Archive for the ‘Heidelberg PR’ Category

A Social Media Rant

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Posted May 4, 2011 but written on Feb. 23, 2011

It seems like so many people have so much to say these days. I wonder, were we always so full of thoughts to share, frustrated with so few outlets and such a small voice?

No, I don’t think so. I think social media has made everyone a would-be expert. Everyone has a comment. Everyone has a thought, opinion or perspective that needs to be heard.

Sure, it’s healthy! Vent it all out here, there and everywhere.

Now, don’t get mad at me … but I just went on Facebook and I was bored. I use it mostly for business purposes … long story … but Heidelberg PR exists for the very purpose of sharing information – that’s my job! So, a large percentage of the information I post on Facebook & Twitter, etc. is client related. These are great tools to share news …

But! The problem is that the “real” news is getting lost in the “would be news,” “wish it was news” and “I don’t care if it’s news, I’m saying it anyhow” clutter that just goes on and on. To sift through the heap of whatever-anyone-wants-to-post and find the true gems of information is really getting challenging.

So, what does this mean for the professional communicators of the world? Is social media really a tool to target audiences and create meaningful relationships with people? Or is it mass communication thrown out there for a “catch as catch can” craps shoot?

The tools are getting smarter. They tell you who you might know. They tell you who you might want to connect with. I like that … but only to a certain extent. As in real life, I am prudent, strategic and calculating about these online relationships because for me, they are for business. Yes, I enjoy a reminiscent “hello” from old classmates and neighbors now and then, but I really don’t need to hear from their siblings and cousins and their neighbors unless we were once friends in real life. And even if we were, do we really have anything much to say to each other today?

Here’s the hard truth about Julie Heidelberg online!

  • I do not accept all friend requests.
  • I do not seek out past acquaintances just to watch my followers, friends or connections tick up.
  • I do not automatically follow you back if you follow me.
  • I will un-friend and severe ties to you immediately if you are inappropriate or radical.
  • I do not enjoy random contact from complete strangers.

So, why am I sharing this? Why am I all worked up?

Well, it’s partly due to a stand of conversation I’ve been following on Linked In ….

[flash forward to April 29, 2011] …

Yes, so, this is perfect. I did not publish this post on Feb. 23 due to technical difficulties. I just reread it and I was laughing out loud — especially when I got to the end, which illustrates my point perfectly. My original intention was to come back and finish my rant, but I never got to it. And now today, two months later, I don’t even know what it was that launched me into this tirade, nor do I care enough to go back, figure it out, and make my point.

I think my point is made. We have to remember that sometimes this online world just doesn’t matter. So, here’s to keeping it real in the world of breathing humans, smiling faces and sharp minds.

Publicity through Award Recognition

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

Applying for industry awards can be a tedious task, but the effort becomes more rewarding when it is supported by a good publicity plan.

I recently had the privilege of preparing award applications for two clients; namely Barb Kyes of ActionCOACH Pinellas, who is now a finalist for the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce “Distinguished Business Woman of the Year” award, and Chad Dudeck of Geo-Logical, who we just submitted for the Ernst & Young “Entrepreneur of the Year” award.

There is a lot of momentum and  power behind just being nominated for an award, and it increases exponentially if you become a finalist — and explodes if you actually win!

For example, back in 2009, another Heidelberg PR client, Karen Gillman of Intelligent Office, was nominated for Business Leader of the Year and Small Business of the Year with the Tampa Chamber of Commerce. It was such an honor for her and her team, and it was really easy to find people ready to celebrate her success with her — especially in the media.

On just the nomination alone, Karen’s news was covered in her former hometown newspaper where she grew up, in the newspapers of her current hometown of Plant City, Fla., and in the print and television outlets of the major metro media market of Tampa, Fla., where her business is located. Furthermore, industries referenced in the news release — strawberry growers, virtural office news sources, and health care web sites — found something of interest in the story of a midwestern farm girl who left home and ultimately found success as a corporate leader.

If you are nominated and progress to any advanced stage in an awards process, think hard on the “who cares” question and then prepare to tell your story through news releases, social media and other updates to a variety of targets. Here’s a quick checklist to help you thoroughly maximize this great publicity opporutunity. Now is not the time to be shy! I’ll give you the “who” and a little bit of the “how” — but it’s up to you to determine the means of communication that best suits each audience for you and your company.

Your Community at Large
Tell the local news media your story with a press release, include the appropriate business media
Make space on your web site to post your news release or add a splash to your homepage

Your Business Community
Tell your networking groups; leverage their news updates, web sites, social media and newsletter
Tell your chamber of commerce; leverage their communication outlets too!
Tell your Facebook Fans
Tweet a shout out to your followers
Post your news on your blog

Your Industry Colleagues
Tell your professional associations; leverage the power of their communication vehicles
Tell the trade publications and online news outlets by sending them your news release
Tell your network on LinkedIn

Your Hometown Community
Tell your hometown newspapers (and other media if appropriate). Your sixth-grade teacher, your best friend’s mom and your high school team members still care!

Your Alumni Association
Tell the alumni publicaiton at your alma mater. You’ll make them look good!

Your Current Business Contacts
Tell your employees, your board of advisors, your vendors and your customers!

Your Current and Future Business Prospects
Put a blurb on your e-mail signature and remind everyone you communicate with on e-mail of the fact that your company is exceptional.

Your Personal Contacts
Your never know where your next customer might come from. Tell your church, tell your bowling league, your family and your neighbors!

But wait! There’s more!
Did you realize as you read these suggestions that you do not have to lay out any cash at all to take advantage of these opportunities following this “do-it-yourself” format? Wow — now I know you are really loving this!

It varies, of course, but typically you can prepare a great award application in three to seven hours, at least for the initial submission (this doesn’t count interviews and follow up submissions). It might sound like a lot of time to invest, but if you plan effectively, there are long lead times for the application period and you can work on your application over several weeks. Just be careful, in the end, to ensure that you have all the required pieces ready for submission and get it in on time.

Best of luck to you in securing your next award and the great publicity that will come with it. (I’m writing this on St. Patrick’s Day to give you little extra luck!)

Writing a Good Press Release

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

There are countless sources you can turn to for advice on writing a good press release, so I’m just going share what my own experience has taught me. While many of my colleagues are exploring and testing social media, etc., most of the small business owners I’ve encountered still want to master some basic skills in the more traditional, and in some ways more mystifying PR tools of the past, like press releases.

After teaching PR Writing at USF at least six times, maybe seven, and cranking out press releases for about 15 years now, I’m sure I have something to contribute on this basic PR tool. For the most part, this post is for the Do It Yourselfers, particularly the small business owners who are experts in their own fields but who, every now and then, want or need to tap into some PR expertise as well. Read this, print this and keep this. You will thank me later.

But first, before we dive into tips and such, I have to address the constant line of questioning I’ve been reading in PR industry publications, blogs and various other PR communication forums. The question is, “Do we even need press releases any more, now that social media has become so prominent as a means of communication and promotion?”

Well, the answer is yes. There is still a place for press releases, even though their purpose might be changing in light of some easier, shorter ways to communicate. You must always remember that there is no “magic bullet” for communication with different groups of people, and, as always, it takes multiple attempts across multiple communication channels to reach multiple targeted audiences. So, the press release to the news media lives on as part of any solid external communications strategy, working in tandem with some of the newer tools now available for certain purposes.

So, if you are going to take time to write and distribute a release, here are some things to note. You can also use this is a quasi-checklist if you are hiring someone else to write your release.

Release Title — VERY important. State the main topic in 12 words or less, and be sure to include an action verb — remember that phrase? A subject is DOING something. For example, “Customers Save Time and Expense at Rapid Refill Ink” is an action statement, and leads to descriptive writing, which is far more effective with a reader than a label that says “Savings Abound at Rapid Refill Ink.” With the action title, we know WHO is saving and we know WHAT they are saving; with the label, we don’t know much at all. Try to work the company name into the title whenever possible. Subtitles can also be used to include one other important but supporting detail.

The title is important because it is the very first thing a news media gatekeeper reads. You must pique the interest of the news assignment desk, the editor or the reporter in order to get someone to report on your story — so your title must be compelling, and action verbs will help strengthen your writing.

The Lead Paragraph – If your title is good enough to keep them reading, then you really want to make sure you say the most important things about your story next. To a reporter, the five Ws are going to be the most important things in the story, so you don’t have to guess what they want to know.

In the first paragraph of your release, immediately state the “who, what, where, when, why (and how)” of your news in two to three sentences — right up there at the top. If you have news, they will keep reading. If you don’t, then they will stop right there. Period. In a deadline-driven business like news reporting, no one has time to read anything that is not a possible story lead. You get just a few seconds of consideration to sell your news. Make it count.

If you need another real-world comparison, equate the press release to the resume. When a job opens up, resumes pour into the HR office all day long. The hiring manager cannot possibly read every resume and cover letter. You must capture their attention in just a few seconds in order to avoid the trash bin and move on to the next phase of the hiring process.

It’s the same thing with a press release. They pour into newsrooms all day long. You are competing against hundreds of others with news to share. You must captivate the initial reader enough to make them pause and keep reading your release. So, the most important information goes at the top — and it’s what’s most important to your AUDIENCE, the MEDIA and their CONSUMERS — not what is most important to you and/or the company/client. It’s a fine line to walk, and it’s called “framing” the news. If you do it right, you will get your chance to emphasize other important things too. But you should always position the story from the perspective of your audience. Self-serving stories are deemed as advertising, and the news media will not report those stories as news, so be careful.

Quotes — A little authority goes a long way, and real people are interesting, so be sure to include a quote pretty early on in the release. But be judicious. Quotes are special, and here’s why:

1.  No one can edit a direct quote. They can use parts of it or paraphrase the information, but they cannot change it. You said what you said in a quote — end of story. It is absolute. It cannot be changed at all.

2. That said, a quote is the perfect chance for you (or your expert spokesperson) to say something really important or interesting that adds something to your news story. Don’t WASTE the quote by restating something that is already included in the news release. Think about the most important things you would want to say in this instance, and then work those points into quotes. They are protected and offer an unparalleled chance for you to get a key message point out to your audience — which is ultimately the media consumer.

Contact Information
Unless you want your client or your company CEO getting a direct call from the media, you better put some contact information on your news release. In larger companies, it’s typically the name, phone number and/or e-mail of someone in the PR department or someone in a PR firm representing the company. Typically, it is not the person or people being quoted in the release.

We want our spokespeople to speak intelligently and accurately when they are interviewed, so we try to avoid surprise reporter phone calls directly to company spokespeople and we often step into the middle to coordinate the interview process. Reporters know the drill when they work from a press release, and this process shows respect for the spokesperson’s schedule and time, and ultimately helps the reporter get better details when our spokespeople feel comfortable, focused and prepared. All of these things work together to build those “magical” reporter relationships that you always hear about, but it’s not mysterious or difficult. It’s just good customer service on both sides of the fence.

But I digress … If you own a small business, then maybe you become the spokesperson and the contact — and that’s OK too; just make sure your full contact information is a separate part of the news release. I like to put it right up at the top, but some people put it at the end. To me, the top makes the most sense because that’s where all of the other very important information is presented. Plus, if your release goes on to two pages, it’s more likely to get separated from the first page and then the reporter is at a loss on whom to call for more information or to schedule an interview.

Other things
Of course, there are some other overarching things to consider when preparing a press release — first and foremost is to make sure your topic is actually newsworthy. If you’re not sure, consult with a PR pro for a quick assessment and to discuss various possible story angles.

The are some mechanical things to note too, like datelines, editing marks, formatting and spelling, along with upholding the writing guidelines of the Associate Press stylebook, but if you have REAL NEWS, any transgressions in these areas will most likely be overlooked in the interest of reporting on the story, so beginners need not overburden themselves with these concerns (but do try, and use your spellchecker and proofread your writing, at a minimum).

Writing a good release is one of the first steps in sharing your company news. In the future, we’ll spend some time talking about how to distribute your news release to increase the chances that it will actually make it into a newspaper or television report or another means of mass media communication. You might also want to watch for tips on preparing for a media interview.

And, of course, if this is all very interesting but you just don’t have the time or inclination to tackle press releases yourself, just contact us. We can help!

Heidelberg PR & Tampa Jumpstart say THANK YOU!

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

In public relations, sometimes it’s difficult to show appreciation, but thanks to blogs and tweets and other related things, it’s easier now to thank reporters and editors who have shown interest in story ideas you’ve shared.

I want to thank a few people who have shown great support for our Tampa Bay Small Business Jumpstart program by working on stories to promote our contest and our winner, Wesley Chapel resident, Mike Mayo. This before and after coverage has been very helpful to our TJS team, as well as to our winner, so big THANKS to

Tom Curran, Fox 13
Fred Shrum, Tampa Business Examiner (see his article!)
Editorial team, Tampa Bay Business Journal

There have been others who have taken interest in our story, as well, and we have not forgotten about you either. Thank you for playing a part in sharing some good news with the community, and for letting people know that our award package was available. We also appreciate the reporting on our winner as he launches his new pet photography business, Golden Vision Photography. This has been a community service program from the start, and the support of the local media has helped us realize our vision.

Incidentally, today is the first photo shoot of the mobile photography studio, and the privilege goes to Susan Thurston at TBT, who has been beyond patient in covering this story. Thank you, Susan, for waiting it out. I know your story will be really timely even though it seems like we’ve been batting this around for months.

And, finally, thanks to my new commitment to my business coach, Barb Kyes at ActionCOACH, I will probably be chatting your ear off here at least once a week. Stay tuned!

Heidelberg PR Updates for Summer 2009

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

It might work to your benefit, but some of my posts I’ve been writing in MS Word are apparently not transferable here, so please enjoy this abbreviated and condensed version of several posts I’ve planned for over the summer.

BNI — I joined, and you should check it out. My chapter, the Profit Pros, is great and very energizing. If you are a small business person or in sales or marketing, you should come visit us. We essentially train each other to make referrals to one another. It’s time consuming but worth it when a big referral comes in. A spot in our chapter is worth approximately $45K in new business each year for each member. Hard to believe? Come see for yourself. And, if you are in another part of the country, don’t worry. BNI — Business Networking International — is everywhere.

Charity Chics — just for “chics,” this group is about networking while giving back. All proceeds from meeting registration and door prizes go to a designated charity. So far, Hillsborough Achievement and Resource Center has been our primary charity. This group was founded by fashion consultant Lisa Ford of Invent Your Image and Karen Gillman, sales manager for Intelligent Office. It’s a first come, first serve registration process and only one guest per professional industry is permitted to attend any given meeting. A good use of time — check it out if you are local.

Tampa Jumpstart – I feel like I have a lot to brag about here. We picked our contest a winner a few weeks ago — Mike Mayo with Golden Vision Photography won over $26K of pro bono start up services from the TJS team. Here’s a TV clip announcing his victory, along with a few features Heidelberg PR placed in local business publications. Good luck, Mike!

Fox 13 News Clip on TJS Winner
Maddux Business Report Article on TJS Winner
Tampa Bay Business Journal Article on Winner

And now for some Heidelberg PR news on our newest clients! Since May, we have been helping Waterside at Coquina Key with sales outreach through resident, prospect and Realtor events. Upcoming events and photo recaps are posted on the Waterside FaceBook page under Waterside at Coquina Key. So far, we’ve had a lot of fun — and even made some sales from these events, so if you are interested in the property in any capacity, stop by.

Recently, we also helped out Rapid Refill Ink in Carrollwood with a Back to School promotion, although they offer eco-friendly, convenient and affordable printer cartridge refill services all year long, around the country. Check out their latest press release. It might change your mind the next time you go to throw a used printer cartridge into the trash.

And, although the account is not new, I had the pleasure this week of attending a check presentation from WalMart to a Florida division of the Boys and Girls Club for a $150,000 grant in support of a new educational program to help keep kids in school, along with the ever enjoyable interactions with Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo as we gear up for the final 2009 $5 Day Sept. 13, sponsored by WalMart’s Hillsborough and Pinellas County stores.

And then, finally, for some good news and some bad news. The good news first: Heidelberg PR and Action Coach Pinellas have entered into a strategic alliance to further the business goals of each firm. Heidelberg PR will provide subject matter expert coaching and services to ACP’s managing partner, Barbara Kyes, and, in return, I am receiving weekly coaching and training from Barb and her team. This promises to be a very interesting 12 months!

And now, for the bad news. HARC — the Hillsborough Achievement and Resource Center — is facing some extreme financial hardship on account of some unfortunate decisions by the State of Florida and the Agency for Disabled Persons. The situation is overviewed in this press release that Heidelberg PR issued a few months ago, but the issue remains, and many disabled adults will suffer as a result of some poor decision making. Help us tell the story to anyone who might be able to help!!

These are the summer highlights. School starts next week, so maybe I won’t have to go three months again before I have time to say what I want to say.