when you launch the blog and tell everyone about it and to show people what kind of stuff you write about along with the style/voice you will have on the blog. People will want to subscribe if they like what they see and you usually only have one shot at getting them.

Speaking of subscribers, join Feedburner and hook your blog up to it. Feedburner allows you to keep track of how many subscribers your blog has and what services your readers use. You can easily setup email subscriptions and insert social bookmarking links directly into your feed. Plus, if you need to change the blog address on the backend you can do it without impacting the readers who subscribe through the Feedburner feed.

Use Killer Plugins

There are so many plugins out there for your blog, especially if you use WordPress. I found this great SEO plugin list from Michael Wolf of Graywolf Consulting. I have used many of these and create a short list below:

  • Meta Robots WordPress plugin – Adds meta tags automatically to posts
  • Aizatto’s Related Posts – Adds related post information to posts and feeds
  • Cross-Linker – Set up commonly used words to link to posts or redirects (also useful for affiliate links)
  • Sitemap Generator – Automatically builds and HTML style sitemap
  • Google (XML) Sitemaps – Automatically build and ping multiple sitemap services with an XML file
  • HeadSpace 2 – A monster plugin that lets you rewrite titles, meta data, and host of other features watch the video on the page for the full list of features
  • SEO Title Tag – Don’t need all the power of Headspace try SEO title tag
  • SEO Slugs – keeps slugs from becoming too long

For my WordPress installations, I also really like the “All-in-One SEO” plugin which has quite a lot packed into one plug-in.

Ramp Up the SEO Juice

This is final step in the getting the blog operational for great SEO results. Glen over at the viral marketing firm, Viperchill, did a great job covering this part, so I will let him do the talking. Here you go:

  • “No Follow Certain Links – Adding the nofollow attribute to certain links tells search engines not to pass Pagerank to them and not to give any ‘benefits’ to the receiving page or site. This attribute was created due to the influx of spam on the Web and is used by default in WordPress comments. I also not follow links to pages that don’t need my link juice such as About or Contact and even things like my RSS feed. Google engineer Matt Cutts wrote that Google frowns on this sort of activity so use it at your own risk.
  • Change Your Title – Anyone with a clue about SEO will tell you the most important thing to optimise for on-site SEO is your title tag. By default, the WordPress title tag is backwards. What I mean by that is it will show you the website name first before a post title on individual post pages. Instead, I prefer to simply show the post title by itself and then choose my own title for the homepage. My code for this being: <title><?php if(is_home()) { echo ‘Viral Marketing : ViperChill’; } else { wp_title(”) ;} ?></title> The title of your homepage should include the keyphrase you choose from the next point.
  • Choose a Keyphrase – Tons of people like to simply name their website after what it’s called, and not what it offers, and that’s fine. I, on the other hand, like to kill two birds with one stone by choosing a title that is both descriptive and has the potential to get me search engine traffic. Head over to the Google Keywords tool and find a term that is relevant to your niche and gets a lot of searches. Once you have decided on a phrase, put it on your title and try to get backlinks to your site with this as the anchor text. For example, if you ever write guest posts then you can link to your website with this term as the hyperlink. There is a lot more to SEO and getting rankings than this, but that should get you started.
  • Get My Social Media Profiles – If you’re hoping your site will become a well known brand in your niche then it’s important to get accounts on the top social media sites with your site name to stop people hijacking your brand in the future. These should also help you ‘dominate’ the search results for your name. To start with, I recommend signing up to: Twitter, Technorati, MyBlogLog, YouTube and Flickr and any other sites that are relevant to your niche.”

What Are Your Results? Need some assistance from SEO professionals?

Have you implemented any of these tips? What have been your results? Do you need some additional help from some SEO professionals?

Photo: Jay Lopez

Blog, and They Will Come: 5 Tips for Great Blog Writing

February 10th, 2010 :: Monika Jansen

I remember when blogs first appeared in the late ’90s.  They were generally written by regular folks who were sharing essays, thoughts, feeling, what-have-you on the internet.  I immediately thought why on earth would I want to waste time reading that stuff?   Who cares?  And then businesses started wising up to the fact that it was a great way to become a thought leader and a go-to source of industry information.  Et voila, here I am, writing for Network Solutions.  Funny how things can go full circle!

If you’ve thought about starting a blog for your company, cool!  The first thing I would do, though, if you haven’t already, is find a bunch of blogs both inside and outside your industry that you enjoy reading on a regular basis.  What is it you like about them?  Their style, technique, tone of voice, subject matter?  How often do they write?  What do they write about?  My point is that there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.  Incorporate your favorite elements from these other blogs into your own.

And remember: Be sure to promote your blog via social networking, in your email signature, on the home page of your website, and on your business card.  If no one is reading it, what’s the point in writing it?  And if you want people to read it, follow my 5 handy tips for great blog writing. 

From moodeous on Flickr

Share useful information.  I cannot stress that point enough!  Tips, challenges you’ve overcome and how you overcame them, and industry news all qualify as useful information.  The better your content, the more people will read it, share it, and look forward to getting it.

Provide value to your reader.   Don’t use your blog to promote your company.  Mention it here and there, but only occasionally.  No one wants to read what amounts to an infomercial.

Find your voice.   Give your blog personality!  I tend to write in a conversational style. I use slang and exclamation points, because that’s how I talk.  You want to keep readers engaged and eager for more, and you want new readers to go back into your archives to read what else you’ve written.

Short and sweet rule the day.  Remember that everyone is crunched for time, so keep your posts short (less than 500 words).  Don’t ramble, and be sure whatever point you are making is clearly stated. 

Make it personal and entertaining.  Include funny stories that are relevant and have happened to you.  People love to laugh and be entertained, especially if they’re slogging through a tough day at work.