Blog

blogging-for-beginners

5 Blogging for Beginners tips

I recently had lunch with a friend who wanted to start blogging professionally. I gave her some of what I consider “blogging for beginners” advice, then thought, why not share those tips here on my blog to help others?!

Blogging for Beginners

So many people blog for different reasons – as part of their current job, to make money, and as a hobby are the three most common answers, I assume. Regardless of your why, these steps will help you get started and maintain your blog over time.

Where will your blog be?

Before you begin blogging, you need to know where you’re going to blog. My friend is planning on blogging professionally on a company’s website, but many people want their own space. In that case, you have a few options. I use WordPress. When it comes to the online world, WordPress is the most recognized and arguably the best platform to be on. The only problem? You’ll most likely need a website developer to help you get it up and running. wordpress vs squarespace If you want to try to take a stab at creating your site yourself, there are plenty of sites to choose from – Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, and the list goes on. I created this entire site on Weebly in two hours. The drag and drop format is idiot proof. (If I can do it, anyone can.) about-me-template If you don’t want to commit to a website, check out a place like Medium or the post section on your LinkedIn page.

What’s your blog called?

When you decide where you want your blog to live, you may get a deal on a domain. If not, it’s no big deal. They are usually just $12 a year and you can buy them in a variety of places like GoDaddy, Bluehost, and Google. choosing-your-domain When it comes to choosing your domain, Brandon Gaille from the Blog Millionaire is an expert, but here are some quick tips:
  1. Apply SEO keyword research
  2. Try to go after a .com ending
  3. Avoid using – (dashes)
  4. Make sure it fits your niche
  5. Buy your name as a domain and redirect it (Have you tried ChristinaNicholson.com? Hi again.)

What’s your blog’s niche?

Since it’s #4 above, it makes sense to make this the next step. When I started Mascara Maven, I had no idea what I wanted to blog about it. Everything I posted was so random. (It can still appear that way.) Here on Media Maven, it’s all media focused. Don’t do what I do on my lifestyle blog. Do what I do here – be niched. I’ve heard the saying, “the riches are in the niches” and it’s very true. Again, whether or not this applies to you goes back to your why. If you are just blogging as a hobby, then you can post whatever your heart desires whenever you want to. If you are trying to make money or build clientele, I suggest focusing on what you’re good at, what you’re passionate about, and what your expertise is. That makes a perfect niche!

Get started!

Now, you have your website created. You have your domain. You have your niche. The only thing left to do is to get started. Write something and post it! Believe it or not, this is where the real work starts. other-bloggers When I got started, I learned a lot from other bloggers. Some were eager to help someone like me asking for beginner blogger tips. I also taught myself some technical stuff, social media strategies, SEO techniques, graphic design, etc. It all comes with time as you grow as a blogger. about-me-template You can find tons of advice online about how to monetize your blog, how to grow your following online, how to grow your email list, how to design the perfect about me page, and the list goes on. There is so much! If I only offered you one piece of advice, it’d be this – be consistent.

Be consistent.

Ask yourself this question, “How often can I research, write, and promote a blog post?” If the answer is three times a week, then you need to do this three times a week, every week. If the answer is once a month, then you need to do this once a month, every month. be consistent In the process of blogging, you will build an audience and that audience will expect to see you online, with certain content, at certain times. Here, it’s always Monday. On Mascara Maven, it’s always Friday. So, now that you know what you need to do to get started blogging, what are you waiting for?
Read more
5 changes you can make today to get more traffic from pinterest

5 changes you can make to get more traffic from Pinterest

Want to know something kind of nuts? Over 90 percent of my social media traffic comes from Pinterest. Yes, Pinterest. pinterest-traffic The social media app that you use to pin outfit ideas, motivational quotes, and recipes (that, if you’re like me, you’ll never try). Except Pinterest isn’t really a social media platform anymore and people aren’t just using it to waste time save inspiration and ideas.

5 changes you can make today to get more traffic from Pinterest

Pinterest is actually a search engine. More and more people are skipping Google to find what they need on Pinterest. You can type any phrase or keyword and something useful (usually many somethings) will pop up, which means Pinterest is a great traffic-building strategy for any niche. To help give you a head start on boosting your traffic from Pinterest, here are five things you need to update on your blog to help your posts be pinned, re-pinned, and clicked.

1. Image sizes

Pins need to be tall. Period. Because this is the norm, pins that are horizontal or square just don’t take up enough real estate to be effective. The more pins get re-pinned and clicked, the more often they’ll show up on Pinterest. Small images end up being ignored. The best size for a tall image will be somewhere around 800x1200px. If this doesn’t work with your blog design, you can always add a hidden image by using this code. pinterest-hidden-image This way it won’t show up right in your post, but when people click to pin they’ll have the option to use that image. See? save-pin-on-pinterest

2. Image design

There is A LOT of content on Pinterest, so it’s important to create images that stand out. Choose a photo for the background instead of patterns or colors and add large text and enough white space to separate your pins from everything around them. Thin, small, or script/handwriting text can be difficult to read and will keep your pins from getting clicked or shared. pinterest-design

BONUS: CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD A FREE PINTEREST CHECKLIST TO MAKE SURE YOUR PINS ARE PRIMED TO BECOME POPULAR

3. Image descriptions

The description on your pin is searchable, so it needs to describe exactly what your post is about and include relevant keywords. Adding a description to your alt text ensures that when readers go to share your content, the description YOU want included with the pin shows up. Don’t leave this up to your readers. If you skip adding a description, Pinterest will grab your image’s title, which might be something like emaillist123.jpg. That is not going to garner many clicks or re-pins! image-details

4. Share buttons

There are three problems I run into when going to share other people’s blog posts . . .

1. They only have share buttons at the bottom of a blog post.

What if someone only reads to the middle of your post? What if they just scan for relevant information? Are you really going to bank on them making it all the way to the bottom in order to share your stuff? Sharing needs to be beyond effortless so adding buttons to the side of your post, that stay glued to the screen as they scroll, is the best way to not only remind them to share, but make it a two second process. (I use SumoMe.com share buttons for this.)

2.  They have six different sets of share and follow buttons.

Here’s the thing, adding too many buttons or share options and leaving it up to the reader to discern what is what is probably going to net you ZERO shares. One set on the side of your posts and one set at the top and/or bottom is enough. Make it obvious and easy and I guarantee you’ll see a boost in share numbers almost immediately.

3. They have share buttons all over their site.

Share buttons should only show up on content that is beneficial to share (aka blog posts). If your share buttons show up on the homepage or archive pages, pins will link to those pages. Personally, my homepage only displays my three most recent posts, so if someone clicks that pin in six months the post they were looking for is going to be long gone. Adding share buttons only to your blog post pages guarantees that every pin links back to the correct information. (Generally, you can adjust this in your share button settings)

CLICK HERE: HOW MUCH TRAFFIC ARE YOU MISSING OUT ON? GRAB MY FREE CHECKLIST TO MAKE SURE YOUR PINS BECOME POPULAR

5. Pinning more often

Lastly, you probably need to be pinning way more often than you think. I’m pinning around 30 pieces of content every day (which is on the low side of what you could be sharing). In order to not spend my entire day on Pinterest I use the scheduling app TailWind (tailwindapp.com) to schedule content in advance. This way I can spend a few minutes each day pinning content from my own blog and from other blogs and TailWind takes care of the rest. Because I’ve created lots of my own boards and joined a bunch of group boards, most of my blog posts will be pinned to about 20 boards over the course of two or three weeks. tailwind app With these adjustments to your blog design, your post design and your pinning strategy you’ll make it easier for others to share your content and start boosting traffic from Pinterest in no time.

Yes, there’s more!

If you’d like even more Pinterest strategy feel free to join my Pinterest Powerhouse e-course to learn how I use Pinterest to choose pinnable blog post topics, create and join group boards to grow my audience, and turn all that blog traffic into email subscribers! pinterest powerhouse ecourse   sarah xo   This blog post was contributed by Sarah Morgan – a digital strategist teaching creatives, bloggers and small business owners to build a kick-ass online presence. In 2012 she escaped the clutches of a corporate web design job to run away with the circus (literally!) and strike out on her own. She strives to help people build a home online that not only provides a stable income but fuels their passion for what they do without busyness and stress getting in the way. Check out all of her blog-building secrets at XOSarah.com and on social media @xosarahmorgan.

Read more
-media-relations-definition

Media Relations Definition: What is it?

What is media relations? That’s a question I get a lot. Many people don’t understand the media relations definition, and I can see why it’s difficult to comprehend. Even family members and friends ask me, “What does a media relations specialist do?” So, I’m going to break it down here.

Media Relations Definition

When I asked Google to define media relations, it told me “Media relations refer to the relationship that a company or organization develops with journalists, while public relations extend that relationship beyond the media to the general public.”
rachael-ray-show-human-lab

My client, the Beebo, feature on the Rachael Ray Show

In other words, it’s earning placement in the media without paying for it. When you pay for it, it’s advertising. When you don’t pay for it, it’s media relations. The picture above shows media coverage I earned for my client, the Beebo. The Beebo was featured in a segment called “Human Lab” that showed local mothers testing out three different baby products.

Public Relations Media Relations

Aren’t they the same thing? Well, no. Many people think they are the same thing and get them confused because most people want public relations for the media relations. There is a lot more to public relations – there’s writing, blogging, social media, events, photography, video, advertising, SEO, and much more. Media relations is just one part of public relations. Many times, it’s the most popular part.

3 Media Relations Tactics

So now that you’re clear on what media relations is, you’re probably wanting to hear some media relations tactics, right? I’ve also included a media relations plan template and guide that will help you as well. Click here to access that or scroll down.

Have a Media Relations plan.

I meet with so many people who say they want to earn media for their brand, but aren’t specific as to where they want media and what kind of media they want. Having a media relations plan means you know exactly who you want to target – the journalist at the media outlet – and you know with what story angle you want to pitch them. Make sure your plan is very specific.

Practice Media Relations 101.

What is media relations 101? In a sentence – it’s not calling a journalist when you first attempt to pitch them. While some prefer to work on the phone, most do not. (Here’s an example of that.) For many, it’s just not convenient. media-relations-101 Most prefer to receive an email. A short email. If you want to send a press release, copy and paste it in the body of the email instead of sending it as an attachment. But today, you don’t need a press release to pitch the media. The fortune is in the follow up, so don’t email once and leave it there. Wait a few days. Then, you can send a follow up email, make a call, or even send a tweet.

Use these Media Relations tips.

Do not look for a free commercial. You will not earn coverage if you just want to promote your brand. Instead, you need to tell a story and the best way to do that is by using what I call the three Es:
  • Education
  • Entertainment
  • Emotion
If you can offer a story that educates, entertains, and offers some kind of emotion to the media outlet’s viewers and/or readers, you will earn media coverage. The hardest part is finding that story, but every brand has a story to tell! You just need to know how to look for it. When I was working with Heat Running, I did not focus on the app itself. Instead, I focused on the story behind the app and the creators. With this approach, I earned Heat Running coverage in Women’s Running, Men’s Fitness, the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Today Show, Runner’s World, and many others.
define-media-relations

My client, Heat Running, featured in Runner’s World

Need more help? No problem. That’s why I’m here! Check out this media relations guide that also serves as a media relations plan template to start earning your brand exposure in the media.
Read more
Simple About Me Page Examples

8 Simple About Me Page Examples

Did you know the about page is the most looked at page on your website?

8 Simple About Me Page Examples

Many people who visit your about me page are first-time visitors wanting to know if they should invest more time in you. So what should your about me page include? Well, a few things. Downloading this guide will help too.

Visual About Me Page

When you see nothing but text, you get bored and probably think, “I don’t want to read all of that!” I think it’s important to show who you are visually – whether it be through bigger, more unique text or an interesting photo of you. I love this about me page because of the clear headline, sub-headline, picture, and my favorite part – the “that’s me” with the arrow. simple-about-me-page-examples

Clear About Me Page

I’ve read about me pages before and have thought, “I still don’t know what this person does or if I need their services.” Some read like a company’s very broad mission statement. Be clear. When your audience is able to see who you are and what you do right away, they are more likely to act. I love this about me page, which also makes a great home page, because the first sentence is so clear. Do you need a web designer or not? If so, you’ll keep reading. If not, you’re in the wrong place. about-me-page I’m a big fan of this about me page too. Instead of explaining what the person does in the headline, it’s written as more of a tease. I love the skills bar graph and humor in it as well. I also got a kick out of the “Hire me. I’m really good.” examples-of-about-me-pages

Branded About Me Page

Make sure your about me page is on brand. Does it feature your brand’s colors? Your brand’s fonts? Everything should show your brand so when someone sees an image, they say, “Oh, that’s from (insert your name here).” about-me-template This one is so unique. It’s instantly recognizable and would be pretty difficult to confuse with another brand. how-to-write-an-about-me-page

Personal About Me Page

Yes, you’re probably looking at websites for professional business, not personal reasons. Still, it’s nice to see glimpses into people’s personal lives. I’m not just choosing Brandon Gaille’s about page because I’m a student of his, but because I really like his approach. The sub-headline hooks me. Yes, it’s a little longer than most, but his story is a little longer than most. It’s fitting. I also like that his about me page isn’t titled “about” or “about me.” Instead, it’s “read my story” and that title couldn’t be a better fit for him. about-me-pages-examples I’m a big fan of Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income. Never mind his about page, I love his entire site! It’s so clean and easy to navigate… but back to about pages. His about page shows another great example of sharing some of his personal life successfully. He doesn’t only explain his brand (professional), but shares a family picture (personal). Side note: My favorite part of his podcast episodes are the fun facts in the opening.  writing-an-about-me-page

Helpful About Me Page

I saved the best for last. The number one reason people are checking out your about me page is to see if you can help them – whether it be with a service you provide or product you sell.
The Femtrepreneur homepage acts as an about page and I think it’s brilliant. I’m also a student of Mariah Coz and have learned so much from her – including sharing value right away and she practices what she preaches. If you aren’t offering your audience help and telling them how you’re going to help them, they will leave. As soon as you visit Mariah’s site, you see “Tell me how I can help you!” followed by three options for solutions that fall under her expertise – growing an email list, conducting webinars, and creating, selling, and launching online courses. about-us-page I’m also a big fan of Melyssa Griffin and she does the same thing on her about me page. Right away, she asks what you need help with. If growing your audience, monetizing your passion, or standing out online is what you’re looking for, she’s got you covered! about-us-page-template While you’re here, visit my “about” page by clicking here. I include two things I didn’t mention above that I’m a big fan of:
  1. Video
  2. Call to action
Why video? Well, that’s kind of my thing. I’m a former on-air personality, so I feel comfortable in front of the camera and creating videos is something I do for clients. Plus, statistics show people are more likely to watch a video than reading text. I like to include a call to action as well… and that’s pretty common. You’re on my about page for a reason, so I want to make sure you act if you’re intrigued by what you see. By including a call to action there, you’re making things easier for the person visiting your site, which in turn, helps me out as well. about-me-template Over on my lifestyle blog, Christina All Day, I use a picture of me blogging and start the page by saying, “Hi, I’m Christina.” Check it out here! So, what simple about me page examples did you like the best?  
Read more
huffington-post-blog-submissions

Huffington Post Blog Submission Guidelines

If you read any of my other blog posts, you know there is a lot under the public relations umbrella. One of many things is blogging. Not only should every business have a website and that website have a blog (like this one), but you should also be blogging on other sites. When you write or blog for other outlets, you are introducing yourself and your brand to an entirely new audience. You are also increasing your chances of being found in a Google search as your SEO gets better and better with each post. Tens of millions of people visit the Huffington Post website every month. It also has one of the most engaged audiences on Facebook. Since Facebook has cut down on businesses reaching audiences organically, this is huge. To be featured in the Huffington Post, you’ll need to know some Huffington Post blog submission guidelines.

Email the Huffington Post

Yes, it sounds obvious… and it is. On the contact us page, there are a few options. Depending on your goal, you either want to submit a news tip to editors with the Huffington Post or pitch an idea for a blog post. Before Arianna Huffington resigned from her position as CEO, many would-be bloggers emailed her directly to submit their pitch. She earned quite a reputation for responding to emails, connecting editors with writers, and getting those new writers set up with an account to guest post. huffington-post-blog-submissions Once you are an official contributing blogger, you can submit as many blog posts as you’d like… as long as they fall within the guidelines of the Huffington Post blog. After you publish a post, it’s up to you to promote it to earn exposure. The Huffington Post has too much content to promote it all, so it’s on you!

Receive the Invite

The blogging platform has changed a bit since Arianna Huffington left her position as the editor-in-chief. Now, instead of being accepted as a blogger after a submission, you can also be invited to become a contributor. Today, more people are contributing for this reason. I guess you could say it’s easier to “get in.”

Acknowledge the Benefits

As I’ve mentioned, blogging on your own platform is very important. If you want to reach another audience, blogging elsewhere is a must. By becoming a Huffington Post blogger, you will earn recognition by others. Anyone can create a blog, but there is another feeling and sense of status or authority when your content is published elsewhere. Your standing is elevated when you’re published somewhere else, especially on a site like Huffington Post. At the end of the day, it’s all about earning publicity and getting more eyeballs on your brand. I hope these Huffington Post blog submission guidelines help you start blogging on the Huffington Post. If so, let me know here in the comments section.
Read more
seo-strategy

3 Reasons you are NOT getting Traffic from Google (and what to do instead)

If you are running any sort of business online you need traffic. Otherwise, your website is really just a business card, right? When we talk about traffic, there are really only a few kinds that are reliable and consistent:
  • your mom
  • regular visitors (people who already know you and love your stuff)
  • visitors from ads (Google Ads, Facebook Ads, etc.)
  • Google Search
The rest are up and down, or kinda hit and miss – like:
  • social media (Tweets last minutes, Facebook makes you pay, Instagram is heading that way)
  • your site being mentioned on a big blog (I got mentioned by Social Media Examiner last month – that meant 3,000 visitors in a few days, but now… zero!)
Google on the other hand sends me 60-70% of my traffic month over month, consistently (and often growing). seo-traffic

Mistakes That Are Hurting Your SEO (And Google)

Google is a little sensitive these days, so you have to be careful you don’t do anything that could upset them! But, once you know a few of the easy to avoid mistakes, things start to go a lot smoother.

1. You Have Put Up A Big Fat “No Visitors” Sign

This is a killer. It is unlikely that you are doing this, but, if you are – Google will totally ignore you. Don’t stop reading now though, thinking you won’t have made this mistake. I just started working with a client recently and they were doing it. And they are certainly not the first. Zero Google traffic. OUCH! Google takes their cues from what you do on your website. And if you accidentally put up a NO VISITORS (which in SEO is called NO INDEX) they WILL not come by and visit. This means you will not appear in search results at all. How do you check this? 1. You can either head to this website and enter your URL OR 2. Head over to Google and type in the following…

site:yourwebsite.com

(or site:www.yourwebsite.com) if you use the www. What you should see is this: seo-site-index Ignore the first result, that is usually an ad from Google. But the rest should show your pages. And at the top, the number of pages/posts that Google is currently keeping in their index (showing in search results). If nothing comes up, then… YOU HAVE A BIG PROBLEM. Fixing it means getting someone technical involved to see what is stopping Google from indexing your site. If you use WordPress there is a checkbox you might have checked that does this. Or, it could be in your robots.txt (Don’t know what that is? Don’t worry, your tech guy/gal should.)

2. You Are Not Optimizing Your Content

Sounds kinda complicated, but it does not have to be. SEO optimization of your content (pages or posts) is quite a simple process. It involves putting your chosen “keywords” in the right places. That means:
  • The Title
  • The URL
  • The first 100 words
…and maybe a couple of other places in the content, maximum. Don’t do more. Because Google is crushing people for over-optimizing too – AKA too many keywords in your content. If you want to see what a little keyword optimization can do for you, check out a recent post I did on no follow SEO links. google-seo You can see in this picture above that the main keywords (NoFollow Links SEO) are present in all the right places. As a result, this post is already on page 1 for a number of keywords on Google. Tip: Ensure you are keyword optimizing all your pages and posts.

3. Spraying And Praying

The last one is a doozy. I see most bloggers or content creators (including myself in the past) doing this. In fact, I just pulled up a friend of mine doing this the other day. So, chances are, you might be doing it too. Spraying and praying – what do I mean by that? You write content, based on what you think is a good idea (keyword), without any research into whether people are actually searching for the topic. Sure, sometimes you just have to get something off your chest. Or, answer a burning question all your followers have been asking. However, if you are aiming to be found on Google, and get significant traffic as a result… You have to check if anyone is searching for what you are about to write. There are a bunch of ways to do this, but the simplest is to get yourself a Google Adwords account and use the Keyword Planner. Then, you can jump in and see if there is any “volume” (ie. searchers per month) for the idea you are thinking of writing about. google-keyword That is the first step in any decent keyword research. You also need to go a little deeper too (find related words, find out if you can even get to the top of Google, etc.) but that is way too much for one blog post. (You can read even more about creating the perfect SEO optimized content on my blog if you are adventurous!)

Putting It All Together

A lot of the big secrets of SEO are actually pretty simple. You just have to spend a little time doing some keyword research, optimizing your content, and making sure your website is on solid ground.   This is a guest post by Ashley Faulkes of Mad Lemmings.
Read more
costco conceirge services

Why Customer Service is the Best Form of Public Relations

When people think of public relations, they think of hiring someone to help them get on TV, write blog posts, or plan an event. Yes, all of that is great, but do you know what’s even better? Customer service.

Good Customer Service

Think about the way you react when you experience great customer service. You tell everyone about it, right? Word of mouth and referrals are what grow businesses. This is why it’s so important to treat every, single customer like he or she could make or break your business… because I believe one customer has the power to do that. Take a look at this example. A small fish and chips restaurant made international headlines without paying a dime. Instead, the owner of the restaurant gave one customer above and beyond customer service. In return, he posted one thing to his Facebook page, and now we all know about Whitbie’s Fish and Chips in Canada. Not to mention, within two days of this post, the owner of Whitbie’s saw about 1,000 customers. customer service While I love seeing stories like this one, you usually see more of the negative ones. Thanks to social media today, it’s so easy to hop online and complain about anything and everything. Sometimes a business will reply and try to make things right. Other times, it won’t.

Bad Customer Service

Let me give you a personal example of bad customer service… and the inspiration for this post. After I bought a laptop from Costco, it started running slowly – so slow, I stopped using it for months. Then, I remembered I was under a warranty with Costco, so I should try to get it taken care of. (Duh!) In the span of one month, I spent hours talking to people in Fort Myers who work with Costco Concierge Services in tech support. When I say hours, I mean I spoke with about 60 different people – Aaron, Justin, Mary, Aleah, Bret, Anthony… you get my drift. While they were all very nice (well, all of the except Bret), they couldn’t help me. In fact, they made my problem even worse.

I wanted a faster laptop. Instead, videos I created for clients were deleted. Still, I was denied a return. Then, tech support wanted to keep “troubleshooting.” Well, that troubleshooting led to me losing even more – my video editing software (which costs twice as much as the laptop) and Microsoft Office… which was supposed to come installed on the laptop. Yes, I lost that too!

You’d think after all of this, costing me time and money, they would apologize and let me return the laptop. A $500 HP Pavilion… to a huge company… like Costco.

Nope.

Guess what? They want to keep “troubleshooting.” (They like that word at Costco Concierge Services.) As you can imagine, after dozens of hours and thousands of dollars lost, I just didn’t have it in me.

The Case for Customer Service

 The Result of Bad Customer Service

Earlier this month, in the midst of all this troubleshooting, I got a $10 Costco gift card for referring my sister to become an executive member. It was the day after Dori in the Pompano Beach store took time out of her day to fight for good customer service. On the phone, I heard her say, “Can you please authorize a return to keep this member happy? You guys lost her data trying to fix something and it didn’t work. Can we just give her good customer service?”

Now, because of my experience with Costco, the concierge service, tech support, and the people in service dispatch, I will not refer people to Costco.

Costco doesn’t care one bit. Why would they? I’m one of 85 million members. That’s a pretty small fish in a gigantic ocean. The company does about 100 billion dollars in sales every year. Do you think they care about me losing something that pays my bills? No way… but with that kind of income, you kind wonder why they wouldn’t just let a woman in PR, with a big mouth, return her $500 laptop?!

free-media

UPDATE: Two days after this post was originally published, a local store manager called and asked, “When can you come in and return your laptop?”

Hence, why you should treat every customer like they have a big mouth.

Not to get too far into another bad customer service story, but LG refused to help me with a mold problem in my front load washer. The company insisted on blaming me taking poor care of it and using too much detergent, despite numerous class action lawsuits against makers of front load washers for this exact problem. But, as soon as a representative was contacted by one of my colleagues in the media to produce a follow-up story to a previous investigation, my washer was fixed in days.

So, the result of bad customer service cannot only end with the loss of a customer, but with many people knowing the details of why that customer is a former customer.

The Moral of the Story

If you are a small business owner, or you work with small business owners, practice good customer service. I’m not saying the customer is always right. I know there are some real pains in the you know what trying to wheel and deal business owners. I know no matter what you do, you can’t make everyone happy. But, at the end of the day, people do business with people they know, like, and trust.

Think of the people you serve first and the money you make second. If you do this, you’ll probably end up making more money.

Oh yeah, and I should’ve bought a Mac.

Read more
why-i-don't-like-calling-reporters

Why I don’t like Calling Reporters

When I was a reporter, I hated getting phone calls. In fact, I was very proactive about calling people who wanted or needed to hear from me, just so they wouldn’t call me. The reason I didn’t like receiving phone calls as a reporter is the same reason I don’t like calling reporters. But now, since I joined “the dark side,” (reporter to publicist) it’s my job to call reporters. A nameless reporter from the Washington Post ripped me a new one recently when I called her to follow up on a pitch. I knew exactly who she was, what she has written about, followed her on Twitter, and why she’d be interested in what I had to tell her. Clearly, this wasn’t a random call. Still, she was extremely rude, showed no common courtesy, or phone etiquette… which is shocking from someone in the communications industry. i don't like calling reporters This experience led me to start a discussion with other PR professionals and reporters from across the country. While some say, “Don’t call a reporter. They hate that! Just send an e-mail,” others say, “I’ve built great relationships with reporters over the phone that have turned into great coverage for my client.” So, this isn’t a black or white/right or wrong issue… which makes my job even harder.

Why I didn’t like receiving phone calls as a reporter is exactly why I don’t like calling reporters

  • Phone calls can rarely be timed right.
I could be in the middle of an interview, in the groove writing my script, or about to go live when my phone rings. It’s not a good time to talk. Now, while this is of no fault to the person on the other line trying to reach me, it’s a risk you take when you call a reporter – catching him or her at a bad time. As a reporter, your schedule is different every day and it’s always changing, so even scheduling a call can be tough.
  • Phone calls can be unproductive.
If you’re calling about something that doesn’t interest the other person, you wasted your time and theirs. Then, if you’re calling about something that does interest the other person, they may want to write down some details… and things like that would be better over an e-mail. Still, some things are easier to explain over a phone call. You don’t only get to hear someone’s voice, but you can talk through any confusion and cut the back and forth down to a minimum with a phone call. It’s hard to show emotion or emphasis in text, but not over the phone. While some phone calls are unproductive, some may work… depending.
  • Phone calls are time consuming.
In this business, we all have different styles on the phone, different styles in storytelling, and different styles in how we pitch. Plus, we are all busy. Most of us are over worked and under paid. Unfortunately, that’s just the way it is today. For this reason, I cut the small talk and get straight to the point. First, I’ll say “Hi, how are you…” and lead in with something that tells me the person on the other line has a minute to talk. If not, there’s nothing wrong with saying, “Now isn’t a good time. Could you call me back later or just send me an e-mail?” If I didn’t have time for a phone call, I wouldn’t take one. If I did, and the phone call was going too long, I’d say that… politely. But in my experience working with people in PR when I was a reporter, a few wanted to go on and on and on about their client (and the free commercial they wanted you to give them) until I said “yes.” It was almost impossible to get off the phone!
  • It can all be put in an e-mail.
I mentioned my focus group of 18,000+ in the media industry regarding this phone call I made and the negative response I got. Well, most people kept going back to e-mail… and I totally understand why. When I was a reporter, I loved emails. I could read one whenever I wanted. I could respond to one whenever I wanted. It’s the most convenient form of communication – perfect for almost anyone in any industry! I was on the receiving end of a lot of media pitches. Some I read, some I didn’t. (Yes, I judged by the subject line.) For this reason, it’s so easy to miss something in an e-mail. Our inboxes are jam packed, so skipping over something important is totally understandable. But on the flip side, if I did see it and I liked it, I would’ve responded. If I didn’t respond, it’s because I didn’t like it. That’s the way a reporter thinks. free-media But a publicists thinks, “That person never responded. Maybe they missed it. If they didn’t like the story, all they had to do was tell me “no” and I’d stop following up.” Now, this is new to me. I didn’t get it before as a reporter. As a publicist, I like to pitch until I hear a “no.” Why? Because someone is paying me to pitch their brand to the media. The conversation may go like this:
Me: “I sent a lot of e-mails, but didn’t get many responses.” Client: “Did you follow up?” Me: “Yes, I followed up with an e-mail, but that was ignored too.” Client: “Did you call?” Me: “Oh no, I can’t call. Reporters hate that!”
How terrible is that?! You can’t tell a client that. That is why phone calls are necessary, even if nine times out of 10, you know the person on the other line doesn’t want to talk to you… and may be downright mean and call you names. It’s okay, when I was a reporter, people were rude and called me names too. Now, instead of getting it from alleged criminals with a microphone I’m sticking in their face, I’m getting it from reporters… my former self. (Note: I was never rude to publicists when they called me. It’s just not necessary. Not then, not now.) To reiterate, we are all busy. We all have things to do. Talking on the phone can be an inconvenience at times, but it’s something we need to do on both sides to do our job successfully. We also need to work together. After all, we are working towards the same goal – to tell a great story that educates and entertains our audience. Sometimes, that can start over e-mail and sometimes it can start over the phone.
Read more
linkedin to grow your business

7 FREE ways to use LinkedIn to Grow your Business

If you are in business to business sales or marketing, you should be using LinkedIn to grow your business. Social media channels like Facebook and Twitter are great to show potential customers and clients you have an online presence, but with B2B, you can start a conversation and close a deal on LinkedIn… if you use it right.

Here are seven FREE ways to use LinkedIn to Grow your Business

grow your business on linkedin

Creating an all-star profile

First things first… and that means your profile. Thankfully, LinkedIn tells you what’s working and what’s not working as you create your profile with the “profile strength” circle. What makes for a great profile? Well, a few things.

    1. Pictures. You have two spots for pictures here. One is a professional picture of you. When I say professional, I mean don’t pose with your dog. (The only time that’s okay, is if you’re a vet.) I suggest a standard headshot that shows what you do professionally if you can show it. Then, there is the commonly forgotten cover photo. In mine, I placed my logo on either side. I did have another image in the middle, but it wasn’t compatible on mobile. Your cover photo will look different on a desktop vs. a mobile, so before deciding on one, make sure it looks centered on both devices.      2. Your professional headline. This is probably the most important part of your entire LinkedIn page. I suggest making your headline eye-catching and exciting. Many people have titles that sound complicated… or need further explanation. For example, if you’re an “account executive” or “support manager,” I’d elaborate a little more so when someone sees your headline, they can visualize you at work and how you can help them.      3. Summary. This shouldn’t be too short, but it also shouldn’t be too long either. Some people prefer bullet points while others like to write this section in sentence form. This is no right or wrong way, but I think of it as an elevator pitch. Here, you want to tell prospective clients you can solve their problems and this is how and why you are the person for the job. linkedin grow business      4. Posts. The post section is like your blog… but it’s your blog on LinkedIn. While your LinkedIn profile exists for you to promote yourself as an expert in your industry, the post section lets you take it one step further by offering your expertise to help others who may stumble across your post. How can someone find it? Well, after you write your post, spell check it and add a picture, you can add up to three tags. I usually use tags like “public relations,” “media relations,” and “public relations and communications.” Depending on the post, those tags may change. Just by using this method, I’ve earned public speaking opportunities and have been published in industry trade publications.      5. The rest. While it is time-consuming, you should not skimp on completing the rest of your profile. Some of it shows up at the top as an abbreviated version – like your current employment, work history, education, etc. Don’t forget to include your skills, organizations you’re involved with, volunteer work… the list goes on – and it is all important to creating an all-star profile.

Searching for leads

LinkedIn offers a great “advanced search” tool. It’s right at the top of the page, just to the right of the search bar. You don’t have to be a premium member to use this. As a premium member, you can really advance your search, but the free version works well too. I think it’s best to start by clicking “2nd connections” under the “relationship” tab. This way, you aren’t only connecting to someone who knows a person you’re already connected to, but you are allowed to add them as a connection. When you make your way down the relationship tab, it’s more difficult to grow your connections. linkedin-advanced-people-search On the left-hand side under “people,” you can narrow your criteria to exactly what you’re looking for by using keywords, the person’s title, company, or even someone in your zip code. It’s not just people you can search. You can also look for leads for jobs, through companies, in groups, by industry, etc.

Discovering who’s interested in you

Just like you can view other people’s profile’s, LinkedIn shows you who’s viewed your profile as well. With the free version, you can only see so much of this information, but still, sometimes that little bit is all you need to make a connection. You can find out who’s viewed your profile, who’s read your posts, and even how you rank for profile views among your connections. who's-viewed-your-profile The most useful part of this feature, in my opinion, is to see who’s viewed your profile. This is where creating an all-star profile comes into play. I look at the person’s picture and professional headline to decide if I want to click on their profile to learn more. If I do, I’ll take a look and see if he or she looks like an ideal client of mine. If so, I’ll send a message and open it with, “Hi. I noticed you stopped by my page this week. I was just looking at yours too and noticed…” But beware! There are many lurkers on LinkedIn as well. I have clicked on a person’s profile after seeing they’ve viewed mine only to find a lot of my information copied and pasted to their page. It happens. If and when it does, you just have to take it as a compliment and continue doing business on LinkedIn, ethically.

Including a call to action

If you have created an all-star profile, your call to action should already be in place. If you want people to call you, is your phone number easy to find? What about your website? Or your email address? free-media There are a few ways to post this information. One is right at the top of your profile under “contact information.” You can also give connections another option in the “additional info” section in your profile. It can’t hurt to use both. After all, with websites, emails, phone numbers, and countless social media channels, we have lots of ways to drive people to a specific call to action.

Asking for recommendations

Recommendations on LinkedIn is just like your references on your resume, expect you don’t need to call them and ask questions. It’s all right there! After you’ve created your all-star profile, you should have at least four to five different places of employment. Hopefully, you’re connected with some professionals you worked with at those businesses. If you are, you can click the button that says “ask to be recommended.” LinkedIn will prompt you to select how you know that person. Then, that person will get a notification you’re asking for a recommendation. After they write something nice (hopefully) it will be placed on your profile for all to see. recommendations-on-linkedin

Using your news feed

Your news feed is what you see as soon as you log on. It’s the homepage and it’s news you choose to see based on who your connections are and the groups you follow. It’s no different from Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram… but it’s all business related (or should be). Just like on those social media platforms, it’s important to interact with your connections in your newsfeed. Like, comment, and share content you appreciate and is relevant to your business. linkedin-newsfeed You may notice some posts from people you aren’t connected to or companies you don’t follow. These are sponsored posts that you may be interested in because the person behind the advertisement targeted you.

…and what I don’t do

When you’re using LinkedIn to grow your business, don’t try too hard. That’s when it doesn’t work for you. Some things I’ve noticed, that I don’t like…
  • Right after a connection is made, the person who requested the connection doesn’t wait longer than five minutes to send a message with a sales pitch. We’re not on LinkedIn to be pitched left and right. We’re on LinkedIn to build relationships with like-minded people, and if relationships develop through strategic interactions, then maybe a sale will be made… eventually.
  • Automated messages on any social media platform drive me nuts. Usually, it’s a person asking for a sale, but once it wasn’t. Yes, once.
Brandon Gaille with The Blog Millionaire is the only person I’ve seen automate messages perfectly. In his automated response after following him, he asks to help you, then he tells you how he can do it, and he actually does it. He is offering value by taking time out of his day to help you one on one. Guess what? That turned into a sale for him. About a month later, I shelled out $400 to him to help me with some business coaching.
  • I don’t have time read long messages on any social media platform, so I wouldn’t recommend opening a conversation with more than three to four sentences. Sometimes, I get messages that are so long, I don’t even start to read it.
Here is an example of all of these things wrapped up into one: linkedin-messages I’m not sure if this is an automated message, but to give this woman the benefit of the doubt, I’m going to assume it is. Not only did this message come right after a connection was made, but it’s too long, and this person is pitching me with a sale… to do exactly what I do! If she took three minutes to look at my profile, she would have seen that we would be great collaborators and possible referrers for one another. Maybe a message like, “Hey, I’m so happy to connect and see we do similar things so probably have the similar clientele. We should get together…” Instead, she’s trying to do too much at once, and by doing that, she isn’t really doing anything. Just like any other job, but especially with public relations and social media, being strategic is vital. Yes, it takes more time, but you will have a lot more success when you take the time to do things personally, with meaning, and an end goal in mind.   Do you have any success stories of using LinkedIn to grow your business?
Are we connected? If not, click here to connect.    
Read more
real-estate

Using Video and Drones in Real Estate

If you aren’t using video and drones in real estate yet, you should start. While video should be used to market any business, the real estate industry has so much to gain because of its visual product. My friend Renee Stoll with Big Red Media is an expert on this topic. Like me, she is a former TV reporter who is a great writer, producer and videographer. Now, she works in the real estate industry and is combining all of her skills to modernize the way agents market themselves, their expertise, and their business. In real estate, pictures are a must… but it’s 2016. Not only is video more engaging, but it’s more popular. Now, it’s time to take it to the next level by using drone photography. This is something Renee is ahead of the game on and does very well. drones-and-real-estate

Using a drone in real estate

There are so many benefits to droning in real estate.
  1. It gives you the opportunity to show off a large or opulent home and its surroundings from a bird’s eye view.
  2. You can set yourself apart when you post to real estate websites and social media.
  3. Using still pictures from drones videos look amazing in mass flyer emails and pictures in MLS listings. (Don’t forget, you can also link to the drone video!)

Why you should be droning

Besides fashion, I can’t think of another industry that is more visual than real estate. If you’re going to showcase the beauty of something, you should really showcase it through droning. Need more convincing?
    1. For homes priced above $400,000, it’s becoming standard to have drone images and/or videos that show the extra mile an agent is willing to go for quality.
    2. Content with relevant images and videos, whether it be your website or an email blast, get 94% more views. That’s huge!
    3. Having a video on the landing page of your real estate website can get you an 86% customer conversion rate. Hello! Those are new clients! For example, take a look at this drone photography business that recently started with just a video on a landing page video. The creator has already scored drone work for large commercial corporations because of it. It pulls you in, doesn’t it?!
    4. When you want to show a large estate that sits on a gorgeous piece of land, probably waterfront, shooting a picture or video on the ground will never give you the same wow factor – no matter how great the photographer is. I don’t think a still picture can rely what this video does at :20 seconds.

What you need to know before you drone or hire someone to drone

1. The FAA issued new drone laws in June of 2016 that will be implemented mid-August.  If you hire someone before then, make sure they have their Section 333 Exemption.  You can look up their business or name at regulations.gov and see their exemption, but incase the website is not updated, a drone operator should have a letter issuing exemption. This exemption is what the FAA is currently issuing to commercial drone operators, until August. Yes, anyone can drone for recreational purposes, however, Renee suggests using an experienced drone operator who understands air space.  For real estate videos, you typically don’t have to go higher than 100 feet to get great drone shots. The maximum allowed by the FAA is 400 feet. To be safe, ask your drone operator how high he or she takes shots.  If you’re trying to get pictures of 20 acres, than 400 feet may be necessary… but for a home, it’s probably not. droning 2. Under the rule to be implemented in August, the person flying a drone must be at least 16 years old and have a remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating, or be directly supervised by someone with such a certificate. To qualify for a remote pilot certificate, an individual must either pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center or have an existing non-student Part 61 pilot certificate. If qualifying under the latter provision, a pilot must have completed a flight review in the previous 24 months and must take a UAS online training course provided by the FAA. The TSA will conduct a security background check of all remote pilot applications prior to issuance of a certificate. (Who knew droning was so serious?!) real-estate-videos

What to ask a drone operator

  1. What height levels do you take pictures?
Most drone pictures are taken at two different heights – a mid-level (30-50 feet) and then a higher level (50-100 feet). For video, you likely want the operator to shoot lifting from the ground up to get that wow factor. 2. What format will I get the video in? WAV files are great, but they are very large files and will be hard to load and edit on your own.  MP4 files are smaller and easier to load if you don’t have a fast computer. free-media 3. Will you edit my video and add music or a voiceover? This is an example of pictures and drone video with added music and VO for a multi-million dollar home. 4. What time of day will you take pictures or video? Sometimes, an operator may need to do this in two separate shoots. If the large waterfront backyard is the selling point, you may want the drone operator to shoot when the sun is directly on that side of the house. Mid-day, the sun may cause shadows on the other side of the house… or maybe you want a sunset shot on the backyard to show potential buyers what it would be like to sit there and watch the amazing sunsets. Those are some things to keep in mind. drone-videos

Final droning tips

Renee with Big Red Media says her biggest pet peeve is when a drone operator parks in the driveway and the car is in the shot! In the video Renee voiced and edited that is linked above, the drone operator parked his blue truck in front of a $7.9 million dollar house. She ended up finding ways to edit out most of that footage for that reason. Most importantly, talk to who you hire and make sure he or she knows exactly what your expectations are… and you know exactly what he or she is capable of. Also, Be sure to make a list of things that are important, so you don’t forget to get your points across.
Read more