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5 Ways to Use P.R. to Grow Sales

5 Ways to Use P.R. to Grow Sales

By Victoria Rossi, Managing Director, i-media-international

Companies in all stages of the business lifecycle, and all levels of success, can use P.R. to grow sales but too often, P.R. is treated as a separate discipline unrelated to sales or simply left out of the marketing mix. This leaves opportunity and a powerful sales tool on the table ready and waiting for your competitor to grab and run. Don’t be that guy or gal. Here are 5 simple ways you can use PR to nurture your business development and marketing efforts to grow your sales.

  1. Awareness: PR is about creating awareness. Awareness of your product, service, expertise, organization, and success. Awareness is the most basic principle in sales. Use PR to create broader awareness of your company and what it offers through an article about your company, a mention about your new service, a featured case study about one of your solutions, an article written by someone on your team showcasing their expertise, a quote provided by one of your executives, a speaking opportunity, a press release about a successful outcome with one of your clients, etc. Approach trusted media and industry events that have established audiences that are in alignment with your target market. This will allow you to use their reach to grow yours, and create awareness of your product, service, and expertise with a broader group of potential prospects.

How effective can this be? Imagine this scenario. Imagine you are at a cocktail party. You see the CEO of a company you’ve been trying to connect with for months. As you approach, you practice your opening line and put your hand out to introduce yourself. While he is polite and smiles, he doesn’t seem too interested in what you are saying. Suddenly he perks up, and says, “Excuse me, but I see someone I’d like to speak with. I read about him in XYZ Trade Magazine, and it seems they have the expertise and perfect solution to my company’s problem.” He makes his way around you, and you turn to see him introducing himself to your competitor.

Bonus Assignment: Extend awareness of the coverage or speaking engagement to your prospect and customer database by including a link to it in your company newsletter, posting it on your social media channels and website, and most importantly, sending the link to prospects and clients with a personal note. If you’re speaking at an event, invite prospects and customers to attend, send out a press release about your participation, have someone take pictures and post the pictures on your company’s social media channels.

  1. Consistency: Consistency in sales and marketing is extremely important. It helps build credibility, familiarity and trust, all which enhance and forward your sales efforts. P.R. can help provide consistency, deliver information about your company, product, or expertise, and help you reach your prospect/target audience via multiple touchpoints and angles. Create a schedule to send an article a month featuring your organization to your prospect and client database. This will make it easier for happy customers to forward the article to colleagues and refer business to you, while at the same time keeping your company constantly present and top-of-mind with your target audience/prospect in a positive manner.
  1. Value: Providing value is a demonstration of your commitment to be of service. It helps build credibility and trust in your organization. A P.R. agency or in-house team can work on your behalf to provide opportunities for you to write and publish informational articles in your area of expertise, develop and market informative white papers, develop and publish industry research, and much more. These actions will serve the purpose of providing value to your target audience and moving the conversation forward in your target industry. In addition, it will demonstrate your commitment, showcase your expertise, and position your organization as a resource and thought leader.
  1. Credibility: Before trust comes credibility. Building credibility with new prospects and your target audience is a key part of the business development process. Garnering ongoing press presence, having an article written by you or about your company published in a trade publication, and having your executives speak at industry events will help you build credibility by demonstrating your expertise, experience, and thought leadership. It will also put you in touch with potential prospects and generate leads. A well-crafted P.R. program should deliver all of these credibility-building opportunities on an ongoing basis. You will find potential customers approaching you, instead of the other way around.
  1. Trust: Once you have established a constant presence, have provided value, established credibility, and demonstrated your expertise, your target audience will start to trust you and your organization, and begin to see you as a resource. This will go a long way in forwarding your sales and business development program, in some subtle ways, like getting a meeting on your first call, and in some not so subtle ways, like your sales pipeline.

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5 Best Practices to Achieve Higher Participation & Interest in Multifamily Energy Efficiency Programs

5 Best Practices to Achieve Higher Participation & Interest in Multifamily Energy Efficiency Programs

5 Best Practices for Achieving Higher Participation & Interest in Multifamily Energy Efficiency Programs

Implementing a multifamily energy efficiency program can be challenging. In comparison, the program’s development can seem like the easy part. A 2016 study conducted by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) identified five best practices for achieving higher participation and interest in multifamily energy efficiency programs that utilities and program administrators (including energy efficiency service providers) can implement for better results.

3 Digital Marketing Tools You Should Be Using Right Now To Increase Sales

3 Digital Marketing Tools You Should Be Using Right Now To Increase Sales

By Victoria Rossi

A marketer or salesperson’s job is never done. It can be a challenge to make cold calls, generate leads, qualify and develop them into prospects, and then close the deal. Wouldn’t it be great if there was an easier way to warm up your lead pipeline and increase the number of prospects that were looking for a reason to close the deal with you? We have good news for you! There are three digital marketing tools that will help you do just that. They are e-newsletters, e-promos, and SEO/SEM.

1.  E-Newsletters

E-newsletters are an excellent marketing vehicle because they:

  1. Get you in front of your prospect
  2. Give you the opportunity to showcase your expertise
  3. Allow you to provide your prospect or client something of value
  4. Can increase your audience
  5. Keep you top-of-mind

Once you add e-newsletters to your toolbox, make sure you follow some straightforward best practices. Always give your audience the ability to easily:

  1. Opt-out
  2. Share your content via email and social media
  3. Contact you
  4. Subscribe
  5. Get more information about products/services that are specifically relevant to them
  6. Link to your site

Also, be sure to:

  1. Deliver content of value that your audience can use to improve their business or better their lives. Consider what could be particularly useful to your audience, and offer it without expecting anything in return. Give your audience a reason to open your newsletter, and to be glad that they did. Many will share that valuable content allowing you to reach and positively impact more people.
  2. Archive your newsletters on your site. This simple act will help improve your site’s SEO.
  3. Create a blog on your site in which you can use the same content from you e-newsletter. This way you get more mileage out of each piece of content you create, have easily findable content that will provide value to site visitors, and you can showcase your expertise to site visitors that do not receive your e-newsletter. Bonus: Distribute the content through LinkedIn, and your other social media channels.
  4. Create a regular schedule for your newsletter. Part of the goal is to show your organization is dependable, credible, and organized, and if your newsletter schedule is erratic, it will not reflect well on your organization.
  5. Track your results, including opens, unsubscribes, complaints, etc. You want to be able to modify your next campaign and begin to develop your own set of best practices.

3 Digital Marketing Tools to Increase Sales Graphic

2. E-Promos   

Unlike e-newsletters that are meant to allow you to showcase your expertise, tell your ongoing story, and provide something of value to your audience, the e-promo is more focused in purpose in that it’s primary objective is to propose an offer. The goal of the e-promo is for your audience to take specific action such as making a purchase, scheduling an appointment, or inquiring about a specific product/service you are offering.

Make sure your e-promos are:

  1. Well-designed
  2. Focused in their proposal
  3. Concise in their wording
  4. Properly linked
  5. Trackable. See 1.e from above.

 

3. SEO / SEM   

While slightly different but just as powerful, if not more so, is search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM). SEO and SEM drive self-qualifying prospects to your site. People conducting specific searches online are at the very least, gathering information, but more often than not, they are ready to consider buying options and be sold. Choose your keywords wisely and direct your traffic accordingly. What do we mean by that? If your keyword phrase is “blue suede shoes” then be sure to direct the corresponding link to a page offering blue suede shoes and not bedazzled red heels. This goes for the SEO on your website and any SEM you do on any of the popular search engines.

Most mid-sized companies already have these tools in place, but their use sometimes get put on the back burner behind bigger budget items such as advertising and events, or urgent items such as getting information to prospects. But remember, the great thing about all three of these tools is that they help the potential prospect self-qualify. They choose to open the e-newsletter and e-promo, and they decide to click on your link and go to your website when they find you in a search. This pre-qualification takes them from cold to hot prospects, and the cost of conducting the above in comparison to those bigger budget items, makes these tools essential in enhancing your marketing program and increasing your sales and business development results.

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Victoria Rossi is CEO of i-media-international a public relations and digital marketing agency based in New York City. At i-media-international, our primary objective is to help your organization meet its sales and communications goals. We do that by bringing together the disciplines and best practices of public relations and digital marketing to create awareness, positioning, new leads, and ultimately, new sales opportunities for your organization. Contact us here.

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3 Steps To Thought Leadership

3 Steps To Thought Leadership

Thought Leadership. What is it? Should you be doing it?

In the P.R. and communications industry, we’re constantly urging our clients to embrace the concept of thought leadership. However, with everything most executives have on their plates, especially closing business and focusing on direct revenue generating activities, individual thought leadership is often not a top priority. But establishing yourself and your organization as an industry thought leader doesn’t have to be the time consuming task many fear it to be, and more importantly, it should be recognized as a sales support activity.

Let’s start with what is a thought leader. A thought leader is someone who is at the forefront of thinking in their industry or discipline, distinguishing trends, opportunities, and burgeoning themes, and most importantly, is able to effectively communicate these to relevant audiences. The “relevant audiences” part of the definition is one that is often left out of other definitions. However, it is quite important because you want your perspective and insights to add value to audiences to whom the information is important, as well as audiences that are important to you and your business. Being identified as a thought leader can be quite beneficial in the sales and business development process because it can tip the scales in your favor, encourage potential clients to seek you out, and establish trust and credibility with potential prospects and partners.

The path to thought leadership status, won’t be laid overnight, but it is one that can be fruitful along the way. Below are three quick things you can do right now to begin sowing the seeds to growing business opportunities and sales through thought leadership. You can remember them through the acronym SOW.

    1. Speak at target events: Most industry conferences open speaking opportunities for proposal submissions. Identify three to four industry conferences that are relevant to your target audiences and submit a proposal to speak. These presentations are meant to be informational in their content, not promotional, and as such are excellent opportunities to show your expertise to a qualified audience.
    2. Obtain positive publicity: Reach out to target media outlets with a pitch to provide commentary on the area of your expertise. Ideally this should be done within the context of a bigger story. Let’s say that your industry is experiencing certain challenges, or there are trends you see taking shape that will affect it in the coming year. You can offer to provide commentary or be a resource on your area of expertise within the context of these broader industry topics.
    3. Write bylines: Reach out to trade publications and pitch an article written by you, also known as a byline. The idea here is to write a story that provides value and insight to your target audience while showcasing your expertise.

These three actions can be implemented immediately. Be sure to work with your public relations team or agency to hone your strategy and optimize this opportunity.

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by Victoria Rossi. Victoria is CEO of i-media-international, a public relations and marketing agency.

The Challenges of Creating Content

The Challenges of Creating Content

Marketers find creating content or keeping up with their blogs to be one of the most challenging marketing tasks, with 43% indicating that it simply takes too much time. But creating content doesn’t have to be that complicated.

Much of the material that you need to create valuable content is already at hand. Here are our top three suggestions for facilitating the process for you and your team.

1) Create an editorial calendar: Create a calendar with topics and posting dates to help you map out the schedule and plan. You don’t have to get fancy, just use Google Calendar or a simple Excel spreadsheet. Select topics of interest to your target audience and consider industry shows, seasonal product cycles, product launches, etc.

2) Assign team members on a rotating schedule: You don’t have to be responsible for writing every post. Assign different team members with areas of expertise matching your editorial calendar. Have a new product launch coming up? Then invite the product manager as a contributor. Has your technical team been receiving a specific kind of inquiry? Invite your tech manager to write a brief that answers those questions and offers additional information to your clients.

3) Reach out to partners, clients, and vendors: Your blog shouldn’t be all about you. Feature, interview, and invite partners, clients and vendors for a blog that offers depth and multiple points of view.

How much data is generated every minute?

How much data is generated every minute?

Fun Facts! With each click, share and like, the world’s digital data pool is expanding faster than we can comprehend. How much data is generated every minute?  With the Global Internet Population growing 14.3% from 2011-2013, and now at approximately 2.4 billion, you can bet it’s a lot. #socialmedia

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5 Principles for Effective Crisis Communications

5 Principles for Effective Crisis Communications

Crisis communications management. The phrase alone can cause a shiver to run down our spine as we silently ask that a crisis never befall us or the organizations we work with. But crisis communications management need not be feared. In fact, it can offer your organization an opportunity to strengthen, build, and unite internal and external stakeholders for a better organization. Crisis communications management begins before a crisis occurs and is an ongoing process that should be built on principles put into practice before, during, and after a crisis. In other words, always. Crisis management is not a one-time situation that may or may not occur. It should be an ongoing process in your day-to-day operations.

With today’s changing communications environment, threats to your brand, reputation or business can come at your organization from anywhere and everywhere—the physical and the virtual space. Processes that only address the physical threats will not protect your company. Today organizations require a 360 plan and crisis management architecture that:

  • Encompasses all communications platforms, both as sources of outgoing communication from the company, as well as sources of incoming threats
  • Is independent of the passing threat and able to be effectively activated regardless of the situation at hand, whether a downed plane, or a full-on social media attack instigated by a disgruntled customer
  • Is based on core principles that are an integral part of the organization’s culture seen, lived, breathed, exemplified, and put into play through core practices from the CEO to the intern
  • Is fresh, alive, up-to-date, accepted and familiar

 Getting Started

Whether you are just getting started or are reevaluating your current crisis communications plan, there are certain elements that should be considered for a complete and comprehensive program that will strengthen your organization from the inside out. Generally, these elements are a pre-crisis strategy session, pre-crisis plan, crisis processes, crisis manual, crisis training, and updating. For the sake of mapping, we’ll call these your Crisis Management Architecture. In Part 1 of this two-part series we will explore the pre-crisis strategy session and the pre-crisis plan, leaving crisis processes, crisis manual, crisis training, and updating for Part 2.

A.     Pre-Crisis Strategy Session 

The pre-crisis strategy session is a no-holds-barred, roll-up-your-sleeves workshop from which your organization’s strategic and communications leadership should walk out with, at a minimum, a clear understanding of:

  1. The Five Core Operating Principles
  2. Its 360 Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (Yes, SWOT is back but in 3D)
  3. Resources/Assets (from the high-tech to guerrilla)
  4. The types of crises your organization could face
  5. List of hot topics

Most of these are self-explanatory but I will expand upon the first line item as it is central to building the fabric of an organization’s crisis communications safety net.

Five Core Principles:

James Grunig, Professor of Public Relations at the University of Maryland published four principles of crisis communications (Source: The Institute for Public Relations): The Relationship Principle, The Accountability Principle, The Disclosure Principle, and The Symmetrical Communication Principle. I’ve added a fifth principle, The Core Architecture Principle. In detail these are:

1.The Relationship Principle

An organization can withstand both issues and crises better if they have established good, long-term relationships with publics who will be affected from decisions and behaviors of the organization.

Questions to consider:

  • How are you building internal and external relationships?
  • How do you fortify relationships with your customers beyond the sales process?
  • How are your employees building interdepartmental trust relationships with each other outside of happy hour and inside of your organization’s walls?
  • How can you build, strengthen, and deepen internal and external relationships?

2. The Accountability Principle

Organizations should accept responsibility/be accountable for a crisis/issue even if it was not their fault.

Questions to consider:

  • How does your organization work with ownership and accountability?
  • Do you have a culture of standing together and supporting each other or is there a tendency to throw each other “under the bus”?
  • How can your organization build and reward a culture of accountability during the good, the bad, and the ugly?

3. The Disclosure Principle

At the time of a crisis/issue, an organization must disclose all that it knows about the crisis or problem involved. If it does not know what happened, then it must provide full disclosure once it has additional information. Provide facts.

Questions to consider:

  • What are your internal and external communication guidelines?
  • What are your information disclosure parameters?
  • How can you instill a culture of transparency?

4. The Symmetrical Communication Principle

At the time of a crisis, an organization must consider the public interest to be at least as important as its own. Public safety, for example, is at least as important as profits. Therefore the organization has no choice other than to engage in true dialogue with its public/audiences and to practice socially responsible behavior when a crisis occurs [as well as before and after].

Questions to consider:

  • Whose interests do you currently consider of greatest importance?
  • Whose interests should be of greatest importance?
  • How do you engage in true dialogue with your stakeholders?
  • How does your organization communicate internally and externally?
  • What are your corporate communications practices?
  • How can you better and more consistently communicate with your stakeholders?

5. The Core Architecture Principle

An effective crisis communications plan must be based on a solid core architecture that allows for the test of time, change in employees, distance, new participants, new issues, unknown situations, etc.

Questions to consider:

  • Do you have a crisis communications system?
  • Does your current crisis communications system allow you to respond to known issues, as well as unknown issues that may arise?
  • Can it withstand a change of employees/power failure/distance between parties? Most importantly, who’s in charge? If that person is not available, then who makes the decisions not only about what to do but what to communicate to the different audiences and through the different communications vehicles? (This is not as simple as it used to be: think traditional media, the spectrum of social media channels, offline customers, email, mail, corporate website, etc.)

B.     Pre-Crisis Plan 

The Pre-Crisis Plan is meant to create the three-dimensional foundation upon which the crisis communications infrastructure will be built. This plan should identify actions to, at the very least:

  • Communicate core principles
  • Implement core principles through the Five Core Practices and achieve cultural permeation
  • Identify and media-train spokespersons
  • Identify and create a crisis team
  • Set up internal crisis communications cascades
  • Establish threat and crisis thresholds
  • Set up internal and external systems, assets, and technologies needed to efficiently respond and communicate when faced with a potential threat or crisis
  • Attempt to prevent, halt, or diminish threats before they can become a crisis
  • Call for plan and process post-crisis/threat assessment, evaluation, and adjustments as necessary

Stay tuned for Part Two: “Crisis Communications Management (Part 2): The Five Core Practices of Effective Crisis Communications” where we will further explore the Five Core Practices plus the crisis processes, crisis manual, crisis training, and updating.

*A version of this article originally appeared in PR News’ Crisis Management Guidebook, Volume 6.

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Authored by Victoria Rossi, CEO and Founder, i-media-international, a NYC-based public relations, digital communications, and social media agency.

5 questions to leverage #socialmedia

5 questions to leverage #socialmedia

Small businesses and startups encounter a different set of challenges than larger companies when it comes to marketing. Resources are scarce and everything has to be leveraged. Enter social media. Leverage is one of the key, if not the key, advantages of social media. Social not only leveled the playing field for small businesses and startups, but also provided an opportunity to showcase attributes not as easily defined or nimbly parlayed in/from larger organizations. These attributes are personality, character, and community.

Surely, you are already active on social media. That much we assume. As you enter Spring 2013, now is a good time to do some spring cleaning on your social media channels and refresh your profiles to prepare for a year of success and opportunity.

There are five questions every small business and startup should ask itself when considering its social media presence. These are…

Who is your audience?
Such a simple question! Such a complex answer! The answer is slightly more complicated than the question because each social media channel has a slightly different use and user. Your content should be geared toward your audience…the questions they are asking, the information they need, the stuff they want to read and talk about. Start by defining your audience as a whole, and then consider which social channels they are most likely to use.

What kind of community do you want to create, if any?
Whether you have an active presence on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, or all of the above, these social channels all allow you to create a virtual community. The focus, cohesiveness, and engagement of the community is up to you. Consider the kind of community you want to create, as well as how much time you are willing to commit to nurturing it. Most importantly, consider your voice. Your voice will be the literal tone of your community and help you forward your objectives for it. Of course, your voice will be mostly determined by your organization’s personality. So, who are you?

What is your organization’s personality?
Ahh, the ultimate question! In my 15 years of experience, I have found this to be one of the most challenging questions businesses of all sizes face. While this wasn’t such a big deal before social media when an organization’s “voice” was only heard in highly produced, hyper-scripted, and very expensive television commercials, today it is essential. Social media demands a personality, a voice, character and a predefined scope. The innate casual nature of social media, has been the reason behind many-a-blunder. Your organization’s personality however, is about more than just voice, it is about an image you want to project. This image should be in line with your organization’s values, and the values of your audience. Keep this in mind as you answer this particular question.

What are your business and communications objectives?
These are two of the most important questions your organization will ever ask itself, but they are essential in determining efficacy in almost every organizational endeavor. What do you want to achieve from a business perspective? What do you want to communicate, and what do you want that communication to achieve? How widely known are these specific objectives inside your organization?

Which social media tool best accomplishes your objectives?
Each social media channel has a slightly different audience and can be used differently. When looking at the social media landscape whether for the first time or if you’re reevaluating, the key thing to keep in mind is to be strategic about which social media channels you choose for your organization. Which channel you can leverage most effectively and efficiently will depend on:

  •     Objectives- both business and communications
  •     Target market
  •     Type of engagement or community you want to build
  •     Time you have to dedicate to manage your profile(s)

There are many social networks and channels out there, and yesterday, YouTube announced it had hit one billion monthly users! The other top channels are:

  1.     Facebook with more than 750 million unique visitors each month
  2.     Twitter with approximately 250 million users
  3.     LinkedIn with 110 million visitors per month
  4.     Google+ with about 65 million users
  5.     Pinterest with about 30 million unique visitors
What is Content Marketing?

What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing can be confusing but it is an essential element in B2B social communications, blending elements of  public relations, digital strategy, and social media. Content marketing allows companies and executives to position themselves as resources in their field, showcase their expertise, and establish a dynamic presence across the internet. Content is created and then distributed via multiple strategic channels. Here we offer you a simplified snapshot of what content marketing is.

Content Marketing graphic