The key to winning PR.

How your PR team can play winning ball like the Cubs

The Associated Press named the Cubs winning the World Series as the top sports story of 2016. Aside from the fact that Captain Obvious must have been moonlighting for the AP sports department this year, there are two critical lessons that PR strategists can take from the Cubs championship season to play winning PR.

Winning PR is about setting a good plan, sticking to it, and making adjustments when needed.

The author (right) with his son Jeff outside Wrigley Field before Game 5 of the 2016 World Series. Cubs were down 3-1 at this point but came back to win the Series 4-3. They had a plan, and stuck to it.

Have a plan and stick to it
When Theo Epstein became President of the Cubs, he was upfront with the fans. He said he had a plan but the fans would have to be patient. He was confident it would work. For fans (like me) of a team that at the time had gone more than a century since last winning the World Series, that was a big ask.

But Theo stuck to his plan, as he sought to build a “foundation of sustained success.” He focused on building the pillars for future long-term success around younger players the team could develop in their own image, such as Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell, and Javier Baez.

A team built with the compass of a guiding philosophy that everyone buys into has a much greater likelihood of winning the World Series. And so it is in PR.

In the haste to generate immediate leads for the sales team, a PR plan is slapped together with lofty and often unachievable short-term goals – Page 1 story in the Wall Street Journal, interviews on CNBC or Fox Business News, feature in the New York Times. But without first building the PR plan basics and getting everyone on the team to buy into the goals, those lofty aspirations will remain out of reach, especially if you are starting from a position far back in the standings of your industry.

Basically, you’re trying to hit an 8-run homer to take the lead when you are behind 7-0 in the first inning, instead of think about how to move runners from base to base within your integrated marketing plan to put (and keep the) pressure on to take the lead in your market.

Instead of swinging for the PR fences, start first by looking to hit some singles and doubles. Understand your priorities, where your fans (your prospects and customers) are, what challenges they have, what will interest them. Then build a strong content lineup that gets – and keeps – them circling the basepaths with you as they tap into your bench for your depth of industry knowledge as they make their purchasing decisions. That’s a proven winning PR strategy.

BUT – Adjust on the fly
The Cubs went through some tough times during Theo Epstein’s early years running the club. They lost 101, 96 and 89 games his first three years, as the team looked to unload the bad attitudes, the bad contracts and the bad fundamentals that had jinxed the team for decades. They were progressing, albeit slowly, and adjusting ever so slightly on the fly only when it made sense.

Then Joe Maddon became available to manage the team. Maddon was a proven winner who worked with young players throughout his tenure in Tampa Bay, making repeat trips to the playoffs against much bigger-market teams with much larger payrolls, so the Cubs jumped at the chance to bring him in.

They also added several playoff-proven veteran pitchers, even though their plan focused initially on young hitters. The time was right to go for it all. They were winning, but they adjusted on the fly and got even better.

That’s what your PR team needs to do as well. There will be a lot of swings and plenty of misses as you look to see what scores with your prospects, but once you start making contact with the ball look to adjust the program to get even better. The unique buying personas who may be interested in your solutions may not swing at a webinar, but they may subscribe to your blog or pay attention to a particularly insightful infographic.

Then start going for extra bases with more exclusive, deeply researched thought leadership pieces placed in major healthcare industry trade publications, or white papers distributed as part of an integrated digital marketing campaign. You may want to build on your winning streak with videos or a serial ebook that takes those leads being generated and keeps them coming back for more and more compelling content.

Keep adding to your PR program based on what’s working, and don’t be afraid to trade off something that isn’t working for something new.

Extra Innings
With PR, like any sport, practice makes perfect. But along the ways, bad things can and will happen. Your executive team can lose a key player, your organization may face a communications crisis due to a disgruntled ex-employee or dissatisfied customer, or an industry analyst may criticize your solutions.

Bad things happened to the Cubs, too, late in the game against the Indians. The Cleveland team came from behind to tie the score, sending the game into the 10th inning tied.
That’s when the most disappointing player on the Cubs, Jason Heyward, stepped up during a rain delay and reminded his team how good they were, that they were ready for what happened to them. And that they could win. And they did. The World Series. In my lifetime. I can die a happy man.

By building your PR plan to be fundamentally strong, by not being afraid to try different things to see what works, by leveraging the depth of knowledge on your bench to create strong, compelling content – you too can be World Champions, in PR.

The 4 P's to be a successful marketer

The 4 P’s to Think Like a Marketer

You may have heard of the 4 P’s of marketing: price, product, place, promotion. It’s a broad view to the marketing puzzle of taking a product or service from concept to consumer. Sometimes, businesses gain ground without thinking through these 4 Ps. Rapid growth is bound to plateau at some point and that when it is the perfect time to take a step back.

So, what’s next? Now, you just need to solidify how you can take your company to the next level. The next step may need to be more targeted and work quickly to reach the rapid growth you were projecting.

Nowadays marketing options are everywhere. You could pick multiple paths or you could home in on one big trend. The key is to find balance on the scale: Not spending too much time on one effort and not stretching resources too thin across multiple efforts.

Marketing efforts work best when they work together, with similar power across a range of efforts – much like a crew of rowers all working at the same time to move. When one oar is doing all the work, you’re not going anywhere. The same thing happens in marketing and PR. It needs to be strategic and comprehensive to “move the boat.”

Carrying on the alliteration fun of the 4 p’s, here are 4 ways to start thinking like a marketer in your next strategic campaign. Use this process to focus your efforts for maximum results!

1. Picture
If you could picture your perfect marketing strategy plan what would it be? List all items or initiatives that you would like to see happen. This is the time to be a little unrealistic. Think of all the efforts that would make a difference in reaching your end goals. Include stretch goals, SMART goals, and even some ideas you know you don’t have the resources to complete.

Think of a variety of goals and efforts. For example maybe you want to increase your social media engagement or maybe you just want to better target a specific demographic.

Get your ideas out and on paper to discus with your team or your agency. The benefit to adding all of your goals in the discussion phase is that there might be options that are more plausible than you thought. This can also help generate new ideas from your team.

Don’t limit yourself in the initial brainstorm, or you might find yourself feeling some regret down the road. Prevent this by letting the creative juices flow early on in the process!

2. Prioritize
Now it’s time to get realistic. Until artificial intelligence (AI) and biorobotics are developed enough for us to be highly-productive cyborgs, we are going to have to live with the fact that we are human. There are only so many things that we can do at one time, and only so many things we can do well. Not to mention the budget we have to execute them.

There are also limitations as to how many or what type of marketing and PR efforts will benefit your company. You don’t want to waste your time creating a great marketing effort that falls on deaf ears. Like an Instagram campaign for Medicare, when only 15% of Instagram users are above the age of 50.

Do your research, ask others for their opinions, and see what efforts will make the most impact on your target market. You want to think of immediate lead generation, long-term lead generation and customer loyalty.

3. Plan Ahead
Now that you have a prioritized list of what you want to accomplish, its time to decide when things need to be completed. A thrown-together effort isn’t going to have much of an effect. In fact, if it’s sloppy it may have an adverse effect on your potential customers.

My favorite example of this happening, all too often, is the holidays. It seems every year I hear people say, “Oh the holidays just snuck up on me!” While I understand this, and may have said it myself, it’s just not true. We know the exact date years in advance. You may not be able to finish your personal holiday shopping before Thanksgiving every year, but it is important to stay ahead of schedule for your business.

It’s tempting to throw together a cool initiative after seeing another company perfectly execute one, but will it be valuable to your target market? If you think of a great idea for a Thanksgiving email at 9:00 pm on Thanksgiving eve and you can’t complete it, don’t scrap it! You can use it next year.

Train yourself to think like a retailer. Have you ever been annoyed at the sight of Christmas decorations for sale in August? Use that as your reminder to start thinking about holiday marketing efforts. Or other annual events related to your business.

4. Pull
Your efforts should pull your audience in. Every effort, regardless of how much power you have behind your strategy, should be focused on the end goal. When you go to execute your plan all efforts should be relevant to your customers and their pain point that you solve.

Your social media strategy should be targeted at your ideal customer, digital marketing efforts should all center on your customer and your article placements should be in publications your targets are reading. It’s easy to get caught up in something that looks cool or to fit in somewhere you have a connection. However, if it has nothing to do with your brand, what’s the point?

You know your customers’ pain points, but do your marketing efforts show your customers you want to alleviate them? For example: fitness gyms have an extreme increase of patrons and new memberships in the months of Jan- March, as many make their New Year’s resolution to get healthy. Let’s say your business is a solution for an automated member check in system that makes going to the gym easier for patrons and puts less strain on staff during rushes. You want to start marketing to gyms as they are preparing for this rush, not in the middle of the painful rush.
There are so many ways to incorporate your brand into something funky that isn’t a direct sell. But it should all point to you and your brand’s values in some way.

Set your business up for long term success by dreaming big, selecting what you can do, acting on it in a timely manner and using every effort to engage with your customer.

There are many good PR and marketing reasons to write books

Don’t Judge a Book by Its Sales: Tips for turning your book into a relationship magnet

Why should you write a book? Most busy tech executives have a hundred good reasons why they can’t spare the time for books. Their PR advisers may be tempted to concur since PR performance is judged largely on the quantity of placements secured. After all, why spend months writing one 80,000-word book when you could write 100 800-word articles for a variety of online publications?

Yet a book’s value exceeds that of even dozens of articles. With a book, you can dive into your topic in much more detail than you ever could with online content. Sure, it might not sell but sales aren’t the point: books are tools for establishing you and your company as thought leaders. They’re magnets for relationship building. An expert who is confident and knowledgeable enough to set her expertise in stone with a book will win instant credibility in the eyes of potential partners, clients and customers.

Books also achieve a few very important goals in PR:

  • Books are assets that you can share with brand advocates, customers, prospects, investors, and industry stakeholders.
  • Books can attract other opportunities to you and your company. Conference organizers, for instance, are much more likely to give a keynote to the author of a respected book—even if it doesn’t sell well—than to a book-less competitor.
  • A book can build trust by positioning your company as having a knowledge-based environment, rather than one focused on sales alone.

The key to making the most of a book is good promotion. At Amendola, while we don’t specialize in book promotion, we’ve learned over the years how to augment the distribution and promotion efforts of book publishers to drive PR value.

Below is a sampling of the tactics we use in helping our clients draw attention to their books and leverage them for relationship building:

  • Send the book to key journalists and bloggers and request a book review (ideally) as well as offering the author for an interview on the book’s topic
  • Pitch the author as an expert on the topic, with the book as proof of their expertise. Broadcast media love interviewing authors with new ideas.
  • Do a Google Hangout with the author to promote the book
  • Run a Tweetchat with the author leveraging a major partner hashtag to drive attendance
  • Turn the book chapters into a webinar series, with each chapter or section a separate webinar. Give the book away as enticement to register for the webinar.
  • Turn the book into blog posts: one for each chapter or section, and link to the book at the end of each post
  • Arm all salespeople with several hard-copy versions of the book as leave-behinds, or use book giveaways to drive a Salesforce email campaign to prospects in their territories
  • Hand out the book at all events where you exhibit, as well as at your end-user conference
  • Email the book to attendees at webinars, trade shows or seminars as a follow-up
  • Write a LinkedIn status update about the book and post a link to it in groups where prospects congregate.
  • Pull out keys facts or items of interest from the book and tweet those on Twitter with a link to the book and a popular related hashtag
  • Include the book in your email signature, with a link to download it for free.

If this short list helps convince you to write a book, give us a shout. We can help.

Word of mouth marketing is still one of the most effective ways of spreading your message

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! 5 Steps for Utilizing Word of Mouth Marketing

Word of mouth is arguably the most efficient and beneficial form of marketing. A recent Nielsen’s Harris Poll Online found that more than 80% of Americans seek recommendations when making any kind of purchase. Also, a Nielsen’s Trust in Advertising report showed that 84 percent of consumers say they value recommendations from friends and family above other types of advertising. Most people trust their peers more than corporate advertising, so hearing the virtues of your solution from a colleague will go far in establishing your credibility.

What does this information mean for your business and how do you incorporate word of mouth into your overall marketing strategy?

Nurture Happy Customers

Happy customers require a solid solution, first and foremost. Addressing the vulnerabilities of your product and services will increase your customers’ confidence in your company, helping develop customer advocates and extending word of mouth. Many people are happy to be an expert and discuss how they have solved a problem. By delivering a solid solution, exceptional customer service and conducting business as a true partner, customers will be open to acting as brand ambassadors. Build and engage a captive audience of your customers, partners and thought leaders.

Communicate to Your Customers

Collaborative relationships offer benefits to both sides. To have customers and prospects believe you are on their side, it is essential that marketing efforts speak to their motivations. Regardless of how beautifully crafted your campaign or message is, any project that does not speak to what influences your customer will fall flat. What keeps your clients up at night? What inspires them? You need to understand these motivators before you can make the link to how your offerings can help.

Simplify your messaging for the benefit of all involved. Someone outside of your company is not as immersed in the key take-aways as your executives. They will be asked about or offer information about your company, communicating the points they believe. Clear, concise messaging will make it easier for your customers to convey the benefits you want others to understand.

Make Their Voices Heard

You have happy customers who are willing to share their experiences. Now what? These stories and successes should be shared where people can learn from them. This can be through a variety of channels, including case studies, media interviews, social media interactions, presentations at tradeshows. The point is to have your customer’s voice heard where potential prospects and industry influencers could be listening. Having your success stories out there also keeps them alive long after they are told.

Create Targeted Campaigns

Not all messages will resonate with everyone and not all customers are created equal. Segmentation will vary depending on your company and what matters to your customers. Factors can include location, industry, customer size, solutions they are using or problem they are trying to solve. The audience should be able to relate to the customer’s experience. Match the client and message to the correct audience for maximum return.

 Pick the Correct Channel

Similar to all customers not created equal, neither are channels. Businesses are made up of people that are using sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. You need to get your message to the people where they are and where they will be receptive to hearing your customer’s story. That said, tread carefully to put your efforts in the channels that can offer the greatest reward as some may be a better fit than others. A channel that makes sense for one industry may not work for another. Also, focus on the message and desired outcome and not the trendy tool.

Ensure your online presence is optimized for mobile channels. According to an April 27, 2016 post by Smart Insights, mobile use grows an average of 58% year over year. Viewers should be able to move seamlessly between devices and have a consistent experience regardless of whether they find you on a desktop, tablet or phone.

Word of mouth marketing can be a cost-effective and credible way to extend your voice. These steps will increase the value of these efforts. Now, get your customers’ achievements heard!