How To Get Publicity By Thinking Like A Journalist

Marsha FriedmanMarsha Friedman is a PR expert with 25 years’ experience developing publicity strategies for celebrities, corporations, and media newcomers alike. In this feature, she shares tips for promoting your brand to the media.

Capturing the attention of the news media is a great way to promote your brand and get your name or your business’ name in front of the masses.

The trick, of course, is to convince print publications or radio and TV stations that they should pay you any mind.

Many small business owners have a hard time envisioning what they can offer the news media, beyond stories that are all about their business, practice, product – or themselves.

That kind of coverage is terrific, of course, but having owned a public relations firm for 25 years I can tell you it’s not easy to get and it’s impossible to sustain. And sustainability is crucial. To stand out in a crowded marketplace, you can’t be a one-hit wonder. You’ve got to stay in front of your audience.

So how do you get journalists and talk show hosts to tell people how incredibly awesome you, your business, your products and your brand are?

It’s simple. You don’t.

Publicity is about getting visibility, credibility and exposure – it’s not about selling. Don’t think in terms of what the news media can do for you. Figure out what you can do for them.

You gain publicity by looking for ways to provide useful, valuable content for the media that is, ideally, tied to something in the news. In other words, you need to think like a journalist, who has no interest in promoting your business or anyone else’s, but is looking for information that would be important, useful or interesting to readers.

That’s where you come in. Are you a financial advisor who can offer TV viewers tips for reducing the amount they pay the IRS? Are you a bakery owner who can provide newspaper readers with recipes for low-calorie desserts during the holidays?

See? In each of those cases, you aren’t selling something. You are offering something.

Let me give you some recent examples of how my public relations firm got publicity for some of our clients.

  • Nearly universal advice. A marriage counselor wanted to bring attention to her practice and Marsha Friedmanher new book. We intrigued the news media with topics such as “Why Are Many Marriages Built for Failure?” and “Why Communication Is the Oxygen that Keeps Relationships Alive,” with her as the expert ready with comments and advice. Since many of their readers, listeners, and viewers are married or planning to marry, she offered the media something they saw as worthwhile. Note that we did not promote her by saying things such as, “Marriage Counselor Wants to Expand Practice.”
  • Bad breath, good angle. A dentist who specializes in diagnosing and treating halitosis has developed a number of products to address that problem. We’ve helped him stay in front of audiences for years with radio and TV talk segment angles such as “How Those Weird Carnival Foods Lead to Foul Breath” and “Will Your Breath Make Cupid Faint this Valentine’s Day?” For all these segments, the dentist is named, his website publicized and occasionally, one of his products is mentioned.
  • Being there for breaking news. The CEO of a company that specializes in cybersecurity wanted exposure in all types of media – print, TV and radio. He turned out to be the right client at the right time. It seemed like every time we checked the news, a private company or government agency was being hacked and personal information about millions of ordinary citizens was being compromised. We scheduled numerous interviews where the CEO commented on why all the cyber information was vulnerable and what could be done about it. We also wrote articles picked up by print and online publications that featured his tips for protecting yourself from hackers. He racked up an amazing amount of exposure for his company.

If you want valuable publicity for your business or product, remember, you need to offer something valuable in return. For TV and radio talk shows, that’s an informative and entertaining interview that will engage the audience. If you do a great job as a guest, the host will have no problem promoting your company and product or service in return. And you can casually work in some mention during your interview as well.

In print, experts are usually identified by their claim to fame, so you may be quoted as Gertrude Smith, owner of Aunt Gertrude’s Pet Sitting Service, and there may even be a reference to your website. Write an article for a publication and it will likely include a bio about you.

All of this will provide more visibility and credibility for you and your product or service while building a brand consumers can fall in love with.

About Marsha Friedman

Marsha Friedman is a public relations expert with 25 years’ experience developing publicity strategies for celebrities, corporations and media newcomers alike. Using the proprietary system she created as founder and CEO of EMSI Public Relations, an award-winning national agency, she secures thousands of top-tier media placements annually for her clients. The former senior vice president for marketing at the American Economic Council, Marsha is a sought-after advisor on PR issues and strategies. She shares her knowledge in her Amazon best-selling book, Celebritize Yourself, and as a popular speaker at organizations around the country.

 

 

5 Start-Up Tips from Female Founders

NY Power Panel 2015

Virág Gulyás is Founder and Chief Editor and Shamim Shahzeb is Editor of MissCareerLess, a down-to-earth magazine dedicated to women of all ages. Its ultimate goal is to create a virtual storytelling platform and be the go-to empowerment site for women. MissCareerless’ uniqueness lies in its exceptionally multicultural content that proves that no matter where we are, we are in the same game together.  

NY Power Panel 2015
Virag and Shamim from MissCareerLess

This past month, we attended a Career 2.0 and Economic Ventures event in New York City bringing together five women entrepreneurs who shared their startup adventures and encouraged other women to follow their dream and launch their own businesses. Though they came from very different backgrounds, the Power Panel of female founders shared a common characteristic: they all started their journey to success with one idea that happened to be in line with their passion. Today, through determination, hard work, and skill, they are proud owners of their respective businesses:

  • Barbara Werner, owner of Musical Pairing Inc., a unique concept of pairing your meal with music.
  • Mary Molina, founder of the gluten- and GSA-free Lola Granola.
  • Deborah Hernan, founder and CEO of Ottilie and Lulu skincare products for tweens.
  • Sumeera Rasul, founder of Madesmith, an online artisanal product marketplace that shares stories of artisans and their products.
  • Marlo Scott, the founder and CEO of Sweet Revenge; a popular eatery at West Village, which pairs desserts and savory dishes with wine and beer.

Here are five key take-away messages they shared with the audience:

DO YOUR HOMEWORK – by Marlo Scott

NY Power Panel 2015
Marlo Scott

We have all been taught to do a basic business plan before venturing out to establish your own business. Identify the gap in the market, do your research qualitative or quantitative, and have a roadmap ready that will guide you in the initial stages of your entrepreneurial adventure. But write your business plan even if nobody will read it. You are doing it for yourself. And if after writing it, you still love your idea, then do it. The panelists agreed that to have a successful business plan, research is the most important step and, for that, you must think “outside the box.” For instance when Deborah began her qualitative research she went to different department stores and malls but couldn’t find her audience, tweens. So she went outside the box and did her research at a toy store and got the data (and chance) she was looking for. Thus, start by looking at places where you otherwise normally would not.

NEVER UNDERESTIMATE YOURSELF – by Deborah Hernan

NY Power Panel 2015This one is self-explanatory, but easier said than done. When you have setbacks on the path to your entrepreneurial venture, remember to believe in yourself and your capabilities. “People, who look really confident, might not be as confident as they appear.” There are days when you get up and feel everything is possible. But there are those days when you feel you are in the backseat. That is when you have to believe in yourself even more. Mary, echoed Deborah’s message by saying: “I faced quite many setbacks and troubles in getting the required certification for my granola.” There were days when she would simply cry after talking to people on the phone who refused to give information to her. But she persisted. She believed in herself, her capabilities and, most importantly, her product. This led to her granola bars being picked up by Whole Foods and her business steadily taking off.

JUST JUMP IN – by Sumeera Rasul

We have all been there: sitting at our desk, tired of the same 9-to-5 routine and our challenging (bad) bosses. We keep telling ourselves the NY Power Panel 2015calming mantra: “One day I will start my own business with that great idea that has been lurking in my head for a long time.” As reassuring as it sounds, our panelist warns us: that time will never come. So either you jump in or you never ever jump. (“It helps if you are laid off’”– added Marlo with great sense of irony). Do not wait for that “one-day’” to come, make today that day. And how do you motivate yourself to take that plunge? Change your mindset. To become an entrepreneur, you must start thinking like an entrepreneur. Once you have a business plan and the initial ground stone of your company or even just a business idea, start talking about it. Ger the word out. Tell everyone you know and even people you don’t know. You will be surprised how doing this might lead to the next step in your venture. If you get started, other people will lift you up!

SEEK OUT AND TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE MYRIAD OF RESOURCES – by Mary Molina

As it is so pervasive, we often overlook that we’ve got Google as our primary and free resource to use for research. It allows us to study about our business idea, to gain a sense of awareness from the market we are venturing into, as well as to get to know about competition – if any. Another great tool we have is reaching out to people who might be already in the market. You can ask them to link you with people who might be interested in your new business. The key here is to  actively build a network of people who can support you and could be valuable sources of information and help. At the same time, you have to be determined and confident about your idea. As Sumeera intervened: “If you want to know who your friends are, start a business.”

NY Power Panel 2015
Lisa from Career 2.0 (center) with Gwendy & Carrie from Economic Ventures

If you find yourself without any support to begin with, you can always reach out to different platforms. Think of SCORE, which brings together a group of retired entrepreneurs who offer guidance and resources to to-be-entrepreneurs or already established business owners who are retiring or selling out. Then there are organizations like the Tory Burch Foundation: Finance for Female Entrepreneurs, which provides economic support. Or Goldman Sachs that provides resources such as 10,000 Small Businesses and 10,000 Women, which help entrepreneurs and women business owners by providing them with the required education, capital, and support.

KNOW WHAT YOU KNOW AND THEN CAPITALIZE ON YOUR STRENGTHS – 11406790_470060686492234_6554088178124972224_nby Barbara Werner

The multifaceted Barbara is driven by curiosity and believes that everything we learn we will be able to use somewhere along our journey. But how do we know if something is really worth our time to dive in? “You know you more than anybody else do.” So know what you don’t know and commit to learning it! But also – and to establish your business – you need to know your strengths. You need to be able to line them up and build on them. Even the statement: “Well, I’ve been a mother for 15 years’”shows that you are patient, you’ve got great communication skills, and you have determinationOnce you established your strengths and know your business plan to the smallest details, collaborate with people and organizations, which have the strengths and skills that you or your company might be lacking. That is how you can start building up your team. Only by preparedness you will be able to anticipate the changes in the market and be ready to react to these changes in your business plans.

Stay posted for more Power Panels organized by Career 2.0 (coming to DC soon) and a follow-up event in NYC with Economic Ventures.

Striped Mistakes: 6 Lessons in My Success as a Failure

Striped Shirt Company FamiliesLaura Beck is chief shirt schlepper of www.stripedshirt.com, a failed start-up. Based in Austin, Texas, five years ago Laura launched a tee-shirt company on the premise customers would want to show their support for teams and organizations by wearing their colors in stripes. Nearly a month ago, she went public with her breakup with stripedshirt, and launched a Kickstopper. In 4 weeks, she’s been floored by the response (138,000+ Facebook and 7,000+  YouTube views of the video). She (along with her unpaid interns – her 70-year-old mom and 10- and 6–year-old daughters) packaged up and shipped over 400 orders: that’s 1,000 shirts sold! So, after all this Kickstopper buzz and love, Laura felt it was a good time to think through what missteps she took with stripedshirt and perhaps spare other entrepreneurial types some of her pain.

To paraphrase Frank Sinatra – MISTAKES, I’ve made a few!

1. It Was All About ME

That was by design, I had done 18 years of PR agency life, 10 running an agency and leading an amazing team of 16 people. But I was burnt out, fried from managing others, especially aggressive young guns new in their careers and eager to advance. I wanted to do stripedshirt entirely on my own. NO WAY I was taking any outside funding. First of all, I didn’t need it (again, I worked 18 years, I had savings), and second, I’ve seen the good and bad of VC-funded startups doing PR for them for years. This was also MY dream, and no one else would be as passionate about it. I didn’t bring in any partners, I wasn’t beholden to anyone! I could do it my way (Sinatra again! J). Well, turns out, a partner or two, they’ll hold your feet to the fire.

2. Over-Architecting the Website

I did some homework, but while I do tech PR, I’m not that technical, and I went with Magenta, an open-source shoppingCahoon Girls cart for ecommerce sites, and I had that thing built big from the start. I wanted to be able to expand like crazy, assuming (hoping), I’d grow, add products like long-sleeved stripes, tanks, striped beach towels, waterbottles, flash drives, and bikinis (I’m not kidding, these were on my roadmap). If I knew then … I’d have done a simple Word Press template. I would have worked with Volusion, BigCommerce, WP Engine (in my defense, none of these guys had the amazing SMB website offerings they have now back in 2010). Any of these providers likely would have saved me money as well as pain, as I put $10,000 into that cludgy website. I also went with Paypal for payment processing so I wouldn’t have to do my own SSL, my own security. And wow, Paypal + Magenta is just wonky. If I totaled up all my abandoned shopping carts, there’d be a lot fewer shirts in my garage!

3. Inventory

BLERG!  Again, with absolutely no background in fashion or apparel, I did some homework, but really just went for it. Through an amazing guy here in Austin, I was connected to some factories in India, and they took me on. But to do so, and to really show my concept, I committed to 14 different color combinations and 15 sizes. For each, to do the manufacturing, I committed to about 50 of each size of each color, with a few exceptions. You do the math. We are talking over 10,000 shirts!

And I had some colors move and needed reorders (hello, what is up with the popularity of red and white stripedshirts?  I should have started RED stripedshirt, it would have been a lot more successful!) Then there were other colors that absolutely sit there. I thought my Ohio State connections from growing up in Columbus OH would make my red and gray stripes fly off the shelves. But it is my absolute slowest mover! In the end, of the 10,000 shirts, I sold (or gifted – more on that below) about 4,000 in 5 years. I’ve written off some, but about 6,000 are still in my garage today!

Now, again, if I knew then …. I should have done market testing, started with small sets of shirts, only ordered colors that were actually moving. But, there are Striped Shirt Company Logonot a lot of manufacturing options for apparel startups. It’s a pretty brutal industry all around. Margins absolutely stink. I was lucky to find someone to take on what I thought was a mammoth order, but for them, it was teeny. I couldn’t find a way to do small, test-run inventory orders.

And when I did get my inventory, 10,000 shirts arrived in a semi on pallets – that’s pretty overwhelming for one 40-year-old mom to figure out, organize, track, and manage. I quickly had no idea what I had, what I didn’t. It was too much, too overwhelming.

I could go on and on here about the problems with fast food fashion in America, all the bad stuff I hope our apparel industry sorts out soon. That cotton is still grown in the US but shipped overseas for “cut and sew” and then shipped back is absolute insanity. That factory conditions in Bangladesh, but also East LA, are so dismal should not be happening today. And that the size and scale of orders from Forever 21 and H&M give us shoppers $5 t-shirts, but other apparel hopefuls no prayer of competing, is depressing but very, very real.

striped Shirt14. The Premise Didn’t Work

The idea of stripedshirt – to show your colors, support your favorite team or school –absolutely did not fly. The sales I’ve gotten are mostly women ordering stripes they like. I hardly believe all the navy and white orders I’ve had are really Yankees fans ( as a Red Sox fanatic, I guess I hope not). And, when I had the idea, 20 years ago, fan-wear options just for women were really limited. Now there are tons of options – Alyssa Milano, Victoria Secret, college Ts at Old Navy. I also bet on women wanting to do “Mommy and Me” combos with their children, what I call the Lilly Pulitzer effect. Didn’t happen, those sales didn’t come.

Funny enough, my biggest sales weeks on the calendar were mid-September to mid-October. Yes, Halloween. Turns out there are a lot of costumes that incorporate stripes – Where’s Waldo surely, but also Olivia the Pig, Doc McStuffins, Pirates, French, even Freddy Krueger. While these were real sales and money in, it was kind of depressing to think someone bought a stripedshirt for a one-day-a-year costume.

5. Marketing Alone Does Not a Company Make

This one was the hardest pill to swallow because remember, before stripedshirt, I was an 18-year PR veteran. I KNOW MARKETING. I’m good at it. I thought I had this part in the bag! I thought I could build stripedshirt entirely on marketing, on PR, on word of mouth and buzz. I knew better. Way better. For 18 years, I told clients “PR is AIRCOVER for sales.” You need integrated marketing and a sales strategy. But in 5 years, I was the sales team, and I’m not a very good salesperson. I never brought on any agents or distributors, I never figured out deals with stores, or even built a network in retail. I also never did any paid search or Google ad words. I relied fully on organic search, which was very strong, but not strong enough to carry a business. I never even put in place a CRM system to continue to communicate with customers who had already bought – and hopefully loved – a stripedshirt.

Finally, I put all my trust and hope in influencers and bloggers. I gave away more shirts than I care to count to fashion bloggers to do a review with a great write up and high quality photo spread, and then do a giveaway. Lots of raffle copters out there with thousands of people putting in their chance for a free stripedshirt. I wrongly figured many of those, not getting the free shirt, would come to buy. They did not. I appreciate all the support and buzz my fashion bloggers gave stripedshirt, but make no mistake, they did not produce sales. Way too much inventory went out with very little return. I knew better. I know what integrated marketing is required to create and grow a business, I’ve counseled people on this for 20 years. But I didn’t put most of it into action for my own business.

6. Distracted by my Comfort Zone

When I started stripedshirt, the idea was to leave an 18-year PR career and do something completely new and different. That lasted one month. Thirty days into it all and I had already taken on a client on the side. Generally, for the past 5 years, I’ve been doing PR consulting for upwards of 6 clients at any one time. I hold it to about 20 hours a week. But we all know a startup is a 110% commitment. Between time with my girls, and PR consulting, stripedshirt kept taking a back seat. It was far too easy to fall back into my comfort zone, to do what I was good at, versus trying to figure out this new stripedshirt world that was hard, and complicated, and not showing any signs of success. Doing PR consulting may have kept my ego secure and my confidence up, and my wallet not completely empty of spending money, but helping others with their businesses majorly distracted me from focusing on my own.

And so, now, 5 years later, I’ve broken up with stripedshirt publicly and I’m turning back to the PR consulting I know well, including, it turns out, PR for the stripedshirt failure. Perhaps the best PR I’ve ever done – for a failure, for the closing of a business. Not exactly something you want to do a case study on to share with future clients, unless they too want to shut down their businesses!

Again, these past 2 weeks have been so amazing, very liberating and freeing to admit defeat – a relief to come clean about my failed business.  Most everyone has been very supportive, and amused. Seems there are a lot of kindred spirits out there who also gave entrepreneurship a go and didn’t have smashing success. I appreciate the people who have reached out to cheer me on, even to thank me for sharing my story.

There have been some hecklers, and negative comments, make no mistake. People who said I had no business starting a business, and of course it failed, what a bad idea, and bad execution. There certainly is a lot of truth in what they say as you can see from the six mistakes I’ve detailed above. I remain proud to be public in my failure and again, hope my sharing can support others who’ve gone through this, or will go through this. Or, maybe, my stripedshirt Kickstopper, and the lessons learned, will give some guidance and tips for others of how to give their own business a better fighting chance!

Watch the Kickstopper video, when you enter “kickstopper” at checkout, you’ll get to 50% off your order.

One-on-One With Alicia Syrett, Angel Investor and Start-Up Advisor

squareAlicia Syrett is the Founder and CEO of Pantegrion Capital, an angel investment vehicle focused on seed and early stage investments. She serves on the Board of NY Angels as the Chairman of the Board of HeTexted and her past and present advisory board roles include Enerknol, iFunding, Cuipo, The Pitch Deck, Beauty Booked, Cissé Trading Co. and Willa. A recurring panelist on CNBC’s PowerPitch, Alicia was voted one of Wharton’s “40 Under 40” young alumni and has been featured on Fox, MSNBC, Inc, Associated Press, Huffington Post, and USA Today, among others. She mentors start-ups and students alike and is a member of Women Corporate Directors. 

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One-on-One with A. Michelle Blakeley, Serial Entrepreneur and Simplicity Expert

unnamed (5)Professional bootstrapper A. Michelle Blakeley is one of Forbes 30 Women Entrepreneurs to Follow on Twitter. As a serial entrepreneur and simplicity expert, she has guided new and seasoned small business owners on how to start, sustain and grow their business for over two decades. She masterfully delivers the right information with step-by-step guidance. Her “cut to the chase” approach keeps entrepreneurs focused on timely, relevant and productive activities. She is the source for understanding and knowing how to align your purpose, principles and priorities with simple practices. A. Michelle believes what’s good for you, is good for your business. Minding the gap between your personal and professional life™ 

You call yourself a Micro Business Therapist. Exactly what does that mean?

Micro Business Therapy™ is the process of aligning your purpose, priorities and principles and exercising them daily. Through in depth discussions, clients determine what your purpose is and the principles and priorities that support your purpose. New clients often experience conflict in their personal and professional life. They’re unsatisfied, frustrated, unorganized, have lost direction and are constantly “reacting.” When you realign your purpose, principles and priorities; you’ll find you think clearer, you make better decisions, you are focused, more determined and more disciplined. You operate offensively, not defensively. That’s not to say that your world will be perfect, but it does make more sense and you live a more self-defined life. (more…)

Countdown to the Final Pitch: National Business Challenge Aims to Make a Difference in Women’s Lives

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Update 8th May, 2015: the SBA has announced winners of the InnovateHER competition: 1st place went to Lia Diagnostics, 2nd to The Shower Shirt, and 3rd to Trusst Lingerie.  Congratulations!

Most of us are familiar with The Shark Tank, the ABC business pitch reality show that gave entrepreneurship a shot in the arm, fueling the desire in many to quit that staid job, launch their own business, and of course become millionaires. But let’s face it, only a select few will ever get the chance to face The Sharks, and frankly, it’s not for everyone. But clearly there is an appetite for business challenges as they have burgeoned in number, extending far beyond their traditional space on college campuses, with more serious participants competing for bigger prizes. So numerous are these business plan competitions there is even a website dedicated to tracking them. (more…)

9 Second Acts You Won’t Want to Miss: What’s New with These Inspirational Women

One year ago we launched Career 2.0 with a question – how do you walk away from a career, a successful one, and dive into a passion in midlife? How do you, effectively, start over from scratch? And here’s the kicker … how to do it without giving up financial security, which, let’s face it, is much more critical in midlife than it was when you were starting your career. (more…)