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A Client On American Idol?

A client on American Idol? After spending my career in mostly business to business public relations, marketing communications and more recently content marketing for the chemical manufacturing industry, I now have a client who is a very talented singer and songwriter. But that is not the point of the story. The point is to introduce an  extremely bright, talented young person who at the age of 16 was organizing national publicity for a new song. Not a cover of a song by someone else but an original tune. A new song she had not just performed but had helped write. Her name is Mary Desmond. You can read more about her in the release below. The surprise (and frankly source of pride) for me was how I came to know her and what I learned from her.

Mary Desmond with her “golden ticket” to Hollywood Week as part of the farewell season of American Idol.
Mary Desmond with her “golden ticket” to Hollywood Week as part of the farewell season of American Idol.

Last summer I had just started getting serious about consulting on a full-time basis and it was slow going. Anyone who transitions from employee to entrepreneur will tell you that this is not an easy change. To get the ball rolling, I had done several things to introduce the business including press announcements and even some advertising on Google. One afternoon my phone rang. A nice young lady on the other end asked if did press releases? Yes, I do! She described a new song she had co-written with another songwriter and that they were looking for publicity. The release was for their song ‘Lily’ which has a touching story behind it, but we’ll save that for another time.

I wrote the release, put together a media list and went to work. The news was reasonably well received by the entertainment media, and her You Tube hits on the song jumped from a few hundred to over 10,000 in just a couple of days. Noteworthy results  for an original song by accomplished artists, though neither was a household name.

A few days later I spoke to Mary again about her schedule and the possibilities for her to make time for some interviews. She replied, “I have school during that time.” School, of course. I wondered aloud where she went to school, thinking it was probably UCLA, USC or Cal Berkely. “I go to Mission Viejo High in Orange County,” Mary said.

During this time, Mary had paid her bill on time and was easy to work with and understood the value of publicity. That she was a wise beyond her years as a 16-year-old was what was interesting. I do not know what anyone else was doing when they were 16, but organizing public relations campaigns for my career was not on my list. So what can the rest of us learn from this story? The value of focus and determination.

Mary has a single vision and goals for her career. She works hard on achieving those goals every day. While she experiences occasional rejection, she shakes it off and keeps going. Of course, she is talented and has a great family and those things count. But what counts more, in my opinion at least, is just the sheer grit, sticktoitiveness and optimism a girl in southern California has for her future. That is remarkable.

Since then we have had the chance to work on several things together, including work to help benefit the California March of Dimes. Along the way her father asked me to help promote the non-profit “High Hopes Head Injury Program” where he and Mary’s mother both work. They too achieve great results and inspire me as well.

Regardless of how things turn out for Mary on American Idol, my opinion is that young Miss Desmond will be extremely successful. I appreciate the example she sets and hope others will as well. And yes,  a guy who spent most of his adult life doing public relations work for a really big chemical company, now has a client on American Idol. Isn’t that cool!

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Congressman Anthony Weiner Starts Public Relations Career

Former Congressman Anthony Weiner will join the public relations firm MWW in New Jersey.
Former Congressman Anthony Weiner will join the public relations firm MWW in New Jersey.

I was always of the opinion that the public relations person on staff or the firm advising a company should not overshadow the company or client and that doing so was a real boner. It will be tough to avoid the taint of former Congressman Anthony Weiner who will begin his public relations career with MWW of New Jersey, according to a press release the agency distributed last week. Here is a link to the release: (

Anthony Weiner, whose sexting scandal juxtaposed against his last name sunk his political career 2 different times, is now working for the New Jersey PR firm headed by Michael W. Kempner. Kempner is a prominent New Jersey Democrat and Hillary Clinton supporter, said in a release that it “is pleased to welcome Anthony Weiner as a member of our Board of Advisors.”

While the agency said the former House representative will not serve clients directly, it plans to tap into his knowledge on a wide-range of policy issues, such as national healthcare and technology. “His public policy expertise will be a great asset to our firm,” the company said.

In 2011, the Democrat resigned his House seat amid a sexting scandal involving at least a half-dozen women.  Weiner later tried to get back into public office two years later in an unsuccessful bid for New York City mayor. He lost after another story came out torpedoing his campaign, this one involving explicit photos and texts under the name “Carlos Danger.”

Everyone deserves a second, third, fourth or even fifth chance. Weiner is no different. I take issue with his choice of vocation because our profession is one that is not held in high esteem on a good day. Adding Weiner to an industry that suffers its own image challenges just makes it harder for the rest of us.

Keeping Carlos away from the clients is probably a good idea. And you have to wonder what kind of favors Mrs. Clinton owes Weiner’s wife and close advisor Huma Abedin (described as Hillary’s shadow) to get this done. Still, this seems like a really bad idea.

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6 Recent News Stories and 8 Regular Features That Will Keep Media And Public Relations People Off The Air And Out Of Print And What To Do About It

6 Recent News Stories 8 Regular Features.

Thank Goodness for Weekends, Public Affairs Programs, and Slow News Days.

Most news that public relations people are asked to help make is not earth shattering or life changing. Stop protesting; you know it’s true. More often than not, we are asked to help make “soft news” visible. That does not make you (or me) bad or silly or indicate that we lack discernment. It merely acknowledges what we all know to be a fact of life for the modern public relations person.

The media have limited resources and only certain types of stories they want to cover. Take your story to the weekend if you want to get covered!
The media have limited resources and only certain types of stories they want to cover. Take your story to the weekend if you want to get covered!

Soft news comes in lots of forms that include but are certainly not limited to, new product introductions and demonstrations, new location openings, speeches, new brochures, seminars and other promotions. Occasionally there is an issue on which a client wants to air an opinion pro or con about things like red light cameras, building permits, property and sales tax increases or decreases. Regardless of how interesting or not these are to you, the people paying the bills want exposure. When are you likely to not receive any? On days when something dramatic happens and the news cycle is focused on that happening.

Clients and bosses will not be sympathetic when you tell them that what they want covered is not terribly newsworthy. At the same time, you want to collect a fee for your work or stay on the payroll. You have bills to pay too!

Bad Days for Public Relations People

Newsworthy events that sucked the air right out of the office lately were: disturbances in Baltimore, disturbances in Missouri, the Boston Marathon Trial, Hillary Clinton, the German Wings Airline Crash, the ISIS attack in Garland, Texas, etc. If you are planning an event in a larger media market, you can plan on competing for the limited resources of local news reporters with these and similar events. And do not forget the usual reporting on auto crashes, apartment fires, armed robberies, bad weather, good weather, cute animal stories, cute children stories, and sports that clog the airways and fog the minds of viewers/readers/listeners. What does a public relations person do when faced with normal reportage and hard news? If possible, plan to release your news on a typically “soft news day”.

When you wake up on the day of your release/event and the TV is full of some war or rumor of war, explosion, spill, or natural disaster, move your event to a weekend, or holiday. Yes, there are fewer news crews and reporters available on weekends and holidays. There are also fewer stories to cover. So put your story where the others are not, Saturday or Sunday.

Since news resources are scarce, be prepared to visit the local station (TV or radio) with your news and demonstration. If you go there, it frees the assignment editor to send his reporters elsewhere. Most TV stations have long form news programs on Saturday. Use them as avenues for publicity. For radio interviews, use the phone. Phone interviews are easy to record and re-broadcast. They are also easier to book with the producer you will deal with to get on the air.

In conclusion, take your soft news to a softer time of the week, the weekend!




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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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The Differences Between Public Relations and Advertising

The tradeoffs for advertising and public relations are many and tilt toward p.r. But if you can afford to advertise, then do so.
The tradeoffs for advertising and public relations are many and tilt toward p.r. But if you can afford to advertise, then do so.

For business owners who are just starting out, knowing the difference between advertising and public relations is important. Advertising is paid for, public relations is earned.

When you are able to convince a reporter to write a story about your company, cause or candidacy it is positive public relations. It is written or broadcast as a news story or feature. Those who see it will know that it is not a paid advertisement. Stories that appear in the media as editorial or news items like this are granted more credibility and are better remembered than ads because they were written and validated by a 3rd party who has no financial stake in the company or cause covered.

Depending on who you ask, articles that are presented as news are 5 – 100 times more valuable than an ad with the same information. In fact, a recent study from by Nielsen commissioned by inPowered on the role of content in the consumer decision-making process concluded that PR is almost “90% more effective than advertising”. According to the study, “on average, expert content lifted familiarity 88 percent more than branded content…” but I think that’s low.  Your ad is unlikely to attract positive attention like invitations to speak at conferences. With advertising, you tell people how great you are.  With publicity, others tell how great you are.  The later is more effective and persuasive.

Advertising Is Beneficial

An advertisement is purchased and people who see, read, or hear them know that advertiser paid for the time/space allowed. Paid media is a great way to promote a business and though my background is in public relations, I often use and recommend advertising. But realize that everyone who experiences your ad will acknowledge that you paid for it, compared to the public relations placement that was earned. With advertising you can pay for the right to tell your story the way you want it told. And you can tell it as often as you want to or can afford. It’s not for nothing that you sing the Armor Hot Dog song, or started doing a Mathew Mcconaughey impersonation of him while driving a Lincoln (mine is spot-on, but I have the advantage of being from Texas, ‘time is a flat circle…”).

Advertising also allows control, where public relations cedes control to the reporter or editor who publishes/broadcasts the story. When I was working for a large chemical manufacturing company whose name rhymes with “cow”, those interviewed by the trade press would ask or in some cases demand that their words be reported exactly as they were uttered. I recommended they buy an ad if they wanted that level of control. For the demanders I found someone else to do the interview when the next opportunity came to us. And for those who have trouble relinquishing control, pursue advertising. When you rely on a reporter to tell your story you are at their mercy. But the trade off of control for other benefits is such that it is a really good bargain. Here is why.


Next to word of mouth endorsements by your friends and neighbors, articles and news stories have a lot more sway than an ad. The fact that a public relations person wrote most of the article, sent the photo, told the interviewee what to say and what not to say are facts below the radar. The public is not aware of any of those details. All they see is an editorial about how good the product, service, candidate or cause is. They never see anything or have knowledge about how the story got there, unless they are reading this. Another difference is the cost.

Expensive vs. Not Expensive

Public relations is far less expensive than advertising. When you see the reports of how expensive a minute of advertising is on the Super Bowl, that is only part of the story. The costs to employ writers, editors, actors, stunt people, costumes, make up, lights, sound, video cameras, editing, etc. are all contributors to the to the costs of advertising. Public relations will employ a client representative who more often than not does all the writing him/herself. Sometimes there is a photographer or videographer and that’s pretty much it. In the case of value for the dollar, public relations deliver far more than the cost.


Comparison of ads vs. p.r.


Ads                                                                  P.R.

Paid for                                                           Earned

Control of content and frequency                  No control or guarantee of coverage

Less credible                                                   Very credible

Expensive                                                        Not free, but not that costly

Good for exposure                                          Good for memorability

Shameless sales appeal                                   Conveys importance


Here is my final word on this for now; if you can afford to advertise you should. But if you are advertising do not neglect the public relations possibilities for your enterprise as they are many. Do both. If you can only afford one or the other choose public relations. It will deliver far greater value and better outcomes for you.

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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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Eight Reasons Public Relations /Content Marketing Are Complimentary

Content Marketing and Public Relations are complimentary parts of your overall marketing efforts.
Content Marketing and Public Relations are complimentary parts of your overall marketing efforts.

Eight Reasons Public Relations /Content Marketing Are Complimentary. Blogs are a big part of content marketing and contribute with well, content. I read a lot of places that content marketing is the next evolution of public relations (P.R.). As a public relations guy, I reacted to this 2 ways. I was glad that public relations continued to evolve as a relevant marketing tool but was disappointed that traditional P.R. was perhaps not as relevant as it once was. Rather than stew about it, I decided to do some research hoping that content and P.R. was complimentary to business communications. Here is what I learned.

1. P.R. is the outreach or distribution of your content. It’s like taking your blog posts out to visit and make new friends. If you have carefully chosen the media outlets and contacts to send content to, then you are able to attract a greater audience for your expertise. P.R. will give you earned media, which will add to your credibility.
2. Without external recognition in the form of publicity, your blog could be seen as merely self-serving. The public is more likely to trust news they see in media. Never mind that you are the source or that the media channel used your content word for word, if it’s in the news it must be true and real. And better!
3. The “public” in public relations forces you to consider the point of view of those outside the building. I’ve worked in places where we were really good at telling each other about how good we were and that was fine except for the fact that none of us were customers or potential customers. Think beyond the fence line. If you do not, then your potential customers will never notice you.
4. News has to be new whether for a blog or press release. Reporters are not interested in stories about what happened before or was reported on previously. That’s the definition of history, not news. Same for your blog readers. P.R. will force you to think differently about what you write and help prevent it from being redundant and the same thing over and over. Or from being redundant.
5. Stay top of mind. The goals of P.R. and content marketing are alike in lots of ways. Keeping your business top of mind with prospects is at or near the top of the list. P.R. allows you to tell your story to a bigger audience through these media channels.
6. PR’s goal is to share a story that is so compelling that members of the media eagerly want to publish the story on their front page or broadcast it at the top of the show. If content marketers crafted equally powerful stories for owned media channels, consumers would eat it up. The distribution vehicles may vary, but the results are the same – good stories that engage your targeted audiences. So do that. Be a good storyteller.
7. Merchandize articles on your web site. After something positive is published or broadcast about you, post a copy or link on your home page. You can also email customers and prospects and tell them about the great things a respected media outlet reported about you. I once had the president of my employer do an interview with the Wall Street Journal. He was the only person from our industry so interviewed. After it was published, we posted it to the web site and sent a notice out to our customers. Here is a link to that article:
8. Don’t write brochure copy and call it a blog or news release. There is nothing wrong with writing copy for a brochure as long as it is published inside a brochure. Putting the same copy on a news release or blog post is bad manners at best. If you want your content to grow into a media outlet, over the top promotion and flowery language will prevent this and you will be seen as a hack, an amateur or flack. Save the hype for the brochure and keep your credible claims on the blog, the content and press release.

So it turns out that P.R. and content do compliment each other. Good! Combining a P.R. element of thinking into your blog and content marketing will keep you grounded and make certain that the emphasis of your content is on what the audience wants and not on what sounds good to you and your colleagues.

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Four Reasons To Start A Blog

Four Reasons To Start A Blog .

There are plenty of reasons to start a blog. Here are four.
There are plenty of reasons to start a blog. Here are four.

Why should you start a blog? Easy.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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?

4. 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.