Tuesday, September 20, 2011

5 Reasons to Consider the One-Sentence Press Release

I stumbled upon an intriguing online news distribution tool recently called
http://muckrack.com/   It is a curated news aggregator that organizes Twitter content for journalists and other visitors. 

The site offers the ability to post a “one sentence press release” here http://muckrack.com/press_releases/submit

For PR pros working on behalf of b-to-b clients, this looks like an interesting service to try.

The site also forces one to examine the worthiness of the “One Sentence Press Release” which is more than a headline.   

Telling an entire press release story in one sentence? Really? Is such a strategy a good one to pursue?

After mulling it over, offered here are five reasons to consider the One-Sentence Press Release.

1) Forces Brevity:  A one-line release serves as a headline and body all in one. Interested readers quickly scan this content in search results, Google News, Tweet streams, Facebook, news aggregator sites like infinigraph.com, RSS feeds, etc.  The one-liner must tell a story all by itself.  Yes, provide more information in the longer, more traditional press release copy, but most folks will only make time to scan the one-liner.

2) Facilitates Sharing: A well-constructed one-line press release is effective when shared by others. When written with keywords, those within the client’s niche are better able to find and share news around social networks (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) and post about it on relevant blogs.

3) Makes it User-Centric: A well-crafted one-line press release should answer the age-old question  “what’s in it for me?”   Stressing the reader’s benefit contributes to the likelihood the one-liner will be shared among an end-user target audience.  Remember to bring the user benefit front and center.

As an example, here’s a business-to-business one-line press release that addresses the “What’s in it for me” focus:

Last Chance to Register: Learn How to Cut Employee Turnover at Free “Best-Practices in Hiring Seminar” Held at Next Week’s XXX Conference

4) Helps Engage Key Influencers: Trying to reach a certain blogger, reporter or media outlet? These key influencers search for intriguing angles on timely subjects, an interesting point of view, new information and other content of value to their audiences. A one-line release makes it easy for this key group to find relevant content.  Getting the entire story in one line takes the time and effort out of the process for key influencers. As muckrack.com notes, http://muckrack.com/  “Journalists are busy, so they appreciate brevity.”

5) Leads with the LeadMost communications pros are familiar with the well-worn adage “Don’t Bury The Lead.”   A one-line release stands on its own, stressing the main point of the story.  Readers statistically only read beyond the lead about twenty percent of the time.  It makes sense to make the effort to communicate the main point (lead) concisely. 

Intrigued?  Horrified?  Is this the “slippery slope” as all business communications boil down to 140 characters?  What do you think?  

Monday, September 12, 2011

Five Online Productivity Tools: Work Smarter, Faster, Better

For an old gal, I love new tech tools. 

Regular readers know I was certainly not an early adopter of Twitter, but am now one enthusiastic Tweeter, hooked into a range of analytical tools, third party apps, and other ways to get the most marketing bang out of Twitter.

It’s much the same with online productivity tools – applications that automate and streamline the way one works. 

As a freelance/contract worker for over two-decades,  a trusty black planner and a yellow spiral notebook were once the tools of choice.  Well, in fact I still rely on those two tools, but there are a plethora of personal productivity applications right under our online noses! 

Thus, gathered here are my current favorites, in order of preference.  They are especially useful for B-to-B contract marketers.  Happy Clicking!

These guys rock.  First off, if you are looking for an easy way to manage your “to do” list, this is the place.   Essentially a to-do list manager, this app helps prioritize tasks to increase productivity, especially when working for many clients and projects.

They also rock because they are  “quick, easy and free” and when they say free they mean it.  They don’t just give you a few features for free, then entice you to pay when you need more robust features.  The complete feature set is free.  Whoopee, Wipee List!

Another reason why these guys rock is the writing on the website.  I love this line:  “Wipee List is Free, But That Doesn’t Mean it Sucks”.  The text is human, witty, and engagingly sarcastic. (sounds like my handsome hubby...)

One other reason they rock is the incredibly easy interface. You can tell the Wipee team did a ton of usability testing.  (I love usability testing! Why develop an interface and never bother to ask anybody how useful it is?  Who did their usability testing, I wonder?   What a dream job that must have been.) 

Running a close second to Wipee List is Nudge Mail.  I am a beta tester for Nudge Mail, and relied on this little tool quite heavily when managing a client web redesign project in 2010. 

Essentially, one uses Nudge Mail to send oneself emails, or other team members emails, at key dates or milestones.  Some might consider me a “nudge” so naturally this is one useful tool.

Using Nudge Mail is entirely done within email, which when you think about it, is the way you might do all of your other work. There is no need to go to a website, all the transactions happen within your email system.

It takes seconds to create a new email (or forward an existing one), set the “to”, subject, day/time and any message in the body of the email.  Hit send, and that little baby goes out on the day/time you selected. 

Upcoming team deadlines?  Set a nudgemail to remind yourself or others.  Managing a complicated event or project?  Nudge mail can be a tool to keep everybody moving in the same direction, at the same time.

Have you ever tried to coordinate a meeting with 8 or 9 people spread out in various time zones?  How can you keep track of availability or preferences? Heck, it is even tough to get 3 people together on a 10-minute conference call for a project update even if they are in the same time zone.

Doodle is free, and wonder of wonders – you don’t even have to register! Use it to schedule meetings, lunches, social events, conference calls or other appointments with multiple people, as many as needed. Simply set up a poll assessing best time for an event, send a link to all those participating in the call or meeting, and use a personalized URL to finalize the logistics and manage the event.

For a fee, Doodle links to calendars such as Outlook, Google and other apps.   

As a freelancer/contract professional, I’ve worked through various methods to track records of time per project/client for end-of-month-invoicing – from manual notebooks, to Spreadsheets, to Basecamp.

Zoho is an easy to use online service that allows several individuals to create, track, and manage invoicing and basic project management. I’ve only used it as a free trial - and it’s streamlined the process incredibly. Zoho helps manage a range of tasks including invoicing, expense tracking, quotes, and some project management.  Note this is one of those applications that only provides a specific set of free features, but pricing is reasonable for the full suite of functions.

Teamly is a good alternative to other, more robust project management applications like Basecamp from 37 Signals, which I helped implement at Markit Strategies, the virtual PR agency I’ve been associated with since 2005.

Teamly is especially useful for virtual teams.  I suggested Teamly for a volunteer organization and it worked nicely.

One of the biggest strengths is the priorities page which gives an at-a-glance view of priorities.
 It’s easy to add, manage and move priorities around—or look back or forward in time to see accomplished or upcoming tasks.

Whew!  So there they are!  If you try any of these five tools, share your experience.  If you know of any other great apps, post them here!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Reminder: Discover, Don’t Dictate

A tip of the B-to-B Blog hat to the folks at www.marketingexperiments.com.

Those wise folks recently published a blog post which reminded marketers to “Discover, Don’t Dictate” and it struck a chord.

The post is entitled "Customer Value: 4 Tips for Crafting Segmented Value Propositions". In a nutshell, the author reminds the b-to-b marketer to take the time to research and examine what exactly are the top appeals (or value propositions) each market segment has for a product or service. This discovery process helps fuel all marketing messaging.

What Motivates the Prospect?

It’s critical when developing marketing communications, or any business-to-business communications, to take a market-centric approach to what’s relevant, appealing to each prospect segment, and finding their pain-points.  

Before a website is written, before a direct email is created, before a product brochure is printed, it is critical to take the time to discover and truly ascertain what a product or service truly means to prospects.

All About You - or All About Your Customer?

Instead of stressing all about the product, via all that “we we” text, as described in a previous B-to-B Blog post, the focus should instead be on the tried and true “What’s in it for me” approach to marketing content. 

Those key messages, value propositions, will then have a better chance of motivating the prospect.
The “Discover, Don’t Dictate” blog post makes some great points:
  •    Multiple groups/audience segments care about different aspects of a product or service – does the marketing message take this into account?
  • It is of tremendous value to be consistent in conducting detective work to uncover what aspects are truly relevant and appealing.  Don’t just conduct a market research project once, then make the assumption the findings stay the same over the years.
  • One of the most powerful way to discover the market perception is to survey current customers.  It’s powerful stuff to figure out what features/benefits resonate with current customers, what makes them convinced to stay with you, sign up with you, buy from you, etc.
  • Another high-impact way to “discover” the market need is to survey non-customers.  Go to relevant trade shows, networking events and other appropriate gatherings to conduct an informal survey.  Have attendees heard of your product or service? How do they react to your offerings and general industry offerings?

A Powerful Reminder
As mentioned above, this topic has been covered in this blog and other places, but these reminders are always quite helpful.  

It is easy to dictate what we as marketers might assume/think motivates a prospect.  It is more compelling and effective to discover that information directly from prospects, and use that knowledge to create high-impact marketing communications.