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Don’t Do What Bernie Sanders Did Seven Ways To Avoid Media Gaffes

Some of the worst media relations techniques in recent memory are on full display as the candidates from the two major parties vie for our votes. In the interest of being a non-partisan I promise to ridicule each of the four remaining candidates from both parties equally as they screw up.

The latest is Bernie Sanders ill-conceived interview with the New York Daily News as recapped by The Washington Post. You can read what the post has to say here:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) delivers a foreign policy speech on March 21. (Jim Urquhart/Reuters)
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) delivers a foreign policy speech on March 21. (Jim Urquhart/Reuters)

So here is what you can learn from this interview.

  1. Have a message in mind before the interview starts. From reading the transcript it is impossible to tell what Sanders wanted the readers to know as a result of the interview. So before it ever starts, decide what it is that readers will know that is different from what they knew beforehand.
  2. Know who you are talking to and why. Sort of related to number one in that a communications goal for an interview needs to be that the message is audience appropriate. For example, when addressing the Candy and Confections magazine editor, it’s a good idea to relate to what the readers are expecting which is sweets. Similarly, people who read the New York Daily News will expect a fellow New Yorker like Sanders to be able to answer pretty basic questions all related to his previously stated positions. You want to break up the banks? Great, just tell us how. This was not “gotcha” journalism. Sanders stump speech covers all these topics. He should have expected to be asked these questions and been ready with plausible answers.
  3. Stay on message. Sanders let’s the reporter control the content of the interview. Big mistake. Have a list of 3-5 messages for the reporter and stick to those. If he asked about Palestinian settlements and you want to talk about banks, bridge from the question to the thing you really want to talk about. Here is how that might look: “I know the situation in Israel is complex and will take a lot of time and work to resolve. But we can start fixing the banking system here at home in far less time by referring charges of specific bankers to the attorney general…..”
  4. If you do not know, say so. People hate to say ‘I don’t know’ but it is a perfectly acceptable answer. ‘I don’t know right off the top of my head, but let me call you later with a more informed answer….” and then do so. It’s way ahead of answering “I assume so” when asked about statutes and laws. Aren’t you a senator?
  5. Avoid spouting nonsense. For example, when asked how he would know which banks were to be closed, Senator Sanders replied, “you would determine is that, if a bank is too big to fail, it is too big to exist. And then you have the secretary of treasury and some people who know a lot about this, making that determination.” Pure and unadulterated gibberish. A clever high school kid could come up with a better answer.
  6. Do your homework. Clearly the reporter doing this interview had done his. So whether someone is running for president, announcing a new product, or addressing the local chamber of commerce, show up with the knowledge that people most associate with you and your business. If you are a baker and have limited knowledge of flour, decline the interview.

I’m exasperated that someone who is as smart as Senator Sanders surely must be with the resources to hire the best handlers anywhere, comes off looking like such a dope. Sanders should be schooling the reporters on bank policy, rules of governance and responsibilities to shareholders and customers. Instead he blathers on with nothing but platitudes. You can almost feel him shrugging his shoulders.

The same is true of his answers about Israel and dealing with ISIS. ISIS members have attacked Paris, Brussels and threaten Western Civilization. That he has no answer for dealing with them as president is completely indefensible and unacceptable.

7. If your client is an inarticulate idiot, keep him/her away from reporters. President Reagan used to pretend that the helicopter noise was preventing him from hearing reporters questions so he did not have to answer. Someone should get Bernie a helicopter.

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Prevent Cyber Predators From Targeting Your Children This Christmas

Tips To Prevent Cyber Predators And Hackers From Targeting Your Children This Christmas. Ryn Melberg is a client of mine and someone I like and respect a great deal. So I wanted to share her tips here for readers of my blog. While this is not really a public relations or marketing communications issue, it is timely advice for everyone who expects a visit from Santa tomorrow evening.

Heed Ryn's tips to protect your children from cyber crime this Christmas. It's what Santa would want.
Heed Ryn’s tips to protect your children from cyber crime this Christmas. It’s what Santa would want.

America’s children can have their identities stolen and worse this Christmas unless their parents take steps to prevent cyber criminals from stealing information about them. Corporate governance, I.T. and Agile Project Management expert Ryn Melberg has advice for parents and others who will give their children electronic toys and games that link to the Internet this Christmas. This is in light of the hack and theft of 6.4 million records of children from Hong Kong-based toy maker, VTech. According to a published report in The Wall Street Journal, the information stolen included the names and birthdates of those children along with photos and chat messages.

“Parents should protect their children’s’ identity on line just like their own,” Melberg said. “While it may not be obvious, their private information is vulnerable to online hackers, if not more so than adults.”

Here are the steps Ms. Melberg suggests:
1. Never use a child’s full name online.
2. Never publish a child’s birthday online.
3. Never publish a child’s street address or even the city or state where they reside.
4. Do not disclose the name of the school where your child attends.
5. Never disclose a location where the child will be, particularly if parents are not there, too. This could be a camp, school trip, etc.
6. Actively monitor online chats in real time with your child and explain to him/her why this matters.
7. Use fictitious information when answering security questions and remember it.
8. Use a fake online or screen name when working or playing in cyber space.

Online Protection From Predators
Putting full names with the city of residence will make a child vulnerable to a predator or even a disgruntled parent in a divorce or custody settlement. “The online world makes it very easy to find someone,” Melberg warned. “This is especially true if your child has an unusual first name,” she stated. “My name ‘Ryn’ is rare enough that finding all the ‘Ryns’ in my hometown would be pretty easy, and the same is true for your child.” The practice of careful online engagement extends to chat rooms associated with games, as children are known to share personal information in those, as well.

Guard Your Child’s Future
Melberg strongly urges parents to be extremely careful about what they post online about their children because it could affect their financial future and even put them in physical danger. While the majority of children do not have bank accounts or credit cards, thieves will use their stolen identities to create phony accounts and loan applications. “I have a client who found they had a delinquent student loan that was made 7 years prior to their turning 18,” Melberg said. “The bank admitted it was unlikely they would have given a college loan to an 11 year old, but that did not spare them the hassle and grief of setting their own credit right so they could get a legitimate student loan.”

Ryn is the host of a weekly podcast entitled, “The Guardian”. Ryn discusses Agile, Scrum, Scaled Agile and issues of corporate governance. It is the only podcast of its kind in the world. To contact Ryn Melberg, go to her web site at:

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Knowing What You Know Now

Public relations counselors tell clients and colleagues not to speculate. More often than not speculation comes in the form of questions to predict future outcomes. It’s a scheme designed by reporters who want interviewees to say something foolish, improbable, with no basis in reality or all of the above. The advice so many of us give is that no one has the gift of prophecy or the ability to predict the future and that doing so would be silly. Do not speculate, talk about things that you know for certain and stick to that.

Admiral Akbar of Star Wars was not present during the Jeb Bush interview on Fox News.
Admiral Akbar of Star Wars was not present during the Jeb Bush interview on Fox News.

The media has now caught up with the public relations industry and reinvented the speculative question. Instead of predicting the future, interviewees are asked to second-guess themselves about the past. The most famous and recent example was on Fox News when during an interview with Former Florida governor and brother of President George W. Bush the Iraq war came up. Megyn Kelly asked Bush, “knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion?”

Jeb Bush response to the 'knowing what you know now' was a full frontal fail.
Jeb Bush response to the ‘knowing what you know now’ was a full frontal fail.

Bush is no stranger to media or interviews. He comes from one of the most covered families in history. His experience as governor along should have sent a signal to his brain that said, ‘it’s a trap’. Sadly for Bush, there was a short circuit. He fell into Kelly’s trap. It was a full frontal fail. Here is his quote:

“In retrospect,” Bush continued, “the intelligence that everybody saw — that the world saw, not just the United States — was faulty. And in retrospect, once we invaded and took out Saddam Hussein, we didn’t focus on security first, and the Iraqis, in this incredibly insecure environment, turned out the United States military because there was no security for themselves and their families. By the way, guess who thinks that those mistakes took place as well? George W. Bush. So just for the newsflash to the world, if they’re trying to find places where there’s big space between me and my brother, this might not be one of those.”

The news out of this was not what Jeb expected. His answer was covered in plenty of other places, and that is not what this posting is about. Jeb should not have answered the question.

Megan Kelly of Fox News.
Megan Kelly of Fox News.

Instead of talking about what might have been, Bush should have taken the prophecy advice and flipped it around. He could have said, “it’s pointless to discuss what we might or might not have done. I am not able to go back in time and undo any decision or action. Instead of wondering what might have been done differently, we need to concentrate on what is happening now…”

The ‘knowing what we know now’ question has a life of its own. The time traveling/navel gazing type of inquiry is part of the arsenal of passive aggressive reporters, thanks to the ill-advised answer Governor Bush gave. Remember, just talk about what you know now. Not what may come or what you would have done.

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Media and Public Relations Introduces New Press Release Writing Service

Media and Public Relations ( is introducing a new press release writing service for North America. The service will help those who know they could benefit from a news release but do not have the skills or the time to produce one. images-1

The press release is the best way to communicate news about any type of enterprise to editors, reporters and bloggers who cover an industry, practice, non-profit or charity. Unlike ads, direct mail or blogs, the press release is formatted and written in a no-nonsense way that helps journalists inform their audience about news that will be meaningful to their readers and listeners.

Business writing in general and journalistically styled releases in particular are difficult to produce and then get published. Not everything is newsworthy. Reporters hate it when businesses send them what amounts to commercials in the guise of a news release.

If any information is not right for a release to the news media, the public relations veterans at Media and Public Relations will edit information into a newsworthy format. For those  starting with only a blank sheet of paper and nothing written, no problem. The people at Media and Public Relations can do an  interview over the phone to draft, review and edit a news release in the format and with the content needed. “I’ve got a soft spot for start ups and entrepreneurs,” said owner Harold Nicoll. “I especially like those who have some very cool product or technology or skill that will make lives better, cheaper, faster, and at the same time reward them for their know-how. So many of these folks know a lot about their respective field but nothing about how to market and sell their wares. I can help.”

Release Basics To Get Me Started

[contact-form][contact-field label=’Your Name’ type=’text’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Your Email’ type=’text’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Your Website’ type=’text’/][contact-field label=’Your Company Name’ type=’text’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’Nature Of Your News ‘ type=’textarea’ required=’1’/][contact-field label=’New Product or Service?’ type=’text’/][contact-field label=’New Location?’ type=’text’/][contact-field label=’Award? ‘ type=’text’/][contact-field label=’New Employee(s)’ type=’text’/][contact-field label=’New or an important discovery or breakthrough?’ type=’text’/][contact-field label=’Is Your News Time Or Date Specific?’ type=’checkbox’/][contact-field label=’Is Your News Confined To A Specific Place Or Geographic Location? ‘ type=’checkbox’/][/contact-form]

Or Contact Me Directly

My e-mail is and my phone number is 979 292 8026. Or, fill out the form and I will go to work for you. Payment is via Pay Pal. But first things first, fill out the form or call or e-mail me and I will get back to you within a single work day or sooner.

About Media And Public Relations
Harold Nicoll, APR is the owner of Media and Public Relations. He a veteran public relations, marketing communications, content marketing and public affairs expert. He started his career at Hill & Knowlton Public Relations followed by 23 years at The Dow Chemical Company. He is “Accredited to Practice Public Relations” by The Public Relations Society of America. He has a Master of Strategic Public Relations Degree from The George Washington University and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science from The University of Houston.

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9 Surprise PR Tactics That Will Make You Irresistible to Reporters

9 Surprise PR Tactics.

This article “9 Surprise PR Tactics That Will Make You Irresistible to Reporters” was published by PRNews and written by Steve Goldstein on April 16, 2015.  Enjoy!

Attend any panel discussion featuring PR pros and journalists, and within five minutes of its commencement you’ll hear one of the journalists say, “I delete email pitches in batches of 20 with hardly a glance at the subject lines.”

Then comes the inevitable follow-up question from the audience: “So what would it take for you to open my email?”

And the answer: “Know my beat, read my articles, give me real news I can use.”

Silently, the PR pros in attendance grumble in unison: “But if you’re deleting everything without looking, then what difference would that make?”

Tania Luna, co-author with LeeAnn Renninger of the new book Surprise: Embrace the Unpredictable and Engineer the Unexpected, would encourage those silent grumblers to think beyond the

Follow these directions to be a more sought for interviewee.
Follow these directions to be a more sought for interviewee.

journalist/PR pro dynamic and harness the elemental power of surprise to cut through the noise and make a connection.

“One of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of working in PR is building relationships with reporters,” says Luna, who will be the keynote presenter on day two of PR News’ Digital PR Conference, which will be held June 1-3 in Miami. “Luckily, things get a lot easier when you have the science of surprise on your side. When you pleasantly surprise people they think of you more often and are more interested in what you have to say.”

Here are nine tips for bonding with reporters from co-authors Luna and Renninger:

1. Jump over the expectation bar: Our brains are delighted when someone exceeds our expectations, disappointed when someone falls below the bar and unmoved when someone meets our expectations. Take the time to learn what each of your contacts expects (what topics do they prefer? what style? what format?) and find ways to exceed expectations at every point of contact (e.g., offer all necessary links before they have to ask; use bullet points so your pitch is easy to digest).

2. Under-promise, over-deliver: Here is a shortcut to exceeding expectations from author Tom Peters. Set expectations just an inch lower than you plan to deliver, then over-deliver every once in a while (e.g., promise you’ll respond in 48 hours, then reply in just two). Pleasant surprises release dopamine in the brain, a neurochemical associated with excitement and interest.

3. Do a scriptease: So many of our interactions feel scripted and formal. Leave your script aside and connect with reporters the way you would with friends (respectful but playful and authentic). Authenticity builds trust but also triggers people’s interest.

4. Give just because: Be helpful or encouraging for no particular reason (even when you aren’t trying to place a story). Research shows that we think about random acts of kindness longer than we contemplate explained kind behavior (and random kindness makes us happier).

5. Bury a cookie: Find ways to tuck small delights into your interactions. Can you sneak a joke into your conversation? A genuine compliment? A funny GIF into your email? In a study, researchers found that even a handwritten Post-it Note can be personal and unexpected enough to double response rates to a survey.

6. Build knowledge gaps: Spark curiosity by pitching your stories in a way that shows readers you know something they don’t. Our fascination with mystery is the reason listicles work so well. (Just compare these two titles and see which one your brain likes more: “These 8 Subject Line Tweaks Will Get Everyone to Open Your Emails” vs. “How to Get People to Open Your Emails.”)

7. Tell stories: Most of us are familiar with the power of story, but it helps to know why stories work as well as they do to remind us that we have to weave stories into our pitches. Because stories have mystery at their core (we want to know what will happen next), they trigger the P3 brain wave—this cognitive shift grabs our cognitive resources and forces us to pay attention.

8. Design experiences: Devise opportunities for your contacts to have an emotional, multi-sensory experience with your company or story (hint: the more senses you engage, the more memorable the experience will be).

9. Harness fortune cookie psychology: A handwritten thank-you note will trigger a burst of dopamine in the recipient, but the same card with the same message sent several times will soon fall flat. Take a tip from the fortune cookie and switch up how, when and why you reach out to say thank-you or offer a tip. In short: Exceed expectations, be genuine, be mysterious and delight often.

Tania Luna will be the keynote presenter on June 2 at PR News’ Digital PR Conference in Miami.

Follow Tania Luna: @Surprisology

Follow Steve Goldstein: @SGoldsteinAI

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Nine Ways Media Monitoring Gets Better

Nine Ways Media Monitoring Gets Better.

Be aware of the ways to track mentions of you and your organization on line. It matters.
Be aware of the ways to track mentions of you and your organization on line. It matters.

There’s this joke that says what other people say about you is none of your business. It’s not terribly funny nor is it true by any stretch. You are a brand. That’s right, you. Whether you are an employee, business owner, wannabe business owner, or fledgling blogger, your reputation on-line will help to make or break your brand. Worse, employers are monitoring what you say or said on line. I am not aware of anyone ever being rewarded for a positive post about an employer. They are not watching to catch you doing something nice.

Similarly, most customers who post reviews on line are not inspired to do so because of overwhelmingly wonderful treatment or service. Our species is wired to focus on the negatives, the failures, goofs and stumbles that should not characterize any of us but will unless we pay attention. If you want the web to paint an accurate portrait of who you really are, it is important that you be aware of what’s out there.

Articles written by or about you, blog posts, social media or on line reviews all combine together and spill out onto the screen as a reputation. Your reputation! And since you cannot control much of what gets said about you online it’s a good idea to monitor and respond to things that are said about you, your products and/or services.

  1. Brand Yourself. I like Brand Yourself ( and I use it myself. They give me the option of doing things with the tool myself or paying for expertise when needed. It’s easy to use and if nothing else shows what’s out there whether good or bad.
  2. Google Alerts. Enter your name, your company name into Google Alerts ( and it will sort, sift, collate and send you what you want and need to know. Just put the name of the company and any other key words and receive e-mail alerts. The best part is that there is no charge for this.
  3. Social Mention. A very cool way to see what’s on line and in social media. Social Mention ( is a social media search and analysis platform that aggregates user-generated content from across the universe into a single stream of information. It allows you to easily track and measure what people are saying about you, your company, a new product, or any topic across the web’s social media landscape in real-time. Social Mention monitors 100+ social media properties directly including: Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, YouTube, Digg, Google etc.
  4. Hootesuite ( offers business a way to track mentions on social media in places like Face Book, Twitter, Google Plus, Linked In and others. To leverage all of the tools on here there is a fee, but it is very reasonable.
  5. A more expensive tool, but Trackur ( offers a lot more in terms of value and capability. In addition to monitoring mentions, it has a social analytics dashboard that provides knowing about trends and sentiments as expressed on line.
  6. As the name implies, Reputology ( the study of your reputation. This tool is directed at customer reviews. It monitors and manages online reviews by providing alerts, dashboards, and analytics. In addition, the tool includes a summary report to help you make decisions based on consumer feedback. It integrates with Hootsuite and other social media management tools. It is not free, but certainly valuable.
  7. Do you own a franchise business or work in marketing or management for one? Consider Chatmeter ( It provides reviews, social media, listing accuracy and search rankings for multiple stores. Pricing varies for and gets steep for chains with over 20 outlets.
  8. Review Concierge. Are you a medical doctor or do you run a medical practice? With Review Concierge (, you can monitor 75 web sites where patients can read reviews by other patients. Doctors go to school a lot, so Review Concierge gives a weekly report card. I think the people who work in a doctors office are the ones who will create the most trouble for a physician. This is a good tool for you, doctor.
  9. Want to know every time someone says something about you? Sure there’s a fee, but Socialdraft ( sends real-time notifications when a business is mentioned on the web or in social media. Monitoring the general social media sites, it also scans niche sites that specialize in restaurants, travel, medical, legal, and real estate industries.

Do you need more to do? Probably not, but this is important. What other people say about you is your business.


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Five Things: Investigate Before Paying for Awards

Five Things: Investigate Before Paying for Awards. I have a client who was contacted by a trade magazine about being named to an industrial top 20 list of promising companies like his. Sounds good, right? Everyone likes recognition, especially the positive kind and especially when it will be published in a widely read, respected trade journal. What’s not to like?

The catch was that there was a $3,000.00 “sponsorship” charge associated with this award. When I heard that, my eyebrows went straight up and found myself instinctively clutching my wallet. But being fair minded investigated further, wanting to give everyone involved the benefit of the doubt.

For the sake of protecting the innocent and not getting sued, I have changed all of the details about this story. Here are the things to investigate before paying for an award from a trade magazine or anyone else.

  1. Check the magazines’ circulation numbers. For this particular book, Vocus listed their circulation at 0. That does not necessarily mean that there are no readers; it means they did not report the number of readers to any audit company. Serious trade magazines have their readership numbers audited by an outside 3rd party, like BPA. That way they can justify their ad rates and communicate to advertisers that prospective customers see their ads. Be wary of any trade magazine that does not have an audit statement or lists of subscribers or readers.
  2. How often is the magazine published? 12 is the most often and sometimes there are 24 issues of most magazines. And they supplement with on line issues and podcasts, fine. In this case, the magazines’ web site said they publish “every other month” (which for trade publication is a red flag all by itself) but found other reviews that said they publish 12 issues a year and another that said they published 23. One review said they always publish an issue at the start of the month, but could not say when or if they published one at mid-month. Trade publications run by adults not only publish regularly but they also have an editorial calendar. If you the magazine approaching you does not have an editorial calendar and can’t keep up with the number they intend to publish, run away.
  3. The absence of a significant social media profile. Checking the twitter page for this magazine, I found there were 93 tweets and 613 followers. Another trade magazine that covered the same topic/industry had by contrast has 28,400 tweets and over 120,000 followers. The absence of a significant social media footprint is a bad sign. News sources (like trade magazines) publish news and use twitter to alert those interested about it because it is important or at least noteworthy. My own twitter account has more tweets than this. Beware. And look at the twitter accounts of others who were similarly approached about the same awards.
  4. How many other top 10/20/30 lists do they publish? For this particular trade book, I found 3 dozen top whatever lists. When you are 1 among several hundred others, it does not put you in unique company.
  5. Do your homework. For companies or individuals, it is very hard to hide on line. It is your responsibility to perform due diligence. Some of the clues about “offers” like this are not as obvious as others. No one did anything illegal as far as I can tell. But you have to feel that the overall dubiousness of the award and its price tag are worth noting.

In this case, all the clues were not obvious and that is the real shame. It annoys me considerably to know that honest people are tricked into things like this simply because they do not know the right questions to ask. Now they do. So if someone wants to give you an award and presents you with an invoice, just politely say “no thanks” and move on to the next real opportunity. There are plenty of them and you have lots of interesting things to say.


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Start A Blog To Share Information Freely And Often

Start A Blog To Share Information Freely And Often.

Start A Blog To Share Information Freely And Often
Start A Blog To Share Information Freely And Often. Like owning your own media outlet because you do.

Why should you start a blog? Easy. The more information you can share about you, your company and what it can offer, the more you are seen as an expert. Expertise will command share of mind. And when your blog readers need some of what you have to offer, they will call you. A blog is a way to gain trust and trust is a sure pathway to more customers.

In the not too distant past, blogs and bloggers were granted the same credibility as talk radio callers. No more. Blogs provide information and news to professionals, entrepreneurs, devotees and hobbyists of the even the most narrow interests. You can even get paid to write a blog! Did anyone ever get paid to call a talk show? Doubtful.

Beyond mere opinion and blather, the blog is now an important communications tool. Blogs contribute to public relations, SEO and content marketing efforts. A blog is a way for individuals with expertise to communicate directly to others who are interested and can benefit from their knowledge. Reading a blog is free. There may be blogs that require a subscription, sure. But for me, the best bloggers are the ones who share information with their followers freely and often. The more expertise you can share freely the more credibility you will have. And there is the rub.

Not everyone will share the view that information and know-how need to be shared at no cost. After all, what if the competition reads this? Our competitors will know what we know, won’t they?

Relax. Your competitors already know what you know. They have and have always had a folder marked “competitive information” and no doubt you have one with the same exact title. You cannot deprive your competitors of knowledge about you, your business, products or services. They have a friend who works for your customer who gave them your letter, brochure, presentation, or offer letter. One of the office staff went to your web site and requested a sample, called your help line, and read every word of the FAQ. They went to your presentation at the tradeshow and sat at the table where all your employees were clustered and listened to every word. Keep a secret? Not likely.

When you try and keep your secrets, the people you deprive of your knowledge are those who could potentially become customers. This will seem counterintuitive to some. After all, if we build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to our door, right? Maybe and I don’t know but probably not.

I really dislike the “better mousetrap” analogy. If you build a better mousetrap and refuse to promote it, the only beings that learn about it are the mice that live(d) near where you live. Lacking promotion in the form of a blog about better ways to eliminate them, other luckier mice will continue to live free, tease cats, and snack on cheese. One might even develop super powers.

When I started writing this blog and posting it in places where it would get noticed, I made a commitment. I decided to treat blogging like I would any commitment. I was going to devote time and effort to it. I was going to treat my blog like a job and was going to share everything I knew about promoting businesses, causes and candidates as often as I was able. The returns to me are remarkable. Every bit of effort contributed to this blog is returned 10 times over.

So have no fear of blogging or giving freely. The returns are amazing.

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Six Things To Know About Adding A Podcast To Your Blog

Podcasts create another opportunity to reach the audience and inform them about your expertise.
Podcasts create another opportunity to reach the audience and inform them about your expertise.

Six Things To Know About Adding A Podcast To Your Blog. As part of the series on filling out the list of blog content techniques we come to podcasting. Hosting a podcast is like owning your radio station or at least having your own show. In my opinion podcasting opens up another channel of communications for you to reach people in your audience. And after all, sharing knowledge and expertise is the best reason to blog. Podcasts are for people who would rather listen in the car, while they are flying across the country, riding a bike or walking the dog. The podcast is perfect for people who are in a place where they are unable to read, or who simply prefer not to.

Match the audience and what they want. If they would rather listen than read, provide that opportunity.

More To It Than Most Will Tell You

Podcasting is not easy from a technical point of view, and if you do not have any experience with it, but want to do it anyway, it can be learned. I learned how in the days when podcasts were first becoming popular. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not technical. Putting together microphones, downloading recording software, recording phone calls, and getting it all synced together etc. were not easy. I say this because you should know what you are getting into. So many blogs and articles will tell you that things like this are easy. More often than not, they are selling you something and do not want you to know that it is more involved and will take time to set up and then learn. I’ve done hundreds of podcasts and can tell you from experience that it is challenging. Forewarned is forearmed. Here are other details to consider when contemplating a podcast.

  1. If you are serious about starting a podcast do not rely on the built in microphone that came with your computer. The sound quality is not on a par with anything that will make you proud. Buy the best microphone you can afford. If it is priced under $100.00 then it is probably not the quality you need. As with everything you will get what you pay for, microphones are no different. Other podcasters will have high production values. You are competing with them for listeners. If the quality of your sound is not any good, you will have a difficult time attracting and retaining audience members.
  2. Phone or Skype? I have a separate phone line for making calls to interview people for my podcasts. It requires special phone connections, a USB audio interface and a digital PBX along with the microphone, headphones and recording software. In the early days of podcasting this was the only option. It worked, but was a pain. Even with a land line the sound quality was not always broadcast quality. Thank goodness for Skype. I do not remember how I learned that I could record phone conversations over Skype, but it was a real blessing. The sound is always excellent and the recording feature comes with it. Skype is not free, but it is priced very reasonably. After I started recording interviews with Skype, I spent almost no time editing or making changes to sound quality with my editing software. The main thing I have to monitor are the sound levels, is it too loud or too soft, and that is relatively easy to manage.
  3. Monologue or Interview? Some podcasters are very good at presenting information without anyone else around but most are not. So I recommend getting someone else to talk to while recording, especially if you are new to the practice. There are lots of reasons, but the main one is that you will be tempted to read a script. Bad idea. Reading sounds terrible over the radio or a podcast. You want your content to sound conversational, so to have that tone you may need to get someone to have that conversation with. Ask a friend or even your spouse or significant other to partner with you. If that is not doable for you, book guests to interview. Find experts in the field and invite them to participate in a friendly interview. Take lots of time to practice. Listen to radio talk shows and other podcasts to get a feel for how to do this. Broadcasting is a profession that requires training and practice. No one just sits down in front of a microphone for the first time and spins audio gold.
  4. You will need software to edit and convert your recordings. I use Wavepad. It is relatively simple to use, compared to other software that is really meant for studio professionals. Garage Band, the Apple users will at least have seen on the toolbar, is also a possibility but you cannot save files in MP3 format very easily. The same is true for a software called Audacity. To be honest, I find Wavepad easier to use than Garage Band. Garage Band is really for recording music and different instruments on separate tracks. At most, you will have 2 tracks to edit, you and the person you interview. I’ve tried several and recommend Wavepad. As mentioned above, save your files as MP3’s as that is the format most use to podcasting.
  5. Add the final MP3 to your website. Here is where it gets trickier. For this blog and others I manage, we use WordPress. If you do not use WordPress, then I am not sure what to tell you. But if you are using WordPress, go to your dashboard, and click “Categories” and then add one called “Podcast”. Alternatively, you can wait until you write your first post containing a podcast file and then add it by clicking “Add New Category” on the right of the post area.
  6. Adding your Podcast to iTunes. Once you have created and posted you podcast to your site and published it, you are ready to put it on iTunes. I found this very difficult, though like I said earlier I am not technical. You need your podcast to be on a RSS Feed. “RSS” stands for “really simple syndication” and unless you have this capability, you will not be able to send it to iTunes. I use Feedburner, from Google but there are bound to be other, better platforms. Here is a link to the support in WordPress for podcasting:

If you have the savvy and patience to get through the technical parts or the resources to hire someone to do it for you, the podcast is an excellent communications tool that will compliment your blog content and attract more people to you. To hear a podcast I do, go to iTunes and listen to The Collectors Show. I learned all this the hard way. Remember, forewarned is forearmed.

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Nine Ways To Write DIY Guides

Nine Ways To Write DIY Guides
DIY is short for Do It Yourself and people love them.

Nine Ways To Write DIY Guides. I promised that I would give directions on all 13 of the suggestions for creating content in my post from March 10, 2015 and I am a man of my word. First a little background on why this matters.

The reason that public relations people and content marketers in general should collaborate is that the subject matter each develops should compliment what the other needs/wants to accomplish. The content marketer needs material for the web site that will continually attract prospective customers. The public relations person needs something “newsworthy” to write about that will attract the attention of reporters and editors. Coordinated output by each of these compliments the other, saves time, effort and money. It’s a beautiful thing.

Writing guides acknowledges that you are an expert. In the daily race to attain and keep share of mind, expert is the handle you want associated with you and your business. That said, writing is hard work. It took you a lifetime to learn everything you know about your topic, so it will also take a good bit of time to distill some of it into a guide.

There are all types of how to guides. Some are for home repair, install a new sink, re-patch your roof, or auto repair. There are guides for how to on any topic you can think of, including how to write a how to guide. Do not be discouraged that you are not the first person to decide on writing a how to guide for your area of commerce. Yours is a unique point of view based on experiences that only you had. Your guide will make known new information from within your area of expertise to people who did not know it before. That is unique and awesome.

  1. Pick a title. This is the first thing anyone will see. Your audience will self select their need for this information based in large part on what you call your guide. So pick one that is easy to discern. For example, “guide to collecting fishing lures” or “a how to guide for home buyers” are instances of titles that will narrow the audience right away. If you do not have any interest in collecting fishing lures or shopping for a home, then these respective guides are not for you. Of course on the other hand if these are what you want to know more about, bingo! The whole world is not your target audience. You do not have time or energy to sift through hundreds of leads that are not right for your business, and you do not have to. The title of your guide allows the prospect to nominate him/herself as a prospective customer.
  2. Tell what’s most important to know right away. For the sake of continuity we’ll stick with the fishing lure/home buyer examples. If you collect lures or want to start there are things to know. Is the lure rare? Do others consider it to be collectible? Why is it valued as a collectible above other, similar lures? If you are buying a home, same type of thing. How much can you afford? How big or small is your down payment? Do you want multi-story or a single story? Tell your readers in the first paragraph those things that are essential to success. Get right to the point. And resist the urge to be creative or clever. Save that for your novel. A how to guide is not a good place for examples of self-expression.
  3. Expand on the details. If the reader has stayed with you this far then good. They are ready for more. In the house-buying guide, more details are selections of home style like brick or siding, attached or detached garage, gas stove or electric. For our fishing lure collector there are different styles of lure as there are different types of water, fish and fishermen. Salt water or fresh? Lures that look like fish food or those that spin and create motion, reflect light, are certain colors for the time of day, etc. This is where you as the expert can let the reader know about “what’s what” in your respective field. If you are as enthusiastic about the topic as you should be, then this will be a piece of the how to guide that is really fun to write.
  4. Give the reader the pros and cons of each. No “how to guide” is complete without a table and/or list of pros and cons. There are few perfect or obvious choices for anything whether collecting lures or home purchase or whatever it is that you are writing about. So educate the reader about the upside of their choice and the potential for down side. Once, Marla (my wife ) and I saw a photo of a house we wanted to look at. It was gorgeous with an in-ground pool, and lots of space inside and out. It was priced right. But what we were not shown was that it was located on the banks of a river that flooded often and directly across the street from a cemetery. I am not making this up. Here is how the pros and cons list for that place looked.

House located across from a cemetery.

Pros: quiet, no bothersome neighbors, limited auto traffic.

Cons: Creepy and sad. It’s a cemetery for goodness sakes. Floods lead to floating caskets. We opted for a different house. It’s an extreme example but one that certainly makes the point.

  1. Use photos. Good photography is worth its weight in gold when it helps to tell the story and advance the narrative. For fishing lure collectors, this is a slam-dunk. What could be better than showing examples of extremely rare and collectible fishing lures? Show what “Mint Condition” means via a photograph example. Side by side examples will get read way more than other types of photos. I’m not sure why people like these “before and after” types of shots, but they do. Use this knowledge to your advantage.
  2. Be descriptive. Avoid vague words like “thing,” “part,” “stuff,” or “thingamajig.” Details matter. Without good descriptions, your guide and photos will suffer as will your credibility.
  3. Think like a chef. The best “how to” guides are the ones that give good directions. Recipes are an excellent example of good “how to” writing. Recipes are exact and give step-by-step instruction. If your guide includes those then do the reader a favor and relate instruction thusly.
  4. Post and promote your guide on line and hope for positive feedback. You may find that something you wrote was wrong or incomplete. Thank the contributor, check out the facts and make the corrections. Feedback will probably give you more ideas about what to write about next.
  5. Ignore the trolls. They will always be with us. Sadly. And there are even trolls on Linked In. There is no advantage to engaging them. Everyone else sees what they are, so don’t sweat them.

Now you know how to write a how guide. Cool! Get started and be ready for lots of engagement from new, prospective customers!

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