Blogs for Media Relations, Marketing, and Corporate Professionals

Four News Release Storylines High-Tech

Companies Should Produce During Pandemic

June 10, 2020

Public relations professionals within high-tech companies should be taking advantage of these unusual times and new work dynamics to roll out provocative and original news release storylines.

They should be researching, conceptualizing, strategizing, executing, and pitching an original wave of news releases focused on novel ways of coping with the pandemic, predictions for the future, security, and money. These four subjects make for compelling news release narratives.

One: Innovative and original ways of coping with the pandemic

The agility and ingenuity of companies to change their strategies and target market are being put to the test in new and unprecedented ways. Companies have been forced to re-imagine how to do business during the pandemic and beyond.

A big reason for this is that a much larger percentage of corporate employees are now working from home offices rather than in corporate facilities.

Change is rampant, rapid, and disorderly. Many companies have been on hold for several months. Others have shut down. Competitive dynamics are in flux and being reconfigured. Opportunities are abundant in these challenging times for those who make smart decisions and create compelling news releases that connect on an emotional level with reporters.

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Explain why your company made decisions

If you are in the cyber security business, for instance, perhaps you have decided to focus more resources on the healthcare industry rather than banks. If so, that could be a story to pitch with an intriguing explanation about why the company made this decision.

Describe how your company has been affected by the pandemic in idiosyncratic ways. Help reporters understand why you chose to reallocate more resources to build your healthcare business.

If you decided you had to shrink your company with fewer employees and therefore focus on a cyber security niche, such as penetration testing as opposed to cloud computing cyber security, that could be an interesting story.

Why the change? Are you seeing more demand for cyber security penetration testing services because of the pandemic? If so, say so and explain why you believe that. What’s new about it and what will be the impact on the cyber security industry and your company’s performance?

Answer those questions in your news release.

Specify the economic benefits

If your company does cyber security penetration testing completely from your home offices now, explain in your news release the challenges in doing so compared with the previous work being done in corporate offices.

Answer the question of why your company made this decision. Reporters want to understand why. Make that clear in your news release.

Specify the economic benefits of doing so and how you can deliver better customer service and a higher return on your investment from home. Explain how customer demand for your services changed because of the coronavirus.

Be open. Tell reporters what you believe about your decision and the market’s future trajectory.

Share your honest thoughts

Your news release should be all about describing how your business changed, why, and what it means to the financial performance or your company and the growth of your overall industry. Reporters want to know how the pandemic is changing businesses and how that will all look a year from now. Share your honest thoughts on this and you will generate more coverage.

You will help make your story more compelling to reporters if you point out why the change matters in financial and strategic terms to your company as well as the overall industry in which you participate. Give numbers. These numbers will go over well with the press.

Two: Predictions for the future

In times such as these when so much economic uncertainty abounds, it’s a great opportunity for your company to peer into the future and become a visionary authority that predicts what will happen over the next three-to-six months.

For instance, if you’re in the cloud computing market, does your company believe the market will accelerate or decelerate over the next six months because of the pandemic?

Make a prediction about this and support your prediction with sound reasoning. Favorable press coverage will follow. Reporters gravitate towards market predictions.

Making predictions will make you stand out

You want to make predictions because you will stand out against the vast majority of other companies that are reticent to make predictions; or simply don’t think to do so; or don’t spend the time to write them down in a news release and pitch them to the press.

Reporters and editors often write stories and quote executives who make predictions about the future of markets. Their readers want to know where markets are headed.

Reporters, and their readers, care deeply about what’s next. Making forecasts that answer that question is a fast and effective way to get coverage of your company as a thought leader and visionary. This will boost your brand’s reputation.

Predictions are low risk

Do this. Most companies don’t make predictions because of apathy or risk aversion. The risk is often low or non-existent. All it takes is doing the research up front and writing down the narrative in news release style. You will be surprised at how much press coverage this generates and the leads that will come to your business.

Three: Sell security stories

Throughout the high-tech industry one of the biggest and most important stories is about corporate security from many different vantage points: financial theft, invasion of employee privacy, technological breakthroughs to prevent them, and much more.

The reason this story resonates with the press is because cyber security breaches can cause massive financial and reputational damages. This cyber security story is all about money and corporate survival, good versus evil, and David against Goliath. The press embraces these storylines.

Remote working has heightened security concerns

Every company is dealing with security concerns. And the pandemic has made cyber security an even bigger threat because more employees are working from home where networks are less secure than in corporate offices.

The problem centers on the growing use of more types and volumes of insecure virtual private network equipment and services and home devices such as personal PCs that do not have the usual security policies and procedures that corporate PCs have.

We’re in a “Wild West” situation. A growing number of unemployed people are getting into the cyber attack profession. This makes the jobs of cyber security information officers within corporations even more challenging. They’re battling more criminals than ever.

Your company likely has a security story it could pitch in a news release. It could be about new technologies your company uses to prevent cyber attacks, or new threats you are contending with because of the pandemic and the related meteoric growth in remote workers.

Find a new and different security angle to your corporate strategy and you will grab the attention of the press.

Four: Money sells

The more you can tie your news releases to money – especially big dollars – the better chance you have of generating coverage. For example, your company may be investing in several new technologies to make your remote workforce more productive and their networks more secure from cyber attacks.

Reveal how much you are investing

In your news release reveal how much money you are investing, or at least the percentage increase in remote working investments you are making because of the paradigm shift in working environments.

If you are investing in more cyber security penetration testing services, reveal in the news release how much more.

Reporters want to know about money. Most companies don’t like to share financial numbers so they don’t get reporters to write about them. Those that do get the coverage.

Within reason, and without revealing too much sensitive information, give reporters the best sense you can of the amount of financial investments you are making and how much those investments have risen because of the pandemic.

Final thoughts

Stay focused on what reporters care about: change, future predictions, security, and money. Search around with your companies for news, insights, research and personal moves or achievements that align with these themes.

You will find stories reporters will write about. Now is a great time to capitalize on the changing business world by communicating stories about how your company is adjusting and how it sees the markets transforming over the next several months. Reporters love to write about changes.

Share what you believe and why

Paint a picture of what’s to come. Be bold in your vision. Give specifics. Tell a story your company believes in that helps the industry get through these tough times.

Be helpful and educational, new and unusual. Communicate what you truly believe and why. Do so with conviction. Wrap all of this up in an authentic and original story that rivets and engages.

You will grab the attention of the press, generate coverage, improve your company’s brand positioning and reputation, and generate more sales leads.

Pandemic Prompts Four Thematic Shifts in High-Tech Communications

May 21, 2020

Back in December 2019, which seems like a lifetime ago, you may have been a chief marketing officer, vice president of public relations, or another high-tech communications leader for a corporation. Even then your job was tough.

Maybe you were having difficulty securing a seat at the table with the CEO or struggling to quantify the value of your communications group to the business. Or perhaps your top executives shared with you only a vague description of your company’s overall strategy.

But at least you had a communications plan in place and your teams were executing against those plans.

Then the pandemic hit.

It rattled the business world across the board: strategies, financials, technology investments and application, supply chains, operations, marketing, to name only a few. Your communications budget probably has been cut as revenues have plummeted.

Focus on four major thematic shifts

To communicate effectively in this time of massive upheaval, you need to re-think your entire communications strategy. A world dramatically changed calls for an altogether new approach to communications.

Your communications programs should focus on four major thematic shifts:

· shareholder capitalism;

· corporate purposes;

· the new working world; and

· new corporate strategies.

Re-spin news releases to align with these narratives. Refocus your blogs and overall content strategy. Refresh your website copy. Rework executive speeches. Revise corporate employee videos.

Comprehensively change your communications plan. World events dictate you must for your business to be sensitive to peoples’ new needs and concerns both within and outside your companies. The rest of this article fleshes out these themes.

Shift One: Shareholder Capitalism

Amid this pandemic, communications professionals should be sensitive to the importance of a rapidly growing concept referred to as “shareholder capitalism.” This colossal crisis has sped up the need for companies to de-emphasize capitalism purely for profit’s sake. Shareholder capitalism embraces the notion that there must be more substance to capitalism than making money.

Inform in a way that shows your company is attuned to the notion of shareholder capitalism. It will help your organization gain more respect and loyalty from customers and grow faster over the longer turn when we get beyond the worst phases of this crisis.

Make known how your company helps solve the pandemic’s problems such as opening corporate office facilities for coronavirus testing or enabling your employees to take time off from work to serve people at food banks.

De-emphasize financial performance achievements

Communicate more about your company’s belief in a higher cause, the greater good of society. De-emphasize materialistic financial performance achievements.

Embracing this shareholder capitalism mindset, companies will likely be more successful in the long run because their brands will be associated with caring about people and their health. Reinforce to customers that your company is going the extra mile to protect people from the coronavirus.

In this crisis-stricken world, report how your company alleviates human suffering. And share this information because it’s the morally correct way for companies to behave – not just to enhance your brand and gain positive press coverage.

This crisis is bigger in scope and importance than your company’s selfish gains. Your communications strategy should convey that sentiment.

Shift Two: Sharper focus on corporate purposes

Reveal more about your company’s purpose and reasons for existing. Customers will resonate with stories about how your company is making your employees safer and putting their needs and those of society above your own self-interests.

Share less about how well your company is performing. People have more pressing and serious issues on their minds – nothing less than their own survival.

During this crisis, selfish bragging about how much money your company makes could turn off your customers and employees.

More content on why companies are in business

In a similar vein, unveil more about what your company believes and why you are in business to begin with. That’s what people want to know first and foremost. Reveal your passion, why you get up in the morning, what your higher calling is, what your company stands for above all else including turning a profit.

You can tell them later what business you’re in and how you do it. That’s for later after they understand your core beliefs.

Start by explaining your company’s core values. Customers will find this compelling and refreshing and help them decide faster if they want to do business with you.

Communicate why your company is in business

These ideas have been amplified in a book by Simon Sinek titled Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.

“Companies and organizations with a clear sense of why don’t think of themselves as being like anyone else and they don’t have to convince anyone of their value,” the author writes. “They are different, and everyone knows it.”

Be that company that takes a stand for something, such as caring more about the community and solving the pandemic. Goodwill be generated and more business will flow your way eventually.

Shift Three: New World of Work

In so many fundamental ways, the world of work is going to be different because of the pandemic. Communications should focus on the accelerating use of technologies and the growth in direct-to-consumer businesses.

Accelerating use of technologies

With the pandemic dramatically increasing the number of people working from home, inform in much more detail about how your company is rapidly increasing use of technologies to conduct business.

Be specific about the technologies being used, how, by which employees, and for what reasons. How is your company approaching this in ways that no one else has? Tell that story.

Remote workers will be using various technologies such as Zoom to hold conference calls. Pitching storylines to customers and the press aligned with these trends could illuminate the challenges employees are having using these technologies.

Bring to life the clever and effective ways they are being used, and the investments being made including how much your company is investing in which technologies and why.

Convey artificial intelligence stories

For example, if your company is taking advantage of artificial intelligence to help remote workers be more productive, communicate that story. AI is fascinating to many. It’s timely, fresh, and inherently intriguing.

If blockchain has become a bigger part of how you do business, tell that story. It’s cutting-edge and would be well received by the press. Your customers would want to know how you are using blockchain to solve their problems and helping solve the virus crisis. Reveal how and why to them.

If your company has reconfigured your office arrangements, reduced the number of desks to allow for social distancing, or implemented other innovate ways to use office space, that’s fresh content you can communicate to show your company’s versatility, creativity, and concern for the safety of your employees.

Growth in direct to consumer businesses

Have you noticed how local restaurants are delivering food directly to our houses since the pandemic hit? Intermediaries for this transaction are becoming unnecessary. Have you seen all the Amazon trucks delivering us packages straight to our front doors?

This pandemic has accelerated the direct-to-consumer business. Craft stories aligned with this growing trend in which more workers will be staying at home and ordering food and other suppliers for straight delivery to their houses.

Develop and pitch stories about how your company is investing more in high-tech driven consumer brand campaigns or encountering direct-to-consumer supply chain challenges yet overcoming them in original ways using novel high-tech tools.

Shift Four: New Corporate Strategies

With many businesses at a virtual standstill the past two months, many companies have re-assessed their strategic positioning, unique selling points, product portfolios, and long-term investment plans.

Some of them have decided to overhaul their businesses in fundamental ways. For instance, they may have decided to no longer provide products and only services.

They may have decided to embrace a strategy that makes competitors irrelevant. Using this approach, illuminated in a stellar business book called The Blue Ocean Strategy, these companies may have decided that they want their products and services to be distinct and unique from everything else on the market.

Think about the iPhone when it first came out. There was nothing else really like it. There were no true competitors. It was a product sailing out in the clear blue ocean as opposed to the red oceans characterized by “bloody” competition fraught with devastating price competition. In the blue ocean no one is doing anything comparable to you so it’s essentially competition-free, liberating, and exciting.

As this pandemic continues, communicate more about these types of major strategic shifts. But don’t do this in a self-serving way merely touting the wisdom of your company’s blue ocean strategy.

Convey a narrative tied to the notion that your company has the community top of mind and is taking concrete, philanthropic actions to help solve the coronavirus crisis.

Final thoughts

Whether producing news releases, blogs, byline articles, videos, podcasts or whatever other platform companies, the tone of communications needs to be more sensitive and less self-serving.

Virtually everything about business must be re-imagined because of the massive impacts the pandemic will continue to have on the global economy.

In a typical time – meaning not now – companies would spend the majority of their time creating content about the benefits of their products and services, new contracts, and acquisitions.

But now the corporate storylines should be loftier and visionary, more focused on how companies are being honest with their employees and treating them with dignity and demonstrating respect for every worker. Communicate about how your company is showing it cares about their communities and are not all about making money.

We’re in a starkly different time than just a few months ago. It’s not an understatement to say the entire business world has been sent into shock and will never be the same.

As communications leaders, be more sensitive, selfless, personal, and emotional. Self-serving communications strategies won’t resonate.

Six New Ways to Revamp High-Tech

Media Relations Over the Next Year

May 12, 2020

This coronavirus disease and pandemic will change the high-tech business world in unprecedented and unfathomable ways.

So what are the best strategies and tactics for high-tech media relations pros to use to be effective over the next year? How can these people help their companies increase favorable press coverage, build brand awareness and customer loyalty, and help generate sales leads?

I recommend six actions:

· develop stories that focus on specific major changes, shifting investments and financial reallocations;

· identify new problems and innovate ways your company is solving them;

· make fresh and bold predictions about your company the overall high-tech market;

· show novel and unconventional strategic thinking;

· highlight new employee high-tech skills your company believes are in higher demand;

· reveal adjustments to leadership styles and enlightened ways of treating employees.

The rest of this article elaborates on these six recommendations:

One: strategic changes your company is making

Reporters and editors will want to write stories about specific changes your company has or will make because of the crisis. If the pandemic has caused your company to shift its strategic direction and/or target different buyers in new market segments, that could be a compelling story that generates press coverage.

Communicate those changes in a news release, pitch, byline article, brief video, or podcast. Explain why your company has made these changes and what factors weighed most heavily in making these adjustments.

For example, if one component of your new strategy is that for the next six months 75 percent of your employees will work from home versus 10 percent before the pandemic, communicate that story and explain why this decision has been made.

Articulate how you believe it will serve your customers better and help your company achieve is financial targets. Highlight smart and novel ways your employees are using high-tech when working from home.

Two: future investments you will be making or cutting

The pandemic will cause all kinds of unusual upheaval in the investment plans of high-tech businesses. If your company plans to invest more in technologies for your growing percentage of remote working employees, communicate how much more and specify the types of technologies and why you are embracing them.

Share numbers because reporters crave them and use them to add value to their stories. Bring the story to life by sharing dollar figures with the press especially if those figures are dramatically higher or lower than before the crisis.

If the coronavirus has prompted your company to stop pursuing blockchain business and instead focus more on artificial intelligence, communicate that to the press. Explain why you made this decision. These types of fundamental strategic decisions interest reporters because their readers want to know which direction markets are heading, why, and how fast.

If your business changes its strategy because of the pandemic, craft an alluring story about that to the press. The more dramatic the changes the more intrigued the press will be.

Three: new problems you will be addressing

Perhaps before the crisis your company focused on helping professionals land blockchain jobs. You helped these people solve their job-hunting problems.

Then the crisis hit. As a result, your company has reconsidered its priorities. It now believes the more lucrative recruiting market is going to be cyber security.

Your company concludes that the pandemic has generated more demand in the near term for securing corporate data using cyber security products and services as opposed to employing blockchain products and services.

So you decided to help cyber security professionals solve their problems landing work and will no longer be in the blockchain business.

This switch in problems you will be solving could be of keen interest to business reporters because it would show a change in corporate thinking and potentially a growing demand for cyber security services and products as blockchain services and products demand slows. That’s a substantive market shift tech reporters could write stories about.

Four: new predictions for how your company will be different a year from now

Reporters often quote high-tech corporate executives making predictions about the future. They want people to paint a picture of what the industry will look like a year or two out because their readers want to know this.

As businesses start to re-open, media relations professionals can develop compelling story ideas focused on predictions for the high-tech industry.

Especially during this pandemic, reporters are craving stories about what the business world is going to look like a year from now. Seize this opportunity. Tell the press how your company believes this will play out.

For example, if a company is in the cyber security market, the media relations professionals could prepare a pitch along these lines: “3 Predictions For How the High-Tech Industry Will Transform Over the Next Year.”

Reporters jump on stories forecasting what will happen next, how things will be different a year from now. Media relations professionals will generate favorable and potentially widespread press coverage if they prepare prediction pitches that tie to the coronavirus and how the high-tech companies will be fundamentally transformed over the next year.

The more specific this type of pitch, the more detailed the predictions, the more likely reporters will include that content in their coverage.

Five: new types of skills your company will be seeking

With more high-tech workers likely working remotely, companies they work for will need more employees with the technical skills to handle all the different remote working softwares and online tools. Technical savvy and versatility will grow in demand.

This could mean a high-tech company’s workforce will need to change. Some workers’ skills may no longer be as relevant in remote working environments.

A pitch to the press focused on three new skills your company is needing because of the pandemic would be a compelling story. The pitch should show where the job market is headed and how high-tech needs and skill sets have been altered because of the crisis.

Six: new leadership style changes that will be made

Perhaps your high-tech company’s leadership team has done some soul-searching during the pandemic. In that process, the leaders have come to realize that their leadership styles are not motivating employees. That’s the reason so many have been leaving the company in recent years.

Coming out of the pandemic, the leaders may make major changes to their management styles such as more frequent expressions of appreciation to employees or give less negative feedback.

Whatever the leadership style changes, these could be packaged into a refreshing story for the press about how the coronavirus has resulted in a more positive treatment of employees and more supportive work environments.

Final thoughts

Because of the pandemic, media relations professionals in high-tech businesses will need to adjust like everyone else to this reconfigured business world. But the key will be to create helpful, educational, and easy-to-consume stories that have those key elements reporters treasure so much.

Pitch problems – the press is always interested in problems. Pitch future investments, strategic changes, and share financial details whenever possible because this makes the stories more tangible for reporters. Make predictions about the future of the industry, technology, people, and overall trends.

Connect with reporters by conveying stories about real human emotions, interpersonal relationships, struggles and aspirations, highs and lows, challenges, and triumphs.

Remember that in the end – before, during and after the pandemic – reporters and editors care about people and their lives, how they feel, what gives them hope, what frustrates them, what problems they need solved, and how much money they make or companies make or don’t make and why.

The Secret To Nailing Buyer Personas in Content Marketing: Get Granular

May 1, 2020

Content marketers, beware.

Don’t create content for just any audience or some general group of people such as “tech executives” or “marketers.” Get granular – highly granular.

Hyper focus on a specific person with idiosyncratic traits, biases, interests, and habits unique to that one individual.

This is called fleshing out the buyer persona of the target audience for your content. Do this well and your content programs will flourish. Be lazy and unstructured about it and you will accomplish nothing beyond creating a piece of content floating around pointlessly.

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What is a buyer persona?

It’s a partially fictional, concrete representation of the actual buyers of your products or services based on interviews, data, and educated guesses.

If the appropriate amount of time and research is done to isolate and pinpoint who the buyer person is – this takes work -- the effectiveness of content marketing is bound to be more successful. The pinpointing in fine detail will generate the desired business outcomes for your buyers.

Ideal buyer personas

Consider this example. You are a chief marketing officer of a B2B technology company. Your company sells security software for telecom service providers. Who is your buyer persona, the group of people who would have the highest likelihood of wanting to buy your software?

Focus on a specific group of people with a specific job title

You need to figure this out. It’s not just anyone within that technology company. It must be a group of people with a specific job title such as the chief security officer.

The persona has to work for a company of a specific size, say 5,000-10,000 employees; and have a certain type of education such as a master’s degree in corporate security; and a budget for software such as $1-$20 million a year; and have between 10-20 years of corporate security experience at the managerial level or above.

This person must have specific goals such as the desire to reduce security breaches by 20 percent each year over the next three years. This person must have certain predictable behaviors. Example: they tend to buy security software in the last three months of the year.

Content marketers must know specific buyer persona details

Content marketers need to know these target buyer details. You can find out by interviewing 10-15 CSOs in the telecom service provider market of the company size listed above. This research will give you much more specific information about these personas so you can be visualizing a specific person and customizing content that addresses that individual’s specific problems and goals.

Targeting a more general buyer persona, such as CSOs with tech companies, will not be nearly as effective as targeting CSOs of telecom service providers of a specific size, budget, and purchasing habits.

Similarly, targeting other personas with the telecom service provider company such as IT managers, will not yield the results you’re seeking. IT managers have different needs, problems, budgets, and levels of expertise and education than CSOs.

What keeps your buyers awake at night?

To provide the most value to your buyer persona, you must figure out what keeps them awake at night. What are their biggest problems and challenges? What questions are they asking? Use those questions to frame your content such as blogs. What words are they typing into the Google search engine to solve their problems? Use these words to guide your blog topics. Personalizing your content to this specific buyer remains the key to success.

Role of buyer personas in the “buyer’s journey”

Content marketers should use a well-thought-through, highly detailed buyer persona as the guidepost for creating. This approach should be used in all three stages of the “buyer’s journey” – awareness, consideration and decision.

Think of the awareness stage as the “dipping the toes in the water” stage. This occurs when the buyer is just diving into the research phase trying to figure out the overall market dynamics and major issues. At this stage, the buyer may be trying to improve, prevent, stop, optimize, or solve something going on in his or her business.

Educate buyer on overall market dynamics first

For example, if the buyer persona is a CSO of a mid-sized telecom service provider seeking to understand better different types of security software, initially they will want to learn about the overall software security market.

At this juncture the persona may not even know they have a problem they need solving. Your content should help them understand what problems they may have or should be contemplating.

Frame the problem but hold off on offering solutions

At this stage, frame the problem. It’s not time to offer solutions. Blogs, market reports, and white papers should be created at this phase. Educate the buyer. Don’t hit them with a sales pitch.

Unprepared for that, the buyer will likely be turned off by the aggressiveness of being asked to make a buying decision before they have learned enough about the problem and alternative solutions.

Consideration stage

Once your persona has consumed enough awareness stage content, they will be ready to start receiving consideration stage content. This means the buyer has defined the problem they’re having and is committed to finding a solution and weighing different options in more depth.

They’ve narrowing their list of options, testing different ideas, and weighing the pros and cons of each competitive offering. They may need pricing, product specifications, evidence that a product works, and assurance that it can do what the vendor claims.

Create case studies

At this stage create case studies about how another company has used a solution to solve its problem. At this stage how-to guides are also well received by buyers. You can do this by showing the buyer how different types of security software are being used by telecom service providers and the business outcomes each generates.

Consideration stage content should be more personalized for the persona and focused on solving their specific problems. Provide your persona with more evidence, deeper, and more insightful context. Share compelling metrics that further educate them and build stronger trust in you as a knowledgeable source to help them successfully accomplish their goals.

Decision stage

Now enter the third phase in the buyer’s journey: the decision stage. Your buyer persona has been educated about the market and different types of offerings that solve the problem.

Now it’s time to start seriously moving to a buying decision. The persona is carefully evaluating different vendors and wants to know pricing options and how they compare among providers.

Create webinars and demos

Create webinars and demos about the business outcomes and buyer value that your company’s products and services deliver for personas.

A provider of security software for telecom service providers, for example, could help the person decide by offering a recorded webinar that reveals how and why their software will help the provider reduce corporate security breaches by 20 percent annually.

The content provider could also create a teaser demo and email it to the persona showing how this security software achieves this 20 percent reduction.

If this intensifies the buyer’s interest, the content provider would be wise to create a customized demo showing how the security software would benefit the specific telecom service provider.

Final thoughts

It’s imperative that content marketers do the up-front work to figure out with as much specificity as possible who their target buyer persona is. But that’s not the endgame. They must figure out, above all else, what the problems are that those personas need to solve.

It won’t help you to tout the benefits, features, and technological wizardry of your security software if the content does not squarely show how the software helps the buyers overcome their challenges.

Focus on aspirations of buyers

At the forefront of the content marketer’s mind should be the target buyer’s aspirations. What do they want to accomplish? What do they long for? What do they want fixed to help their businesses succeed so they succeed? Content must answer these questions.

Communicate what value the buyer will get from using you company’s product or service. Or it won’t be helpful to the persona and your content marketing program will not succeed.

Are Content Creation Tools Worth The Hassle Required to Use Them?

April 20, 2020

Within the content marketing arena, a segment exists that focuses on content creation tools designed to speed and improve the organization and access to various types of content found on the Internet.

For example, if you want to find great content about content marketing, you could use a content creation tool to go find, organize, and feed it to you, and give you the ability to share that content with others.

Or perhaps you want to quickly move that content into your company newsletter rather than chewing up time having to do a lot of manual – and error-prone -- cutting and pasting of articles.

This blog focuses on a few of the automated tools that can be used to accomplish these goals.

While they could be useful and probably many people use them, they require what I perceive to be quite a bit of technical understanding and adherence to many step-by-step processes that often seem more arduous than the value they deliver.

In some ways it would be easier to simply go the Google search engine, type “content marketing,” and find many different relevant articles I would find useful. This would be easier than learning all the different complex steps to get these tools to deliver you the content you want quickly and easily in the format you want.

But maybe that’s just me.

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The most useful sites

With that in mind, I would like to share what I found to be the most useful of these content creation sites. Without a doubt, the site delivered the best user experience and provided the most easy-to-understand explanation of the value its tool delivers. The site starts with a high-value grabber headline: “create better content more often.”

The front page then provides one of the most intelligent set of information I have ever seen a business website. A headline reads: “Problem, you need to scale your newsletter production.” Beautiful – it focuses on a real problem.


A great follow up this then appears. A headline in a box on the left side reads: “How you do this?” And it provides a list of the older and less efficient ways of curating content. A box directly to the right reveals the contrasting benefit of using this tool: “How we make it better.”

It’s a marvelous marketing technique: Here’s the old way that you use that isn’t ideal. And here’s how our tool makes your life easier and better. This is a smart, time-honored, and valuable marketing technique that all marketers should consider using.

The site also explains in simple words the basic applications for the tool: search, create, and publish. The content is easily digestible.

Cool case study: Fox Sports

And there’s more: the site provides a compelling case study of how Fox Sports uses the tool to produce content. In easy-to-understand language, the article describes the tool’s benefits: “finds the most relevant content…saves time for editors…decreases grunt work.”

Given these appealing features, content marketers who want to use one of these tools would be wise to consider – thorough 15-minute video explaining tool

A second site worth considering,, discovers and selects content for you form around the web. The best feature of this site is an immediate 15-minute video that goes through all the key features.

While it’s a bit long and excessively detailed, you come away having a good sense of what this tool can do. I did wonder, though, if the video and tool itself have so many facets that require so much to learn to use it effectively that the tool overall could be simplified. Understanding all those features is a rigorous intellectual endeavor. It struck me as too much to grasp for the return on that intellectual investment.

How the process flows

Nevertheless, the site explains well how it starts this whole process by figuring out three things: what it is you want your software to find? How do you want it organized? And where to share it? This seemed like a helpful way to do this but still a tad tedious.

The site did do a good job of pointing out that manually curating content, rather than using these new tools, devours huge amounts of peoples’ time. This automated tool ends the need for people to do all this. That’s appealing.

A third site to consider – although it did not engage me as much as the two above – is This tool curates, shares, and reads content on private hubs. It can also aggregate content across multiple WordPress blogs. And it discovers, selects, and distributes content. The tool also monitors global sources to find and curate relevant third-party content.

Final thoughts

These tools could be helpful to content marketers. I have no reason to doubt this. It certainly would help to be able to use an automated tool that searches around the Web for articles of relevance to you and sends them to you quickly.

But I wonder about the hassle part. If it takes several days and weeks to learn how to use the tool, and then every time you use it you may have to set new search terms and re-learn how to use some of its features, is the tool really worth it? It seems that someone would almost have to dedicate themselves full-time to using the tool to gain the benefits that would justify the investment.

I’m not sure, but my inclination for now is to search on Google if I really want to know something fast.

That may sound like a cop out or sub-optimal alternative. But that’s what I believe is paramount in content marketing: keeping things simple. In some cases, these tools are far from easy to understand and use.

How to Tantalize When

Writing About Technologies

April 3, 2020

Writing about technology in public relations can torment your mind and heart.

Believe me. I’ve been at this for some 25 years.

But it can also be engaging, fulfilling, and change peoples’ live for the better.

The way to do this is by tantalizing your readers.

Craft stories that trigger strong emotions. Tap into what motivates them, what they’re struggling with, and makes them feel insecure and gratified.

Make your readers feel something profound and important. Make them care deeply. Do the unexpected. Surprise them. Convey alluring stories that have relevant conflicts and challenges that people need to overcome.

How do you do this?

Here are four methods:

Method One: Humanize the story

Whether it’s blockchain, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, or any other technology, there is a human side to the story. Find it. People care about other humans.

They care less about hardware, software code, and other inanimate aspects of technologies, because these things don’t connect with them viscerally.

Figure out how people can use these technologies to better their lives, gain more security or peace of mind, make more money, and access more hope or better interpersonal relationships.

Or communicate what threats these technologies cause or help overcome. Address people’s emotional needs and desires and don’t get lost in the technical details.

For example, artificial intelligence itself is a technology. But it has a strong human angle. This technology enables computerized machines, such as your Alexa device, to think and learn more like humans.

But why would a person care? Here’s one: What happens if artificial intelligence becomes so smart that it can do the thinking for jobs humans used to do?

People could be out of jobs if they don’t figure out how to do other valuable skills that artificial intelligence can’t. This is true. People better wake up to this and develop other valuable skills.

In the case of blockchain, what’s the connection to people and their emotions? People can use a blockchain database to access highly valuable and reliable information that was not accessible in this way before.

Using blockchain people can share more information more efficiently without having to chase down information in elusive and disparate locations.

They can pay bills faster or conduct research faster. They can save time doing mundane tasks and connect with more people who may want their services. They can anticipate technological malfunctions sooner, saving time, money, and potential lives.

But point out that while blockchain is supposedly secure, there is widespread debate on whether this is true.

Tell your readers the truth about blockchain. Sure it’s promising. But they need to be wary of how secure it really is. They need to know blockchain may not be as secure as advertised, so they can use that fact to make wise decisions about if and when to use it.

Method Two: Focus on problems technologies solve for people

In and of itself The Alexa device does not get a person excited. It’s a piece of hardware. But when you help a human being realize the problems the device solves for them, they get energized.

A person can tell Alexa to play his or her favorite song and the song will play immediately. Why is that emotionally relevant? Because the person did not have to do anything more than that.

Previously, they may have had to push a few buttons, search around on the Internet, or pull out a tape and insert in a machine. All that time spent goes away with Alexa. By saving time, people have more time on their hands to other things.

So Alexa gives the person immediate gratification – hearing a song on demand. It solves their problem of having to hunt around and find their favorite song in some arduous and time-consuming endeavor.

People want their problems solved. In writing, show and describe how technologies solve their problems and you will satisfy readers.

And be blunt about the drawbacks of technologies. Artificial intelligence gathers information about people constantly. In some ways it’s an invasion of privacy.

Do people really want that? How much personal information are they willing to be made available for others to see in return for the benefits of the technology?

Tell readers these troubling truths. Give them the full story so they are better informed and can make better personal decisions.

Method Three: Link technologies to money

People care about their money. They want to know where to spend it to get the biggest return on an investment. They fear losing money also.

In your technology writing, focus on these issues, the ups and downs, the fears and opportunities, and it will resonate with readers.

Tell them how much the Alexa device costs and what benefits it will bring them. And let them know that Alexa gathers information about them constantly as they continue speaking to the device. And this could make the person more vulnerable to exploitation by others who access that data.

In the cyber security arena, many interesting technologies are used. But that’s not what people really care about. They want to know, for instance, how much they have to pay for cyber security software to keep their personal and business information safe from bad actors.

Tell them how much the software costs and how much more reliable their computer systems will be if they use the software. Paint a picture in this fashion: With the software their networks will be 99 percent reliable; without it’s 79 percent reliable.

These numbers will resonate.

Convey to them how much money will go to their bank accounts if they use cyber security software, or how much could be stolen from them if they don’t.

Method Four: Paint a picture of the future

People want to know how to improve their lives going forward. Communicate how technologies will make their lives simpler, accelerate their ability to make online transactions, and increase the network of people they connect with.

In the case of Big Data, for example, show them how their business can make decisions faster and that will save them money and make better decisions.

For example, show them how using predictive analytics technology to process Big Data on an airplane will notify them sooner, for instance, when an airplane engine will need maintenance.

Take it one step further. Show them by using predictive analytics and finding out sooner about the flaw, the airline will reduce the time the plane has to be out of service. When that happens, the plane stays in service more often and generates more revenues for the airline.

Final thoughts

Steer clear of trap of writing about only the technology. Don’t get bogged down in all that information people don’t really understand or care about.

Focus on the people who will use that technology and how it will help or hinder their lives.

Stay focused on people, their desires and concerns, not the mountains of minutiae within all these technological arenas. That’s for the scientists.

Your job is to communicate compelling stories that have conflict and have important personal concerns at stake.

Tantalize your readers. Reach their minds and hearts in emotionally powerful ways.

Eight Steps For Writing Better Blogs Today

March 26, 2020

You have done your blog preparation tasks, figured out your blog’s purpose, and written a working headline.

Now you need to write the blog.

Here are eight steps you should take to achieve your goals.

Step One: Start with a structured outline

Build an overall structure to your blog. Draft an outline. Include an introduction that explains why the blog matters to the target readers, your buyers. Make three main points. Under each point provide two or three paragraphs of explanation.

Add a conclusion. Add additional insight. Keep adding new value and insights through the entire blog.

You Might Also Like: When Blogging Pour Out Your Emotions

Step Two: Use compelling quotes, stats or strong opinions

The opening few sentences are crucial. Grab your readers immediately. How? Provide an arresting quote. For a content marketing blog, for example, open with a quote from a content marketing expert saying something profound and stunning.

Or start with a startling statistic such as “90 percent of content marketers are frustrated with the business outcomes generated by their blogs, according to source x.”

Or open with a strong opinion such as “content marketing becomes pointless when you don’t address the problems your buyers have.”

Push your buyers’ emotional buttons. What’s their biggest problem? Drill into that. Don’t stop there. Give an unexpected solution.

Step Three: Stick with one angle

Focus on one specific topic. Don’t blur the focus. That confuses and frustrates readers.

This blog centers on writing blog text. That’s specific and manageable. Don’t deviate and digress. Make your blog simple to track.

Step Four: Use calls to action to relate to the blog content

You must know what a call to action (CTA) is. It’s a technique within a blog to entice the reader to click for more information, to take the next logical step in the educational process. A sensible CTA in this blog would be a link to a blog on how to write blog headlines. Why? Because it’s natural for readers of this blog to want to know how to write headlines.

Use this technique and your readers start to trust you.

What’s the wrong approach? A CTA in this blog about how to do digital advertising on blogs. It’s too far of a mental leap.

Step Five: Don’t use sales-focused CTA at start of blog

Readers of blogs don’t want to be sold to right away. Ease them in. Don’t insert a sales-focused CTA at the start of the blog such as “download this webinar to learn about our products.” Psychologically and intellectually, your buyer isn’t ready for that. Don’t push. Spare them uncomfortable feelings.

Share helpful, educational content such as another blog about how to craft effective blogs. In the first few paragraphs, drop in a helpful blog CTA – not a sales pitch in CTA.

When your buyer is ready, maybe after reading three or four of your helpful blogs, go with a more sales-focused content piece such as a summary of your products and services. Insert that CTA link at the end of the blog. Help first. Sell later.

Step Six: Make your blog easy to scan

Use section headlines. Avoid long paragraphs with many words and sentences. Short paragraphs and sentences soar – and sell.

Use boldface type for subject headings to make it stand out. Make it easier for them to scan to different sections of the blog.

Step Seven: Keep smartphone readers in mind

Many readers will read your blog on their mobile phones. Make sure your content is easily on these devices. Write simple and short words, paragraphs, and headlines to can be read without strain.

Step Eight: Include social media buttons

Include social media buttons on every blog so readers can click to access more of your content. The more you keep them clicking on your site, the better chance you have of enticing them to buy your products or services. Don’t provide links to external sites. Keep them on your site.

Final thoughts

Creating blog text is much more than writing sentences and hitting the publish button. It’s about, above all else, understanding your buyers’ problems. Create content that addresses and solves those challenges.

Be helpful. Educate. Provide links to related content. Keep adding value and building trust with your buyers.

Later, when your buyer is ready, share sales content.

Want Loyal Customers? Tell Them

Why You’re in Business

March 22, 2020

I finished reading recently one of the most provocative and important books about business, leadership, and inspiration. As we get through and emerge on the other side of this coronavirus pandemic, the lessons shared in this book will help communications and business professionals be more successful.

Called Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek, the book conveys big ideas of paramount importance.

You have probably noticed that companies instinctively and constantly tell you what they do and how they do it. They tell you about their product’s features, benefits, and differentiators. But this often doesn’t work. The messages don’t resonate with buyers. Sales don’t happen.

The problem, according to Sinek, is that companies need to focus first on communicating why they are in business, what they stand for, what their overall cause is beyond what their products and services, and how that cause benefits customers.

Check This Out: Problems Carolina Content & Media Relations Solves

Focusing on why connects with people emotionally

It’s crucial to focus on why because it gets people to understand what the company stands for. Conveying the why connects with human being emotionally. People need this emotional linkage to develop loyalty and trust with a company.

If you don’t start with why and don’t emphasize what you believe and what your company stands for, you have lost a great opportunity to attract people who believe what you believe.

“Companies and organizations with a clear sense of why don’t think of themselves as being like anyone else and they don’t have to convince anyone of their value,” the author writes. “They are different, and everyone knows it. They start with why in everything they say and do.

“When we communicate from the outside in, when we communicate what we do first, people can understand vast amounts of complicated information, like facts and features, but it does not drive behavior.

“But when we communicate from the inside out, we’re talking directly to the part of the brain that controls decision-making, and our language part of the brain allows us to rationalize those decisions.”

Think about how true this has been in your lives. Would you rather buy a product or service from a company that inspires you, that believes what you believe, or from one that only tells you how great its product or service is and gives you facts and figures to support those claims.

“It’s not logic or facts but our hopes and dreams, our hearts and our guts, that drive us to try new things,” the author writes.

People follow causes, not product features

The author focuses on the Apple case in the book as a classic example of a company that communicates its why – to think differently and change the status quo. As a result, the company attracts an extraordinary number of loyal customers who share that belief.

“Good quality and features matter, but they are not enough to produce the dogged loyalty that all the most inspiring leaders and companies are able to command,” the author writes. “It is the cause that is represented by the company, brand, product, or person that inspires loyalty.

“For a message to have real impact, to affect behavior and seed loyalty, it needs more than publicity. It needs to publicize some higher purpose, cause or belief to which those with similar values and beliefs can relate. Only then can the message create any lasting mass-market success.”

Compete against yourself, not others

The author also points out that companies that spend a lot of time worrying about their competition and how they can position themselves more effectively against them are taking the wrong approach.

Companies shouldn’t be worried about beating competitors; they should be concerned with improving themselves every day.

This approach appeals more to people. It creates more loyal customers. This idea is captured in one of the book’s most powerful paragraphs for its simplicity, candor, and accuracy.

“When you compete against everyone else, no one wants to help you,” the author writes. “But when you compete against yourselves, everyone wants to help you.”

The author builds on this idea: “Companies with a clear sense of why tend to ignore their competition, where those with a fuzzy sense of WHY are obsessed with what others are doing.”

This is a calming and reassuring idea. Running a business with an obsession about what competitors are doing could get tiresome, tedious, and fruitless. Yet so many companies spend so much time doing this.

Obsessing about competitors is unappealing and unwise compared with narrowing your scope and focusing on how your company can improve against itself every day to execute on what it believes.

Great products are not necessary

Some companies sell products that are not the best. Yet they are still highly successful. This is because, as the author points out, a company’s products and services don’t have to be superior.

No doubt they have to be good, but great is not necessary if the company’s cause and beliefs are clear and resonate positively with people who share those same beliefs. This truth takes the pressure off companies worried about making perfect products and having the best ones on the market.

“A company doesn’t need to have the best products, they just need to be good or very good,” the author writes. “Better or best is a relative comparison. Without first understanding why, the comparison itself is of no value to the decision maker.

“Those people who share Apple’s why believe that Apple’s products are objectively better, and any attempt to convince them otherwise is pointless.”

“Sam Walton had a deeper purpose that drove him”

In this book the author describes a few companies in detail for their ability to focus on the why. Apple is one; Wal-Mart is another. Wal-Mart’s former leader who made this company great, Sam Walton, had a belief system that drove the company’s purpose every day.

“For Sam Walton, there was a…deeper purpose, cause or belief that drove him. He believed that if he looked after people, people would look after him. The more Wal-Mart could give to employees, customers and the community, the more that employees, customers and the community would give back to Wal-Mart. ‘We’re all working together; that’s the secret,’ said Walton.

Success in business comes down to people, interpersonal relationships, and inspiring people. It’s not about your products and how great they are, nor even how you make them. Communicate the reason your company exists and what believes and you will gain loyal customers.

Manipulation vs. inspiration

When companies don’t focus on why but rather what they do and how, the result often deteriorates into a battle against competitors on prices.

Products and services become commodities and competitors try to outduel each other on product features, special offerings, and all sort of ways to entice people to buy. This works, the author admits, but it’s not effective for harnessing long-term loyal customers.

“I cannot dispute that manipulations works,” the author writes. “Every one of them can indeed help influence behavior and every one of them can help a company become quite successful. But there are trade-offs.

“Not a single one of them breeds loyalty. Over the course of time they cost more and more. The gains are only short-term. And they increase the level of stress for both the buyer and the seller.

Motivating people is effective in business and can be done. But that’s not what companies should aspire to. Rather, they should inspire people to get them on your side as customers through good times and bad no matter what because you share the same beliefs.

“There are many ways to motivate people to do things, but loyalty comes from the ability to inspire people. Only when the WHY is clear and when people believe what you believe can a true loyal relationship develop.”

Energy falls short of charisma

You can have plenty of energy in running your business. But that can be matched by competitors. So, it’s not a differentiator.

But what can’t be matched easily is a charismatic leader who connects on visceral and emotional levels with individual human beings in an inspirational, visionary way.

These charismatic leaders convince people that the cause the company stands for is compelling enough to draw those customers in and keep them as ongoing, faithful customers.

“Energy motivates but charisma inspires,” the author writes. “Energy is easy to see, easy to measure, and easy to copy. Charisma is hard to define, near impossible to measure, and too elusive to copy. All great leaders have charisma because all great leaders have clarity of why; an undying belief in a purpose or cause bigger than themselves.”

Final thoughts

Why is it so important to develop loyal customers?

Well, think about it. Let’s say you run a content marketing business. You have a few customers who believe what you believe and, as a result, they are loyal to you.

Then your business runs into difficulties. Isn’t it nice to know those loyal customers will stay with you even through rough times?

“Knowing you have a loyal customer and employee base not only reduces costs, it provides massive peace of mind. Like loyal friends, you know your customers and employees will be there for you when you need them most.”

If all you have are customers you manipulated to buy your products by lowering your prices, for example, they won’t be loyal to you. They don’t feel that way about your company. You are just one of several providers of products and then can, and will, go elsewhere when you’re in trouble.

“As a company grows, the CEO’s job is to personify the why. To ooze of it. To talk about it. To preach it. To be a symbol of what the company believes.

“Your role in this the process is to be crystal clear about what purpose, cause, or belief you exist to champion, and to show how your products and services help advance that cause.”

One Work Tip To Stay

Productive During Pandemic

March 19th, 2020

Your work days have turned unusual to say the least. You’re not alone. How are we supposed to proceed? Is anyone hiring? Is anyone reading emails?

The truth is we don’t know. We can’t control what everyone else is doing. We can’t control a virus we can’t see.

But we can control our own days. And that will give us peace of mind – which right now is paramount.

Draw 10 boxes

A tactic I am finding fulfilling and productive is to write down on a sheet of paper 10 square boxes. My job is to reach out to 10 people each day. After I do so, I write a check mark in the box.

It reminds me that I’m continuing to persist, that I am determined to get something done, to contribute, to continue to reach out and help people.

I go through my list of ten, marking a check after each contact.

It’s progress. It’s my way of controlling a situation that may seem out of control. But remember, some things are not out of our control. We are always in control of our own behaviors.

Regardless of how uncertain these times may seem, you have the power to take action. Isn’t that liberating? Treasure that. Be grateful you have this.

Don't worry about what you can't control

Sure there may be new impediments. You may have to adjust how you approach people. The business world dynamics are in a state of massive upheaval.

But that’s external to you and me. That’s over there somewhere. You and I are here. And we can do what we can do, every day.

Draw your 10 boxes. Reach out. Be of service. Be sincere. And check those boxes. Don’t stop until you’ve checked all 10.

We will get through this together

You will get through this assignment. You will get through this uncertainty. You will get through this pandemic.

The key is to keep going. Be relentless. Be disciplined.

Do your part. That’s all we can ask of you.

Celebrate what you have accomplished. Know that your efforts are appreciated.

Please, if you are inclined, share your idea for working productively during these unusual times.

NBC’s Richard Engel Deserves Award

for Crucial Coverage of Coronavirus

March 9th, 2020

The media gets criticized a lot for its biased coverage, tendency to cover sensational stories in superficial ways, and not providing valuable and practical content and insights for its viewers.

But the media sometimes provides vital, public service programming that stands out for its obvious pursuit of important information that has life and death repercussions all over the world.

This has been the case in the heroic and selfless reporting that aired last night by NBC’s Richard Engel about the Coronavirus.

Engel nailed the whole story better than anyone, and we’re all better off for it because we’re armed with more knowledge, understanding, and context.

He got to the bottom of where this problem likely originated. He provided images of the water markets in Wuhan, China where a rat was likely butchered and a human somehow got rat blood or urine inside themselves, thus getting infected with this deadly virus. This is the working theory among experts.

Reporting showed barren streets of Wuhan

His report showed the barren streets of Wuhan where the whole city remains in lockdown, quarantined inside their homes, due to the rapid spread of deaths. He found out about a Chinese doctor who early on noticed the unusually high number of pneumonia cases coming to his hospital, that he reported it but was stymied by the Chinese government, and that the doctor eventually died from the virus.

Engel interviewed other health officials in China, went to Hong Kong for more perspective from experts, reported on how the World Health Organization was handling the crisis, and then got first-hand knowledge via a face to face interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the world’s leading experts about infection diseases.

Engel got in a protective outfit to interview an expert on rats and how and why they are so filled with viruses. It was remarkable insightful reporting. He took personal risk to his own health to interview many of these people – for all of us.

For the good of billions of people around the world, Richard Engel went and found out what we all needed to know. He helped clear up many concerns we have had about this epidemic, and erased much of the confusing, imprecise, and speculative coverage that has made us all worried.

Congratulations and much gratitude to Richard for showing the world what great journalism is all about.

An inspiration to the communications profession, he should receive a prestigious award for this exemplary work, courage, and contribution to the world.

Go Crazy and Be Foolish in Media

Relations and Marketing

March 5th, 2020

In the worlds of media relations and marketing I have found that, most of the time, not nearly enough time gets spent on creative problem solving and brainstorming sessions. There’s usually a rush to get something done. Someone offers up one idea. It sounds reasonable enough – at first. And an entire communications campaign gets built around that one idea considered. Groupthink triumphs.

In a book I just finished reading titled “A Whack On the Side of the Head: How You Can be More Creative,” the author, Roger Von Oech, urges people not to settle for this shot-gun approach because the first ideas generally aren’t nearly the best.

Instead, this leader in creative thinking recommends opening your mind, thinking differently and originally, turning ideas upside down, and seeing where the non-linear and wide-open process takes you. He urges people in creative professions to embrace foolishness.

Embrace foolishness

This recommendation strikes me as intriguing because when Steve Jobs gave the commencement address at Stanford University several years ago, one of his recommendations to the graduates was to be “foolish.” There must be some merit to this idea if a man as creative as Jobs believed in it.

The author of this book quotes a physicist, Niels Bohr, who believes that “thinking like a fool was essential to coming up with breakthrough ideas. During a tense brainstorming session, he told a colleague, ‘We all know your idea is crazy. The question is whether it is crazy enough?’

I hope you are as energized and liberated by this notion as me. Isn’t it cool, fun and exciting to think of about a crazy idea that someone puts forth and the first reaction is not whether it’s too crazy – what you would expect – but whether it’s sufficiently crazy to merit further exploration?

“Fools approach to life jars you into an awareness”

The author writes, “You may not like the fool’s idea…But he forces you to entertain – perhaps only momentarily – an alternative way of looking at your situation…The fool’s approach to life jars you into an awareness that there is a second right answer to what you’re doing, and that you should look for better answers than the ones you’ve got. Indeed, sometimes the fool makes more sense than the wise man.”

I’m not saying we should all be fools all the time. I am saying when you play around with silly ideas and give them serious consideration, it’s fun and can often lead to novel ideas and concepts you could use to dazzle in your media relations and marketing campaigns.

Humor spawns creativity

Building on this foolishness theme, the author stresses the positive creativity benefits produced by putting yourself in a humorous mood.

“Getting into a humorous frame of mind not only loosens you up, it enhances your creatively,” he writes. “This has been demonstrated in tests investigating the role humor plays in stimulating a creative outlook…there is a close relationship between the “haha” of humor and the “aha!” of discovery…Humor may not solve your problem, but it will put you a more conducive mood to do so.”

Let’s explore this point from the opposite perspective. If you’re in a serious mood, how creative are you likely to be? How welcoming will you be to crazy or foolish ideas? How patient are you likely to be with a wild brainstorming session when people are laughing and being silly?

Logic and analysis stifle creativity

This section of the book about logic and analysis hit home for me. I have worked for several corporations where, almost invariably, the overriding concern was about being logical. If I wrote something that wasn’t logical in the mind of the recipient who received it internally, even if it was fun, creative and foolish, original and thought-provoking, I could score no points with that person. Logic was the only thing that seemed to matter. Creativity was not a priority in communications.

The author of the book, like me, doesn’t believe logic and analysis should be the overriding concerns especially in the early stages of a project.

“Logic and analysis are important tools, but an overreliance on them – especially early in the creative process – can prematurely narrow your thinking.”

Use crazy ideas as steppingstones

He continues: “Creative thinking requires an outlook that allows you to search for ideas and play with your knowledge and experience. With this outlook, you try different approaches, first one, then another, often not getting anywhere. You use crazy, foolish, and impractical ideas as steppingstones to practical new ideas. You break the rules occasionally and explore for ideas in unusual places. And, in the end, your creative outlook enables you to come up with new ideas.”

In media relations and marketing organizations there exists too much of a bias towards logic and not enough leeway to explore ideas. More time should be dedicated to brainstorming sessions. People should be encouraged to play with ideas, and not just one, but two, three, and several more. The more ideas you generate the more likely you will create a good one.

Don’t stop after generating one idea

This previous section leads naturally into this one focused on how often people have a problem, so they come up with one idea, give it the go ahead, and execute on it. But there’s the problem: This single idea probably isn’t the best idea. Had more time been spent developing more ideas, a better one would have probably been thought of.

“Most people don’t like problems, and when they encounter them, they usually react by taking the first way out they can find – even if they solve the wrong problem,” the author writes. “I can’t overstate the danger in this. If you have only one idea, you have only one course of action open to you, and this is quite risky in a world where flexibility is a requirement for survival.

“Often it’s the second, or third, or tenth right answer which is what we need to solve a problem in an innovative way…there are many ways to find the second right answer – asking “what if,” playing the fool, reversing the problem, and breaking the rules.”

Ask what if questions

In media relations, a what if question could be “what if we didn’t do a news release about our new product but rather had a parade down the main street of town unveiling the product?” “What if” questions are “an easy but powerful way to get your imagination going,” the author writes.

Final thoughts

I will sum up this blog with a few more valuable nuggets of insight and advice from the book. People who think they are creative are and those who don’t think they are are not. The response to this is obvious: Believe you’re creative and you will be more creative.

“What you think has a way of becoming true,” the author writes. “If you want to be more creative, believe in the worth of your ideas, and have the persistence to continue building on them. With this attitude, you will take more risks, and break the rules occasionally.”

Great ideas are important. But they’re not the end of the game. People must buy into your ideas or they won’t go anywhere.

“In having my own business,” the author writes, “I’ve discovered that you can have the greatest idea in the world, but if you can’t sell it to other people, you’re not going to get very far.”

Five Writing Mistakes You

Should Avoid Starting Now

February 26, 2020

You should avoid these writing mistakes starting now and your writing will improve.

First: Don’t rely too much on logic and rational thinking. Sure, these things are important, and you want to present well-reasoned arguments and use salient data. But readers don’t buy logic and rational thinking alone.

They relate to and buy into emotions and passions. They resonate with what people believe and care about. They care why you are making a point in your writing as much as – if not more than – your logic and reasoning. Bring your emotions to your writing every time and your readers will be persuaded. Bore them with loads of dry logic and you lose.

Second: Don’t try to weave together too many ideas and phrases into a single sentence. People don’t like reading long sentences that require them to think hard and follow a complicated, multi-layer trail of thinking. Break one long sentence into two. Give your reader an easy way of grasping your ideas without having to work hard. Once in a while, it’s refreshing to sprinkle in a longer sentence with compound phrases, but it must be easy to digest. If it isn’t, don’t write it.

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Third: Don’t make all your sentences the approximate same length. Isn’t it fun when you’re reading a paragraph and you finish a long sentence and then the next one is short? It’s a nice change of pace. See what I mean?

Readers enjoy reading sentences of different lengths. They get bored if each sentence drones on at the same length as the previous one. Stir them up. Jolt their senses. Make them notice you popped a short sentence on them. See how cool this is?

Fourth: Using big words in your writing is a sure sign you’re trying to impress your reader. Sure, it’s good for all of us to expand our vocabularies, and occasionally it’s OK to drop in a ten-dollar word. But most of the time you don’t want to do that. Your reader will think you’re arrogant, or pretentious, or both. What happens then? They often stop reading your stuff. You can’t have that.

If they don’t know what the word means, they will feel stupid or perturbed at you for trying to make them feel that way. Just communicate what you have to say in ordinary language. Your readers will like you more and be more receptive to your message. That’s the goal. Be likeable. Show your readers you’re enjoying yourself. They like to know that.

Five: There are always words you can delete from your writing. So, do it constantly, consistently, every time you write. One word you can almost always eliminate is the word “that.” Strike that one. Your sentence will still make sense and pack more punch.

Several phrases come up in writing that (this time “that” shouldn’t be deleted) should be shortened. Examples: “In order to” should be “to”; “it is important to note that” should be struck completely. Just say what you want to say without all the extra words; and “very,” “extremely,” “totally” and several other adjectives can almost always be ditched, and your writing will improve.

But like so much about writing, sometimes you can break the rules for dramatic effect to mix things up for the reader. This sentence is a very good example.

Warning to Content Marketers:

Don’t Lay Any of These Eggs

February 25, 2020

One of the biggest challenges in content marketing is figuring out what differentiates one company from another, how they stand out from the competition and deliver value no one else does.

Too often they struggle to craft messages that truly differentiate and that buyers value. These struggles tend to produce messages that don’t address buyer’s pain points.

Here are eight classic examples of failed differentiators that content marketers should avoid:

One: Years you’ve been in business

Providers of goods and services don’t care all that much how many years you’ve been in business. They want to know how you can solve their problems.

Two: Diversity of clients

Companies often communicate that they have a diversity of clients from a range of industries. Again, buyers don’t care nearly as much about who else you do business with as they do how you can help them overcome their most difficult obstacles.

Three: Fresh thinking to problem solving and a devotion to big ideas

Bringing fresh thinking to problem solving is a nice thing in the abstract. But that doesn’t amount to anything specific unless it helps a buyer address his or her needs and fix a problem.

Claiming to have a devotion to big ideas also lacks substance. Why would a buyer care about this devotion if it doesn’t help them? As intellectual constructs, big ideas are interesting. But the most important ideas are the ones that help solve buyer’s problems.

Four: Full-service capabilities

Companies often communicate that they offer full-service, end-to-end capabilities. To the buyer these sound like exaggerations and hollow. Buyers may not need full service or an end-to-end solution. They need specific ideas, products and services that will help them grow their businesses.

Five: Integrated applications

Many high-tech companies – too many - claim to be able to integrate applications. They position themselves as the great masterminds who can make everything in technology work together seamlessly. Here’s the truth: They usually can’t. They may be able to integrate some aspects of applications but integrating everything usually requires more expertise than any one company. Furthermore, full integration isn’t necessarily what the buyer needs. If they don’t need integrated applications to solve their problems, there is no point in the company claiming they can.

Six: Commitment to clients

Any company, or any person for that matter, can write content claiming they are committed to customers. But are they really? And can’t every company or person claim this? It doesn’t prove anything. If every other company can claim it, that’s not a differentiator for your company?

Seven: Ability to produce results

These are just words. To improve the impact of such a claim from the all-important buyer’s perspective, it would be necessary to provide more specific details about those results. For example, if the company offers digital marketing services and claims it can generate 20 percent more qualified sales leads using its strategic approach, the companies that may want to buy the agency’s services are more likely to be impressed. Real performance metrics matter and can be powerful differentiators.

Eight: Relying on hyperbole to describe value

A tell-tale sign you’re not reading about a differentiated product or service occurs when the company uses hyperbole such as “we have the world’s greatest product.” This claim is not specific and probably not true. Far from differentiating, it’s lame marketing and legally risky. It often makes buyers less inclined to buy from you.

Final thoughts

To put it bluntly, all these claims amount to a pile of poppycock. They are embarrassing and lazy techniques for a company to use to try to sell products and services. These claims don’t require hard work, research, competitive analysis. They don’t require a sharp focus on what problems you are trying to solve for your buyer.

Don’t try any of these tired methods and you will be on your way to more differentiated and effective communications.

Tony Robbins: The Guy The Baby Boomer Brotherhood Should Believe In

June 24, 2020

Tony Robbins -- the name generates a strong response from most people who hear his name. Is he a fraud? Does he really help people? Are his theories about how to live a better life based on anything real? Or did he cook up these ideas and a bunch of people bought into his hype, so he became rich and famous?

I believe he’s helpful for Baby Boomer guys and other demographics, basically all people who want to live more fulfilling lives. When we can’t control our thoughts, he’s a good guy to turn to. He’s all about controlling what you think about and focus on. He says if you focus on the fact that you’re a failure or nothing ever good happens to you and that you can’t achieve things, that’s not reality. That’s just your thinking.

Think your way to success

Think about that. You can think your way into failure. Your mind can control you to such an insidious extent that if you believe that you can’t do something, you can’t.

Now consider the reverse. If you believe you can do something, you can. Right? If you focus on what you can do and believe you can accomplish it, you can.

Changing peoples’ states

Tony says he’s about changing the state of people. By this he means their physical and mental dispositions. If you can get yourself in the right state physically and mentally, you are on your way to achieving whatever you want to. If you don’t change your state, you will be stuck where you are.

Right about the physical part

He’s right about the physical part. How many of you have gone out for a run and afterward felt better about yourselves and your lives than before you ran? It happens. And it doesn’t happen half the time or most of the time. It happens virtually every time you move your body and exercise. It could be walking, swimming, or riding a bike. All exercise makes us feel better.

Why is this? It’s because the state of your body has changed. Your body chemistry has transformed. Your blood flows more freely and endorphins become ignited. Endorphins make you feel good. They give you a sense of well-being and fulfillment.

So, if exercise makes you feel so good, why wouldn’t you do it every day? Because often when the idea to work out enters your mind, the first thought you have is “I don’t want to do that; it will make me tired.”

The knee-jerk reaction curves negative. It’s often the way your mind works. It’s too bad. Wouldn’t it better if your mind was more likely to deliver positive thoughts?

See what happened there? I went negative instinctively. My thought focused on the unfortunate side of this situation, that our minds tend to go negative more often than positive.

Train your mind

Now I will change my focus: The way to think about this is that we are blessed to have the ability to control how we think, and the best approach is to train your mind to focus on the positive and how great life is and that it will be even greater and more fulfilling in the future.

This may sound like mind gymnastics, and I suppose it is. But I can tell you from experience that it works. And if this gymnastics exercise gets you feeling better about your value to the world and all the great gifts you have that can help other people, then it’s a worthwhile idea and approach to life.

Control your thoughts

Control your thoughts. Control your thoughts. Control your thoughts.

Let me repeat that: control your thoughts and you will control your life.

Tony Robbins is a maverick. Do I worship him? No. Do I think he does a lot of good for mankind? Yes. Do I respect his approach to life? Yes. Am I afraid to admit it? No.

Cynics don’t believe what Tony Robbins does is of much value, at least not to them. I venture a guess that those people may be having difficulties in their lives. Because what is a cynic? It’s a person who doesn’t believe in what is possible and denigrates people who have new ideas.

Cynics like to sit back

Cynics like to sit back and criticize other people for taking chances and putting themselves out there for others to evaluate. Cynics are usually stuck in their lives in some way. They aren’t big risk takers. They aren’t fun to be around. They are unpleasant to listen to. They try to bring us down.

So, let the cynics continue to be cynics. It’s what they choose to focus on and, as noted already, what you focus on dominates your life. I hope cynics stop for a moment and think about what they are doing to themselves. They’re tearing the world down, hurting people, making things worse.

Wouldn’t it be cool if they stopped themselves the next time they had a cynical thought and said “wait, I’m not going to be cynical about this”? What would happen if they decided to focus on the positive?

Cynics can be positive. But they must want to and choose to be.

Baby Boomer guys have plenty of time

As you know, this is a blog for Baby Boomer guys who tend to wrestle with scary ideas especially the big one: when are they going to die? And the even bigger one: what happens after that?

These guys have plenty of time on this Earth to make their mark. This is not a time to sit back and wait for the end. Get off the couch and do something that will help mankind. There’s still time. There is a way. You can do this.

All you have to do is control your thinking and take action -- right now.

Logic Suffocates Creative Thought, So Rely On

Your Intuition to Make Decisions

February 22, 2020

Logic suffocates creative thought. So, don’t rely too much on logic. Believe in the power of your intuition to make great decisions.

This is a key insight from a book titled “The Confident Decision Maker: How to Make the Right Business and Personal Decisions Every Time” by Roger Dawson. He is an expert in the art of negotiating and a full-time professional speaker

Additional takeaways:

· to be a good decision maker you must be comfortable with ambiguity because the future is unpredictable;

· good decision makers know they are in the right place at the right time and don’t doubt their decisions;

· optimism after a decision is made is much more advisable than before;

· enthusiasm about an idea can cloud decision making, so it needs to be checked carefully; be enthusiastic after you make decision – not before;

· when you know your values, it’s easier to make decisions;

· seeing the big picture about your business mission, rather than focusing narrowly on a product or service, helps you make better decisions;

· huddling with people helps you make better decisions than a single individual because they can check each other’s thinking and see all the problems and risks associated with a decision; and

· don’t gather too much information before making a decision; gather only enough information to make the decision with a strong blend of logic and intuition.

The rest of this blog will delve into detail about each one of these decision-making tips.

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Embrace ambiguity

No matter what business decision you must make, a positive outcome cannot be guaranteed. The faster you accept this, the sooner you will make better decisions.

“Almost invariably,” the author writes, “you have to go ahead with something that only has a good chance of succeeding, with no guarantees. If you have a low tolerance for ambiguity this will drive you crazy…Your ability to make good decisions is directly related to your ability to handle ambiguity.”

A great and timely example of this is my recent decision to launch a business called Carolina Content & Media Relations Corporation LLC. I don’t have any guarantees this business will succeed. It’s an ambiguous proposition.

But I have researched this industry and the market opportunities well enough. Synthesizing logic and intuition, I believe this business will succeed.

The key is knowing you’re in the right place at the right time

The key is to know you’re in the right place at the time.

“Being in the right place at the right time is important. But knowing you’re in the right place at the right time is even more important,” the author writes. “If you know you’ve made the right decision, you won’t hesitate to move ahead.”

Building on this idea, the author writes: “There are some characteristics that all confident decision makers share. First, they have an uncanny sense of timing. They know when to make the decision.”

Hold your optimism until after you decide

The book stresses that before a businessperson decides the optimism should be suppressed. “The time for optimism is after you’ve made a decision,” the author writes. “Enthusiasm can blind you – if it feels too good to be true, it probably is…being enthusiastic before you make a decision is inviting disaster.”

I will admit that I was too often optimistic and enthusiastic when deciding to start my own business. But I helped keep those emotions in check by continuing to study the market, the target buyers, and the strategic positioning. I got so busy researching the market and figuring out how to enter it that I had less time and emotional energy to allow myself to become too optimistic and enthusiastic.

Blend logical and intuitive decision making

The book emphasizes that intuition spawns creative ideas and avenues for opportunities, whereas logical decisions rely too much on facts and data that don’t translate to good decisions.

“Logical decision making reduces the possibility of error,” the author writes. “Intuitive decision making develops creative alternatives. By turning our back on old-style intuition, we’re missing a great opportunity to develop new and exciting solutions to our problems.”

Businesspeople tend to rely more on logic than intuition because of increases in data available. But the author doesn’t believe that’s good for making the best decisions.

“The shift from intuition to logic has created two major problems – first, a suffocation of creative thought; and second, a dangerous assumption that the more detailed information we have, the more accurate our decisions will be. Confident decision making is a blend of logic and intuition. By harnessing the power of logic and fusing it with the genius of intuition, we can sometimes produce explosive creativity.”

Knowing your values simplifies decisions

If you know what your company stands for, what causes it supports, what values it treasures, you are likely to find making decisions easier because anything inconsistent with these ideals will be easy to dismiss.

“If something comes up that violates your values, morals, or the goals of your company, don’t do it regardless of the temptation,” and author writes.

If someone approached me today and asked me to collaborate on a business plan misaligned with my corporate values, I simply would not do it regardless of how much money could be made or opportunities it presents.

Don’t get overly committed to your plan

Let’s say I learn during the first few months in business that demand for my services is much heavier in the sports market versus the high-tech market. I will adjust and spend more resources and time on the better opportunity, even if I thought more interest would be in high-tech.

“Don’t get too personally committed to your plan,” the author writes. “You can ride that plan into oblivion if you’re not careful.

Focus on why you’re in business

If there’s one overriding theme I’ve learned about business in reading several books over the past several weeks, it’s that why you are in business should drive a huge part of your strategy and will make the difference between success and failure.

Why I am in business, what I believe in, what the high-level purpose is, and what I stand for are paramount to customers as a starting point with customers.

“A key to seeing the big picture is to be sure you’re not focusing too closely on what it is you do, instead of why it is you’re there,” the author writes. “We all know of industries that lost their creativity because they didn’t understand their broad mission and remained too focused on a product or service.

Huddles outperform individuals

When I was thinking of starting this business, I could have not told anyone and moved ahead. But I made a better decision because I consulted with several people with knowledge of what it takes to start a new business.

As a result, I was more informed and used a stronger blend of logic and intuitive thinking to make a better and more confident decision that I know is timed right and is the best decision I could make.

Huddling with people improves decision-making because participants “are able to correct one another’s mistakes,” the author writes.

Final thoughts

Decisions do not end the world if you make the wrong one. They may make you rich, but that’s not really the point. Life provides an adventure to be enjoyed and making decisions should be a fun part of that experience.

“We’re on a journey together, which one day will end. The destination doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t matter if you end your journey with $480 million dollars or stumble through the gates of heaven struggling for financial survival. What matters is how much joy and satisfaction you derived from the journey.

“Learning to make confident decisions will make you a lot of money, but don’t use it just to make money. Use confident decision making to see how good you can get at doing whatever it is you do. If you take this approach, I promise you that you won’t have to worry about money anymore, because it will flow to you as a by-product of what you do.

And the author adds this gem about one way to make decisions that lead to a more fulfilling life.

“When you push thoughts of love and encouragement out into the world, they don’t dissipate, they circulate. The power of visualizing a warm response to your proposal is an awesome force.”

PR Profession in Peril: Path to Survival

February 18th, 2020

The lives of public relations professionals have plummeted into peril.

Social media is changing how we communicate, to whom, and when. Reporters and editors are getting increasingly impatient with us. They don’t like our pitches. They think we spam them too much with news releases not relevant to the beats they cover. They think our writing is bad.

Making matters worse, corporate executives value our services less. They don’t think we understand business and how to help them grow revenues. They view us as stunt artists prone to hype and spinning non-stories.

They don’t think we know enough about their businesses and are just their handlers to do the logistical work for them. These execs think they’re the ones who really know what’s going in their companies. They don’t think we’re smart enough to grasp the complex nuances of business issues and strategies. They think we don’t do our homework; reporters agree.

We’re in trouble.

These are a few of the rather chilling ideas in a book titled Putting the Public Back in Public Relations: How Social Media is Reinventing the Aging Business of PR. The authors are Brian Solis and Deirdre Breakenridge, PR and marketing professionals, respectively.

“Slipped into complacency”

“PR has slipped into complacency,” they write. “It has relied on blasting news releases and impersonal pitches to share news and information, when a less-is-more, human, and direct approach is more effective. The pitch as you know it is essentially dead in the Web world. It is intrusive. It is impersonal. It is perilous. To many people, the pitch has been synonymous with spam.”

So, where do we go from here? The book provides several suggestions that can help PR professional survive and thrive. The first step: Make our communications more human and focused on one-to-one relationships with other people, namely reporters and editors.

Stop delivering “messages”

Other recommendations are to stop focusing on delivering messages and focus on communicating compelling stories. To reporters, messages are a turn-off word. They resonate with stories.

The book also stresses the importance of developing deeper relationships with bloggers because they are becoming increasingly influential in determining what stories get published and then picked up by larger media outlets.

The rest of this blog will flesh out these insights about the state of PR and recommendations for how to make us more successful.

Be human and build relationships with people

A big theme in this book is for PR pros to stop blasting out one-way messages, such as news releases, and expecting reporters to care. Instead, PR pros should focus on having conversations with other human beings and developing trusting and mutually benefit relationships.

Communicate like human beings

The book’s authors urge PR pros to communicate like human beings having an honest conversation with one other specific person and building that relationship.

“Most corporations only know how to talk in the smoothing, humorless monotone of the mission statement, marketing brochures, and the your-call-is-important-to-us busy signal. Same old tone. Same old lies. No wonder networked markets have no respect for companies unable or unwilling to speak as they do.”

I can tell you from personal experience this is true. Fun, light-hearted, and humorous content rarely makes its way out the doors and into the public from a corporation. Companies just don’t know how to do this.

They back off, get fearful, and don’t take risks. The result is boring and often self-serving content that doesn’t connect emotionally with another human being on any level. The results are not good. Sales get missed. Opinions get disregarded. The whole initiative ends up having been a big waste of time and money.

Focus on people and relationships

A new approach is needed.

“New PR is about people and relationships, not just new tools,” the authors write. “The game is changing, and it’s survival not only of the fittest, but also of the most capable and sincere. PR in the era of social media requires a fusion of traditional PR, Internet marketing, Web-savvy market intelligence, and the ability to listen and engage in conversations without speaking in messages.

“You must put people at the center of your activity. If you don’t, the conversations will take place without you. And if you do it wrong, you’ll find a very public and prominent backlash against you and the brands you represent.”

Focus on peoples’ pain points

To really connect with people, PR pros need to figure out why they are in business, what motivates them, and what they are trying to accomplish. It can’t just be to generate press coverage to make more money and get promoted to higher positions in PR.

Reporters and editors don’t care about that. They want to know that you care about them and what they need and can help them solve their problems quickly and easily.

Chris Anderson, Editor in Chief of Wired Magazine, is quoted in the book saying, “Remember this is about people. What do you stand for? Answer that first before you try to convince people that are busier than you why they should take time to stop what they’re doing to pay you any attention.

“It’s more than doing your homework. To some, doing homework is building lists. Figure out what you are representing and why it matters? What do people need? What are their pain points? Build relationships, not lists.

“Marketing is about storytelling, not raw facts on the press release. Marketing (and communications) is not just facts (the when, what and where), but it’s telling a story, engaging the community, and being human.”

Develop deeper, two-way relationships with bloggers

One of the biggest changes in behavior that PR pros need to make is how they interact with bloggers. These are important people that, along with traditional reporters and editors, need to be researched, understood, tracked, and communicated with regularly.

These people are receptive to compelling story ideas and will write about them, and this coverage can help drive a story to larger media outlets.

To be successful, it’s key for PR pros to develop two-way, regular communications with bloggers. They should comment on their blogs and link back to theirs, show they’re interested in the content on their blogs, and care about helping them becoming better bloggers.

Learn what matters to bloggers

“The key to dealing with bloggers is not just to rustle them up and get them to an event for feedback products, but to really learn who they are and what matters to them, and to build a solid relationship from there,” the authors write.

“The reality is that blogs offer some of the most honest and hands-on information, insight, and advice, and usually deliver it quicker than many traditional media sources. We can say emphatically that you need to invest your time in reading blogs and participate in Web communications that are important to you both personally and professionally.

“Deliver the painkiller in a direct, personal, and believable fashion”

The authors write that the key to blogging and participating in social media is “not to propagate and pontificate. Instead of using the corporate blog as an arm of marketing identify customer pain points and deliver the painkiller in a direct, personal, and believable fashion…open up the corporate kimono – exposing the soul and personality of the company to facilitate genuine communication.”

Share stories early with bloggers

PR pros have traditionally provided reporters and editors with advanced copies and briefings about certain upcoming announcements. The purpose was to help generate more press coverage and build more trusting and favorable relationships with reporters and editors.

The authors of this book believe this advanced access should also be given to bloggers.

“By providing bloggers with early access to news and information, we’re effectively making bloggers a new “wire’ service. Suddenly your relationships with bloggers enable your news to bubble up to a point where it gains credibility and momentum.

“Finally, it attracts attention from traditional journalists who monitor trends. The conversations in the blogosphere feed the media, which helps them to report their stories.

Yes, more work for PR pros but it’s necessary

Yes, this means more work and more time needs to be dedicated to bloggers. Yes, this puts more work on the plates of PR pros. But there’s no getting around this.

Research on your own time

This idea about being smart about setting priorities gets at one of the biggest takeaways I gleaned from this book, which is that PR pros who want to succeed will have to work harder than they ever have.

They will have to research more people, spend more time developing more relationships and studying what each reporter and blogger writes about. It’s a lot to ask. But it’s what is required.

“If you expect to represent anything, whether in an agency or in a company, spend a significant portion of your time figuring out why it matters to people – on your own time. This is the difference between PR and good PR.”

And PR pros will need to stay at this craft consistently. Press and blogging articles about stories you pitched don’t materialize easily and sometimes not very quickly.

“PR is similar to farming”

“In most cases, coverage doesn’t just happen. PR is similar to farming: The more seeds you plant, the more crops (in the form of coverage over time) you will grow (as long as you spend time watering, caring for, and feeding those seeds and new shoots)…Don’t assume that all this coverage happens just because you are a popular company or have a killer product. Even the best companies and solutions need great PR to rise above the noise.”

Final thoughts

In reading this book, I found a few nuggets to remind PR pros of what not to do if they want to be successful. The book says your pitches should not talk about yourself, be negative, nor spam the world. Pitches should be customized for specific reporters you have studied. Read what they cover. Then craft the pitch.

And you must be yourself, a human being, willing to open to another person, to occasionally be unpredictable and different and funny at times.

Move from “top-down to one-on-one interaction”

“To be a true member of the online communication, you must humanize your intent and story, and learn how, where and why to participate. By doing so, you reset the dynamic for engagement from top-down to one-on-one interaction.”

Change for PR pros is here. It’s threatening for those who don’t evolve. And a great opportunity for those who do.

“PR didn’t feel the need to change until it had, for survival, and now we’ve reached a point where we have no choice but to transform or become obsolete.”

Want to Succeed to Communications?

Do the Unexpected

February 14th, 2020

As a communications professional, this is the wrong time to be careful and risk averse. Stand for something, put yourself on the line, communicate in unexpected ways. If you irritate some people, you’re doing something right.

These are central themes of a book published last year titled Persuasion: Convincing Others When Facts Don’t Seem to Matter. The author of the book, Lee Hartley Carter, is president of maslansky + partners, a language strategy company.

Book energizes your soul

For communications professionals who may have felt repressed in the past by editing processes that took the sizzle out of their prose and watered-down communications storylines before the prose got sent to potential customers, this book will energize your soul. And it will give you hope that it’s smart and effective to create bold and surprising communications storylines.

I especially resonated with these quotes from the book:

“Don’t try to blend in. What you need to do is be uniquely you by telling your story…You’re going to have to put your neck out, and when you put your neck out, not everybody is going to agree with you…The center of persuasion is showing something a little bit unexpected. It’s not about showing the perfect shiny object.”

The book continues: “Brands that don’t express a viewpoint, even on issues that have nothing to do with their product, can seem suspect now in the eyes of consumers…if you’re dealing with somebody who’s negative or a hater and you get some backlash, you’re probably doing something right. You’re taking a stand. And that is the future of communication. Being blandly in the background doesn’t work anymore.”

Pushing the boundaries to be heard above the noise

Whether you’re a media relations or marketing executive, you should feel inspired by these ideas. If it’s your instinct to stay more conservative in your approach to communications, you will likely be behind the times and not as effective. To be heard above all the other noise, you have to push communication boundaries far and wide.

This trend plays out in the world of resumes. Until recent years the resume tended to be a person’s personal branding statement. It told that person’s story and played a leading role in landing a person a job. But now the resume gets buried in the online piles of emails that recruiters have less time to review – and often never even look at.

The more important factors in landing a job have become a person’s LinkedIn page, the articles he or she has published, and the causes the person supports. The age of personal branding has taken over how people sell themselves to get jobs.

“Before, communication supported the brand,” the author writes. “Now communication is the brand. Before, the candidate sold a story; now the story sells the candidate. Before, your resume positioned you; now your position upstages your resume.”

And your position on issues, your views, your ability to deeply understand an employer and the specific needs and problems that a person you are interviewing with needs to have solved, the better chance you have of landing a job offer.

Must have a master narrative

All this ties in with the growing importance in communications of companies and individuals in business creating a simple, compelling, and unforgettable narrative about themselves that sticks in the minds of the people being sold to.

“Your master narrative is that one thing about you or your brand that expediently embodies the critical emotional need you are going to fulfill for your audience,” the author writes. “Everyone is telling a story. You want to have the shortest, most memorable one…Master stories are dead-simple one-sentence embodiments of who you are that turn your audience into your brand ambassadors.”

Big challenge: distillation into a short punchline

Frankly, one of the biggest challenges companies and individuals have is distilling down their master narrative into a punchline of only a few words. This is tough because there are so many possibilities to choose from that it becomes overwhelming to decide among a multitude of good narratives what your best one is.

It takes time and tons of effort to figure this out. But it’s so crucial to stand out and make yourself unforgettable to your customers. If they don’t remember what you’re all about, why would they want to do business with you?

“A master narrative is your singularly focused message that defines and differentiates you. It is a focused idea that lives in all communication about you. It takes different forms and words, but its spirit is always connected. Once you have found it, it becomes your true north, the criterion against which everything else aligns.”

Story must resonate with your target audience

Your master narrative must be more than just catchy, short and slick. Your customer must care and resonate with it as something they find of value and compels them to want to do business with you. All the coolness you can muster in cranking out a master narrative amounts to nothing if your customer doesn’t care or it’s not of value to them.

“Our target audience is the key to our success or failure,’ the author writes. “Without them, we are nothing. If our message doesn’t resonate with them – even if we have the best product, the best resume, the best action plan, the right policy position, the cutest dating profile – it lands flat.”

Your wants don’t matter

The author does a great job stressing how unimportant your desires and wants are compared with those of your target buyer. If you love your master narrative but they don’t, you lose. If you don’t love your master narrative but your customer does, you both win.

“There are two truths: yours and theirs. In persuasion, there is only one truth that matters: theirs. If you aren’t speaking to that truth, you aren’t engaging with them. And without that engagement, persuasion is impossible.”

I have been reading several communications books in recent weeks that keep hammering the same point: you must understand your customers deeply, in serious ways, with all your mind and heart. This takes tons of work. Tremendous amounts of thinking and organization logic are needed. You must connect the dots between what you provide and how that solves the buyer’s problem.

There are no shortcuts.

“You need to spend time doing a deep, honest evaluation of those you’re really talking to as human beings – their hopes, dreams, and fears – and then find an empathic connection with them…You can’t serve your audience until you fully understand who they are and how they want to be served. The brands that have mastered persuasion – like Nike, Apple, and Starbucks – are the ones that understand that service mind-set.

Repeat your story over and over and don’t abandon it quickly

For over 20 years I worked as a communications manager for corporations. We often crafted stories to share with the press. There were big events when we would meet with dozens or more reporters and tell each one the exact same story.

Our corporate spokespeople would get tired of telling the same story over and over. But I had to remind them that every reporter with whom we met was hearing it for the first time, so we had to be energized each time.

And we had to keep telling the story after the event. We had a message we had researched and committed to, and reporters and customers would only start remembering it if we told it to them not once or twice but five or six times. It just won’t stick without a large number of repeated instances in which they heard the same message.

“If you’re not bored to tears with your message, you haven’t even begun to penetrate…changing too frequently doesn’t give the message a change to penetrate or distribute. The value of repetition is that you’re speaking not just so people will hear you but so they’ll repeat your message for you. Studies show the person you’re trying to persuade needs to hear your message three to five times before that can happen.”

Don’t deluge customers with information; it confuses them

One of the biggest challenges I have faced in my communications career – in fact one of the hardest critical thinking skills to sharpen – is shortening a piece of writing. This blog is a great example. It’s too long. But I believe the value of content transcends the length so it will stay long.

Condensing a storyline for which we have dozens of pages of notes to a one or two sentence punchline takes enormous time and effort. But that’s what the listener, the customer, wants. They don’t want to think too hard. They just want you to get right to the point in an entertaining and powerful way.

Our jobs as communications professionals are not easy and having the discipline and tenacity to tighten our messages ranks among the most important and elusive skills that separate the good practitioners from the great ones.

“More information doesn’t necessarily make a stronger case when it comes to persuasion. More proof points don’t substantiate your pillar: they just overwhelm your audience…When people are presented with more information than they can comfortably remember, they feel confused. Studies have shown that we avoid what confuses us.”

Facts and figures don’t win over customers

People aren’t sold by logic and rational arguments. You can’t win them over by telling them your product is better than the rest of the competition or the way you make your product is shrewder than everybody else. Your customers don’t care nearly as much about that as they do about why you are in business and what your beliefs are.

“Facts alone don’t set us free. They won’t tell our story. And they won’t change hearts and minds. Decision-making is rarely a rational process. If you want to truly connect with others and shift their thinking, their behavior, their buying habits, or their voting practices, you must engage them in a process that goes far beyond hitting them with statistics and study results.”

Final thoughts

People matter most. Reach them emotionally to get them to buy from you. The brain is not the way to win them over.

Show them you understand what their problems are that you care about them, and that you can help solve their worst business problems, and you have a much better chance of making them loyal customers for life.

Be Flamboyant, Strange, and Unusual

When Writing Website Content

February 6th, 2020

Writing for the web – like so many other forms for writing – comes down to grabbing the reader’s attention right away.

Lynda Felder elaborates on this point in her inspirational book titled Writing for the Web. She suggests beginning website writing with a strange or unusual circumstance, a flamboyant setting, or a character in jeopardy.

“Start (your) story with something that demands their attention,” the author writes. “Jump in…Write with an attitude. Walk into it like it is Buckingham Palace and you own the place.”

In this book the author focuses on several aspects of this craft such as identifying your target audience, writing leads, being concise, linking photo concepts to text copy, and paying attention to nuances in punctuation, blogs, and podcasts.

The rest of this blog captures the book’s key ideas that will be especially helpful for content marketers wanting to write better website copy.

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Create brief sketches of buyer personas

Like so many aspects of content marketing, it’s all about targeting the content to a specific buyer or group of buyers. General audience approaches are “no nos.” Get granular. Often, the more specific you customize your content for a highly specific type of buyer, the more effective your web content will need to be.

Create brief sketches of target buyers with descriptive details about their website usage, likes and dislikes, age, occupations, and income levels.

An effective way to find out this information, the author writes, is to attend industry events, watch YouTube videos, and read blogs and news stories.

Use short words and sentences

Website readers browse for information fast and often scan web pages rather than read lots of words. As such, writers for the web need to be short and concise, use pithy sentences and phrases, and steer clear of long paragraphs.

The website reader “is in a hurry and is not prone to reflection or study,” the author writes. “The reader darts around on the page and only lands on each sentence for a moment…Your readers don’t have time to sort out complicated meanings.”

Choose photos and images that enhance the story

Website photos and images should be more than just a simple representation of the topic. For example, if the web content consists of a blog about avoiding keyword stuffing in blogs, a photo or image showing a blog or the word “blog” in some fancy lettering does not advance the story. It may look nice, but it doesn’t capture the slant of the blog content.

A better photo or graphic would show an image revealing how keyword stuffing in blogs makes the blog less appealing to view and read because the keywords create a herky jerky feel to the reading and viewing experience.

“The photo (or image) tells part of the story and without it the story is incomplete,” the author writes. Content marketers should take this advice to heart. Too often they settle for photos and images that don’t add to the story; they just repeat it.

Links: don’t send readers on “mystery tours”

The book makes a similar point about how to insert links into website copy. If writing a blog about avoiding use of keyword stuffing, you should link to a topic that the reader would naturally want to know about next such as a blog on effective ways to insert photos into blogs.

Don’t confuse the reader by providing a link to a blog too far afield logically from what they naturally would learn about next. Bad idea: Link to a blog on “famous website copywriters.” That doesn’t flow naturally from the blog on keyword stuffing. “Links should support, complement, or enhance the main topic,” the author writes.

Make call to action links clear

Call-to-action links should be clear about exactly what the reader will receive if they click on that link. “Show the reader clearly what they will get when they choose a link. You don’t want them to feel like they’re on a mystery tour.”

Links should be short, approximately two-to-three words. Don’t make links long strings of words or full sentences. It’s confusing and unappealing to the reader and makes them wonder which of the long string of words are most relevant to them.

Avoid semicolons, commas, and apostrophes

Semicolons, commas, and apostrophes are not easy to read on websites and therefore should be used sparingly. You want your readers to be able to read your punctuation. Use what they can see. Periods are also tough to read on websites. So, while you must use these when writing sentences, writers should minimize the amount of punctuation.

In a similar vein, when you type phone numbers on websites, it’s best not to use periods such as 917.908.xxxx. Better to use (917) 917 xxxx. These small nuances improve the reader experience, which is crucial.

Include author’s photo and bio in blogs

In the “About” section, include a photo of yourself, the author, along with your photo and text explaining the purpose of the blog, and the motivation for starting the blog. And include guidelines for readers to provide comments and ask the author questions.

Final thoughts

What makes this book special is not just the great insights about how to write effectively for websites. It’s also the inspirational and supportive tone for writers. The book offers this quote from the famous writer, Tony Morrison:

“If there is a book you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.”

This advice applies to website writing.

And the author adds insights that help writers aspiring to write more compelling website content. “If you’re having fun composing the content, your audience will have fun reading it…When you’re having a blast researching and writing your blog, your readers will feel the excitement in your work.”

How CMOs Can Gain More Respect,

Job Security, and Success

January 31, 2020

The job of the modern-day chief marketing officer (CMO) is often tough, unforgiving, thankless, precarious, and short-lived.

I learned this recently while researching about the toughest challenges and best opportunities for CMOs to be more effective.

The challenges include a lack of credit from top management, such as CEOs, when the business does well. And CMOs frequently get blamed when they don’t. Many CEOs express dissatisfaction with their CMOs and don’t trust them.

Making all this worse, CMOs often end up not doing the job they expected to based on the job description. Misunderstandings and lack of clarity up front can cause major misalignment and disillusionment.

Demands for higher performance are intensifying for CMOs as resources and budgets shrink.

When the top executives at companies gather to make major strategic decisions, CMOs commonly aren’t invited. As a result, corporate and marketing strategies turn out to be disjointed and ineffective.

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Andy Lark’s insights

If you’re a CMO or aspire to be one, I realize this may be disheartening. But these are the insights that stood out when I listened to a podcast on Managing Marketing. The interviewee, marketing executive Andy Lark had a whole lot to say about what’s wrong with the CMO profession.

CMO indigestion

“All organizations have classically suffered from quite a high degree of CMO indigestion,” he said. “They love eating the new CMO but can’t digest what comes with the feast and so that’s been an age-old problem.

“There are not many CMOs who are genuinely happy in their role and feel safe and secure and feel like they’ve got a great future ahead of them in the business they’re in,” he adds. “Most of them feel under threat, challenged, and excluded.”

How to drive change has emerged as the most fundamental challenge CMO grapple with. Why is this so difficult? Because of the dilemma that a large percentage of the marketing budget routinely pays for employee salaries and retainer fees, and much of the rest gets allocated on habitual events the marketing team has led for years. This leaves few opportunities to innovate and make marketing changes that impact the business.

“I do think that the malaise that marketers suffer from today is that marketers don’t take the profession seriously because the businesses they work for don’t take it seriously,” added Lark.

Difficulties convincing CEOs to invest in unproven opportunities

Corporate executives tend to be risk averse. They want assurance and idea will work before investing. Of course, there are no certainties about business (or life).

I read a HubSpot article titled “What are the Biggest Challenges Facing CMOs Today?” that cited difficulties convincing top management to invest in yet unproven opportunities.

“Getting senior management to believe and invest in something that does not have a record is tricky because top management usually wants reassurance and historical figures to base their decisions on.”

Seven ways CMOs can improve their situations

With all these serious challenges in mind, CMOs still have opportunities to be successful. Consider these ideas:

One: When hunting for a job, make sure you get complete alignment and clarity about what your responsibilities will be. Often CMOs accept new positions but find out the job isn’t what they expected it to be. Being proactive in nailing down exactly what your job will be will help avoid this problem and contribute to your job fulfillment.

Two: Invest in a marketing educational course curriculum. This means actual academic institution courses and a plan of action to make sure you stay on the leading-edge of marketing thinking and strategies.

Sure, it’s a good idea to read online articles from reputable publications about marketing. But that’s not enough. You need to dial into the best thinking in the world about how to do marketing effectively. Academic courses can deliver on this.

“You go into the average CMO’s office and there’s no evidence that they’re studying modern marketing,” said Lark.

Three: Attach yourself to a CEO you get along with and invest heavily in this relationship. Sit next to him or her at social events. This person can make or break your success and happiness in the role and recommend you for future career moves. If you create a strong relationship with a CEO – your boss – ride that to the hilt.

Four: Take more credit for the work your marketing organization accomplishes. Show your CEO performance metrics that relate directly to the revenues and profits of the corporation. Infrequently well-versed in marketing, they need to be shown how marketing adds value because they really don’t know. Showing them will be worth your time.

Five: Make sure your marketing strategy aligns tightly with the overall business strategy. Whatever the business priorities are should be the marketing priorities. Otherwise, you won’t get credit for marketing achievements because the CEO won’t care much. He or she will only care if marketing moves the needle for the overall business growth and financial performance.

Six: If your CEO tells you what the goals of the business are, and you see that the marketing budget you are given is not enough to meet those goals, tell the CEO right away. Let them know that you don’t have enough resources and explain why.

The CEO would rather know this sooner so he or she can adjust the business goals, marketing budget, or both. What you don’t want is to stay quiet at the start, and after the business misses its goals communicate that your marketing budget wasn’t big enough to get the job done.

Seven: Insist on having a seat at the executive table when strategic decisions get made. According to an article in CMO Marketing titled “The Changing Role of the CMO: From Order Taker to Growth Driver,” a mere 16 percent of survey respondents noted they had a seat at the table with other executives to discuss global business strategy. The CMO Council and Deloitte conducted this survey with 200 CMOs.

Final thoughts

As I started this research and blog project, I didn’t expect to find so many difficult challenges facing CMOs. Sure, I knew these are complex, demanding jobs. But I didn’t anticipate learning that CEOs don’t tend to respect nor trust them. I thought CMOs had plenty of trust among the executive suite and that their voices get heard.

Evidently not so much. Many of these marketing executives apparently have difficulty aligning with what their CEOs want.

One inherent problem with marketing, it seems to me, is it has always been tough to measure its business impact. It can be tough for a CMO to draw a straight line between a marketing program and the sales leads and revenues it generates.

It’s just not that easy.

Taking all this into consideration, I believe CMOs should figure out the business priorities and align marketing programs and resources tightly around those. Surely this must be done. Or the first question the CEO will ask down the line is “why aren’t the marketing programs in sync with the business priorities?”

I would end with this. It’s normal for CEOs to be risk averse and not be predisposed to paying for a new program or idea that hasn’t proven to have worked before. The CMOs can get over this hurdle by bringing strong rationale arguing in favor of tackling the new project. But just as important is the CMO’s passionate belief that the initiative will work.

This passion will help tip the scale in favor of forging ahead. What’s more, that passion will likely be a strong force ensuring that the CMO makes the program successful.

To Break Through All the Noise, Marketers Need to “Scream”

January 26, 2020

Sandy Carter likes to scream. Seriously, IBM’s vice president of marketing admitted this in her insightful book about marketing titled The New Language of Marketing 2.0: How to Use ANGELS to Energize Your Market.

She wrote about screaming in the context of marketing. To cut through all the marketing noise and avalanche of information people are being bombarded with, marketers must scream something that can be heard well above all the other marketing being hurled at people.

“I tend to like to scream,” she writes. “They are short, to the point, and full of energy…A scream reflects the energy and the passion of the person’s inner being….After interviewing more than 50 people for this book, the common message from them was that you have to break through the noise.

“To me, this means companies need to learn how to embrace the energy of a scream in their marketing at the right time and to the right person…And it must be a scream that is relevant to the time and the place of the product or service that you want to bring to and sell in the marketplace.”

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Screaming: a bold and bedazzling marketing concept

The author’s emphasis on screaming a marketing storyline stands out in this fine book. No marketing book I’ve ever read has used the word “scream” as a successful strategy. Give credit to the author for the originality of the idea and the courage to use that word which some might feel is to aggressive.

There were several other key points in this book of use to marketers. I will summarize them here. Marketing should be about conducting conversations back and worth, not a one-way push of a message. Focus on the emotions of buyers. Storylines are key. To deliver great marketing messages, companies need skilled writers.

Influencers amplify your marketing

Marketers need to leverage influencers. What does this mean? It means you can get other people to say good things about your brand. For example, for my company, Carolina Content & Media Relations, I could give a briefing to an industry analyst who tracks media relations and content marketing companies. If impressed, this person may recommend that high-tech and sports companies consider using this company’s services. This analyst would be a helpful influencer for my business.

Other key points from the book: Buyers don’t just buy products and services. They also buy the personality of the human being selling them. Personality in this context should not be underestimated. It’s a feeling dynamic. If a buyer has a pleasurable experience when someone is trying to sell them something, the chances go up that the buyer will make a purchase.

In marketing books, you hear a lot about right brain and left-brain thinkers. The right brain controls creativity and intuition; the left brain manages logic and sequential thinking. This book makes the key point that about half of human beings are more right brained and the other half are more left brained. As a result, marketers better make sure you can sell to both; otherwise you cut your market opportunities by about 50 percent.

Now I will dive into these major points and few other main takeaways in a bit more detail.

Marketers and companies are not in control

Consumers have an abundance of information about your company and its products, as well as your competitors. As such, to a large extent marketers don’t really have control of the marketing and sales process.

“Largely because of the overwhelming power and influence of the Web and other electronic communications, consumers are not in control. They can easily research all available choices through dialogues with suppliers, vendors, experts, and other consumers; they can ignore your irrelevant communications and turn their attention elsewhere; and they can often quickly switch to the competition to get their needs met.

“Consequently, marketing is no longer about pushing messages to convince prospects to take action, but instead, it’s about conducting conversations to engage prospects with relevant content that will ultimately lead them to take the action you need for business impact.”

Marketing is about emotionally moving buyers

Marketing boils down to feelings and emotions. If your marketing storyline makes a potential buyer feel something positive and uplifting about your brand, you are on the right track. It’s not about specs and features and technical details. It’s about how the buyer feels.

“Innovation-centric marketing is about establishing the right strategy – one with sufficient focus – and then innovatively telling a story that matters…Marketing is affecting the emotions of the buyer.”

But connecting with buyers emotionally with a compelling story is not all that needs to happen. All this needs to be backed up with a product or service that delivers those emotional benefits.

“A story alone is not good enough,” the author writes. “The proof of the story must be real in your customers, partners, and offerings.”

Extend branding beyond your corporate walls

Marketing doesn’t have to all be done by your company through its own efforts. Influencers, third parties, and customers can speak favorably about your brand and its products and services, positive word of mouth can spread, and your company can grow. The key is to get these additional people energized enough to help you do this.

“The customer wants to play a role in your brand. Working with third parties, influencers, customers, and other market drivers, you can be a custodian of your brand. Make sure you extend your branding team outside your four walls.”

Make sure you your marketing considers entertainment and fun

It’s elementary: People like to have fun and be entertained. This has always been true and always will be. So marketing is bound to be more successful if it you give people pleasure, makes them laugh, and makes their lives more enjoyable.

“When you pull out your marketing plans, review them for their power of product value and fun,” the author writes. “With the amount of information people have to deal with today, they are looking for something that stands out and captures their attention and imagination…Review your plans for an entertainment value that is short and points to the value for your product or service.”

This is awesome. It should make any marketer excited. Our jobs are to make people have fun and enjoy themselves. And the more we do it the more successful we are likely to be.

Make your customers fans

Building on these ideas, marketers should make sure their brand reveals a personality that people can relate to and like and be inspired by.

“Know that clients will buy more than your product or service; they also buy your personality and your values…The point is to make them into fans, not just customers, and you create fans one at a time…Your company’s personality can come through in the form of a shared enthusiasm or a reflection of its values.”

Don’t focus on one side of the brain but not the other

Think about this. Roughly half the people in the world are right brained and the other half left brained. Why would you market to one type but not the other and cut off half your potential customers? You need to make sure your marketing gets customized for both types to maximize your sales opportunities.

“Your marketing can be twice as effective if you aim it at both right brained (emotional, aesthetic) and left-brained (logical, sequential) people…The North American population is about evenly divided, so if you use only one approach, half your marketing budget will go wasted.”

Your blog should reflect your personality

This is my blog. I am being authentic and showing my personality to you when I write that I am jazzed by inspiring marketing books that focus on peoples’ feelings and emotions and the importance of those, as opposed to a technical marketing book with lots of inspirations.

I am a feelings kind of guy. That’s my personality. I own it, embrace it, and accept it. It’s who I am.

Why am I writing this? Because I am illustrating another key point in this book the author makes: that blogs should reflect the personality, the human desires and biases and preferences of the brand.

“I view blogging as a part of a company’s personality,” the author writes. “Marketing’s job is to provide a lens for that personality, for the market to see the personality. The crucial part is to find someone who can make it personal, relevant, and true.”

Bloggers should be voracious readers

Bloggers must be voracious readers. There many reasons for this but a few of the major ones are to keep up on what’s going on the world so blogs they write sound in touch with the times, and to know what others are blogging about, and to create differentiated content not found on other blogs. Blogging is about adding new and fresh ideas, perspectives, and insights not found on other blogs.

“Blogging implies you must write and read,” the author writes. “You should spend a lot of your time on other blogs and reading what is of interest in the market. Blogging should not be boring…Distinguish yourself by not being boring, but instead by writing with a unique voice that is fun and interesting while also informative.”

Final thoughts

You may be familiar with a special study that began many decades ago about the graduates of Harvard University. The goal was to track the lives of these graduates through their entire lives, interview them regularly, ultimately identify which ones turned out to be the happiest and why. The one overwhelming insight was that the people who had the most and best interpersonal relationships were the happiest.

Other studies reveal this same truism.

I bring this up because the author of this book agrees with this idea in the context of marketing. Great marketing spawns fulfilling interpersonal relationships, and that’s what life is really all about.

“A great relationship is one built on honesty,” the author writes. “As I reviewed numerous books on relationships, the one thing the books and experts agree on was that authenticity was at the heart of all successful relationships. Think long-term transactions, not short-term transactions. As many can attest, a long-lasting relationship without honesty is no relationship at all. Finally, great relationships are those where the parties know each other, and their hopes, dreams, and plans. They understand who they are.”

In the end, marketing is about people connecting with people, enjoying one another, giving each other hope. It’s about hopes and faith and dreams.

When Blogging, Pour Out Your Emotions

January 20, 2020

Don’t be emotional in business. Don’t show your feelings. It’s a sign of weakness.

I heard this so many times during my professional public relations career. I never quite understood why emotions were a bad thing in business. Not being emotional stifles creativity and makes people feel repressed and unhappy with their jobs.

This is why I was so relieved and excited to read a book about the importance of showing your emotions and connecting with peoples’ feelings when working on communications projects such as blogging. The book that lit my fire is titled The Impact Equation by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith, who are both bloggers, consultants, and speakers.

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Blog readers want to be moved emotionally

I have never read a book that emphasized nearly as much as this one the importance of connecting with people emotionally when creating content such as blogs. I believe they could not be more correct about this.

People don’t read blogs solely for intellectual purposes. They want to feel something. They want to be moved emotionally. They want to be inspired to do something, to take a chance with their own lives by pursuing their passions.

In other words, blogs can’t be boring, or they will never succeed. They can’t be all about rational arguments and dry step-by-step instructions. Readers of these blogs are human beings who care deeply about their own happiness and living fulfilling lives. Bloggers must tap into their hearts and make them feel something such as courage or inspiration or laughter or joy.

The book has several exceptionally uplifting passages that communicate these ideas.

“You get more from them by getting at their hearts”

“When you make people feel something whether it’s comfortable, powerful, or any other positive emotion, they associate that feeling, not just the information you’ve provided, with you or your brand,” the authors write. “You get more from them by getting at their hearts.

“Using emotion in your content is essential in creating a unique value, and you will need to learn how. This is because information alone rarely sways people. Only feelings do…If warmth, strength, love or any other emotion isn’t felt through what your channel produces, your audience will be left cold – the exact opposite of what you want.”

Surprise your readers

One way to touch people emotionally is to write a blog that surprises them, that takes a different slant on a topic than the rest of humanity.

“Instead of information, people largely react to emotion, and they feel an emotion when they are presented with something different and surprising.”

And I absolutely love the following passage because it frees me up, and hopefully you feel the same way, to write blogs that reveal what’s in my heart.

“Share your feelings,” the authors write. “This is certainly the opposite of most business advice you get. Feelings are somehow ugly things that should be hidden away. If you’re nervous, it is reasonable to express that. If you’re excited about something, why not admit it?

Full on excited

For PR professionals, this book gives you the keys to the hotrod. I have been wanting to drive this car my whole life. That hotrod I’m driving accelerates into emotional fast lanes where what I really think goes down on this page rather than some not totally honest version of what I think.

No more political correctness. No more worrying about what others will think if I write how I feel. This feels awesome.

“When you make people feel something whether it’s comfortable, powerful, or any other positive emotion, they associate that feeling, not just the information you’ve provided, with you or your brand,” the author’s write. “You get more from them by getting at their heart.

What are good ideas?

Building on this theme about opening to your feelings, the authors connect to the idea that a good idea has to have an emotional connection to human beings.

“Good ideas make you feel…something, anything! If any idea leaves you feeling flat, then it is flatlining. You can love it or hate, but it must make you feel something in order to make you finishing reading or watching it.”

But of course, it’s not only about connecting with people emotionally, touching their hearts. You must also make this emotional connection in a way that helps the person reading your blog.

“Good ideas fulfill a need. Highly efficient ideas help people fill a blank space in their head, whether they know it exists or not. Your opinions may be helpful and interesting, but unless they are specifically useful to your audience, you are not building something of significant or lasting value.

Be original

There are millions of blogs. There may be billions of blogs. Who knows? The point is if you are starting a blog, it better not be like any others out there.

What’s the point in writing a blog that someone can get somewhere else? You haven’t added any value. You haven’t given anyone a reason to read your blog. You must give them a reason, something compelling and daring and different and, above else, not boring.

“Be original,” the authors write. “As often as possible, share unique perspectives, ideas and information that come from far outside the typical source material for your company. Look for stories that are interesting and helpful but that come from far outside the normal channels. It’s easier than you think…it isn’t about money. It’s about how much you’re willing to work.”

This blog is a good example

This blog I am writing now is a good example. It’s original in the sense that it captures the best ideas from a book I read. It’s probably the case that no blogger has ever read this book and written a summary of the key ideas.

This is an original way to produce a blog that adds value to the reader. They don’t have to spend hours reading the book as I did. They can whiz through this blog in a few minutes and get the best ideas to use to help them with their lives such as writing better blogs if that’s what they do.

“Realize in business it’s what stands out that gets remembered…if the idea doesn’t stand out in a sea of other ideas and thoughts, then it doesn’t matter if you’ve got a great platform and a strong community.”

Get content from places no one else does

Do things differently. Add value in new ways. Find great content from places that no one else is serve it up to your readers in your blogs. Save them the trouble and time of having to find the book, read it, and glean the best ideas. Do that work for them.

You will help your readers save time and hopefully make more money. And by going through the research and writing project yourself, you can use the best ideas yourself to improve the content you create.

Create garbage in order to get to the good stuff

Content marketers need to face this tough truth: Every piece of content they create will not be great. Much of it won’t even be good. A lot of it could be just mundane, repetitive, and useless. But that bad stuff has to be created.

It’s the necessary part of the process to create better content. You will learn what’s bad and good based on your audience feedback.

Just get over yourself and worries about not producing great content every time. It’s not going to happen. Celebrate the fact that the more content you produce the higher percentage of it will be garbage. You will make more and more better stuff.

“If you personally want to create something amazing, the best strategy is to act like the Internet does,” the authors write. “You have to be comfortable with creating garbage in order to have some measure of awesome stuff.

“Your ability to be comfortable with less-than-perfect content will be directly proportionate to the amazing things you create…creating today’s garbage is an important aspect of creating tomorrow’s gold.”

Just create content, learn, improve, and create some more. Over and over and over.

Be helpful

Books about blogging consistently stress the importance of blogging regularly with helpful content. This tends to increase the number of people who read your content. You must be committed to blogging a lot for it to help your business grow. Be helpful. Be helpful. Be helpful.

“Everyone has faith in bloggers who post regular, amazing content…all other things being equal, they’re seen as givers, which means we feel a need to reciprocate.

“Help others first. Most people fail in getting the attention of others because they approach with their hands out long before they have done anything to earn a seat at the table. If you want attention, earn it.”

Be trustworthy

One of the most chilling parts of the book deals with the subject of how bloggers can be trusted. If they are not, their blogs will flop. Trust is a dicey thing. A person may read a blog and decide they don’t trust the blogger and never read their blogs again.

This could be just a feeling the person has while reading the blog that makes them uncomfortable. This person may not be able to explain why they don’t trust the blogger, they just don’t.

Be transparent about your motives

So, bloggers need to be aware of this trust factor. They must come across as people deserving of trust based on what and how they write blogs. This is like threading a needle, not easy and hard to explain. But it’s real. And my best advice is to be as transparent about your motives in writing a blog as you can.

Don’t try to deceive and manipulate. Just lay out your thoughts as candidly and authentically as you can. Have your heart in the right place. Be thinking of your readers and how they might interpret your ideas. Otherwise, you’re risking everything.

“You may be differentiated from your industry and highly visible,” the author’s write “But if you are not trusted, if you are not credible, you are nothing.”

Final thoughts

I think it’s important to take a step back and ask yourself why you are creating content such as a blog. What’s your purpose? You need to figure this out. What are your goals in life and how does your blog align with them?

I’ll ask a few more even most cosmic questions: why are you are and why am I here? What is the meaning of life? What is the meaning of your life and my life?

I imagine you write blogs to make a name for yourself, to contribute ideas to the world, to help other people be successful. You want to contribute, to leave a mark, to make your life mean something. Your blogging should be about something important to you in the largest sense.

Not about becoming rich and famous

And it shouldn’t be about becoming rich and famous. Even if that happens, it shouldn’t be your goal. You should realize that your blog is not going to make your famous, probably, and maybe not rich either. But it will be meaningful and helpful to many people, you hope, and that should be reason enough.

“There is never a curtain call and rarely a standing ovation,” the authors write. “Rather, when your work is done, the satisfaction lies in the act itself and the fact that you really made a difference. You had an impact on the world. Those who know and look closely will see your fingerprint in the places you labored and in the people you influenced. They’ll remember you.”

How to Generate Media Coverage and

Amplification on Social Media Channels

January 18, 2020

So how should people in business do media relations? What do they need to keep in mind? How do they get results that drive sales leads and help business growth? And how can social media be used to enhance media relations?

The answers to these questions are in this blog. You will learn about 10 ideas for generating media coverage and amplifying that coverage on social media channels.

One: The Story is the Strategy

Reporters care above all else about good stories. They care a lot less about corporate messages and corporate strategies – unless those involve great stories. They don’t want to write stories about corporate messages. You will rarely, if ever, receive this question from a reporter: “so what is your company’s key message?” A reporter has a straightforward strategy: they want to find and write great stories.

Two: Pitch Problems, Predictions, and Future Investments

Reporters gravitate towards problems, difficulties, challenges, things that aren’t going as planned, technologies that don’t work as advertised or are going to become obsolete because of some other newer and cooler technology. They want to know what’s wrong first, and then they may want to know how to fix it.

Reporters also have a predilection to cover people making predictions because predictions are daring. They peer into the future, tell you what’s around the corner, tip you off to where things are headed. Reporters want to know two things: what’s new and what’s next?

Reporter also are dialed into where money is going to be moving and how much. Usually the more money involved the bigger the story. Pitch them stories about investments being made, money being earned or lost, threats to market growth, and ignitors of market escalation. Pitch them stories about triumphs that speak to the shrewd investments of money and how peoples’ lives are better. Be specific about this.

Three: Shoot for the Moon

At the start of a media relations campaign about a new product, for example, think about the art of the possible, how big the story could be. Explore all angles. Dig and dig. Don’t immediately assume only the trade press will be interested and the business press won’t care. This happens too often. Dare to pursue the big story. Sometimes you will find it. Usually the more research you do the more interesting you will discover the story to be. Keep shooting for the moon. Aiming low is boring; aiming high is soaring.

Four: Write Aggressive First Drafts

Your first draft of a new release should push the envelope, maybe even get initial reviewers to sit up in their chairs to read what they think they read one more time to be sure they understand what’s being announced. Write the most exciting and leaning-forward draft you can. Write the story you think would interest the Wall Street Journal.

You can always dial back on the release to align with what’s appropriate. But if your first draft is written conservatively, it will, like most releases, get watered down and your story will have less punch. An aggressive first draft that gets toned down still could be strong. If you start with a conservative draft and it gets toned down, your story will likely end up weak.

Five: Focus on Problems, People and Emotion

Writing about technology is somewhat like translating Spanish language into English. You start with one language – jargon, technical abstractions, disorganized and obtuse ideas, and lots of scattered data points – and you must make it compelling and easy to understand. To expedite this translation process, focus like a laser on how the product or service solves problems for human beings. How would this product or service improve the life of a person, any person, your grandmother, Bob your neighbor?

Connect your prose with human emotions like joy, pleasure, excitement, aspirations, and wonder. Don’t write to the inanimate world. That is a feeling-less place. Write about what touches people emotionally. In the technology world, one of the best ways to help people to understand a story is to convey how the story affects them. Many technology stories have a smartphone angle to them or can be understood better by explaining them using a smartphone application or benefit or problem-solving capability.

Six: Write Only What You Understand

Write only sentences and words that are clear in your mind. Don’t try to fake like you understand something. If you try to write about technology that is fuzzy that you just don’t quite understand, it will be obvious to your readers – and you don’t want that. You will lose credibility with them and they may stop reading you. You will have lost their trust.

Often to make sure you understand, you will need to go back and talk to an expert again. Consider bouncing off them a hypothetical example involving a human being doing something or proposing analogies and whether they are accurate in conveying the concept and story you want to share. The mere act of suggesting an analogy often accelerates understanding because your expert will either agree with the analogy or offer a better one. Then you will be able to write better what you understand.

Seven: Rank Content and Eliminate Almost Everything

Let’s say you’re given 100 PowerPoint slides to find a story angle to pitch the press. As you go through, rank any content that really moves you viscerally as an A+. This would be content you think could be a compelling headline or story. Rank other content you feel to be slightly less compelling but still compelling as A.

Assign a grade of B+ to content slightly less compelling than A content. Don’t ever look again at any content that you didn’t give and A+, A or B+ ranking. That content didn’t strike you as compelling the first time, and it probably won’t if you consider it again.

Review the ranked content again. Double-check your A+, A and B+ content. If upon second reading A content strikes you as A+ -- this sometimes happens -- mark it as such. If A+ content strikes you as less than A+, give it an A ranking. Focus on how you can craft a story with you’re A+ content. Throw everything else to the side.

Eight: Social Media Amplification

One of the most effective ways to amplify your press coverage on social media is to write a byline article for a corporate client and, once published, have the client post a link to the article on his or her LinkedIn page. This often generates feedback from that person’s followers that can lead to business meetings, revenue generation, and brand enhancement. It’s a powerful and simple technique.

A second social media tactic that works is posting videos of your story ideas, such as predictions, on LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter. These postings often result in hundreds of views of the video. Keep them short, about one-to-two minutes in length. Shorter videos tend to generate more views.

A third technique is to pitch Tweets about embargoed story ideas to reporters on Twitter. They often respond by indicating they would like you to email them the embargoed story. This increases the chances they will read your pitch. And you will have started to build, or enhanced, a relationship with a reporter.

Fourth, when you Tweet about press coverage, be sure to use the @ symbol and the reporter’s Twitter handle so they know you’re amplifying the story. This will make them more likely to do business with you in the future because you will have helped them reach more readers.

Nine: Use Buckets to Organize Your Writing

Suppose you are given a 100-page white paper and asked to craft a press pitch from it. Mark the content by categories as you read such as “market data,” “background,” “technology,” “benefits,” “potential lead,” and “potential quotes.” When finished this step, group all the content together into mental buckets so that all your market data content is together in one bucket, the background content goes in a separate second bucket, and so on. Now you have organization. You are ready to structure your piece of writing, such as a news release or article, with information you might use grouped in a logical fashion. This will bring a smooth flow to your writing and pack similar information together.

Mission for Marketers and Public Relations Professionals: Be Enchanting

January 16, 2020

I have been enchanted by a book titled “Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions” by Guy Kawasaki, an entrepreneur and former chief evangelist with Apple Computer.

The book offers insights for how to enchant people whether you are an entrepreneur, media relations executive, chief marketing officer, executive of a technology company, or in any other business role.

The author starts with his definition of enchantment as “the process of delighting people with a product, service, organization, or idea. The outcome of enchantment is voluntary and long-lasting support that is mutually beneficial.”

“Enchanters don’t sell products…enchanters sell their dreams…”

What’s most inspiring about this book is the author’s description of what enchanters do and do not do. “Enchanters don’t sell products, services, or companies…Enchanters sell their dreams for a better future – cooler social interactions, a cleaner environment, a heart-stirring driving experience, or the future of publishing. This perspective is the foundation for a presentation that transforms people. It makes them think of what could be, not what is.”

One of the first human beings to leap to mind as a quintessential enchanter was Dr. Martin Luther King, who spoke often about his dream for a better world of equality and justice for all. Yes, people are enchanted by people who share their vision for how the world could be improved, how life could be easier, and when people would get along better. And that’s what this book is about: learning how to be enchanting so you can have people join you in your cause.

To me, I want people to believe in, share, and benefit from the experiences of my passion, which is to educate, inspire, and entertain people through writing and other forms of communications. This book inspired me with ideas for how to achieve that and provided valuable cautionary advice on how not to be enchanting.

“Enchantment causes a voluntary change of hearts and minds”

“Enchantment can occur in villages, stores, dealerships, offices, boardrooms, and on the Internet,” the author writes. “It causes a voluntary change of hearts and minds and therefore actions. It is more than manipulating people to help you get your way. Enchantment transforms situations and relationships. It converts hostility into civility. It reshapes civility into affinity. It changes skeptics and cynics into believers.”

In sync with these ideas, the author recommends that when people give presentations that they “create a presentation that moves peoples’ souls rather than beats them into submission and, more likely, boredom.”

My interpretation of the author’s words: Don’t be boring if you want to enchant people. Don’t be pushy. Get people to see how your vision can be shared by them and how they will benefit.

Start with being likeable

You can’t be enchanting if people don’t like you. “Step one is achieving likeability, because jerks seldom enchant people…Smile at people. What does it cost to smile? Nothing. What does it cost not to smile? Everything, if it prevents you from connecting with people.

Project your passions

Share with people know what you are passionate about and you will become more likeable and more enchanting. “Tell the word you love cooking, hockey, NASCAR, or knitting – whatever it is – because pursuing your passions makes you more interesting and interesting people are enchanting.”

No doubt about this. I am drawn to passionate people, those filled with and intensity for what they do and believe in.

Disclose your interests immediately

People tend to be wary and skeptical of others especially the first time they meet you. It’s best, therefore, to lay your cards on the table right away to let them your agenda and why you are pursuing it. This will build trust and accelerate the potential you may have in this relationship.

The author makes his point this way: “Immediate and complete disclosure of your interests is a key component of trustworthiness,” the author writes. “People will always wonder what your motivation is, so you should get this out of the way.”

It’s so true. People want to know what you’re up to and why. Just tell them. Get that issue off the table. It will save time, build trust, and get you moving fast to the next stage of enchantment. In the case of me writing this blog, I want to help you. I want my words to inspire you to achieve your goals. And I hope you appreciate my way of writing.

Provide value

People want to be helped, inspired, and entertained. They want their problems solved and want to be fulfilled and receive useful advice. So, give it to them. Don’t hold back. Be generous.

The author stresses the importance of providing three types of value:

  • pointing to useful, inspiring, and entertaining content;
  • providing personal insights, observations, or content; and
  • offering advice and assistance.

This idea of sharing what you know that is of value to others is a major theme in the marketing world. Hard selling is out. Educating and helping is in. People want to research on their own before making a buying decision. So, respect that. Meet them where they are and don’t push them too fast. Above all, be helpful.

Become aware of your limitations

The author points out that nobody can know everything and it’s important to be cognizant of this reality.

“Becoming aware of your limitations, the limitations of knowledge in general, and the outside perspective of a personal devil’s advocate will lead you to make sound, informed decisions.”

Too often people don’t want to reveal that they lack knowledge. They fear it’s a sign of weakness and incompetence. In truth, this recognition shows they have wisdom and perspective and will ask others for help in understanding what they don’t know.

Final thoughts

I have been scanning several business books seeking to find the ones that in the first few pages grab my attention and are therefore worth sitting down and reading to the end. This book pulled me in right away and kept my attention throughout. It’s easy to read, insightful, humorous, and helpful in its insights and recommendations for how to become a more enchanting person.

I learned that enchantment is not about selling. It’s about interacting with people in a way that brings joy and inspiration to them. Enchantment is also not about making money. Enchantment is living for a cause that drives you that is more important and sustainable than money or a big house.

To be enchanting is to be engaged and concerned about other people and their needs. To be enchanting you must arouse their imaginations and touch their hearts.

Counterintuitive Marketing Advice in

Business Book: “Top Salespeople Don’t Sell”

January 13, 2020

Don’t sell like typical salespeople. Work for a cause beyond yourself. Keep everything simple and consistent and don’t change often -- only when empirical evidence dictates you should.

Provide value -- differentiated value. But make sure it’s of value to your target customers. Otherwise, it’s meaningless. Be sure you sell something that people want.

These are a few of key takeaways from three business books I read recently: Mastering the Complex Sale by Jeff Thull, Running Lean by Ash Maurya, and Great by Choice by Jim Collins.

Key insights: solve buyers’ problems, simplify strategies

After reading these books I’ve come away with a few insights that I believe will be helpful for marketers. One is that selling is no longer about asking for the sale. It’s about helping solve buyers’ problems, giving solid advice to a person you care about. You should be invested in their success, truly interested in their well-being and not just yours.

A second insight: business strategies should be simple for your customer to understand. Anything that confuses them will reduce your chances of selling to them.

And the third idea is that value is only value if someone will buy it. So, it’s crucial to ensure you deliver that.

The rest of this write-up will dive deeper into some of the most compelling and useful quotes and recommendations in each of the books.

Sales – “do the opposite of what salespeople typically do”

It’s refreshing and intriguing how blunt Thull is in his book about Mastering the Complex Sale. “Stop selling in the conventional sense,” he writes. “Do the opposite of what salespeople typically do. Top salespeople don’t sell. The goal is not to close the sale but rather to maximize the buyer’s awareness of the value derived from your solution. Have an open, credible, and honest conversation.”

He takes this intriguing notion one step further by suggesting that instead of always being ready to close a sale, it’s better to “always be leaving.”

By this he implies that you should be ready to take the pressure off your potential buyer and have the mentality that you don’t need the sale, that you only want them to buy what will be of value to them. If they don’t want that or are hesitant, be ready to just stop the process and give the buyer space.

In Great By Choice, the authors builds on this idea: “Be passionate for a cause beyond yourself.” Selling is about giving. It’s not about aggressiveness; it’s about guidance, being trustworthy, providing useful advice.


In this same book, the author offers useful recommendations for how to connect the value of your product or service to the target buyer’s problem.

“If there is no cost of the problem, there is no problem,” he writes. “If there is no difference among products, there is no value. Focus on high value. Clarify this for buyers.”

He urges businesspeople to figure out where their services are most needed and highly valued. “A value proposition is a description of value type you can bring to a specific set of customers.”

Building on this idea, in Running Lean the author warns about being sure the product or service you offer has value to someone else. “The big risk is building something nobody wants.”

“Be different but be sure differentiation matters”

He urges businesses to ask if they have a problem worth solving, whether customer wants it, will they pay for it, and can the problem be solved. And he notes that differentiation can’t be for its own sake. “Be different but be sure that differentiation matters. Start with a specific customer in mind. Have one ‘must have’ problem that your product or service solves.”


In Great by Choice, the authors share several suggestions for achieving greatness. First, figure out what you do well and stick to it. “Do the same thing you do well and do it over and over,” they write. “Self-discipline is key. Keep discipline to adhere to your original recipe. Question your recipe but rarely change it.”

The author also writes “fire bullets, then cannonballs.” He means to invest in smaller amounts early on, such as testing a new product or service in a small market with minimal investments.

If the market takes off, then fire a cannonball. Translation: invest in a family of these new products or services and expand the marketing investment and group of target buyers. Start small, learn from that, and go in big if you learn from the bullets that a cannonball would boost your business more and faster.

Final thoughts

In Mastering the Complex Sale, the author offers this advice that summarizes well the notion that you should not be a salesperson in the traditional sense because buyers aren’t receptive to that.

He urges businesspeople to ask themselves this question when communicating with a potential customer: “If this buyer was my best friend, what would I advise?”

Collins, the author of “Great by Choice,” offered similarly inspiring words: “Resilience, not luck, is the signature of greatness.”

He believes companies become great not by being lucky but rather by taking advantage of luck better than inferior companies. They get lucky and make great use of that luck.

But ultimately, it’s not their luck but their consistency of purpose, ability to bounce back quickly from setbacks, and discipline to regain their momentum that sets them apart.

Uplifting News For Media Relations Pros – You're Not In a Dying Industry

January 10, 2020

For you media relations professionals out there worried you're part of a dying industry, that social media and blogging have taken over your world, and that reporters don't need you anymore, I have some good news to share.

Media relations skills remain in high demand. Reporters still need you and want to work with you. And social media and blogging have not replaced you.

These are a few of the uplifting key takeaways from Cision's 2018 Global State of the Media Report that interviewed reporters and editors from six countries, including the United States, about their perceptions of the media and communications industries.

Reporters are no longer obsessed with getting the story first

I found three of the most striking findings of relevance to media relations professions to be that reporters are no longer obsessed with getting and reporting the story first. This has long been one of their big preoccupations.

But with the growing distrust among the general public about what the media reports and what people say in the era of "fake news" accusations, reporters are more concerned with reporting stories accurately.

Their credibility exists under intense scrutiny. Consumers are gravitating more towards news sources they believe they can trust. Reporters know the survival of their careers and viability of their media outlets depends on people trusting what they report.

News Release: New Company, Carolina Content & Media Relations Corporation LLC, Launched to Help Companies Improve Communications Results, Press Coverage, and Business Opportunities

Blogs are not big story idea sources for reporters

The second "a ha" finding: Reporters are not big believers that blogs and websites provide good sources for news. With the rise in popularity and production of blogs, I had suspected reporters had been relying on reading blogs to find news leads and developing stories. Evidently not so much.

Reporters still, after all these years and warnings of the death and uselessness of news releases, trust news releases the most and want to continue to receive them from media relations professionals. I think reporters still trust and value releases because they know a corporate news release has been carefully reviewed by internal stakeholders.

They are aware a news release has a stamp of approval from many careful reviewers that the content is accurate and truthful about whatever story the release communicates.

Put another way, if a reporter gets information from a company that isn't in the form of a news release, such as a case study document or one-page summary report, they are less likely to trust it because they may suspect such a document has not been through the rigorous review process of a news release.

With these three takeaways in mind, I will dedicate the rest of this blog to sharing some of the most intriguing statistical findings from the survey.

More than three-fourths of respondents lost trust in media in past year

The reason why reporting accurately, as opposed to reporting first, has become so important for the media is this chilling statistic from the survey: 71 percent of respondents said people had lost trust in the media over the past year.

"Being first to publish, whether on social media or their outlet's website, is no longer the priority for most journalists," the survey finds. Ensuring that content is 100 percent accurate has always been important, but it's an even higher priority now.

Reporters don't use blogs much for news story ideas

Blogs are, to say the least, a hot growth industry. If you go to a company website, odds are they have a link to blogs or are planning to soon. The reason for this is, generally, that companies believe blogs helps them sell their products or services.

But even though there are more blogs, reporters are not going to them in big numbers for story leads. A remarkably low 3 percent of global survey respondents said a company blog is a trustworthy source of brand information for their stories. Reporters also don't rely much on corporate websites or even social media channels to generate coverage.

"Using owned channels, like a website or company blog, can provide some useful context and useful information, but it's not useful for reporting a story," the survey reveals. "Despite how much time journalists spend on social media, just three percent said they trust blog and social media channels."

Reporters want news releases and to work with PR people

When asked what they want from media relations contacts, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) said news announcements and news releases, "indicating that most reporters want to continue interacting with their PR professionals in the same way they been historically."

Nearly half (44 percent) said the news release remains their most trustworthy source of brand-related information. But only 30 percent trust a company spokespeople and one-fifth (20 percent) trust most a company's website.

"Journalists continue to love the press release," the report finds. "For three years in a row, media professionals have ranked press releases and news announcements as the most valuable type content they receive from their PR contacts. They've also once again chosen the press release as their most trusted brand source. This is nearly universal, with journalists from around the world citing press releases as their most trusted source of company information.

Reporters want original research on trends and market data

But reporters want more than just releases. Twenty-two percent reported that it's important for them to receive original research on trends and market data. And reporters want media relations pros to send them compelling news hooks – as usual.

"If there's one thing that PR professionals can do to help journalists do their jobs better, it's ensured that any press releases they do send out have a clearly stated news hook," the survey's report reveals. "That was something 45 percent of respondents said when asked how press releases can be more efficient. Also, write conversationally — 27 percent indicated that they dislike press releases that feel templated and include jargon. More quotes and multimedia elements would help, too."

Reporters want quick access to spokespeople

Journalists also are keen on getting media relations pros to help them connect with someone to speak with them directly rather than pointing them to the company's website. Content sent to journalists needs to be jargon-free, clearly explain how something works, and why it's relevant to journalists. In order, here is a list of what journalists want from media relations pros in order of priority:

  1. Press releases
  2. Original research reports
  3. Follow-up press releases
  4. Content marketing/advocacy releases
  5. Video clips/b-roll/livestream
  6. Blog posts

Final thoughts

So, media relations pros should be energized by these survey findings. The future continues to be bright for those who work hard and deliver to reporters what they need when they need it.

Despite all the hysteria and confusion about the "fake news" movement, take this to heart: Reporters say they still need media relations pros and that is not likely to change anytime soon – as long as these pros keep serving up compelling story ideas and are trustworthy.

"Journalism is dealing with several challenges these days, but the PR industry can help news outlets navigate these choppy waters. No matter what happens in the industry, eye-catching, fact-based storytelling is still paramount. The PR professionals who can help reporters and editors with their work — by providing accurate, information-rich press releases, and by giving journalists access to sources — will be the ones who will succeed the most.


In February 2018, Cision's 2018 global State of the Media survey polled company 1,355 journalists from across six countries: The United States, Canada, UK, France, Germany and Sweden. The questions focused on their perceptions of the media and communications industries. This included responses from journalists from print, online, blog/freelance, broadcast, and social media outlets.