To grow a business, most entrepreneurs know that they should be implementing PR strategies. But where do you start, and what are the best approaches to public relations for an entrepreneur? For this webinar, we were joined by Jennefer Witter, CEO and founder of the Boreland Group, and author of the new book, “The Little Book of Big PR: 100+ Quick Tips to Get Your Small Business Noticed.” We recently featured an excerpt from her book, which offers even more great tips on networking for entrepreneurs.
The full audio is included above, and the full transcript can be found below:
Jonathan: On behalf of Bplans.com, I’m really excited to introduce today’s guest speaker. Jennefer Witter is the CEO and founder of The Boreland Group, which is a certified, woman-owned public relations agency in New York City. With over 30 years of experience, Jennefer is a PR veteran, and was named in 2013 as one of the country’s top 10 CEOs and entrepreneurs by “MadameNoire” magazine.
In October, Jennefer published her new book, “The Little Book of Big PR; 100-plus Quick Tips to get your Small Business Noticed.” The book is the inspiration for today’s webinar, and if you enjoy her PR tips for early-stage and established entrepreneurs, I’d really encourage you to check out her book, which is on shelves now.
With that being said, Jennefer, welcome and take it away.
Jennefer: Jonathan, thank you so much for that lovely introduction, and thank you and Bplans.com for this opportunity. Welcome aboard, everyone. I wanted to extend a special thank-you to everyone who has signed up for this presentation. I know that as small business owners and entrepreneurs, we all are time-pressed. With the time that we’re going to devote to this webinar today, it’s going to have a lot of objectives in it. My objective to each and every one of you is that you will get information that you’ll be able to incorporate into your business model, as soon as this presentation is done. Without further ado, we can begin the webinar.
I start off with this question: What is public relations? The reason why I ask that question is the simple fact that many times when I’m meeting new clients, prospects, that their idea of PR is a little bit muddled. They mix it up with advertising. Moving forward, I want to make sure that we’re all on the same page when we’re talking about public relations.
The way that I define PR, basically, is that it’s raising your visibility to your awareness, to your target market, in a unique and differentiating manner. We also wanted to create a strong positive perception for your company. It differs from advertising, in that with advertising, most of what you see, whether it’s a commercial on television, or an advertisement in a magazine, that is paid, and 99.9 percent of the time, editorial is not paid for. As a result, it has higher credibility, and it has the opportunity to influence and attract more customers.
Again, when I’m meeting with new clients, we go through what PR can do for you. Basically, there are three key things that PR can do. The first one is define. That basically is helping you to have perception meet reality; who you are, and what you do, and make sure that people understand exactly what it is.
It helps to build your reputation, your awareness, your visibility, so that when you’re going out there selling your company, selling your product or service, and your customers are there, if they’re thinking about a need for what they want for their company or for their customers, if you’re not the first person they think about, then you’ll be the second or third business they think about.
Also, what differentiates that is critical. I was reading an article in Forbes magazine within the past month, and I’m going to say a fact to you that will probably knock you off your chairs. In this article, it said that on average, 500,000 new businesses are being created each month. That is an unbelievable number.
For established entrepreneurs, yes, we already are competing against one another. For early-stage entrepreneurs, yes, you’re getting out there. With many of these businesses, one- or two-person shops, but the fact remains that the competitive landscape has always been very strong, and is getting even more competitive as we go forward. Absolutely, you need to differentiate yourself, and what you do, and how you do it.
Basically, what you do is getting your unfair share of business-building attention. The reason why I say that is again, going back to the previous statements, there is so much going on out there, that you need to be able to position your company using PR as a tool to get you that unfair share of attention that will help you get to the next level, and contribute to your revenue. You need to do it right. You need to do it consistent, and you need to be focused when you move forward.
What PR can’t do; there are two things that I need to highlight here. Public relations is not a magic pill. You will not get results overnight. You will not get results in a few weeks. You may not get results in a few months. Results will happen, when you continue with the program for a period of time.
Sometimes when I meet with new clients they say, “Jennefer, we want PR to drive revenue.” That’s not going to happen. PR alone cannot add income to your bottom line; the reason being is that public relations has to be part of an overall business plan. When I meet with a client I always ask, “Can I see your business plan?” When I create a PR program for them, I am supporting their business objectives. I am helping you to move forward, so that is very important for you to be aware of.
When you are getting ready to put together your public relations plan, what I need for each and every one of you to do, is to define your objective. What do you want to have happen? What do you want to accomplish with your PR plan? I suggest that you don’t do this in a vacuum. Bring in your senior level team. Discuss out what you want to happen. Once you have your goal identified, then you can move forward.
Moving forward, that’s when you start considering the tactics that will enable you to accomplish your objective. For this presentation, we’re going to go over several, including self-branding, media relations, social media, networking, and speaking engagements. The reason why I focus on these tactics is because these are usually the core of every program that I do for my clients, who are primarily small businesses throughout the country. They’re in different industries, but again, with these tactics, it enables them to achieve their goals.
What’s self-branding? Self-branding is also known as personal branding. It’s pretty much an effective tool to communicate who you are, what you do, and how you differ from others. In terms of personal branding, you evolve it into a positioning statement. A positioning statement is also known as an elevator pitch. Again, it helps you define and differentiate who you are, in the matter of time that it takes to ride in an elevator, like 90 seconds.
I’ve had a lot of entrepreneurs come up to me and say, “This is my brand.” They’ll keep talking and talking and talking. I have a short attention span, so I sometimes tune out. These are people who I know. When you’re going up to a new client or prospect and they say to you, “What is your brand?” they’re going to have to hold your attention. Remember, there are a whole bunch of businesses out there grabbing for that same client, so you ought to be able to define who you are in a matter of three or four sentences.
For the first thing you need to do, again, you need to set your objective. What do you want your brand to accomplish? You need to think this through. Once you define what you want your brand to accomplish, then you move over to the second step, and that is conducting an audit. Basically, what an audit is, is a series of questions that you send out to a pre-identified universe, asking about the company.
Who do you send this out to? I would say to send it out to business associates, to clients, and yes, your staff. I would say to send it to about 20 to 30 people, because it really helps to identify the perception versus the reality of your business. Some of the questions that you should ask—you should only ask about five or six. The first question and it sounds so PR 101, but I tell you, the responses may surprise you.
The very first question you should ask is, “What does my business do?” Again, it sounds so very basic, but I have done audits for myself and for my clients, and sometimes when my clients get their responses back about, “What does my business do?” it can be very startling. You may be thinking you’re doing A, and your audience thinks that you’re doing QRXT, whatever. You need to find out what they’re thinking.
The other thing that I would suggest is that you hire someone to do an audit. One of the things of the audit, is that you have to get honest, open, authentic answers. Sometimes the people who are being interviewed, may feel a little bit hesitant about airing their true opinion. The most important thing about an audit, is that the responses that you get back are true.
I would say, hire somebody to do it, and then also allow the participants to answer anonymously. That again, will help you to get robust responses. You can do it by e-mail or by phone. Whichever one the recipient wants to do, allow them to do it.
One of the questions that you should also ask is, “What can I do better?” That’s just a prettied-up way of saying, “What am I doing wrong?” Nobody really wants to know what they’re doing wrong, and it can be terrifying. A lot of my clients get nervous when they ask this question. The thing about it is, in order to achieve the objective that you have set for yourself, you really need to ask this question, and you need to listen, and you need to hear what people are saying about you.
The next thing that you need to do is to do your research. Go on Google and put in your name, your business’ name, and see what’s coming up. Are you getting a lot of media placements? Are you getting a lot of comments about your business? Is your competition there more than you are? You really need to see how you are placed on the Internet.
You also need to look at LinkedIn and Facebook. For LinkedIn—we’re going to talk a little bit more about social media—take a look at your endorsements. If you have five critical skills that you feel everyone should know about, but you look in your endorsements section and only three of those are listed, that tells you something.
On Facebook, look at your page. Look at your business page, and go through the people who are liking you, and commenting on your posts. Are these the people that you want to connect with? Are they A level, B level, C level? You really need to dissect that, because again, you need to reach out to the audience that is going to use your service. It’s important to do your research, to see how to reach out to them.
You have all of this information, and it’s going to be a lot. What I need for you to do, is to start compiling your data. You need to go through it. You need to analyze it, and see what are some common threads here? Are you getting a lot of positives? Are you getting some constructive criticism that you see in interview after interview, or what you have seen on the Internet? Once you pull all of this information together, you create that positioning statement; again, who you are and what you do.
Once you create that statement, it will be crystal clear to everyone about what you are doing. Once you create that statement, test it. Go back to a couple of the people that you originally went to and say, “Hey, here’s the statement I created for my company. Here’s my brand. What do you think about it?” Again, it could be a couple of people. You don’t need to go back to the entire list. They’ll say, “It sounds good,” or “Here’s a little change,” et cetera. You need to tweak it, and then you’ll have that statement.
Once you have that statement, you have to live it. You haven’t put all this work out there, just to have this sit on your desk. You need to put it in your communication. You need to thread it throughout everything, whether it’s marketing collateral, whether it’s advertising, new business pitches in your networking.
What also is very important, is that you share this information with your staff. Your staff is your ambassador, and whether you have 500 people working for you, or you have three, each time somebody is asked, “What is your company? What is your brand?” everybody must say the same thing. I’m not saying they’re going to go around being automatrons and saying, “My company is blah, blah, blah.” No, but they should know, what are the key points that they need to reiterate when they’re talking about the company.
This is very important, because the next step is media relations. I’ve been in the business now for about 30 years. Up until about two months ago, every client or prospect has always said “I want media relations.” It’s only been one client, and it happened within the past couple of months, who said, “No, I don’t want media relations. I just want social media.” One out of dozens and dozens of clients that I had, but media relations really is the nirvana of PR.
It’s important that you select the media outlets that you’re going to be in, and I emphasize this—
Jonathan: Jennefer, if I can just pause you for a second, I had a couple questions from the group, who are wondering if maybe you could do a recap of the six questions to ask during a brand audit, or if you had additional examples of questions to ask during that brand audit. I thought that would be a great thing to review.
Jennefer: Sure. The questions, you can find in my book. With the questions that you can ask are, just going back. The steps is, step one is to set your objective. What do you want your brand to accomplish? Step two, conduct an audit. That way, you see the perceptions versus the reality. Step three, do your research. You can do this by Googling your company or yourself, checking your endorsements on LinkedIn, and seeing who likes you on Facebook or who doesn’t like you, whether you’re getting the audience that you want.
Step four, compile your data. When I say compile your data, you take the previous twp steps of the information you get from the audit, and then your research, and then moving forward with it and analyzing it. Step five, test your self-brand statement. When I say that, go back to some of the people that you have spoken to previously and say, “Here is the positioning statement. What do you think about it?” You may get some comments, “Tweak it here, tweak it there,” or “It sounds fine,” and then you can move forward with it.
The last step is to live it. That basically means to incorporate it into your business practice. Make sure that your staff knows what it is. Thread it throughout all of your communications activities. When you’re going out to introduce yourself to a company, to a new client, that you can speak with this.
With some of the questions that you may want to ask—again, you can find them in the book, “The Little Book of Big PR,” it’s very basic. The first question that I had in there was, what does your company do? The next question can be, what value do I bring to the table? The next, what can I do differently? List three adjectives to describe my company. Again, the question that makes most people cringe a little bit is, what can I do better?
I would say—don’t say like, “Am I making mistakes?” or things like that. It’s all about the use of language. When you say, “What can I do better?” you’re saying that there may be opportunities where you can improve upon your service. The only way for you to know that, is to get a response to that question. It shows that you’re not sitting on your laurels, and that you’re seeking to get to that next level.
Again, what did your company do? What value do you bring to the table? What can I do differently? What can I do better? List three adjectives to describe my company. I would say, throw in another question and that is, is there anything that I didn’t ask, that you would like to comment upon now? That could open up another box of questions or comments, but it gives the person who’s being audited, the opportunity to share with you something that they feel is of importance.
Once again, I want to stress this; if you get criticism, it is constructive criticism. It’s to help you. They’re not going to be taking time out of their day to do this audit, if they did not feel that it was worth their while to participate in the process. I hope that helps. We’re monitoring the questions, and if you have any more questions throughout, feel free to ask. As Jonathan said, we have a period of Q&A afterwards, but please, continue to ask questions as we move forward. I appreciate it.
Jonathan: Thank you, Jennefer. That’s great.
Jennefer: You’re welcome. Getting back to media relations; as I was saying, everybody wants media, but where you get it is critical. It’s not about where you want to be. It really should be where your audience is reading. Let me give you an example. One of my clients is an architect, and at the beginning of the relationship he said, “Jennefer, I do not want to be in any of the architecture publications. I’m not interested. This is where I want to go. I want to be in business media.” The reason why, is that his clients are C-level executives; CEOs, COOs, high level professionals, and they read these publications. He wanted to be in front of their face, in the publications that they read, or watch on television.
As a result, we don’t put him in any of the architecture books. We’ve gotten him in the “New York Times.” We’ve gotten him in “Investors’ Business Daily,” “The Wall Street Journal,” “Dow Jones.” Yes, it has worked for him.
Let’s just say you’re in the Washington, D.C. area and you wanted to be in the “Washington Post.” I am not knocking the “Washington Post.” It’s one of my favorite papers. It’s award-winning, it’s fabulous. If you’re audience reads the “Washington Business Journal,” and they live and die by it, then you need to be in the “Washington Business Journal.”
How do you get into it? This is called the pitch. The pitch is basically a very short e-mail to the reporter at the publication or the media outlet, who is covering your area of interest. It should be no more than two very short paragraphs. Reporters get a lot of e-mail. I have spoken to reporters; the average response I get is between 300 and 400 e-mails that they get every day. One reporter I spoke to recently gets 900 e-mails a day. They don’t have time to read through book-length pitch. Keep it short, keep it sweet.
You’ll say something along the lines of, “Dear reporter, Hi, I’m Jennefer Witter, the CEO of The Boreland Group, a boutique public relations agency in New York. I have a story concept to share with you,” and you go into it. Why’d I go into, “I’m the CEO of The Boreland Group, blah, blah, blah”? You are immediately establishing your credentials, and then you get straight into the pitch.
What should you be offering? You have to think—I’m going to have to tell this to you—not everything about your company is worth a news story. You have to figure out if it’s newsworthy or not. If you have something in your company that truly is unique, then discuss it. However, don’t play it up. Stay away from the hyperbole. One of my reporter friends said that she always gets a pitch from this woman who says, literally, “My product is the best thing since sliced bread.” It’s not. She is getting a reputation, and they’re really not paying attention to her pitches.
Go in there and say what your pitch is, and then here’s a secret that I’m just sharing among the few of us here. Here’s how you end the pitch. Say, “I am going to follow up with you shortly to ascertain your interest. Thank you so much for your consideration.”
First sentence; “I am going to follow up with you.” That leaves the door open for you to follow up with the reporter. I suggest that you can call them up and say, “Hi, this is Jennefer. I just sent you an e-mail a couple of days ago on blah, blah, blah.” They will either say, “I didn’t get it,” or “I’m not interested,” or “Tell me again about that pitch.” It really eases the cold call, because it really isn’t a cold call to a reporter. It’s, you’re following up on the e-mail. I’m a big believer in thank-yous. Many reporters don’t get thank-yous. When you say, “Thank you for your consideration,” it really does help you to differentiate yourself from others pitching the reporter.
What I will tell you is that the one thing you do not want to do, is to annoy a reporter. One of the pet peeves that I have heard—I have been in public relations since 1982, and this is now 2014. The one consistent pet peeve I have heard from media, reporters, producers is, getting pitches that have absolutely nothing to do with their beat, their areas of coverage. This happens within my own community of PR professionals, I’m very sorry to say, and from those who are pitching them without the benefit of professional PR assistance.
If a reporter who is covering the automotive industry gets an e-mail about office furniture, they will not like it. Remember what I said earlier, that they’re getting hundreds of e-mails a day? They’re getting—they have to go through these e-mails. Reporters nowadays are under such stress, I can’t begin to tell you. Back in ’82, they would write a story, file it, call it a day. With the advent of social media, there’s so much more. It truly is a beast that has to be fed 24/7, and they are looking for content. They are writing, they are blogging, they are tweeting, they are reading, they’re going through their e-mails, all in the same amount of time that they had 30 years ago.
Send out an e-mail, and when you are looking at it, if you’re not sure about which reporter to do, do you know what you do? Go on LinkedIn. Virtually every reporter has a LinkedIn profile; read it, and then go online. Virtually every reporter you can research online. Either go to the television station’s website, or the newspaper or magazine’s website, and insert their name, and their stories will come up. Read them; go back at least six months. This will give you the opportunity to get their style, what they’re interested in, so when you’re doing a pitch, it’ll be pitch perfect.
Relationship building; I just mentioned how stressed out these reporters are, and they do have a group of people they go back to a lot, because they are there for the reporter when they need them. That’s important that you become a partner to the reporters with whom you want to be involved with professionally, to get into their media outlets.
How do you do this? This is how. First of all, if you see trends or stories in your industry, e-mail the reporter and say, “I am seeing the following trends.” Reporters always want trends. If you see something that’s emerging, let that reporter know.
The other thing is, is that if a reporter is looking for a story source, and it’s not within your particular area, or nothing to be quoted, still help them out. All of my clients do that. In fact, when we meet with reporters we say, “If you’re looking for story sourcing outside of our area, and we can help you, connect you with the right person, we will do that.” They love it.
If they are looking to find out whether or not a story has legs; yes, reporters do sometimes need to figure out, “Does this story help?” I just worked with a major New York City radio station and they said, “We’re not sure if this story has some ‘there’ to it.” I connected them with two of my clients and I said, “Talk to this reporter.” As it turned out, there was no ‘there,’ there. You know what? The same major radio station has come back to me and said, “We’re doing a story on XX, and we want to talk to your clients”—the same clients who took time out of their day to talk to them and help them out.
There are ways for you to build this relationship. You get a story in the newspaper, you get your story on television—wonderful. Don’t think that everyone who you want to see it, is going to see it. That’s what merchandising is. What you need to do is to blast it out to your appropriate network. You can do it. In the “Chicago Tribune” on holiday gift-giving, my products were included in this article. Include the link to it. Again, here’s another little secret; at the end of the e-mail say, “I have a lot more to say about this topic. If you’re interested, we could set up a time for us to speak, and we can go more into detail about it.”
Again, you’re positioning yourself as an expert, and you’re also opening the door, in a non-traditional fashion, of continuing the conversation about your product. The other thing is, is that you have to make sure that your staff knows about placements. If you have a sales staff, and they’re going out and meeting with a client and the clients say, “I just saw your product on ‘Good Morning, America.’” If they don’t know about it, then it doesn’t make them look good, so make sure that your staff knows about it.
Moving over to social media; as an entrepreneur, I get very frustrated at how my fellow entrepreneurs do not take advantage of social media. I usually get three reasons why, and they are, “I’m too busy,” “I’m a private person,” “Social media is just social media. It’s all about dating. I don’t care about that.” I want you to care about that. Major companies have social media pages: LinkedIn, Facebook. IBM, Ford—they’re not doing it because they have nothing to do during the day. They are doing it because it’s accomplishing the objective they want, whether it’s to raise their visibility, whether it’s to speak directly to their audience, whether it’s to generate revenue.
Again, it goes back to the statement that I made earlier. You need to get your unfair share of business-building attention, because competition up there is tough and growing. Use social media to do it. In terms of revenue, I can tell you from personal experience, I have generated tens of thousands of dollars using social media. I have gotten clients through social media. I have contributed to my bottom line.
That alone should make you really think about moving into social media, and taking advantage of what is there. I’m going to focus in on Facebook and LinkedIn, the reason being is that there are a lot of social media tools out there. We could spend the entire presentation just talking about them. I’m going to focus in on those two, simply because they’re among the oldest social media tools out there, and in my opinion, they are the best for business.
Starting with Facebook, here are three tips. I’m going to give you three tips for LinkedIn as well. Time to post; there’s been a lot of back-and-forth about what time to post is, and so many studies about it. I have found that the best time to post is between seven pm and seven am; again, seven pm and seven am. The reason being is, what studies have indicated is that those who are on Facebook look at it after work, after dinner. Believe it or not, people post late at night. I wake up every morning at five; I’m an early riser. I go through my Facebook posts, and I see people posting at 11 pm, midnight, one, two, which is pretty amazing to me. You know what is more amazing, is that they are getting responses at that hour. Take that into consideration; seven pm to seven am to post.
What to post? A lot of people will go back and forth about this, and here’s what I say. You need to post, by the way, a minimum of four times a week. What you should post is information about your company; if you won an award, if there is a milestone in your company, if you are attending a trade show, please post that down.
The other thing is that with Facebook, that has worked the best for me, enabling me to generate again tens of thousands of dollars in revenue, is that I share information. I lecture a lot on PR, social media, small business, and I share my learnings with my universe. People love to get what they consider the inside of the particular industry in which they’re interested. Obviously, don’t post anything proprietary, but share information that is normally not known outside of the industry. That will make your Facebook page sticky, which is basically a tech term in that you are now engaging your audience. They will go back to your page. They will make a point of reading about what you’re doing, and they will reach out to you. Basically, that’s what you need to do for Facebook.
For LinkedIn now, this is very important; the photo. If you don’t have a photo, you absolutely will not get as much interaction as when you do have a photo. With the photo, please have it professionally taken, or have a professional quality photo. The reason being is that I have seen some photographs up there that really were not of the best quality, or the best showing of the individual. LinkedIn is truly more blue suit kind of corporate America, where Facebook is more of the … a little bit loosey-goosey. LinkedIn, put your best foot forward with that head shot.
LinkedIn is also great as an analytical tool, and here’s how. On LinkedIn, go to the right-hand side of the page, and scroll down, and you’re going to see how many people have viewed your page, and then you’re also going to see your rankings. Press on the bullet that says “your rankings.” When you press “audit,” you’re going to see where you are in terms of your groups. Let’s say you have 1,000 people who are following you; they’re your connections. You’re going to see where you rank in those connections.
When you do that, you will see how many people—not how many people, but who’s viewing your pages. That’s critical, because that’s showing that you are posting information that is of interest and value to your audience. How many times should you post on LinkedIn? A couple of times a week is pretty good, I say. Post about your company, but also post information that is of value, such as articles.
For example, one of the things that I have shared recently on my LinkedIn page was a story, I believe it was from “Forbes” magazine, about women entrepreneurs, and being listened to in meetings. What I also did was, I posted it in the groups that I belong to, and that’s tip three. I have gotten a huge amount of engagement from one of the groups that I’m involved with.
With groups, this is what you should do. Don’t just join groups that are within your industry. As I said earlier about that architect client of mine, who wanted to be in front of the business community because that’s where their clients are; go to where your clients are, whether it’s a business group or a [inaudible 00:42:24] group, or a community-based group. Join those groups, and then post in them a couple of times a week.
Here’s a heads-up for you; when you join a group, they have specific rules and regulations, and you need to follow them. If you do not follow the rules and regulations, there is a chance you could be frozen out of that group. If someone indicates that something that you post is a spam, whether it’s right or wrong, LinkedIn can deny you posting on your page, or any group’s page. Be very careful. Make sure you read the regulations of each and every group, before you join it.
We’re going to move over to networking. I think that’s critical. There’s been a lot of information and stories now about the value of networking. One of the things that you need to do with networking, is to define your goals. When I say that, it’s basically, what do you want networking to achieve for you? Do you want to build your visibility within your group? Do you want to launch new product, and it’s in a new market area for you? Do you need to get into that particular segmentation? Figure out what you want to do. What do you want networking to achieve, and then you start the networking.
One of the things that I advise is, go outside your circle. Yes, I belong to a couple of PR groups and things like that, but I go to where I can get my clients, and that is a broad spectrum of groups. I belong to several women’s groups, and I really work within those groups to raise my visibility. I do speaking sessions. I connect with other women. I serve on the board. Again, this particular group is not within my area of my profession, but I have made contacts within that group, that have allowed me to expand my business.
Last but not least of the musts, is follow-up. This is something where we all fall down, including myself. Some advise that you follow up within one day. I have to tell you, I’ve never followed up with anybody in one day. It just doesn’t work. I say that you can follow up within five business days of meeting someone. I went to an event last week, it was for a security group, and I met a couple of people there and we exchanged cards. We had a nice conversation, and I felt that the conversation. I was reading the body language and I said, “Do you mind if I LinkIn with you?” Those people said, “Sure.” That’s a way to quickly follow up with someone.
The other thing is, is that Sallie Krawcheck—she is the head of one of the women’s groups I belong to—she says she does something nice for somebody in her network every week. “Nice” doesn’t mean that you’re going to take them out to lunch, or send them flowers. She says, “I will send them an article that I think that they will find it of interest.”
Take a look at what you’re doing with this networking. With this presentation that I did, I send it out to several within my networking circle as well. If you’re giving a presentation, think about inviting people. If you’re having a holiday party, invite people over. If it’s a holiday, with the season coming up, send information out to them, “wishing you a happy holiday.” There are many ways to stay gently in contact with your network, and it will return your investments.
Here’s some “must-nots”: Don’t be mean. You may be wondering, “I don’t go to networking groups and slap people in the face.” No, that’s not what I’m talking about. I have been to several networking sessions, where I’ll see people talking and one person is looking around, obviously not paying attention, obviously looking around to see who else she can speak to, who can be of more value to her. That is not nice. I always say that no matter what, even if you get someone that you realize is not going to be a connection, bow out graciously. A way to do that—because I’m asked about this all the time—is, “How do I bow out?”
If you have a drink say, “Thank you so much. I really enjoyed talking with you. I’m going to refresh my drink now. Have a wonderful rest of the event.” Get a drink, or refresh your drink, whatever, but bow out gracefully. That person may not be of value to you now, but they may be down the road. Me, me, me, me, me; it’s all about me. Actually, in networking, it really is all about me. The thing about it is, that you have to give. With successful networking, you have to give in order to get.
If you don’t have a 50/50 relationship, and the other person feels that all they’re doing is giving, giving, giving, they’re not going to help you when you need it. Always remember, that sometimes you may give something, and you may not get something back immediately, but you have to give.
Last but not least of the must-nots, don’t overcommit. This could be overcommit with the number of groups that you want to belong to, or within 1 group that you’re in, and if you’re saying, “I can do this, this, and this.” You need to see how much time you can focus in on your networking. If all you can do is one hour a week, then work within that hour, and exploit those 60 minutes. One of the worst things you can do is to go forward and say, “I can do one through 10,” and in actuality, you can do one through two. That won’t make you look good, and it could impact the way you are viewed, and perhaps negatively impact your business.
Speaking engagements; most entrepreneurs and small business owners who I know, would rather have a root canal than do public speaking. Actually, there is a health term associated with this; it’s called glossophobia. It was developed by the National Institute of Health. I have to say to my fellow entrepreneurs, get over your fear and start doing speaking engagements. The reason being is that with speaking engagements, it helps to position you as an expert in your field. You are speaking to an audience that you want to know about your company, who you want to use your company as a service or a resource. Really, take a step out of yourself, and go forward with the speaking engagement.
One of the things that I always advise people to do who are nervous, or who are new at this, is to create your own seminars. That way, you have the most control over it. Here are six steps for you to consider, the first one being budget. I just did a speaking engagement a couple of weeks ago in Washington, D.C. I spoke about my book, “The Little Book of Big PR,” and I also gave a reading. First and foremost, the thing that I did was define how much I wanted to spend on this event. Figure out how much you want to lay out for the speaking engagement, and then the following steps will work within that budget parameter.
What are you going to talk about? You don’t want to pick out a topic out of the thin blue sky, and then find out nobody is interested in it. You already know who you want to attract. I would say, go to a couple of these people, and go to them with a couple of topics and say, “I’m interested in talking about one, two, and three. Which one are you most interested in hearing about?” When you get this feedback from the people you have polled, you can then create the topic that is most popular.
You will be speaking to your audience, not at them. They are obviously interested in hearing what you have to say, because you’ve already done that poll. It also helps you to maximize the number of people attending your event.
Your event; where should you do it? You can do it virtually anywhere. When I first started The Boreland Group 11 years ago, I used to do a lot of presentations, believe it or not, at the local library here in New York City. It was the science, industry, and business library in Manhattan, and I created my own seminars, and through the support of the library, I was able to present it there. It worked out really well.
You shouldn’t just pick to pick. With the science, industry, and business library, obviously I was being very strategic, because I was launching a business. The people I wanted to attract were in business. Going to the library that focused solely on business, I was able to get in front of my target audience.
Other clients of mine have done engagements within their own offices, which can really work out, especially if you want to do a quick tour of your office beforehand, and show your clients, your prospects, what you do. You could be a little bit more creative, and do it at an unusual location such as a book store. For my reading, I did it at a penthouse, and it really worked out well. You can be creative with your venue location, but again going back to step one, it’s depending on the dollars. Also, the other thing is with the library, it was free. That’s something that every person can relate to.
Regarding the timing of your events, that’s the other thing you should poll your audience. I have done speaking engagements on a Saturday between 11 and one. I have done speaking engagements on Sundays between four and six. I have done—I have attended engagements starting at seven am and ending at 8:30. It all depends on your audience.
When I was doing my reading in Washington, D.C. I polled several people who have done engagements in D.C., and I told them what I wanted to do and where it was being held. They said, “It would be best if you did on a weekend, and if you did it on a Saturday, here’s the times you should do it, and if you did it on a Sunday, here are the times you would do it.” I took that into consideration, and it worked out really good because I got a very, very good response for the day and the time that I did it.
Timing is absolutely critical. If your engagement is geared toward mothers, I have learned you need to do the engagement in the morning; definitely don’t do it in the evening.
Finally, incentives; incentives work. Obviously, what you have to say is interesting, productive, fascinating—incentives work. I would say when you’re going out and talking about your speaking engagement to gather a crowd, include the fact in the invitations that there is an incentive. Again, harkening back to the reading that I gave a few weeks ago, my incentive was a raffle. The prize was a one-on-one PR counseling session with me. Again, here’s a little secret; when you’re giving out incentives, give them out at the end of the event, so people don’t leave in the middle of the event.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money. I’ve been to events where they’ve given away $25 gift cards, and people love it. Think about that. Include an incentive. The other thing that’s not listed here, is mention that there will be refreshments. Free food does bring in people. Again, your presentation is the key. It’s what’s very important, but those little niceties such as refreshments and incentives, really does help to attract a crowd.
Last but not least, you need to show your appreciation. For all the people who attended my reading, I sent each and every one of them a personal thank-you note. If you’re bringing somebody in to speak with you, a co-speaker, and they’re doing it, and you’re not paying them, send them a little something. The science, industry and business library presentations that I used to do, I used to bring in reporters to talk about working with the media. I sent them gift certificates as thank-you. I think that really is important. Just sending a thank-you note within a couple of days of the event, really does work. It can continue the conversation. It allows you to stay in front of them, and it shows that you appreciate their being there. Also to the co-presenter who’s taken time out of his or her day to help you, that really works.
Right now, we’re going to turn it over to questions and answers. Before I do, I want to say thank you to all of you for listening in, and I hope you found this helpful. Jonathan, whenever you’re ready to start with the questions, I’m here.
Jonathan: Thank you so much, Jennefer. Yeah, we have a number of questions, and I’m sure we won’t be able to get to all of them today with the remaining time that we have, but I just wanted to bring up a couple for you to respond to. First of all, somebody asked a question about PR tips that are specific to the health care industry. Do you have clients that are in the health care industry, and what are some areas of concern with trying to get PR in that industry?
Jennefer: Right now, I don’t have any clients in the health care industry. I have represented such groups as the Cancer Support Society, which provides services to cancer patients and their caregivers. One of the things that I can tell you about the health care industry and public relations, is that it is tightly monitored, and that usually with the approval process for professional leases and the like, that it is very, very closely watched.
Again, I am not in the health care industry, but what I would say is that if you are going to do some sort of public relations, press releases, announcements and the like, to go with an agency that specializes in health care. Again, it is very tightly monitored.
Jonathan: Good, thanks for that answer. Another, maybe like a two for one kind of a question here, we had somebody ask, when you were speaking about the social media aspect of PR, and then somebody else brought up a similar question when it came to the speaking engagements; what do you do if you really aren’t interested? For the social media, if you are a private person, how do you maintain a level of privacy on social media? For the speaking engagements, do you have to do speaking engagements? What if you just aren’t interested in that aspect?
Jennefer: For the social media, what I’ve said with “I’m a private person” is that you’re not talking about yourself. You’re talking about your company, and your service. The other thing, that with Facebook and LinkedIn, you have a great deal of control over who you connect with, who you allow to like on your page. You also have control over what you post.
I would say that yes, you are a private person. I’m a private person, and I very strictly monitor what I put up. The thing about it is, is that if you’re not on social media, you can bet that your competition is, and they’re getting what you may be getting, because you’re not out there claiming a piece of the virtual pie that can convert into revenue.
With speaking engagements, if you don’t want to do speaking engagements, that’s fine. There are a plethora of tips that I gave out, from self-branding to networking to media relations. As I said at the beginning of the presentation, figure out what your objective is, and select the tactics that will work the best for you.
If you find that speaking engagements isn’t your cup of tea, it will not help you to achieve what you want to achieve, then take a look at the other tactics that I have outlined. You don’t have to do all of them. Take a couple of them, and figure out how to exploit them to your benefit, and really make them help you move your business ahead.
Jonathan: Excellent, thank you. I think I have time for just maybe one more group of questions, referring to LinkedIn. There were a couple of questions about that. First of all, if somebody isn’t on LinkedIn yet, is it best for them to set up a page for their company, or do they need to set it up for their individual profile and use that for their PR strategy? How do you go about identifying the groups that your clientele may be joining?
Jennefer: I don’t have a page for The Boreland Group. I have a page for Jennefer Witter. I am the face of my company, and that’s how I promote my business. If you don’t have a LinkedIn page, you can create it under yourself. Again, if you’re a private person, I can understand it, but you’re not, you’re putting your LinkedIn page as the head of your company or whatever title you are.
One of the things that’s critical, is putting together your summary in addition to the photograph. When you’re writing the summary, it should be a couple of paragraphs long. Start with the current work that you’re doing. If you have anything that can quantify what you’re doing—for example, your company has created 30 percent of the best blah, blah, blah, or if you had contributed to a certain percentage increase to your company, put that up there.
In terms of joining groups, when you are connecting with people, a page will come up and say, “Your connection, Jennefer Witter, is in these groups.” A-ha; you wanted to connect with this person, you have. Now you know what other groups influence him or her. Take a look at these groups and see which ones would benefit you the most. On LinkedIn, you can only join a certain number of groups. I don’t know it off the top of my head, but there’s definitely a limit to how many groups you can join.
If you have, let’s say, 10 people that are on your target, that you want to connect with, and they accept your connection, take a look at the groups that they belong to, and then join some of those groups. That will get you in front of them, in addition to being connected with you on your primary page.
Jonathan: Fantastic. Thank you so much, Jennefer. I think that’s all the time that we have for questions, but just for all of our webinar attendees, I just want to reiterate a couple of things. We will be sending this recorded Webinar, with the transcript. You’ll receive that follow-up e-mail in about seven to 10 days. What we’re going to do in the meantime is, the questions that you have asked, we’re going to send some of those to Jennefer. If she has the ability to answer a few of those, we’re going to get those included in the follow-up e-mail.
Also what you can do is, you can visit Bplans.com. Jennefer wrote a guest post for us, using an excerpt from her book, “The Little Book of Big PR,” that has 20 networking tips from a PR expert. Definitely read that article on Bplans.com.
Obviously, if you want to dig deeper into each of these tips, Jennefer does have the book, “The Little Book of Big PR: 100-plus Quick Tips to get your Small Business Noticed.” Definitely check out that book. For further communication, you can reach out to us on Twitter @Bplans. You can find us on Facebook/Bplans. Jennefer is, as she mentioned, she’s on LinkedIn, she’s on Twitter; JenneferTBG is her Twitter handle. Definitely follow up with us. We will be e-mailing you the recorded webinar with the transcript, and we will try to add some of the questions that we weren’t able to get in today.
Thank you, everyone, for being here. Jennefer, did you have any last parting words?
Jennefer: Yes. I lost you when you were giving out my handle, so I just wanted to make sure that everybody got it, which is @JenneferTBG, and it’s J-E-N-N-E-F-E-R, that’s on the site. I promise you that every question that will be asked of me, I will answer. Send those questions in. I’ll be answering them, and I look forward to connecting with you via Twitter, through the questions, and I hope you found this seminar of value.
Jonathan: Again, thank you so much, Jennefer. We really had tons of advice here; great content. We really appreciate your time with us. Thank you, everyone, for attending, and I think that about does it for us.
Jennefer: Thank you, Jonathan.
Jonathan: Thanks, everyone.