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Creating A PR-Centric Approach To Marketing

Over the last few years, marketing has taken on a lot of different forms for businesses all over the world. Gone are the days of being able to push things down your customers’ throats until they decided to go with you, and this has become very apparent in the way that a lot of companies are struggling to relate to their customers, nowadays. To help you out with this, and to give you a chance to avoid the mistakes which companies have made in the past, this post will be helping you to build a marketing strategy which has a strong focus on public relations.

Avoid The Scary: Even though it makes sense, a lot of people are concerned when they see adverts relating to the web searches they’ve made in the past. Cookies-based systems have become very outdated in recent years, making a lot of users feel uncomfortable, and making tools like Google Ads a last resort when you are working on marketing. Instead, options like influencers can be a much better way to target markets directly, as people choose to follow the social media accounts of users they respect and like.

Quality Over Quantity: A lot of companies have taken to barraging their potential customers in the past, throwing intense waves of adverts in their direction, thinking that this is a good way to get their attention. People are much more likely to respond to a good advert which they’ve only seen once, though, making it critical to work towards achieving quality over quantity. It’s easy to get annoyed when you see the same marketing tactics over and over.

Maintain Integrity: As a business, your customers will always expect you to tell them the truth. You can’t make false claims about products or services during advertising, because they will soon find out, and will want to hold you accountable no matter the size of your outfit. It should be nice and easy to keep this side of your marketing in the right shape. CRM consulting can help you with this sort of work, giving you the chance to get an external view on the way you market yourself. You only need tell the truth, and people will be much happier with you.

Help Your Customers: Finally, as the last area to consider, it can be easy to assume that giving something away for free is always bad in business. In reality, though, there are loads of tools which you can give to your customers, like blog posts and information-based emails, which don’t have to cost you anything at all to give away. This will keep people thinking about your work, while also ensuring that your marketing doesn’t look like pure sales tactics. Of course, though, you don’t want to give them anything which you also sell.

Hopefully, this post will inspire you to start working harder on the time you put into changing your approach to marketing to better appeal to your customers. A lot of businesses are struggling to master this sort of approach, leaving their customers to feel bad about the way they’re having things sold to them. You don’t have to fall into this trap, though, as long as you take the right approach.

Working Tips For Home Freelancers

The freelancing working environment is a strange one. This is because your environment remains static, but the working relationships and responsibilities you may foster online or through other commissions can be varied from day to day. Not everyone is cut out to work freelance, but not every freelancer is cut out to work a normal job in their field. Often, people dip in and out to freelancing, not always using it as a sole source of income but as a means to develop their best income stream.

No matter your reasons, your competency, the people you work with and the skills you offer to commission, considering these working tips can have a large impact on your overall comfort, happiness and effectiveness in this role. The early days of freelancing can be hard and worrisome, but over time you may find comfort developing your self-reliance:

Pay Proof

Working freelancers expect the flow of their income to vary frequently. It’s smart to use a working generating unit that needs each job completion to be verified, and uses services like PayPal to try and secure the potential for disputes from either sides. Some commissions come in independently, and may pay you half to begin with and half upon completion. You may be lucky enough to work with some form of a more systematized content production house, allowing you to subcontract solely for them and adhere to their payment standards, which are often more official and uniform. No matter how you access your form of funding, keeping track of everything can be greatly simplified if you create pay stubs using an official service to track your income. This can help you gain physical proof, and if verified by the payment provider, can help you effectively validate that document for use in tax and archiving purposes.

Communication & Reach

It’s important to always be available as a freelancer if you are offering your services on the internet. A valid email you can reach from multiple devices, an instant messaging offering like Hangouts or Skype, and even potentially a mobile phone or landline number for regular and respected clients you’ve built a cordial relationship with can be important. Staying available does not mean responding right away. Setting your own hours is an important task, so never feel obligated to respond at all hours of the night because a nasty precedent can be set from that point on! The main lesson is to open many forms of commission requests, to standardize that format in a manner you feel appropriate, and to monitor this first contact for potential income and collaborative customer care day after day.

Testimonials & Portfolios

Build a portfolio. You can use this to show examples of your work, be that artistic, content writing, or anything else you offer. Open a website to show this, and ask for testimonials from your most valued clients in exchange for a discount. These two options can help you secure more business, and help you achieve the art of staying reachable and discoverable.

With these simple tips, you’re sure to develop your working capacities in the best manner possible!

5 Ways Your Website Could Be Damaging Your Credibility

There’s nothing more liberating than starting up your very own business. To cast aside wage slavery and a corporate pay structure that’s actively working against you to insulate its own bottom line. To shake of the shackles of a job and a career that were not only letting your talents go to waste, they were slowly sapping your will to live. When you secure the funding to build up your own business from scratch and transform your idea into a reality, it can seem as though anything is possible. But the reality is that your business is just one of legions of similar enterprises, all vying for the attention of the same customers. And these customers know that in a buyer’s market they can afford to be fickle, no matter how hard you may try and earn their loyalty.

Thus, the savvy entrepreneur knows that in order to draw custom towards their business and away from their competitors that their reputation must be absolutely beyond reproach. Of course there’s a lot that goes into your business’s reputation. Every customer interaction in the real world and on social media, every telephone query, the quality of your products and service and even the design concept of your logo can influence your reputation. Here, however, we’re going to look exclusively at your website. Your website is, for many businesses, the first and last chance they will get to make an impression on potential leads. If your website does not reflect the values or quality of your brand, it can seriously undermine your credibility. And credibility is extremely important. Credibility determines whether or not prospective customers can trust you, and it’s vital that your website earns it.

What a bad website can do to your business

We’re long past the days when merely having a website was considered a boon for your business. While an online presence is somewhat taken for granted, whether your business uses eCommerce or not, a bad website can make an impression in the worst possible way. It can;

  • Create a poor or misleading first impression
  • Provide inaccurate or outdated information
  • Scare away leads and reduce conversion rates
  • Undermine trust in your brand
  • Send customers running into the arms of your competitors.

So, what could your website be doing to undermine your brand and damage your credibility? Well, if you haven’t given much care to the building of your website, it can actually be damaging your credibility if it has…

Outdated or amateurish design

Like the world of fashion, web design is subject to trends which come and go in accordance with technological changes and the cultural biases of users. As such, while your website may look just fine to your eyes, savvier users may find your web design to be outdated or lacking the professional veneer offered by others. In an age where most people now consume online content and make eCommerce purchases through mobile devices, the most egregious sin you can make is failing to ensure that your site design is responsive so that it looks great on a screen of any size. Moreover, a WordPress site that’s built using a ready-made theme can make your website look cheap, amateurish or homogeneous to the more practiced eye, no matter how great it looks to you. Look at the online presence of businesses you admire and work collaboratively with a talented web designer (here are some tips for finding one that’s right for you) to build a website that looks beautiful and professional while explicitly tailored to your brand.

Bad UX

Even a website that looks beautiful can undermine your credibility by providing a bad experience for the user. User Experience or UX is an important discipline which nascent brands can tend to overlook. A gorgeous looking website that’s hard to navigate or takes forever to load (keep in mind that a page load of just 7 seconds can increase your bounce rate by over 30%) can potentially be more damaging than a website that looks passable yet is a joy to navigate.

Poor quality content

Most new entrepreneurs understand the value of content marketing but fall victim to an overly simplistic mode of thinking. They know that content is king and that posting fresh content on a regular (ideally daily) basis is the key to getting an edge over the competition in terms of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). However, this is not to say that quantity trumps quality. In fact, it’s the opposite of the case. Outsourcing your content to poor quality, low cost click farms overseas might seem like a cost effective solution, but the increased likelihood of poorly written, grammatically incorrect or (worse still) factually inaccurate copy will seriously damage your credibility and authority in the eyes of users.

Moreover, it might not even give you the SEO boost you were expecting. While search engines don’t share the minutiae of what affects rankings, it’s widely believed that measures of genuine engagement like scroll depth and time on page are of value to search engines. If users click off your content in seconds, it could do more harm than good to your SEO.

Your images

A picture is worth a thousand words. But if you’re personally responsible for all of the images that go into your content, it behoves you to brush up on your photography skills. We human beings are visual creatures and rightly or wrongly we make value judgments based on appearance all the time. Either outsource your images to a talented photographer or take the time to improve your skills in image capture and post production photo editing. Cheesy stock images are not recommended as they can cheapen your brand and make your content look like that of an amateur blogger.  

Outbound links

Finally, while link building is an important part of SEO, it’s important to remember that not all links are created equal. Some links can actually harm your search engine rankings and leave you with less than reputable and credible associations. This is why you should never link to an outbound source or site without first doing your homework and ensuring that your brand is in good company with theirs and establishing that they are both reputable and credible.

Remember that you only have a few seconds to make a very important first impression. All of these factors go into making that impression count.

Outdoor Space is Vital for Your Employees – Here’s How to Make it Awesome

Getting outdoors each day is really important for your employees. It gets them out into natural light, reinvigorates the brain, provides fresh air and, if nothing else, means that they can stretch their legs away from their desks for a few minutes.

Creating a suitable space might sound difficult, but actually it’s quite simple to achieve and even exceed expectations. If you have access to any type of shared outdoor space for your employees, no matter the size or setup, there is something you can do to make this a fun and creative space to hang out because what it boils down to is business is all about the details.

Create Floral Borders

Even if you don’t know the first thing about gardening, creating a floral border is quite simple. First, you should decide where the border will go and whether you want to raise it or not. The advantage of a raised border is that the walls are also ideal for extra seating.

All you really need to know is that flowers need good soil so adding a nitrogen-rich fertilizer is the best way to improve your soil . All you need to do is mix up the fertilizer with the right quantities of water and then be generous with your first batch. If you need to store some, just click here for a suitable tank.

Many of the flowers that are easiest to grow are also bright and gorgeous to look at. Try hosting a sunflower growing competition at work to get everyone more involved in creating a space that people love.

Design Suitable Seating Areas

To encourage your employees to take time outside, you should make sure that there is suitable seating. Picnic tables are an easy win as they allow for group seating and are, quit obviously, perfect for eating at lunch time.

Also, taking some meetings outside is a great plan as it will give you all a change of pace as well as a change of scenery. Offices often come with a lot of distractions but going outside can really focus the mind – even if it is cooler outside, and you all have to is an extra layer.

Another perfect reason to have a seating area outside is to give your employees somewhere to relax and destress. Just being able to pop outside for a few minutes every so often can help clear the mind.

Be More Sustainable

Having an outdoor area is a great way to make your space more environmentally friendly too. There is nothing quite like the bond formed when you harvest your first crop of naturally grown vegetables! Herbs are an easy win and are ideal for sprucing up an otherwise bland lunch.

Sustainability is a significant subject at the moment, and for most businesses it should be regarded as a part of your business strategy. Showing your clients and prospective employees that you have a concern for the environment might just help you strike a cord and earn some new business. If nothing else, it will certainly set you apart.

Keep in mind that although not every business has a perfect outdoor space, you don’t need to spend a lot to create an area that your employees will love.

Does your office space allow for a shared outdoor space for your employees? Share how you utilize this feature. If not, share why or why not you wish you had outdoor space near your office. Leave a comment below!

Are You Busy? Chances Are You’re Nowhere Near Your Full Potential

Chances Are You_re Nowhere Near Your Full Potential

If you’re like most people, your plate looks pretty full right now. You can’t imagine stacking one more client or work project on your calendar for fear it will cause your phone to catch fire. But then a new opportunity presents itself. For us consultants, this opportunity means more money, more exposure, potentially more work down the road, and more fun (because if you don’t love what you do, you’re doing it wrong). Or if you’re in a more traditional, salaried position, a new work project means the opportunity to showcase your skills, impress your boss and prove you’re worth a raise.

So, we can establish that new work opportunities should be viewed as a positive thing. However, there are moments when they still cause the sinking feeling of overwhelm. We’re already juggling a lot, will one more ball in the air cause everything to come down crashing around us? Possibly. But only if that’s the mindset you have going into it. I want to tell you that on more occasions than I can count, I’ve had a plate so full it could keep me “full” for months. Yet, I dared to take on additional work projects, and guess what?  I met all deadlines and proved to myself that I’m capable of far more than I believe.

Take a look at my best advice for adding more projects to an already full plate:

Prep your current clients for a change in your workload.

As soon as you know you’ll be adding some additional work to your schedule, communicate expectations with your current clients. Touch base with all, or even just your key clients who you know will be most impacted by a change in workflow. Give them your attention upfront and offer assurance their project deadlines will be me, possibly earlier than expected in order to accommodate some new work. An added bonus to doing this is your existing clients will see that you’re in demand and that your business is growing. Never a bad thing to communicate to reinforce you value!

Work ahead and automate tasks.

When preparing to take on a new project, you should use this time to frontload as much of your existing client work as possible. It’s likely you have projects that recur month after month. These should come easy to you. Work to get these off your to-do list so you have more room for your new project. Your existing clients will feel well taken care of getting their projects ahead of deadline. And you’ll have the peace of mind knowing you have a (nearly) clean slate to take on more work.

Put nonessential tasks on the backburner.

Up until this point of taking on new work, it’s likely you’ve filled your schedule with some nonessential tasks that are neither urgent nor important. Simply put, these tasks should go on the backburner where they surely will not “boil over” until you’re able to get back to them. It’s natural to fill our time so we feel productive, when really we’re just being busy. When you take a critical look at your existing schedule, you will surely find areas you can eliminate temporarily or even permanently to give you more time to pursue new work.

Schedule similar commitments on similar days.

As someone who works mostly from a home office, if I schedule just one meeting in my day, it’s a huge imposition and greatly reduces my efficiency. Thought it’s just one meeting that’s likely one hour of my time, I spend additional time putting on professional attire (i.e. not pajamas) and driving to and from the meeting. All-in, I lose 2+ hours of work time. Now if I schedule this same meeting on days I have other meetings, I can maximize my efficiency by meeting clients back-to-back in the same or nearby locations. I only have to put on professional attire once that week (ideally). So my advice here is, determine what days will be meeting days and what days will be work days. Avoid mixing the two and you will gain hours by block scheduling similar tasks.

Eliminate distractions.

This will likely be the hardest pieces of advice to follow for most of you and that is eliminating distractions. You know what these are. Cell phones, social media, websites unrelated to the task at hand, etc. You will lose minutes here and there that add up to an hour (or more!) over the course of your day. If you can eliminate these distractions and gain back this work time, you will surely have the bandwidth to take on a new project or two.

Be confident in your abilities.

Finally, be confident in your ability to juggle a full schedule. People do it all the time, at a much more extreme level, and they adjust to the point where they couldn’t imagine life any other way. They’re called “high performers” and you can be one too, if only you have the confidence to step outside your comfort zone, even temporarily. From my own experience ramping up my workload to a level I never imagined was possible, it’s a short squeeze of discomfort until you develop new organizational and time management skills that benefit you not only personally, but also professionally.

If you choose to follow my advice, the most valuable thing you’ll gain from the experience is the realization that you’re capable of far more than you currently imagine. This is not to encourage people to become slaves to work or take on projects to the point of exhaustion, it means moving outside your comfort zone, one step at a time. Chances are, you’re nowhere near close to working to your full potential. As you ramp up your work projects, you’ll be forced to become more organized, efficient and disciplined. Because after all, “If you want something done, give it to a busy person.”

How do you manage the addition to new work projects? What piece of advice did you find most helpful? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment below!

Love or Hate Infographics, They Work! Here’s Why.

infographic

Infographics hold a very unique place in communication strategies. By now, just about every industry has produced an infographic of some sort. A quick Google search will confirm that. I came across an article written in 2011 that said infographics are a dying trend. Now in 2018, I would say they are as strong as ever and are getting more and more sophisticated in design and dissemination.

Love or hate infographics, when it comes to communicating information, they work! Not every occasion is right for this type of communication strategy, but in various instances, it’s your best shot at getting people to listen to your message. What are the benefits of using infographics? Take a look!

Reach Audiences with a Short Attention Span

With absolutely every piece of your communications strategy, you need to know your target audience. In doing so, you’ll also uncover how they like to receive their information. For audiences who are busy or inundated with various communications on a daily basis, they likely have a short attention span, especially when it comes to understanding data and numbers. Giving these people a white paper, brochure, article or press release will not yield the best results for you. They are likely to lose interest and move on to the next tasks before they are even a faction of the way through your content.

With an infographic, you can quickly convey your message by boiling down this content into 10 (or fewer) main points. Concise content combined with a slick design that moves the reader through the main points is far more likely to result in comprehension. When you want to reach audiences with a short attention span, an infographic is a strong strategy for this.

Make Data and Numbers More Visually Interesting

Let’s face it, only a very small percentage of people get excited and inspired by sifting through data. In order to effectively reach those who do not, you need to do the sifting for them. With an infographic, you have the ability to make data and numbers more visually interesting. Highlighting some of your most compelling numbers and explaining their importance with a concise statement is a highly valuable way to get people to digest data like a delightful snack, not a bogged down Thanksgiving dinner.

Break the Ice for a Deeper Discussion

Many people stress about the fact that a single infographic won’t hold all the information they feel is important. Nor should it. An infographic is meant to be simple, visually appealing and really just a conversation starter. If a deeper discussion needs to happen, use an infographic to break the ice and get people interested in the topic. For example, a client used the following infographic to send to state legislators to get them to care about a particularly issue. This alone isn’t enough to change their mindsets, but it was a great lead into follow-up meetings where this deeper discussion could occur and questions could be answered. Best of all, the legislators had a foundation of knowledge on this topic, thanks to the infographic, so that the conversation could immediately begin at a deeper level.

CWD Facts

Be Memorable

Any content that combines words and images is more likely to be absorbed and remembered. The visual element helps people to quickly understand the data. What’s better yet, is incorporating an audio elements as well. This boosts your memory even further! Though this takes some more time and resources, I’ve seen interactive infographics that people can click on a fact to learn more and even hear an audio clip that offers additional information beyond the written content. Depending upon the topic and amount of information you need to get across, this could be a worthy investment to maximize the effectiveness of your infographic.

Make It Easy to Share

Finally and most importantly, infographics package the content in such a way that’s very easy to share, whether in print, by email or on social media. And if you’re putting in the time to create an infographic, you want to be sharing this everywhere! Infographics provide great content for your website or email newsletter, they offer strong SEO (if done right) and give you content you can trickle out, piece by piece, on your social media. This is not true of other forms of communication, which is why infographics offer some really unique benefits!

How do you feel about infographics? Have you incorporated them into your communication strategy? Do you enjoy receiving information this way? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment below!

 

The Best UX and SEO Practices for Your Multimedia Content

The Best UX and SEO Practices for Your Multimedia Content

When maintaining a company website, you don’t want to push out content blindly. Your marketing budget is not best spent on maintaining an online presence just for the sake of it. Rather, you want to strategically select your content to drive engagement and ultimately conversion.

Remember, the goal of your website is to generate leads, engage those leads, turn them into customers and further the relationship by nurturing loyalty to your brand. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to achieve all those things if you haphazardly put together a website and fill it with random and inconsistent content.

The Quickest Way to Push Away Customers

If it’s not easy and intuitive to find and navigate your business’s website, you substantially diminish your ability elicit action. If a visitor experiences slow loading time or struggles to make heads or tails of your website’s confusing interface, you can bet that they’ll leave your site within seconds.

According to Forrester Research, a well-designed user interface can boost your site’s conversion rate by up to 200%. Additionally, only 25% of users venture into the 2nd page of search results. Thus, the importance of a smooth user experience and a fully optimized website is impossible to ignore.

When prospects come to your site, you have mere seconds to make a good impression. Those few seconds are integral to capturing your leads’ attention, communicating your story and moving them into your sales pipeline. Simply put, a stellar interface and an optimized website must be paired with an equally stellar content strategy.

First and foremost, be aware that there is a wide array of content, each serving a unique purpose, that should be carefully considered to be part of your content strategy. Aside from highly valuable blog articles, customer stories/testimonials and white papers, visual content, like infographics, is highly effectively at quickly communicating your message and reaching key demographics. Candidly, visual content is something I know I need to work to increase in my own content strategy!

The Power of Visual Content

It’s estimated that 81% of users only skim content, making how you organize and present this content increasingly important. Moreover, studies have found that posts with images increase engagement rates by a whopping 650% compared to text-only posts. It’s also worth noting that video content attracts 3x more engagement than text-only posts.

Whether it be blog articles, images, infographics, videos, tutorials and animations, white papers, or podcasts, every type of content you produce must be optimized for your users as well as search engines. It’s a delicate balance between the two, but the end result is a substantially higher reach for your content that maximizes your marketing/public relations dollars.

Appealing to Customers vs. Search Engines: A Delicate Balance

Admittedly, optimizing your web content can prove challenging and time consuming. It takes technical know-how and a ton of analytics to process and apply into practice. Often, this sort of time and technique is not something many business owners have to spare. For clients whose business requires a highly technical content strategy, I often recommend they enlist the help of a creative agency to tackle this workload with efficiency and expertise, leaving the business owner more time to do what they do best. In this relationship, I serve as the project manager and lead content developer, who focuses on producing relevant, high quality content, while the creative/SEO agency focuses on the optimizing the content for search engines.

As I mentioned above, it’s a delicate balance and I can’t stress that enough. Speaking from the public relations side, you can’t overly conform your content to “play” the SEO game otherwise you risk producing content that is loaded with keywords and awkward sentences to fit these keywords, but loses its “human” element. While this content engages search engines, it will not engage your customers!

I hope this brief intro into developing an effective digital content strategy for your business has sparked some new ideas, and possibly some critical questions for you to consider. If you find yourself hungry for more insight, I recommend taking a look at this infographic by Micro Creatives on the best user experience and SEO practices for your multimedia content. Not only is it filled with valuable, easy-to-consume information, it also demonstrates the effectiveness of incorporating visual content into your overall strategy!

The Best UX and SEO Practices for Your Multimedia Content.

What burning questions have I left unanswered (I anticipate many!)? Start a conversation by asking your top one or two below. If it’s outside my expertise, I’m happy to enlist my network of SEO experts to chime in!

How to Win Back a Client

how to win back a client

Clients will come and go. If you are a contractor or consultant, you know that it’s a way of life. Often this will be an obvious and amicable parting once a client no longer needs your services. However there will also be times when a client leaves you, possibly for another consultant or because they believe they can handle the services in house. This kind of parting can leave you a little sad and sore, as it feels unexpected or unnecessary.

But I want to share some good news.

Throughout my career as a public relations consultant, I’ve had many clients, who once paused services or parted ways, return for a variety of reasons. These returns are a wonderful surprise and for a long time I chalked it up to luck. However, it’s much more than luck. It’s the way you run your business that keeps a former client’s coals burning, awaiting to reignite the fire upon their return.

Today I share with you some steps you can take to win back a former client. The most important idea to keep in mind is that winning back a client isn’t merely what you say when you re-pitch them your services, it’s everything you do in the interim of your relationship leading up to this reengagement. Take a look!

Part on Good Terms

This first step is critical. To the extent it is realistically possible, you should try to part with each client on good terms. Be understanding, offer them access to any materials or information that is rightfully theirs and help with the transition process to a new employee or consultant who will be taking over your work, if asked to do so. If this isn’t feasible or they choose to completely shut you out, it’s a good indication this isn’t a client you’ll want to work with again in the future anyways.

Leave the Door Open

Once you part on good terms, you should also make sure they know your door is always open to them. Weeks, months or years later they may have a question for you. Remain accessible and attentive to their needs (so long as it doesn’t require more than a few minutes of your time). This demonstrates, professionalism and class. Knowing your door is open makes it easier to return without feeling like you will shame them for it.

Touch Base in a Non-Salesy Way

There may come a time when an article or piece of information emerges that reminds you of that client. Use this as an opportunity to touch base with them by offering something other than a sales pitch. Believe me, this is exceptionally refreshing! For example, maybe you find an article that offers helpful advice to a problem they frequently encountered or maybe it’s a piece of news announcing a new trend in their industry. Share this with a thoughtful note. Wish them well and leave it at that. This is a seed that I have seen blossom into a new working relationship time and time again.

Check in On Their Progress

If you find yourself thinking about that client, check in on them to see if they are maintaining the progress you used to help with. Have they kept a consistent presence on social media? When is the last time they published a blog? If you’re still on their email list, what’s the last communication you received? If all of these efforts have gone radio silent, you have a solid reason to move onto what about I’m about to suggest next.

Remind Them How You Can Help

Call or email that client with a direct offer. This time it is essentially a sales pitch. Be sure to complement any efforts they are maintaining or improving. Then call attention to the items you noticed were lacking. Remind them that you used to help them maintain these critical efforts and that you’d welcome the opportunity to talk with them about assisting them in a similar way again. You just might hit them at a time where they feel like they can’t get their head above water and you will be a welcome source of help. What’s the worst they can say? No?

Offer Advice, No Strings Attached

If a past client should ever reach out to you asking for a simple piece of advice (i.e. it should only take a few minutes of your time to answer), be open to sharing your expertise a time or two. For the couple of minutes it takes you to answer their questions, you could open up the door to a renewed client in the future. It’s extremely smart from a business development standpoint! If you find they have A LOT of questions for you, offer a meeting. In person you can make a case for the benefit of your expertise and how an ongoing relationship would again benefit you both.

Be Responsive

Finally and most importantly, be respectful and responsive, even if this person is no longer an active client. Demonstrating these qualities, regardless of whether you are receiving a paycheck, speaks highly to your reputation. It will also remind the client of how nice it is to work with someone who is competent and responsive. Many times I have clients return because they realize that responsiveness is not a quality every consultant possesses. Many skills can be trained, responsiveness/reliability really isn’t one of them.

Have you ever won back a client? What steps did you take? Share your experience by leaving a comment below!

 

Why Didn’t My Press Release Get Picked Up?

Upset disappointed young businessman sitting with hands on head

Whether we PR professionals want to come to terms with it or not, the media is not our mouthpiece that will print exactly what we want, when we want it. They are the ultimate gatekeepers who determine the extent of media exposure that will be granted to us or our clients. The sheer volume of press releases that cross their desk each and every day ensures that only a fraction will receive review, and an even fewer number will be published in some capacity.

But don’t despair! Rarely is an ignored press release a direct reflection on your business or your media relations skills. Rather it could be any number of possible circumstances. Take a look:

It wasn’t really news.

The hard truth is that you’re likely to think everything your organization does is newsworthy because, well, it involves you. It can sometimes require taking a step back and role playing a reporter to determine whether or not something is worthy of media attention. Just because it’s not a good fit for the media, doesn’t mean you can’t promote it in other ways. Utilize your website, blog, social media, and newsletter to tell your story.

It was overly promotional.

Be sure to learn the best practices of writing a press release. Your headline can make or break your chances of getting picked-up. If you start off overly promotional, with a heavy focus on your business or brand, this is a huge red flag to a reporter that this isn’t a helpful “news hint,” it’s a PR tactic. As much as a client may want to see their name in the title, explain to them that this isn’t the best media-bait.

You’ve used this angle, again and again.

Is your strategy to, every month, announce the new businesses to whom you’ve sold services or goods? The first time you do this is the best chance you’ll have at gaining media attention. Every press release after that is beating a dead horse, in the eyes of the media. Reserve this angle for a truly noteworthy client, or present your new client information in a unique way. It’s easy for the media to spot a template press release which will quickly get you tossed in the “no” file.

It got stuck in spam.

There are major benefits to using an email platform like Mail Chimp or Constant Contact to send out your press releases. However, they can increase your chances of getting you sent to a spam folder. I’ve had my own clients’ emails skip my inbox and head straight for the spam folder, even after I marked previous messages from the same sender as “not spam.” The bottom line is to track your analytics, as these email platforms allow you to do. If it seems like a low percentage of contacts are opening your email, it may be due to their spam filters.

It was poorly written.

Another hard truth is that your press release may been poorly written to a point that your media contacts couldn’t see the value in the information you were sharing. I again reference the best practices of press releases to ensure you have the greatest advantage of getting picked up. You need to write to the media’s preference, not your own. Learn to embrace AP style!

You relied solely on a “Wire” for distribution.

You are likely familiar with PR wire services such as PRWeb, PR Newswire, and Business Wire. I have yet to have a client truly benefit from any pick-ups received from such services. I believe the value lies in personal contact, not some syndication service. Even if you’re hitting a list of several hundred media contacts, you are far more able to personalize your messaging and track their engagement from traditional email. Don’t waste your time or money!

You gave up too soon.

Finally, and most importantly, you may have just given up too soon. I have yet to receive a single complaint from a member of the media for sending out the same press release twice, each with a unique headline. Sometimes you hit them on a busy news day when they just don’t have the capacity to cover your story. A few days later might be the perfect timing for when they need a story like yours. Try and try and again – but two times is the perfect number. Anything more than that could work against you.

Most importantly, don’t drive yourself crazy over-analyzing the reasons your press release may have been overlooked – and don’t stop trying! Tomorrow is another news day.

Can you empathize with this experience? Join in the conversation by leaving a comment.

 

How to Professionally Fire a Client

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


How to Professionally Fire a ClientIn an ideal world, we would all become best friends with our clients and enjoy the work we do for them so much that we would wonder why we’re actually being paid. But in reality, some clients push us to the point of resolving that no amount of cash is enough to offset the stress and anxiety they add to our lives.

If you’re forced to make the tough decision of whether or not to cut ties with a client, it’s important to do so with professionalism and class. Even a strained client relationship has the potential to yield future leads and recommendations if you make the effort to leave with a mutual understanding.

Take a look at this list of common “problem clients” and how you can professionally approach each with a breakup line better than “Let’s see other people.”


The offense: Late (or nonexistent) payments

Everyone has a rare moment or two when a payment gets lost in the shuffle or maybe a particularly hectic month that causes you to make a late payment. But for this type of client, it happens all the time! It’s like they pay no attention nor do they care about your payment policy (i.e. net 30 days), yet they still want all their services delivered on time.

What you wish you could say: “I’m wasting way too much time pleading for your payments and acting like I actually believe your endless excuses.”

What you should say: “I enjoy working with you, but you are consistently late with making payments while I continue to meet your project deadlines. Out of respect for my time and for my other clients, I can no longer accommodate this relationship.”

Words of wisdom: After poking and prodding this type of client with reminders about making their payment, you might finally receive a check (sometimes with a nice “forgive me” note) and be tempted to continue the cycle with just “one more chance.” Just keep in mind that this relationship will continue to add stress to your day and steal time from your other clients. If you do feel compelled to stick with them, suggest that they move to quarterly payments (so that you’re only hunting down checks every 3 months) or invest in a system where you can automatically charge their account – businesses do it all the time!


The offense: Wants the moon and the stars on a shoestring budget

In my personal experience, these clients have been among my smallest accounts, yet ate up more of my time than clients paying 10x as much! They are great at micromanaging and wearing you down with negotiations on your pricing and requests for “just one more thing.” While you always want to under-promise and over-deliver for your clients, this business model is simply not sustainable.

What you wish you could say: “You are impossible to please and we’re losing money on you.”

What you should say: “I’ve carefully considered my workload and unfortunately I can no longer accommodate your needs at this time.”

Words of wisdom: The first red flag that you’re dealing with this type of client often occurs as early as contract negotiation. They may try to talk you down on price while refusing to take out any of the services you propose. Use your gut to decide whether to proceed with working with them, but keep in mind that the relationship cannot go on if you are constantly taking a loss each month on their billable hours versus the amount they are actually paying you. It’s not fair to you or to your other clients.


The offense: Verbally abusive

In personal relationships, we are far less likely to accept verbal abuse; yet so often we allow this to go on for far too long in business relationships. This type of client is one that is directly or indirectly demeaning and negative towards you or your staff. They may yell and swear at you, threaten you, or ever so subtly and indirectly put down your work. Whether the verbal abuse is obvious or subliminal, you cannot stay in this relationship.

What you wish you could say: “I dread interacting with you and no amount of money could offset the emotional damage you have caused.”

What you should say: “I strive to provide my clients with the best service possible and unfortunately I am no longer able to do that for you because of the difference in our work cultures and communication styles.”

Words of wisdom: The bottom line is no one ever deserves to be verbally abused and you must end a client relationship immediately if this occurs. I promise you, it never gets better. No amount of money is worth this stress.


The offense: Doesn’t respect time or boundaries

This type of client is toxic because they can really disrupt your work-life balance. They don’t respect your time by expecting you to meet tight deadlines, canceling meetings at the last minute, asking you to start a project and then changing directions or failing to get you the information you need to do your job. They also encroach on boundaries by expecting you to be available in the evenings and on the weekends and to be doing work for them during this time.

What you wish you could say: “You may pay me for my time, but you don’t control all of it. I need time to do other things that simply don’t involve you.”

What you should say: “It’s one of my top priorities to provide adequate time and attention to all of my clients. Due to my current workload, I am unable to commit to the hours you need from me and I cannot continue our partnership.”

Words of wisdom: There will come a time when important projects require you to work late into the evenings or on the weekends. However, this should not be the case for most of this client’s projects. If they insist that all of their work is propriety, where does that leave your other clients on your list? While you may be doing work for your clients, you are still your own boss and must maintain a sense of control over your time by letting go of clients who don’t respect these necessary boundaries.


The offense: Bigger problems are brewing within the business

This client wants you to have the magic solution to fix all of the problems within their business even when this task goes far beyond your area of expertise. For example, the client is asking for a new website, but really this is merely a bandage on a gaping wound of mismanagement, a weak business model and an unhealthy company culture.

What you wish you could say: “You are a mix bag of problems and bad decisions. It would take an entire overhaul of your business to prevent you from inevitable bankruptcy.”

What you should say: “While I would be happy to provide you with services that fall within my area of expertise, it’s come to my attention that you need help in additional areas that would impact the success of my work. At this time, I cannot take on your project until you have first resolved these other important matters.”

Words of wisdom: No one has all the answers – or expects anyone else to. If your client looks to you to be their marketing director as well as their business partner, investor, therapist and cheerleader…don’t walk away, run! Unless they acknowledge a good understanding of these other problems and demonstrate their determination to fix them, this is a toxic relationship that will only bring you both down.

Have you ever had to make the tough decision to fire a client? What was the determining factor and how did you handle it? Share your experiences by commenting below!