Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Biographies Help Differentiate and Connect

What's your story?

If you run a business, do you have a well-written biography on your website and in any other communication materials? I am continually astonished by the prevalence of successful professionals who don't have a bio.

Then there are those who have poorly crafted bios that appear to have been scrawled hurriedly as they strolled the aisles of a Whole Foods, hunting for milk and eggs. (Sometimes, it's better not to have a bio at all than to have something slipshod that reflects poorly on you.)

If your biography (often found in the "About Us" section of websites) falls into either of the above camps, you are squandering a huge opportunity to:

1. Differentiate yourself from the competition.
2. Forge a deeper connection with your prospective clients.
3. Lay the groundwork for news releases that help promote your product or service.

A case in point: a month ago, I wrote a biography of Denise Hauser (pictured), a talented kitchen and bath designer who for 18 months had been running her business, Denise Hauser Design, without the benefit of a concise, compelling bio.
Less than two weeks after I crafted her story, the bio formed the bulk of a news release on Denise's recognition in a local charity kitchen walk.

The story ("Longtime biz exec carves out kitchen and bath design niche") is on and was prominently placed on page 2 of Triblocal's weekly print edition, which went to some 10,000 subscribers in a three-town area that is in the heart of Hauser's market.

Without the bio in hand, the article would have been considerably less effective and much less likely to have gained inclusion in the Trib's print version.

To see biographies embedded in other Inside Edge PR news releases, here are pieces on Andrea Donovan Senior Living Advisors and another on Five Accessories.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Social Media's Powerful Domino Effect

If any organization had any doubts about the urgent importance of monitoring its brand, 24/7, then the recent Domino's Pizza controversy offers a compelling cautionary tale.

Millions have seen videos of a few since-fired employees as they behave in a disgusting manner as they prepare food. You can link to those videos through a report ("Social media: The cause and the solution to Domino’s nightmare?") at Medill Money Mavens, a site maintained by the Medill School of Journalism graduate level advanced economics and reporting class.

Type "Domino's Pizza" into Google and near the top is this video response by Domino's USA President Patrick Doyle.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Here's A Lead: Find A BNI Chapter Near You

As I have been doing for the past few months, I shot some video (see below) yesterday at a meeting of Oak Park Partners, a chapter of business-referral titan Business Networking International.

I've been a member of Oak Park Partners for nearly three years. With a roster of about 35 members who are as varied as they are talented, it has been a tremendous source of business leads, growth and profitability. Along the way, I have likewise referred business to many members as we all strive to follow BNI's motto of "givers gain."

If you are looking to expand your business network, I highly recommend you find a few BNI chapters in your area and see if one may be a fit for you and your enterprise.

Among other elements to each week's 90-minute session, every member and guest is allotted 45 to 60 seconds to give a "commercial" about their services and/or products. Below, you will see James Hasley, owner of a Maid Brigade franchise in Cook County, make a 10-minute presentation--a spotlight opportunity that members get on a rotating basis.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Publicists Must Anticipate, Address Conflict

I just read an engaging piece ("The Redundant Journalist Guide to PR: Things To Be Considered Before Jumping Careers") by journalist-turned-publicist Craig McGill.

In a humorous, been there-done that address to journalists considering a move to PR, McGill makes plenty of on-target points. As someone who has made the transition, however, I have to differ with at least one of his five key messages:

"You write press releases, not the story."

In that section, McGill writes, "If you do get a topic or issue that you can sink your teeth into, remember you aren't looking to give all sides. You aren't writing the row (Matt's note: "row'" is Brit-speak for "conflict"), just your client's side of it."

In my experience, writing a release that is limited in scope (confined to the client's perspective, for example) simply limits its potential to spark interest from credible media.

With the media more short-staffed than ever, it's vital for publicists to offer written content that not only anticipates the conflict inherent in a story, but offers rock-solid facts (statistics, maybe even contrary viewpoints) that make it all the more tempting for the media to say "yes" to coverage.

Here's one example from a news release I recently developed for Scheck & Siress.

Rather than simply tell the story about what the company is doing to help care for children who have plagiocephaly (flat-head syndrome), I expanded the release to include fuller context and conflict--in this case, with the successful "Back to Sleep" campaign that has drastically reduced Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

So far, five media outlets have expressed interest in the story, including two that have published it.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Well Worth A Read: The 4-Hour Workweek

I am reading The 4-Hour Workweek, by Timothy Ferriss. He's smart, he's funny, and he's so right about so many things.

The timing of my read is perfect---this week I'm working three hours every morning during a family trip to Palm Springs. The truncated timeframe is forcing me to be more focused and efficient--an approach that only hints at the insight and wisdom that Ferriss offers in his book.

If you are looking to become more productive in your work--and to take firmer control of designing your life--then his book is well worth checking out.

I'm always on the look-out for recommended reads: please take 10 seconds to e-mail me with a book suggestion.

Have you taken my "e-mail frequency" poll yet on LinkedIn? It takes another 10 seconds. Check it out here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Biz Publication Includes My Social-Media Tips

Sometimes my work goes in streaks.

There have been times when I simultaneously represented four different medical providers--an obstetrician, a neurologist, a chiropractor and an acupuncturist.

In the past year, I've had a fair share of real estate-related work, both as a freelance writer for REALTOR magazine and as a publicist for the irrepressible Roz Byrne (check out this "Wizard of Roz" blog post here) and Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate Gloor Realty.

A recent Gloor release published in Triblocal's print edition is to the left here.

Lately, though, the trend could be summed up in three words: Social Media Central. The latest is a story in this week's edition of The Business Ledger, a weekly publication in the western suburbs of Chicago that quotes from some of my recent social-media training tips.

If you check out the story, by Associate Editor Sherri Dauskurdas, you will see it doesn't shy away from packing some social-media name-dropping punch in its headline: "Twitter away hours while LinkedIn to Facebook."

Monday, April 13, 2009

LinkedIn Survey Feature Shows Promise

With each passing day, it seems, something new emerges in the social-media realm. Or, to be more accurate, a new tweak comes to my attention for the first time.

Two weeks ago, it was my discovery that you can create surveys on LinkedIn, the professional-networking site.

Immediately, I did what I suggest anyone do when they want to see if any given application is worthwhile: I gave the new discovery a test drive by setting up a survey.

Of all things, I created a poll about folks' use of LinkedIn: "What do you primarily seek from your LinkedIn experience?"

The four choices I offered: Biz/employment opportunities, Receive Recommendations, A Social Outlet, and Innovative Ideas. (LinkedIn rotates the order in which those choices appear, by the way, to ensure I'm not steering people in any overwhelming fashion.)

So far, here are the results. As of this morning, 78 people had replied--certainly almost, if not, all from my own network, though you can enable, as I did, anyone on LinkedIn to answer your survey.

LinkedIn does all the work of categorizing the responses by gender, age, job title, job function and company size. In addition, 14 people have chimed in with supplemental comments.

As embryonic as the process has been for me, already I can see a variety of benefits flowing out of these surveys. Among them:

1. The collection of original data, tailored to your needs, for business or personal purposes.

2. Opening up a dialogue revolving around common interests.

3. Establishing your expertise, via the content contained in the questions as well as via your interpretation and commentary of the data flowing from the questions.

4. Expanding your network. Over the past two weeks, I have experienced a rise in the number of people seeking to LinkIn with me. Part of that increase, I suspect, is attributable to my survey question.

Want to take the survey? Get on LinkedIn, then click on the survey results link.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Time To `De-Link' a Non-Responsive Contact?

Last week, I recommended three people who had recently LinkedIn with me, bringing the tally of folks I've endorsed to nearly 50. For me, the quality of my contacts is much more important than the quantity.

In fact, I'm mulling whether to drop one individual from my LinkedIn roster after he did not respond to an introduction--as well as a follow-up e-mail--that I made on behalf of another one of my LinkedIn contacts.

What gives? What would you do?

In an Inside Edge PR post from last year, I outlined my philosophy of why I write recommendations for as many of my LinkedIn contacts as possible. In another post, I shared some of the how.

Lastly, for a look at the recommendations I've made on LinkedIn, go here.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Paulson: Keep Newspaper Struggles In Context


If reporters and editors walk out of my "Go Figure: Making Numbers Count" seminars with only one word retained in their memory banks, then that's the one I wish for.

For the umpteenth time over the past eight years, that was among the points I shared on Friday. In other words, numbers communicated in isolation--without any frame of reference--are dangerous, potentially misleading, frequently useless, and bear a variety of other story-warping ills.

(You can check out a few excerpts of the session, at the New York Press Association's annual convention in Saratoga Springs, on my Go Figure: Making Numbers Count blog.)

As it turns out, the convention's keynote speaker, Ken Paulson, (pictured with me, after his talk) emphasized the same point.

The editor of USA Today and from 2004 until a few months ago, Paulson is now president and COO of the Newseum. When he used the "C" word, Paulson was discussing another subject--the ostensibly imminent extinction of newspapers.

He didn't specify the publications by name, but some developments that came to my mind include the recent spate of bankruptcies (see: Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times) and closings (to wit: the Rocky Mountain News, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer) among major newspapers.

The latest punch in the journalism gut, just this past weekend, comes from my original stomping grounds, as The Boston Globe is now in apparent peril (or at least being tough-talked in labor negotiations with its corporate parent, The New York Times Co.)

While noting that he was not seeking to minimize the real financial and other challenges besetting newspapers, Paulson remarked, "The sky is not falling."

He pointed out that baseball card sales have declined 71 percent since 2000. "In other words, it's not just us," said Paulson. "You look at anybody who published a product on paper and they're in the fight of their lives."

"You have to separate the troubled economy from the challenges we may face as an industry," Paulson added. "It's also probably worth noting that the people who are predicting the demise of newspapers the most are on cable television and are bloggers, and it's in their interests to suggest we don't have a bright future."

But perhaps the most intriguing and thought-provoking part of Paulson's keynote was his parallel-universe account of the 21st century introduction of the newspaper (had Johannes Gutenberg invented the digital modem instead of the mechanical printing press.)

In a humorous 2 1/2-minute riff, Paulson reeled off a list of strengths and benefits from "the invention of a new product called the newspaper."

Among his list was portability, a virus-free environment, "no annoying pop-up ads" and "a painstaking new process called fact-checking in which we actually verify information before we pass it along to you."

You can view a portion of Paulson's talk below:

Thursday, April 2, 2009

In Bulldog Reporter: `Words Still Matter'

Late last year, the Medill School of Journalism solicited input from alumni about the future of journalism. I shared some thoughts at the time, but knew it was an incomplete effort.

That's almost always the way with the stories I write--the feeling that more could be done. Now, at least, those original ruminations have expanded into fuller form.

They appear today in Bulldog Reporter's Barks & Bites, in an essay bearing the headline, Words Still Matter in a Web 2.0 World: The Future of Journalism and PR Lie in Storytelling.

I invite you to check it out, and offer your perspective, either on the Bulldog Reporter site or via the Inside Edge PR blog.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

My Growth Formula: Complex Assignments

If you're not growing, you're shrinking.

I am a firm believer in this truth, and it's part of what fuels me every day to learn as much as possible.

This morning, as I listened to Malcom Gladwell's "Outliers"--the supremely talented author reads the book himself--I was struck by his mention of the three elements that add up to work fulfillment.

They are autonomy, complexity, and a relationship between work and reward.

The second piece of that equation, complexity, is what I enjoy most about the ongoing assignment I have with the Chicago chapter of the Urban Land Institute.

Since September, I have had five opportunities to tackle what is (for me, anyway) the complex task of distilling more than an hour's worth of ULI discussion into a cohesive 1,000- to 1,200-word summary. You can read my reports, including the one from last Thursday's session, here.

Having covered government bodies for the better part of two decades, I have a finely tuned ear to what a variety of people say, and how it all fits into the larger web of all that is said. But because ULI talks encompass topics with which I have little familiarity, the process presents an entirely new challenge.

Although ULI gives me two days to file a summary, I usually file my report within six hours. The rapid turn-around isn't as noble as it may seem--I am eager to flesh out the session in writing before the impression of what I just learned fades to gray.