Category Archives: marketing

Are your media spokespeople doing this? Question 5

Are they following up after an interview with an email to the journalist?

If they are then well done them – they’re doing better than almost anyone I’ve ever interviewed. The handful or so who have done this over the years are the ones who I’ve gone on to form good, long-term relationships with. I’ve had a good source of information and opinion, and they’ve got a lot of good coverage.

So, why does it happen so infrequently? I’m just suggesting something like: “Good talking to you just now. Hope you found what I had to say interesting (by the way, I’d welcome any feedback you have on how I came across..) – I look forward to seeing the finished article and to working with you on similar pieces in the future.”

How long would it take to fire that over to a journalist after an interview? What impact could it have on the coverage they got in that piece and the future relationship they built?

The thing is that it just doesn’t occur to most spokespeople, and usually that’s because they’ve not had media training, or the media training they have had hasn’t covered this. Why don’t you help them get more out of the interviews they do – why don’t you book them in for some media training?

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Are your media spokespeople doing this? Question 4

Do they signpost key messages?

This is something that very, very few people do successfully. Even fairly accomplished spokespeople – the people who are clear on their marketing messages, who cleverly find a way of weaving those into answers that are genuinely useful to the journalist, and who approach media interviews calmly and capably – even they very often find that their key messages don’t make it through into the finished article.

It can be incredibly frustrating for them.

Signposting is a great way of making sure the interviewer understands your key messages, notes them down, and then uses them in his or her copy. It’s a difficult technique to master – do it too obviously and it can be counter-productive – but I’ve worked with spokespeople practising it in roleplays, and helping them to start using it to very good effect.

Listen in to the next media interview your spokespeople do – are they signposting their key messages as well as they could be?

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Are your media spokespeople doing this? Question 3

Do they approach interviews confidently? Do they even look forward to them?

Too many people dread media interviews. They think they’re going to get caught out by a Paxman-style shark of a journalist, and end up saying something that will jeopardise their careers.Who wouldn’t be worried about something like that?!

Of course with proper training they’ll be clear about the messages they want to convey, they’ll know how to link those into answers they give journalists, they’ll know how to convey those messages clearly, succintly and directly, they’ll know how to deal with awkward questions. And most of all they’ll look forward to media interviews as an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of their specialist subject, to promote their business, and to have an in-depth discussion about their industry with someone who’s genuinely interested in what they have to say.

Who wouldn’t look forward to something like that?

So, if you have to search high and low for someone to speak to the media, if you have to persuade your spokespeople to make time for these interviews, if you get the feeling they dread the experience, why not do them – and yourself – a favour and book them in for half a day’s media training?

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Are your media spokespeople doing this? Question 2

Are your media spokespeople answering questions directly, clearly and succintly?

They probably say they are. They probably even think they are. But very, very few people I interview do this well.

Some never quite address the question head on, even when it’s giving them a great chance to sell their company, product or services.

Some lose their message in a welter of empty jargon, management-speak, and general verbiage.

Others just talk. Sometimes even before I’ve asked a question they’ll launch into a speech and on they’ll go. They’ll talk and talk and talk and talk, ignoring my desperate attempts to enter the conversation, just a torrent of words flying out until I’ve lost the will to live, let alone write down whatever it is they’re waffling on about.

The thing is most people aren’t even aware that they’re falling into any of these traps. They think they’re doing a great job. So, help them out – listen in on the next interview they do, and see for yourself whether they are genuinely answering the questions directly, clearly and succintly.

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Are your media spokespeople doing this? Question 1

Are your media spokespeople preparing properly for interviews?

This isn’t just putting the interview in their diary and having some idea of the journalist’s name. It’s finding out a bit about the journalist so they can try to gain some rapport. It’s thinking beforehand about the questions they’ll be asked. It’s being crystal clear about the key messages their company is trying to push through the media. And it’s doing the really tricky part of working out how they can give the journalist something he or she wants while also conveying those marketing messages.

Far too many senior executives think they can just pitch up to a media interview and wing it. They very rarely can.It usually just means they miss a good opportunity to promote their business.

So, if yours aren’t preparing properly then try suggesting to them that they should. If they want to know what sort of preparation to do then take them through the list above. If they’re not sure how to go about doing all that,or they need a bit of practice to get confident at it, then suggest they get some media training.

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How to convince someone they need media training?

I’ve begun the year with a flurry of bookings for media training – I have eight sessions to run over January and February. This is great, because I love doing media training.

I enjoy putting forward my ideas on how to perform well in media interviews, and the roleplays are always fun, but what I think I enjoy the most about media training is spending four hours shifting the perceptions of Chief Executives, MDs and other senior people about how to deal with journalists, what they can get out of the media, and even about the need for training in the first place.

Almost without exception senior people begin these sessions with arms folded, eyebrows raised, and a high degree of scepticism in their voices. They’ve got plenty of other important work to be doing. They don’t need to spend half a day listening to a journalist tell them how to do an interview. They know what they’re talking about and if interviews go badly it’s because the journalist is either incompetent or malicious.

Four hours later they’re fully engaged, doing a roleplay and putting into practice what they’ve learnt into the session. Almost without exception they conclude the session by telling me they really didn’t want to do this training, but it’s been remarkably worthwhile and they want the rest of their senior team to do it.

Now, who wouldn’t enjoy that sort of feedback?!

I’m sure this is a scenario many of you will identify with. If you work in PR you’re probably very used to dealing with senior executives who at first don’t understand the media and are very sceptical and suspicious. You’ve probably also had that joyous moment when they do get it for the first time. But it probably doesn’t happen with everyone — many just won’t listen to your strategic advice, invest in media relations resource, or agree to any skills training.

So, I’m going to give you a tool to help break down those tricky mediaphobes. For each of the next five days, beginning tomorrow, I’m going to post something to look out for in how they approach media interviews.

If you’ve got a senior executive who you suspect could get better coverage from the interview opportunities you provide for him or her, check to see if they’re doing each of these things.

If they’re not doing all of them then they’re not performing as well as they could be and they would benefit from media training. You will also have concrete evidence to put to them to persuade them that this is something they need. You can explain to them that media training will improve how they do X and here was an example of where they would have had a better outcome from an interview if they’d done X.

I hope this is helpful. To get these tips delivered to your e-mail inbox over the next five days you can subscribe to this blog very easily by popping your e-mail address where prompted in the column to the right.

Let me know how you get on….

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Marketing in the 2010s

A new decade dawns and the airwaves are filled with retrospectives on the last ten years and tentative predictions for what lies ahead. I don’t normally go in for this sort of crystal ball gazing, but I’m here going to give you my view on what I think is a tectonic change taking place right now in the world of marketing.

A lot of people are on top of this change, but even more haven’t even realised it’s happening. They’re carrying on as if it was still 2007, and as 2010 rolls into 2011 I think they’re in serious danger of missing one of the most important changes to the marketing industry that will take place in our professional lifetimes.

Quite simply, it’s the shift from push to pull marketing.

With every month that passes I’m seeing more and more marketers downscaling their investment in traditional broadcast marketing techniques in favour of pull techniques. They’re cutting their spending on ads, on direct marketing, even e-mail marketing, and instead they’re directing their resources to developing online and offline content, experiences and offers that potential customers value. They’re making increasing use of online social media to spread the word, but primarily they’re relying on the power of online search to pull prospects in.

So far this principle has been adopted most vigorously by smaller B2B companies, but I believe that over the next year or two larger consumer brands are going to be looking at it more and more closely. To a large extent this shift has been driven by the drop in budgets precipitated by the recession, but I believe it will outlast the recession.

It is indeed a tectonic shift in how marketers act, and it requires those who work in marketing to look closely at what they offer and ensure it is still relevant. What is particularly notable about this change is just how rapidly it’s taking place. It is proving a stern test of how closely we watch our marketplace and how rapidly we are able to react and adapt.

What do you think?
Am I right – is this change happening and is it as momentous as I think?
Are many marketers missing it or are most coping with it fairly comfortably?
How are you changing what you do to adapt – what do you expect to change over the next year or two?

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Is it wrong to hire a blog ghostwriter?

More and more companies are realising just what they can achieve with a blog. It’s one of those areas that’s morphing from from something enthusiasts do in their spare time to a mainstream marketing activity. And it’s happening fast.

One interesting issue thrown up by this surging enthusiasm for the company blog is whether or not to use a ghostwriter. I’ve been talking about it with various people over the past few months and have seen it discussed in several social media nooks and crannies, most recently here: http://reputationonline.co.uk/2009/12/15/the-surprising-verdict-on-ghostwriting/#comment-556

Here, for what it’s worth, is my take on the topic…..

Personally I just don’t get the argument against ghostwriting. Do those who oppose it have a problem with company spokespeople – do they demand that the Chief Exec speaks in person for the company at all times? Are they happy for the HR Manager to conduct preliminary interviews, or do they expect the Chief Exec to personally interview all staff? Are they happy with machine operatives making the products, or do they expect the Chief Executive to man every single part of the production process?

You get my point. The job of the Chief Executive is to set the direction of the company, hire the best people to deliver it, and then inspire them to achieve more as a team than they could individually. It isn’t to actually DO everything themselves. The spokesperson knows the Chief Executive’s line on the key topics of the day, the HR Manager knows who the Chief Executive wants to hire, and the machine operatives know how the company expects them to operate their machines.

In the same way, Chief Executives (or for that matter senior people in any company, large or small) can’t be expected to find time to write their own blogs. Some do; they enjoy it and are good at it. Most don’t. There’s no reason why they should have either the aptitude or the time. What they SHOULD do is find ghostwriters who they can trust to present their positions in a clear and engaging way. I do this for several companies, and they are using those blogs to great effect, building reputation and generating leads.

I suspect those who argue against the use of ghostwriters in this way simply don’t recognise that writing is a specialist skill, like speaking to the media, interview job candidates or operating machinery. Just because everyone can write to some extent, doesn’t mean everyone can do it well. I believe that, in time, the position of Blogwriter will become as estabished in companies as that of Press Officer and HR Manager. It’s about basic division of labour – and those companies that understand earliest how the new digital economy is creating new specialisations and job roles will in the coming years be best placed to attract the best writers, to put in place systems for making the process work well, and in summary to produce the most effective blogs.

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A fresh approach to generating new business leads

One for the agencies this……

New business meetings – you always need them if you want to grow, in fact if you want to survive. But they’re hard to get. Budget-holders are busy. You’re competing against dozens, hundreds, thousands of other agencies, and let’s face it no one enjoys picking up the phone to call someone they don’t know.

Most agencies respond in one of three ways to this:

1) Rely on referrals, networking, and cross-selling for as long as they possibly can, until they realise – often too late – that this source isn’t going to support them forever.

2) Hire an in-house person to make calls, set meetings and possibly attend introductory meetings. How well this works depends on the ability of the person hired, and this can vary. Even the most talented and experienced tend to struggle because few of their colleagues understand their job and they quickly become isolated and demotivated. I’ve seen it happen time after time.

3) Outsource meeting setting to a specialist agency. There are many very bad telemarketing and new business agencies, and plenty of companies get their fingers burned. However, there are some that are good (if you want a recommendation for one I’d be happy to provide you with one). The problem is that they’re expensive. Their fees start at around £2,000 per month – if you’re paying any less you’re almost certainly throwing your money away – and few small agencies can afford that.

I believe there is a fourth option for those agencies with up to ten people: get your existing team to do the calling. Set aside one, two, three or four hours a week when everyone is on the phone trying to arrange meetings for the MD to attend. This is cheaper than hiring an agency, more effective and cheaper than hiring an in-house person, and best of all it produces a regular stream of new business opportunities for your agency.

Wondering how you’ll persuade your staff to take on this extra work?

Well, firstly you should point out that they have a vested interest in the future of this agency. They will also be able to influence the direction of the agency – they can call companies they want to work for. And you will probably have to give them a financial incentive. This could be dinner for two in a top restaurant for whoever sets the most meetings that week or it could be a direct payment for each meeting set. Whatever it is, it will be cheaper than hiring an agency or in-house person.

So, what do you need to do to make this happen?

Firstly, get the buy-in of your team as above.

Secondly, develop a list of target companies. You might need to spend a small amount of money on this and supplement it with some telephone research by your office junior.

Thirdly, train your staff on how to make these calls. I have spent many years setting new business meetings for PR agencies, and then training and managing a team of people who did it. I now offer a training course that will give your team the skills, knowledge and confidence to help you grow your business.

For more details see here: http://www.alex-blyth.co.uk/training_details.php?id=16

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