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For any business wondering whether to implement a public relations strategy, the timing could not be more perfect or more critical. A new era of social media, a new way of thinking about (and implementing) public relations, and a shifting economy are all road signs pointing to why tackling your communications agenda should be a priority for you now rather than later. Here, we discuss in a little more depth.

  • The economy has changed, and with these new times come both anxiety and opportunity. Employees, investors and clients may be feeling a tad insecure about job security, direction and  your next move. Trained communications professionals can help you design and implement perfected messages that communicate to each of these groups in a way that re-invigorates trust, good-will and business overall.

 

  • While many are bemoaning the slump, several new opportunities exist now that didn’t before.  In terms of public relations and messaging, a new environment has opened up a treasure chest of business-related story and messaging possibilities. Take advantage of the inclement weather that may have rained out some of your competitors by increasing the level of exposure, quality and creativity of your brand to put you at the forefront of consumer thinking.

 

  • The media is now comprised of thousands of new online outlets, in addition to traditional press. These outlets are both goldmines … and landmines. Knowing how and what to communicate to these different groups can inspire fans, increase word-of-mouth brand awareness and put you in front of groups who are ready to buy or invest in you. While it’s tempting (and in some cases even advised) to reach out to traditional or social press on your own, what you don’t know can hurt you–and your chances of being heard. PR professionals have updated information on thousands of journalists worldwide, including their preferences for how and when to be pitched. Don’t make the mistake of calling when they prefer to be contacted only by email or vice versa!

 

  • One of the most significant reasons to choose public relations over another form of communicating (i.e., advertising) has to do with the underlying current of the way people receive information. Traditional advertising has its place, no doubt. But it is considerably more costly than PR and it consists of a one-way dialogue in a medium that’s also one-way. Most people today get their information online, even if they still subscribe to print and glossy publications. Online and “earned” media exposure allows for a conversation to take place, and for you to be a part of that conversation.

 

  • Public relations firms are starting to get it: You don’t have $50,000 a month to throw at a PR machine. Firms that are now entering into the market are doing things differently from the old regime, have set their sights beyond the traditional and have cut a lot of the excess fat from processes and retainer fees.  Sometimes, firms will even offer you custom, targeted packages that focus on just one or more areas of PR. When vetting experts, ask yourself these questions:  Do they ask a lot of questions? Are they flexible? Do they love your product/service as much as you do? How do they measure results? Are they passionate about what they do? Do they have references, portfolio or clipbook samples upon request?

What can we do for you? Find out by calling (916) 538-4146 or emailing cassiacomm [at] gmail [dot] com.

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Your online presence is an extension of you and your business. It should be an intersection of form and function and above all else, a well-managed reservoir of expert content. Once you have a great online presence in place, you probably want some people to see it! If so, you will need to know a little or a lot about html, linking, SEO and even marketing/public relations to increase your visibility. Below are two quick checklists to raise your site a few notches and help you avoid some of the common pitfalls.

 On the Web side:

  • Is your website easy for customers to navigate and find information quickly?
    • Create organized and intuitive categories, tabs, and links
  • Is your company’s branding strongly emphasized on your site?
    • Invest in non-template graphics/logo
    • Make sure themes and logos are consistent on all pages
  • Does your website encourage customers to stay and learn more?
    • Brainstorm ways for creative interaction
    • Ensure content is useful and updated
    • Use multiple forms of content: video, photos, text, podcast
  • Does your site encourage visitors to develop a relationship with you?
    • Create engaging and astute content
    • Enable comments and feedback forums
    • Ask for comments and feedback
    • Entice visitors to opt in to a regular e-newsletter
    • Mention or praise your visitors — and their business

 On the SEO side:  

  • Do you know the most important ways to optimize your site for Google and boost page ranking (the order in which your site appears in a web query)?
    • Get high-traffic sites directing to your site (this is where marketing and pr can come into play)
    • Use powerful, creative SEO terms and tags
    • Make your site the “hub” for your multi-tiered online presence
    • Create valid, transparent content and publish it on the Internet

Did you know that employing “black hat” techniques could be hurting (not helping) you in search results? Here are some “don’ts” to help you stay on the “white hat” side of the web.

  • Don’t create blogs whose main purpose is to link back to your site
  • Don’t use “hit boosters” or link farm services
  • Don’t use non-related keywords to boost ranking
  • Don’t use sites like Wikipedia unethically or against the terms of service

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Hiring a communications firm will help manage your budget and your relationships

If you are one of the millions of businesses in the U.S. right now affected by the downturn, then now is a good time to implement or re-evaluate your communications strategy.

The right communications firm can help you speak to concerned employees, hesitant investors, the elusive media and consumers. These were tricky waters to navigate before, but now, with non-existent job security, evaporating investor funds, and word-of-mouth press, the effects of a well-defined, well-executed communications plan can make a tangible, real difference in the success of your company. The right messaging combined with an effective strategy can restore faith, secure funds, bolster reputation and save you precious time and money.  

But, you may be thinking, “How can we afford to outsource, now?” You may be surprised to learn that you can’t afford not to.

Communication firms worth their salt will consult with you free of charge to help you draw a clearer picture of your desired outcome and the map to get you there on time. This will save you countless man hours, money and headaches in the short and long term.

A targeted plan begins with the right questions – and plenty of them. Some of these questions, like “what do you want to communicate?” and “who is your audience?” are no-brainers, while “what’s the problem?” (What? I have a problem?) or “what is the frame of mind of your targeted audience?” are not so intuitive. An outside firm can help you get off to the right start by answering these critical questions and finding the message your audience will hear.

Need a few other reasons to look outside the office?

  • Time is money — and now more than ever.  Your time is probably already maxed out generating new business, saving that certain project, focusing on your staff, and of course, figuring out how you are going to wiggle around in this uncertain, “new rules” economy.
  • Money is money. Considering salaries, benefits, insurance, training, etc., a dedicated in-house option will cost you thousands more per year than hiring out. Plus, most communications firms will offer some, or most, of their services “a la carte.”
  • Contractors provide additional, third-party expertise and an outside perspective. Often, this vantage point allows them to offer fresh ideas, solutions and strategies you might have missed going it alone.
  • One less project for you to manage. The firms you vet should present you with the option to manage the project start to finish for you.
  • Stellar firms will have an army of expert resources at their fingertips in several areas of communications such as marketing, social media, public relations, website development, printing and of course, top-notch writing and editing ninjas. (Who doesn’t want a ninja on their team?)
  • Hiring a firm gives you a lot of flexibility. You choose how involved you want to be in the project, whether it’s a short-term gig or long-term relationship, whether you want full-service or a la carte, and of course, the flexibility to switch firms — because sometimes, you just want change.

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