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Stay Tuned – New Blog Coming Soon!

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We’ve had lots of changes here at Seven Hills Communications in the last few months. Stay tuned for a brand new, redesigned website and a new blog that will focus on small business, female entrepreneurship, and some of the great projects that we’re undertaking for our clients. Hopefully they’ll inspire you as well!

We’ll update the site with a new blog address in the next few weeks. Thanks for following!


Reach Your Audience Through Partnerships

I was in a meeting this week for an organization I’m doing a small bit of work for, one that, like many of the clients I work with, is trying to be innovative and reach its audience without a big budget. Marketing and PR hinges on three key steps: (1) Identify the audience you’re trying to reach, (2) Decide what message you’re trying to tell them, and (3) Pick your channel(s) and use them to deliver that message.

When you break it down this way, instead of thinking of marketing as a big, scary, advertisingprwordofmouthyelpgoogleanalyticsfacebooktwitterAAAH! conglomeration, you realize that marketing, as a concept, is quite flexible. You can always do something to market your business–it’ll cost you either money or time, sometimes both–but there’s always a way, even if you don’t have a lot of either. Figuring out a way to get your message to your audience is key. You can be doing everything right, but if no one knows you’re doing it, it’s all for naught.

A lot of people immediately go to Facebook, Twitter, blogging or their website as their messaging channel. This is great, but as I always say, you’re kind of preaching to the choir here. It’s far less expensive to keep a customer than get one, so it makes sense to pay attention to your loyal fans. But you’re not reaching new people on a regular basis through these channels.

Then we have the other end of the spectrum: advertising. Thanks to Google AdWords, advertising is more targeted than its ever been before…and it’s still really expensive and not targeted enough, in my opinion. Advertising is an absolutely essential part of many people’s business, don’t get me wrong. But it’s not realistic or affordable for everyone. PR can be less expensive, but it’s also less reliable in its messaging and timing, and it’s often tough to find something truly newsworthy.

So I suggest that when you’re thinking about your target customer or prospect, you consider who else is also catering to that person. Competitors, of course, are playing in your realm, though they’re unlikely to help you out. So that leaves thinking outside the box a big. If you’re a company that makes a health food, what about finding businesses that promote healthy living as well–yoga studios, gyms, and the like? If you’re a storefront that sells speciality bartending and drink items, consider where your clientele might hang out–speakeasy-type bars in the areas, spots known for great food and drink, etc.

Once you’ve identified other businesses or organizations that cater to similar customers, it’s time to get in touch and figure out mutually beneficial ways to work together. If they send out a newsletter, consider ways to contribute content. Shout out at one another on social media. (FYI, this is a great and easy way to introduce yourself to the business to begin with–retweet something your target is tweeting and help them out.) The entire objective here is to come up with a way to get your name in front of their audience, and vice versa. Plus, there could be other cool ways to work together (in the case of the bartending item example…Maybe a bartender at a local watering hole could teach a complimentary cocktail class at your storefront).

Think outside the box. These initiatives take time and require you to build relationships, but they’re wonderful ways to promote your business in a super-targeted way without a lot of cash. Good luck!

When to Resurrect the Press Release

Working with small businesses and startups on a regular basis, I often have conversations about exactly how I’d conduct their media outreach, should they hire me. I’ve always had a great answer–one that I still believe to be true. I don’t do spammed pitches. I don’t do databases. I don’t do PRNewswire. I develop a list of media prospects based on what the client does and who writes about their space, I write tailored pitches, and I send each one individually.

Ninety percent of the time, this holds true. I develop relationships with reporters and try hard to send them only the stuff that’s relevant to their beat or interests, while also thinking outside the box in terms of who might be interested in some aspect of what my clients are doing. But all that said, sometimes there is room for a good old traditional press release. (Hint: that time is NOT when you have tweaked a tiny aspect of your product to release version 3.2.17.) The key to getting media coverage with a press release is understanding two things: (1) when it’s appropriate to use a release instead of a tailored pitch, and (2) how to send the release so it’s not relegated to SPAM.

When a Press Release is the Way to Go

  1. You have news. Big. Huge. News. What’s big huge news is dependent upon who your company is and where you’re pitching your release, so take a deep breath. Step outside of your role as a business owner, where everything is cause for shouting from the rooftops, and into the minds of your customers, neighbors, the audience of your target publications. If your big huge news detector is going off, think about writing a press release, because in this case the angle you pitch with is less important. What you’re saying, in and of itself, is newsworthy, and that means you should write a press release.
  2. There’s lots of information to convey. If you’re hosting an event, have a key hire, are launching a new line, opening a new location, etc., there’s likely lots of info you need to share with your audience. A press release or media advisory can be the best way to convey this, ensuring that reporters are getting all of the details they need in a concise, readable package.
  3. You’re sending something to listing departments. If you’re running an event or something where you’ll be sending information to a listings department, it’s traditional to do a press release or media advisory for the same reason as #2. Ensure that whomever is on the receiving end gets everything they need. If they’re busy, they may be unable or unwilling to follow up, so a release provides them with a package of data.
Just because you’re writing a press release doesn’t mean you toss it into an email, BCC your entire media list, and call it a day. There are right and wrong ways to send out your press release.
  1. Send it via wire services: PR wire services can be useful when you’re looking to boost search rankings or you have extremely relevant (aka big huge news) information that you need to get out quickly and effectively. For a couple hundred bucks, your new product launch, partnership, etc. can end up in the appropriate search results and may even get picked up by a publication or two you wouldn’t normally pitch.
  2. Personalize: When sending your release to your target media list, add a short personal note with the highlights of the release and why you’re sending it to that reporter. A couple of sentences will separate your release from hundreds of others and call attention to anything important the reporter should know.
  3. Do. Not. Attach. When you’re sending out a press release, never provide an attachment. Copy and paste the release into your email and offer to send photos upon request. Attachments will get your email tossed in to SPAM, or worse could irritate the recipient.
Stay tuned for more posts about how to write an effective release and pitch reporters.