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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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Five Style Ideas for Writers from David Ogilvy

Introduction: Five Style Ideas for Writers from David Ogilvy!

We spend a lot of time on the blog talking about writing. Bloggers typically like to write, I certainly do. Writing is the core of what bloggers, public relations and advertising people do. It’s unlikely that anyone would debate that or try and tell you that your ideas and business philosophy are wrong. Some may disagree but would also quickly acknowledge that everyone has a right to an opinion and we value freedom of expression. And at the end of the day, the marketplace will decide who has the best ideas. Not so, at least in my experience, are the choices about style. I can’t say that the style I use is for everyone. I can say that this style works for me and that I learned it under very stressful circumstances.

When I was first asked to write advertising for a subsidiary of The Dow Chemical Company I was petrified. Scared beyond reason. Why? Because I knew absolutely nothing about it and because I feared failing at anything more than my own death. What to do?

Inside our local bookstore was a volume entitled, “Ogilvy On Advertising” by David Ogilvy. I had either by accident or the hand of God found the definitive work on advertising by the man most credit with the invention of modern advertising. It turned out that this “David Ogilvy” was the Ogilvy of the world famous “Ogilvy and Mather” advertising agency. His failures in life and business were many. The thing he had learned from them was among other things, the value of research.

Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy is a classic that helped me greatly and might for you as well.
Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy is a classic that helped me greatly and might help you too.

Advertising worked for his and other agency clients. Ogilvy wanted a competitive advantage over those other agencies by writing and designing ads that worked better than those of his competition. So he studied and tested and consulted with the best minds available. Here in brief is what he designed for print advertising.

Style Guide for Print and Web Based Materials

  1. Font: Use the Times Roman font, in 12-point size. This is the same font that is used by newspapers and high circulation magazines. Known as a “serif” font, the differences in thickness in these letters are easier for the eye to literally “grasp” and hold. The use of sans-serif (smooth) fonts allow the eye to “bounce off”. This is less an aesthetic choice than a mechanical one. This font is easier for the eye to read because of the way human eyes are designed.
  1. Line length: Keep sentences to an alphabet and one half in length. Like the font, this is the amount of space the human brain can reasonably process and keep track of, where longer lines are confusing. Our brains do not have the “band-width” for longer lines.
  1. Black type on a white surface: art directors will not like this. You see a lot of reverse (white on black) and other color combinations that are deemed “creative”. Advertising, brochures and other printed materials are not media for creative expression, particularly in business to business sales. Ogilvy and others have found that the reverse type is much harder to read than the black on white. If it is harder to read, it is less likely to be read.
  1. Headlines and photos: The Ogilvy formula was to have a full page ad with a color photo, headline beneath and copy started below, using a “drop cap”. This follows the progression of how the western educated eye will move. The “drop cap” will signal the brain that this is the place to start and direct the eye across and down the page.
  1. Long copy or short? Ogilvy was an advocate of long copy because he said it conveyed the idea that there must be something important to say. This was counter-intuitive 50 years ago and more so now in the age of twitter. I still think long copy is the best way to work because it allows writers the opportunity to share important details, again important for the B to B marketer. So use short sentences on twitter or your web site to attract attention and link them to the longer articles you want to share. The reader self-selects what he/she wants and proceeds accordingly.


There are as many opinions about how to write and how to layout and design a page as there are people who care to share an opinion. I cannot say that this is the absolute and only way to do this. What I can say is that this worked

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Six Tips For Reporter Follow-Ups That Get Publicity

The silence of the media recognition you crave, is just part of the landscape unless you are smart enough to change it. Six Tips For Reporter Follow-Ups That Get Publicity.

The Press Release Is Out & Time To Follow Up With Reporters;

To Call Or Not To Call?

If you work at or own a public relations agency, are starting a new business, expanding an existing one, introducing a new product or something else that you believe is newsworthy you will have written and distributed your press release. Now what? Why isn’t my release on the front page of the paper, the top of the web site or page 1 of Google? Why isn’t the phone ringing?

If you are a public relations veteran, then this is nothing new for you. The silence of the media recognition you crave is part of the landscape, but it does not have to be. If this is all new to you, hold on. Just because the phone isn’t ringing or the computer vibrating off the desk with pick-ups does not mean that your release was not well received. It probably was, or maybe it wasn’t. So here’s the deal with following up with reporters.

We’ll Call You

Every reporter you will ever speak to about “follow up” from a public relations person will tell you that if they are interested in your release, they will call you. When they tell you that, they probably really believe it. But we all know that in reality this is not true. Consider the sales person.

If selling was easy and did not entail a lot of follow up, no one would ever need to make a sales call. Because, if you follow the string of logic that says “if I’m interested I’ll call” you can just wait by the phone for all those calls from prospective customers, right? Similarly, if a reporter will call when or if they are interested then that phone will start ringing any second now, won’t it. Of course not.

What our reporter friends really mean is, that they do not want calls from people who do not have anything meaningful to them. Reporters also do not want calls about topics they do not cover, because it wastes their time. Any reasonable person would acknowledge the reasonableness of this desire. Sound reasonable? Of course it does. But I still do not know what to do. I’m supposed to make follow up calls, aren’t I. Yes, but read these tips first.

Calling Tips For Follow Up With Reporters

Do not treat media follow up calls like telemarketing. And put that coffee down!
Do not treat media follow up calls like telemarketing. And put that coffee down!
  1. Don’t be stupid. Calling a reporter to ask if they received your e-mail, is it stuck in your spam folder, would you like me to resend it, etc. are just annoying and pointless. The e-mail is working fine. A call like this will earn you the label of amateur, and you do not want that. You might as well call and ask “whatcha doin’?”
  2. No breeze testers. If you call a reporter after a release is out and say you are putting out feelers or testing the wind or testing the waters about what you already wrote and sent it signals to the reporter that: you did not think about this topic very hard until you pressed send, not knowing if it was newsworthy or not; and you have no idea who you are calling or why or what they actually report on. Would you call the sports writer to ask if he/she were interested in a story about predicting the weather? Of course you would not. So why are we (public relations people) put off when we call the new technology editor to discuss a story idea about crime prevention and he or she hangs up on you? Would you ask the plumber to work on your teeth? So resist the urge to call about feelers or to circle back or see if the e-mail works or not. All these tactics are pointless and a waste of everyone’s time and your company or client’s money.
  3. Do some homework. Before you sit down to make those calls, look at the background or “beat” that individual covers. Read, watch or listen to some of their stories first and know in advance whether or not there is a chance of any interest on the other end of the phone. If your client is peddling a new software solution for pet trainers and the reporter or blogger has never covered anything like this and for all you know does not even own a dog, the chances are good that this is not the person to call. Past is often prologue. On the other hand, if the writer/reporter has a column called “Pet Scene” and is known to volunteer at the SPCA, you’ve got a shot of getting a returned call and maybe even an interview. Again, past is often prologue.
  4. Put the coffee down. I get annoyed with public relations leaders who treat the follow call and the follow-up callers like boiler room telemarketers. A call to a reporter need not remind us all of Glengarry Glen Ross. Mitch and Murray from downtown did not send you. So allow your people the time needed to research those reporters and find the ones you at least have a chance of placing a story or scheduling an interview. This is a better approach than making a barrage of calls that all go to phone mail and are never returned.
  5. Go slow to go fast. This is one of my favorite phrases because while it sounds counter-intuitive, it is not. While you are researching the best places to make those pitch calls, the hours slip by. The boss is annoyed because you are not on the phone. You have made no placements. But the value of the research comes later when you make calls to those who report on and have a demonstrated interest in your release. No doubt there will be more interviews, more column inches, more awareness and calls to action because you took the time to find the right people to talk to and congratulations to you when you are the boss instead of the Alec Baldwin wannabe from downtown.
  6. Add worth. By making a more thoughtful approach to your reporter follow up, you added value. You made the reporters’ job easier because you introduced him/her to a story that will resonate with the audience he/she reports to. You did not waste his/her time with a pointless call. You did not waste the company or agency’s time and money by making silly calls nor did you exhaust yourself with this pointless exercise. Finally and most importantly you contributed to the reputation of your company or client. Those results will show up as added business because of the thoughtful approach you took. Well done!




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Measles Vaccine Controversy: Public Relations Nightmare

What do vaccines, public advocacy by the pharmaceutical industry and the “tin foil hat” crowd have in common? We’ll get to all of this. Measles Vaccine Controversy: Public Relations Nightmare.

First, skipping your measles vaccination is not a good idea as measles are contagious and can lead to complications up to and including death. Getting a measles vaccination is easy, affordable and just about guarantees you will not catch the measles. So what’s the big deal? And where are the pharmaceutical companies and why are they not advocating for the vaccine?

Drug companies should be more aggressive in their advocacy for vaccines and drown out the "tin foil hat" crowd.
Drug companies should be more aggressive in their advocacy for vaccines and drown out the “tin foil hat” crowd.

Plenty of others have written about the bad data from a
vaccine study in the U.K. but I have another theory about why so many are not considering this or the vaccines. Trust, or a lack of trust.

Not trusting government is as American as the 4th of July. But it seems that lack of faith now extends to business. The “drug companies” seem to get the most attention in this space. Perfectly reasonable people believe that drug/pharmaceutical companies are actually in the business of perpetuating illness as a way to prolong diseases and increase their revenues. Views like this that were once only the views voiced from the “tin foil hat” and talk radio crowd are now more main stream in the era of Face Book and Twitter. If Mee-Maw saw it on the “Interwebs” then it must be true, right? Wrong.

This kind of nonsense will make you dead. It will also make other innocent people dead, sick or permanently disabled. The pharmaceutical industry has an opportunity to advocate for good health, vaccines and their considerable abilities. So where are they?

Big companies are big targets, and attract a lot of attention when they step up or step out. A lot of that attention is going to be negative and no one likes the bad kind of attention. You can understand why they would choose to remain silent and let the controversy spin itself out, as it likely will. Add to that lawyers who “contribute” to the public relations strategy by telling their internal clients to “not say anything” as part of their response to public discourse. Remaining silent is a good idea at the police station, but it is terrible public relations strategy.

Without advocacy from the pharmaceutical industry, bad information, bad policy and more sick people will be the result. It does not have to be that way, which is a real shame. I hope that people who are in a position to do so decide to come out on the side of science, advocate for measles and other vaccines and drown out the voices of ignorance that seem to receive a disproportionate amount of attention. I’m looking at you, Mee-Maw.

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Managing Public Relations For Frackers

Managing Public Opinion For Frackers.

Frackers face far more obstacles to public acceptance than most industries.
Frackers face far more obstacles to public acceptance than most industries.

Natural gas fracturing, or fracking as it is known, can help make the U.S. energy independent and a net exporter of energy within five years. Unfortunately, public opinion outside of the industry is very negative when it comes to the practice of freeing natural gas from rocks. Popular films, news coverage, and posturing by environmental groups have stacked the deck against the industry for certain. But all is not lost. Here are some steps for overcoming the concerns of the public about fracking:

1. Be local. When or if possible, use spokespersons and company representatives who live in the area where your company will be working. No one will trust an out of towner. Worse, the lack of a local presence will be used against you.

2. Rely on facts and data, but only up to a point. People who are worried about the potential for some danger introduced to them via popular media are emotional, not rational. Thus, you should not be surprised when they behave and react in irrational ways. People are more emotional beings than they are logical.

3. Big business has a sketchy reputation. Business is not trusted and energy and petrochemical companies less. You are a strike or two down before you ever arrive on the scene. Manage your and your colleagues/client expectations. Not everyone is going to be persuaded by you or your messages. Be prepared to spend the time needed to get your message across.

4. Rely on local media, but make communications two way. There was never a better time to leverage inbound marketing techniques (landing pages with information offered freely and regularly) with your stakeholder audience. Press coverage is a way to introduce yourself and company to an audience but take the time and trouble to make information available to anyone who wants it.

5. Be transparent. My experience in business is that it is considered career suicide to publicly admit a mistake. Maybe. But think big picture and tell the truth no matter how distasteful it might be. You might suffer criticism for a time inside the office, but long term you will be scene as a visionary for being the guy/gal willing to be tell the whole truth. It’s part of number 6!

6. Respect the audience. I never allowed co-workers to refer to residents or other stakeholder members as “Joe Six Pack” or other unflattering characterizations and neither should you. These people are or could potentially be your neighbors. Show some respect and remember that if you are not sincere, people will see through you.


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Poo-Pourri’s Television Commercial On You Tube Is Genius

Click Here To Watch The Video and Be Prepared to Laugh. 

The You Tube ad for Poo Pourri is entertaining and informative, the mark of any good ad.
The You Tube ad for Poo Pourri is entertaining and informative, the mark of any good ad.

I hate watching commercials. I can endure a few but more often than not they are played end to end for way to kong. But, Poo-Pourri’s Television Commercial On You Tube Is Genius. If all commercials were as well made as this one not only would I watch them, I’d write about them here.

Skip The Commercials

Like most television watchers with the means and/or challenging schedule, I record shows for viewing later when I have time to watch and enjoy them. Known as “time shifting”, we can watch when there is time and we can use the fast forward button to skip through commercials (we call this “boofing” as in “can you boof through the commercial”). This is especially handy for watching NFL and NCAA Football. Where strings of ads play after every punt, quarter change, halftime, kickoff and let’s not forget the long breaks where plays are reviewed. A sixty minute game can and will stretch to four hours with all of the ads, and unfunny blather from Howie and Terry, but I digress.

Television Ads Are Reborn

Now, the television or video commercial is reborn on You Tube with this ad for Poo-Pourri, a spray that covers the smell of public pooping. Who hasn’t not wanted to poop at a party, friends house, airliner, etc.? Poo-Pourri not only makes it O.K. but is incredibly entertaining. If you have not seen the ad, picture the Orbit chewing gum model of “dirty mouth” fame, talking about taking a big old, stinky dump and you have the picture.

This ad works because it is relatable, informative and entertaining if not downright funny. It also asks for the order in that the charming, British pooper-actress on screen tells you how and where to buy it.

Watch for yourself. This ad is genius.