Friday, December 16, 2016

Why publicity isn't an exact science

Publicity/public relations isn't advertising, but they all have one thing in common:

They cannot guarantee that the folks you are trying to reach will actually be reached - it's just that simple.

The reasons why are complicated and varied, but a lot of it has to do with the idea that it can be harder to get attention for some things than it is for others.

For example, if you are a celebrity or public figure whose life is documented day-by-day via social platforms or traditional media, a sneeze could net coverage by every major news outlet in the world. But if you are a small or new organization, an up-and-coming artist or someone who leads a more covert existence, convincing the press to cover your grand-opening, concert or exhibit, can be a bit more difficult.

The truth is this: Media attention tends to garner more media attention. "Currency" - being seen a whole lot or everywhere - is one of the seven news values that help editors, producers and reporters determine if something is newsworthy. That being said, it stands to reason that the more media attention you already have, the more you'll get.

Yes, hiring someone to help you get your information out there - via a press release, eblast or the like - can help, but understand that it doesn't guarantee that the press will flock to cover what you have going on.

Today, with budgets being tightened and news outlets being forced to do more with less due to smaller staffs, things that use to be guaranteed for coverage - community events, feel-good award ceremonies and dinners, parades - often aren't anymore, usually because the news outlet simply might not have the manpower to send someone over.

The last medium-sized daily newspaper I worked for had a staff of just five general news reporters, two sports reporters and one photographer covering all or part of five counties. Weekends had only one general reporter and one sports reporter on the clock - and only images left over from the week for local photos. The newsroom was literally like a ghost town after 5pm on Friday until 9am Monday.

So it may not be realistic to think that your publicist or PR specialist will be able rustle up a TV, a radio and a few print outlets to cover your event. It is his/her job to be the liaison between you and the press, and generate buzz - but even the best publicist can't guarantee coverage.

It's important to remember that with publicity, you pay for the amount of time, effort and consideration the publicist makes on your behalf, not necessarily for results. Sometimes, the fruits of your publicist's efforts won't even be realized until months after the initial campaign is complete. Think about that event video that was shot, edited and posted to your FB, Twitter and Vimeo pages. Not everyone will see it the day it was posted.

Although coverage guarantees aren't possible, you can help your publicity team a great deal by giving them as much lead-time for your event as possible. For example, monthly magazines work about two-to three months out (national magazines have lead times of at least three months). If your event is in January and you want to get it into an area monthly magazine, you need to have the information ready to send shortly after Halloween, no joke. Weekly and daily publications have shorter lead times, but a two-week window is the absolute minimum you can comfortably give and expect a news team, reporter, photographer or blogger to be able to cover it.

So, if the website the press release bounces everyone to for details about the event needs updating, don't wait until the day before the event to get the information up. Also, make sure the person you list as a "for more information" go-to lists a number they can actually be reached at on a weekend or late in the evening. There is nothing worse for a reporter or editor on deadline to call and get a voicemail when all they want is to double check the spelling of the keynote speaker's name.

Publicity and PR specialists can be miracle workers, pulling stuff together at the last minute and making things happen that otherwise seem humanly impossible. Some of that is par for the course, but most of that is the necessitated by poor planning by the folks looking for publicity. It is also the one thing that can surely be avoided.

Be kind to your publicity team - and one of the best ways to do that is to get them the information they need in a timely manner so they can help you garner the buzz you're looking for.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

What Does "Social Media Management" Mean?

The one constant always heard about real estate is "location, location, location" - which really means that even the best business will have no business if the folks who need that business can't find it.

But how do you let potential clients know where you are?

Not all that long ago, the answer was advertising in your local daily newspaper. It reached a captive audience and was relatively easy on the budget.

Now that newspapers, regional magazines and other print publications are struggling to stay afloat (and they have raised their ad rates accordingly - which is if they still exist in your area at all), and the reach of web-based advertising can help you reach more people faster with less hassle and for less money, today, people are much more likely to use other methods to get their message of an upcoming event or new location. Now more than ever, that will most likely include social media.

Social media (which includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Periscope, Vine and others) is easy to use, inexpensive and effective. That's why knowing how to use it - or knowing how to find someone who could help you use it effectively - is extremely important.

Basically, what Social Media Management entails is coordinating your social media platforms to present the same message, brand (image) or promotion to an interested audience of potential customers in a steady, consistent manner. It's truly modern-day advertising, hanging your "We're open!" sign and waving hello to anyone who happens by all in one.

Truthfully, the "social" part is the bit of the equation that is most important. Think of it as the virtual equivalent to a networking function. Just as you wouldn't stand in the corner munching on celery all by your lonesome an event, you've gotta actually engage to get the ball rolling online, too. Those business cards and brochures will not just hand themselves out.

On social media, that means responding to requests for information (in person, you'd hand out that business card), thanking folks for dropping by (shake some hands), and giving them opportunities to engage (ask them questions about what they do and how they do it). It takes work (you actually have to leave that comfy corner and chat people up) but it's do-able.

What too many do is set up a Facebook page or Twitter account for their venture, and never post from it or visit it more than a few times a month.

Yes, I get that it can take time to think of clever things to post and engage your audience, but that's really what it's all about.

A good way to get started is to follow other businesses or services that do what you do and see how and what they post to their followers. Do they ask questions? Show video of their new product lines? Invite followers to hit them up for more information?

Emulate that and try to do it better. Use platforms they don't use and corner the local or regional market. Offer specials to those who follow you on Twitter or Pinterest only, for example, and see what happens (nothing or something cool?). Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

But you have to venture to out of your comfort zone first. Remember, folks won't know you exist unless you let them know. So get ready to shout your location from the social media rafters.

If you need a hand, give us a call. We'd be happy to help.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Fix Up Your Website

What's worse than having a website that you haven't updated in a while?

Having a site that is hard to use, takes forever to load, has links to nowhere or makes finding contact information next to impossible, that's what.

Any of those things can cause folks searching for information on you or that thing you do to close the page and keep it moving.

According to a KISSmetricks Blog survey, the time it takes your website to load can greatly alter the user experience. Forty-seven percent of Internet surfers expect the URL they just clicked on to load in two seconds or less. Forty percent actually abandon a site that takes more than three seconds to load.

Basically, that means you've got a very tiny window to show 'em what you're working with.  If your site takes five seconds to load, a potential set of eyes that may have been interested in what you have to say just went onto something else.

We all love flashy pages that spin and glow when they pop up, right? That "WOW!" factor is a big thing. But the take-away here is that if that wow is causing your page to gurgle and stall, it may be costing you more views than it will ever gain.

But even if your site loads quickly, how does it help keep interest if the person at the end of the mouse can't find what s/he is looking for? If your page has 10 tabs or is very text-heavy, it might actually look like a cluttered mess that users deem too overwhelming or frustrating to use. Seriously - how easy is it to find the address to your location or your email information on your site? (Go check, I'll wait...)

Another thing that may spell trouble for your site is the ease of use of its mobile version. Late last year, Google announced that more than half of its searches are now done from mobile devices. Just imagine all the folks who can't see your beautifully laid-out web page because your site isn't optimized for smartphone or tablet use. Believe it or not happens all the time.

To really evaluate your site, log onto it from a computer other than one you normally use. Study the load time and see how long it takes the graphics, text and banners to become visible. Ask someone who's never been to your site to find a piece of information you consider important (like the links to your social media feeds or your SoundCloud page). Check it from an iPhone, a tablet and an Android device. If anything seems off, convoluted or messy, fix it as soon as you can.

Remember, you only get one shot to make a first impression. Make that shot the best one you can.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

A Note to My Artistic Brethren

Dear Creative Person,

I know that to you, the art is the thing and you often feel the creative process is almost sacred, but you really need to know something: If you don't take time to let people know you are an artist who creates music, pastels, novels, short films or poetry, no one but your relatives will ever know you are an artist who creates.

Promotion is not a dirty word. If you do what you do to share it with folks, promotion will help those folks know about you.

Think about it: the most amazing novel, the most poignant of sculptures, the most ethereal of music can't be enjoyed if they sit in boxes in your garage or in the corner of your studio. Art is meant to be shared. Isn't that kind of the point?

Why is garnering attention from what you do on a creative level a bad thing? Even if it is a hobby and not your livelihood (and you never hope it to be), how is having people know about that creative thing you do necessarily a bad thing?

If you want to remain obscure and known for your work only when your estate publishes your manuscripts or gets your canvases curated after your death, then by all means, don't ever update your website, use social media to self-promote or follow other artists who do. Just keep complaining about how putting together a bio for an electronic press kit or tweeting a photo of you creating just takes too much daggone time.

But haven't you done that already? And how's that working for ya?

The definition of insanity, according to Albert Einstein, is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. And he was a pretty astute guy.

Making art and letting the masses know about that art are not mutually exclusive. You can do both and still have time to create, have a life, sleep and do all the things "regular" people do.

If you owned a business selling widgets, wouldn't you advertise to let people in need of widgets know you're making he best daggone widgets around?

Why should your creative venture be any different?

A Lover of All Things Creative

Monday, February 22, 2016

If you remember nothing else...

Please - for the love of all that is good - do me one tiny favor:

Do not forget to put the address of where ever your event is happening in your press release!

You have no idea how many press releases editor me encountered on a regular that were missing that one simple, but oh-so-important bit of information.

And no, the name of the location - The Ritz Theater, The Bardavon, The Bronx Zoo, the Taj Mahal - is not enough.

Especially since there isn't any media outlet that targets only one town (the last newspaper I worked the copy desk for covered parts of at least five counties), there isn't an editor, reporter, producer or newscaster who knows the physical street address to every venue in their circulation/viewing/listening area.

Forcing whomever is reading your release (in an effort to get it into the calendar,  the entertainment section's event listing or the three-inch hole on page 8) to stop, jump online and search for the physical address of any venue could cause them to skip right over your release to get to the one behind it - y'know, the one with complete information.

It's not that the reader of the info is trying to be mean; You just may be trying to cost them time. And nobody has time to spare in a newsroom.

Seriously - how hard is it to type in a street address and city/town? Readers interested in checking out whatever you have going on want to be able to type that address into their GPS and call it a day. Your job is to get people through the door. But they won't ever cross your threshold if you can't be bothered to tell them where you'll be.

Each time you sit down to do a press release, think like the person you are trying to get to read and publicize this event. They want to know:
  • Who is doing this thing? 
  • What is it they are doing? 
  • Where is it happening? 
  • When is it taking place? 
  • Why is this important? 
  • How is this thing taking place (live? live-stream? one-night-only reception?)? 
All this information is vital to get across to those you want to come - but you have to get it to (and through) the info gate keeper first.

Want to get folks to your grand opening/listening party/concert/poetry reading/meeting or other event? Begin by telling them what they need to know to get there - and start by telling them where that "there" is.

You can do it - I know you can...

Monday, January 25, 2016

Got Social Media? USE IT!

I follow a few celebrities via Instagram and Twitter. I enjoy the behind-the-scenes stuff - you know the "This is me getting to the studio" and the "Here's the hair and makeup person making me look presentable for this photo shoot" tid-bits that give a little glimpse into the day-to-day regularity of my favorite artists, actors and performers. And I'm not gonna lie - I've unfollowed folks who only jump onto their social media accounts to remind us to buy tickets to their next concert or tune in for their 30-second appearance on an obscure award show.

See, it's not supposed to work like that.

Seriously, with social media - especially Twitter, Face Book and Instagram - consistency is key. Even if you are a huge mega-star, some of your million followers will most certainly lose interest if your only goal in using your Instagram account is to tell them when your next tour kicks off and when your new movie is available on Blue ray. Yawn...

As a publicist, I tell my clients the exact same thing: don't neglect your social media. Ever. Yes, I know you're busy, but - especially when there are so many great (and free!) programs that allow one post to hit all your accounts at once and even the convenience of scheduling posts hours, days or weeks in advance - there's really no excuse. Heck ya got me and Hootsuite, baby!

Your posts could be as relevant to the thing you do as you wish - or not at all. Your minute-long grocery store video may have nothing to do with your most recent project, but it does show you are human and relatable. Blending that on social media with "the artist at work" type of stuff can be a great mix for a fan base excited to learn more about you and your creative process. That's not to say they want to see you flossing your teeth or folding your laundry, however. There's balance to be found, for sure - but you won't find it if you post a countdown to your book tour kick-off and nothing else until the tour is almost over.

Start small if you must - posting a quick song lyric or photo of your computer keyboard or even a screen shot of the music you listen to while you sculpt once a week or so - but start and remain as consistent as you can.

Don't let weeks or months go by between posts. Yeah, stop that already.