Communication Made Easy — Speaking, Editing, Writing, Marketing, Networking Answers

A picture may be worth 1,000 words, but words themselves are at the basis of all communication. Whether we are communicating for business or personal reasons, our spoken and written words matter. These posts will address issues and answer questions related primarily to business communications, as they affect writing, credibility, marketing, and networking.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Never Too Late to Give Thanks for Special People

OK, I'm a day late on this. As I imagine a lot of people did, I hesitated to post about the things I'm thankful for on Thanksgiving . . . because it's just so . . . conventional. That doesn't mean I didn't write my own gratitude list in my journal, and that it didn't run to two pages. I have a very blessed life and many, many things for which to be grateful.

So when I read the following question on a new blog I came across today (The Art of Getting By), I decided to accept the challenge:

What are five people, places or things you are thankful for?

Here are the five (5, cinco, fünf, cinq, cinque, itsutsu, FIVE?) people for whom I am most grateful.

(1) My family. Yes, I am cheating here, but it's my list, so my rules. Mom, from whom I get my creativity and feistiness. Dad — we really missed you this year. Corina, my beautiful and amazing sister. Samantha, the most goregous songbird I could ever have been gifted to know. Ann . . . and David — yes, even Ann and David — for the never-ending learning opportunities. Spencer, Grace, Sophie, Moondanz, Brutus, Chazz, Cleo, Koko . . . as well as the rest of the unnamed pets, and the myriad cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents, and the entire assembly of Rendon & Orsini progenitors.

(2) My son. Apart from my family (again, my list, so my rules) because he is apart from me, living with his adoptive family in Gillette, New Jersey. With him, I must group his adoptive family, Kathy, Bruce, Jill . . . and all the people whose lives have touched his and whose lives he has touched. Thank you so much for lovingly accepting your role as Christian/Eric's family and community at the time when I could not give him that. (Oh, also grateful for his birthfather, Tony, without whom he never would have come into the world. Wherever you are, Tony, Happy Thanksgiving.)

(3) The incomparable Todd Smith. It's been a mere six months, and I don't remember what my life was like before he arrived in it. Todd is the most amazing man I have ever met . . . God truly blessed me when he dropped Todd into my life . . . a brilliant financial educator . . . unbelievably perceptive, kind, compassionate, funny, wise, nonjudgmental . . . you have changed my world utterly, Todd, and I would go to the ends of the earth for you . . .

(4) The most amazing personal trainer and SEO coach on the planet, Scott White. Those links are for you, baby! Scott has the ability to motivate and inspire, regardless of the mental trash that gets in my way. He is smart, funny, and ever so supportive. He constantly encourages me . . . and, more than anything else, he believes in me, even if I don't always believe in myself. Thank you, Scott. You are such a gift.

(5) I initially thought this fifth spot would be a challenge. How to whittle down the list of a dozen or more likely candidates to one? David Hepburn. Joanne Tedesco. Jacie Carter. Rebecca Joy. Therese Skelly. Vickie Champion. Linda Herold. Paula Dawson. Mitzi Lynton. Allan Sabo. Father Renna. Father Murray. Sister Laurian (yes, I went to Catholic school). Tim Gartland. Tom Otsot. Ken Bolden. Jane Oh Kim. Jon Lazar. Deborah Davenport.

And then it hit me. The fifth spot is mine. I am grateful for myself. For my life, my accomplishments, my failures, my hopes, my dreams, my goals, my idiosyncrasies, my love, my creativity, my vision, my wishes, my possibilities and promise and potential. I am thankful for me.

Overall, it's been a pretty fantastic Thanksgiving weekend so far . . .

P.S. - Samantha nailed me for not adding God to the List of 5, but technically (s)he's not a person . . .

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

PR Can Be a Useful Tool for Small Business Owners

While I see Lewis Green's point in his recent post, "On PR: Not the First Strategy of Small Business," I disagree, in part.

The fact is that any business owner is in two businesses: (1) the business of the product or service they offer, and (2) marketing & selling the product or service they offer. This is where PR comes in, even for a small company. PR ― or public relations ― is, as Green points out, a facet of marketing. So is advertsing. And, given the choice between spending marketing $$ on PR or on advertising, for a small business owner, the better choice is PR, by far.

Sure, a massive PR campaign with guaranteed placement and coverage in three or four different media vehicles will cost you a pretty penny. But it doesn't have to cost a million dollars to begin a small, successful PR campaign. If you write them well and in the proper format, it IS possible for your media releases to generate interest, buzz, and coverage. Two important things to remember about getting your story picked up are being consistent and creating relationships with the reporters, columnists, talk show hosts, and others in the media.

Be consistent ― but don't be a pest. Make sure that even if your stories don't get picked up the first handful of times, the reporters and editors you are targeting are consistently seeing your name and details about your business and/or activities.

Create relationships with members of the media. Remember, they're people, too. So call them up. Let them know you have expertise in their subject. Make yourself available. Ask how you can help them. They're not inaccessible, and they're not ogres. As long as you are respectful of their time, and aren't constantly calling or sending releases about little Johnny's first-grade spelling bee win or Aunt Hilda's prize-winning rutabegas, they will want to talk with you. Why? Because they need content! Sports and the hard news sections of any paper or segments of any TV news broadcast are the primary places where news occurs as it happens. In virtually every other area, stories and reports have to be researched and written ahead of time. Reporters are constantly on the lookout for good story ideas. If you have one, do yourself and your favorite reporter a favor― share it with them!

And even if you don't have a whole lot of initial success in getting your story picked up by the media, you can always write your own piece and submit it to a smaller newspaper or journal. Either way (they write about you or you author your own piece), you are creating what is known as a third-party endorsement. That means that an independent entity is vouching for you. If you spend money to run an ad, anyone who reads the ad knows that you paid for it. And unless it's a truly spectacular piece of work, has an unbelievable can't-miss offer, or hits the reader at precisely the right time, its chances of success in a single appearance are slim. However, with the single appearnce of an article or news story, the organization who runs the piece validates you as newsworthy by running it; even if you write your own article, you're still validated because they thought your piece was good enough to put in their publication. And, with stories you author yourself, you almsot always get a resource box at the end, which contains a very short bio and your contact information.

Once you write a release, use it! Beyond simply submitting your media release to the local media, think broader. Are there specialty journals or magazines related to your field? Are there regional or national publications you can submit to? Have you considered purchasing distribution through a source like PR Web? And if you've written your own article, don't forget to post it online. Use a service like Article Marketer to get your story scattered across the Internet. These are low-cost tools that can really pay off in huge PR returns, if your work is well-written and well-edited to begin with.

So, yes. A BIG, glitzy, pull-out-all-the-stops media campaign is probably beyond the budget of most small businesses. But there's no reason you cannot make a smaller, systematized PR and marketing campaign work very effectively for you.

In the Phoenix market, one woman has done a remarkable job on her own PR. After scoring 300+ media appearances on her own (no PR firm involved) in her first 6 years in business, Eileen Proctor of It's a Ruff Life Dog Daycare is now making a living teaching others how to create media relationships that guarantee publicity. And as the NLP folks teach us, if someone else can do it, we can too. All we need to do is study what they've done, and then copy or adapt it, as necessary.

PR does work. Use it ― and watch your business skyrocket.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Networking 101

"None of us knows as much as all of us,
and I know a lot of people."
Charles Morton

You've probably never heard of Charles Morton — but he's right. It's the collective knowledge that makes us powerful. And that is precise reason networking is so important to any small business owner or entrepreneur. We've all attended our share of networking events. Some of us do it with more consistency than others. The problem is that even with lots of practice, we don't always get as much out of our networking expenditures (time, money, energy) as we could or should.

My women's networking group, Scottsdale Express Network, set out to correct that yesterday when we hosted a 4-hour workshop called Networking 101.

The interesting thing was that only 20 people showed up. More people had paid, but didn't get there for some reason. Others had known about it, but evidently had more important priorities. With an inkling from our pre-registration that our turnout could be low, we thought about cancelling the event. However, Vickie Champion, a great mentor of mine (and attendee of the workshop) taught me a long time ago the value of not forcing things. "Would you do it, even if no one came?" she used to ask her students to ask themselves — the message being that we need always to remember that no matter what we're doing, it is about the process, and we have to detach from the outcome.
So, since I knew that we would definitely have some attendees, even if it was not as many as I had originally envisioned, I knew we would go through with the event — if for no other reason than that the people who needed to be there would be there. And they were. There also was great food; new connections were made; and lots of brilliant information was shared.

We had three excellent presenters who each talked about different aspects of networking. At the end of each presentation, I went around the room and asked someone from each table to state their main take-away from that presenter. What follows is a synthesis of those take-aways:

Tammy Stanley — Have both a 30-second and a 10-second intro. And know that it takes longer than 30 seconds to craft these intros. Remember to do something interesting. No one else at the meetings you attend is likely to do anything all that memorable, so why not you? Go for the gold! The worst thing that could happen is that you flop. But what if you land a perfect 10? Isn't the chance to succeed beyond your wildest dreams worth that shot?
Chip Lambert — First, we need to know what we want — for our businesses, and for our lives. Next, we must realize that everything we want or need is, at most, 3 questions away from us. The key is knowing what to ask, whom to ask it of, and then being unafraid to do the ASKING!

Susan Ratliff — Whenever you go out to network, go prepared. Use your attendance at trade shows as a networking opportunity. And even if you cannot meet or capitalize on all the other attendees at an expo, do something noteworthy to meet and appeal to the vendors at such an event. They are a captive audience, and will appreciate you for making an effort to meet their needs!

Who among us has not played the Business Card Shuffle at one time or another? But that does not have to be your regular networking experience. Set aside a couple hours to hone your 30-second intro. This first requires that you know who you are, whose problems you solve, and how you solve them — and then be able to describe it all succinctly. Make a point to figure out what you want, and who can help you get it. And make yourself memorable, whether it's at a tradeshow or a networking event.

Don't be a wallflower. Be the one people like. Be the one people trust. Be the one people remember. And, most importantly, be the first one they call. You can get in the game or you can sit on the sidelines — the choice is yours, alone.

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