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what's this personal branding lark all about?

The biggest, most important reason for strengthening your personal brand is opportunity.  And the biggest benefit of strong personal brands among your team, is the brilliant reflection they have on your company.  

If you've got an ounce of ambition, are chasing a new contract or a new customer, especially in a crowded market where you have lots of competition, what's going to help you stand out? A strong personal brand and a solid reputation is what. 

Simply put, if no one knows who you are, or what you're good at, trying to secure clients and contracts will be harder than it needs to be. But what does a successful personal brand actually look like? 

Some activity on social platforms and a well oiled blog is certainly a good start, but being able to sum up who you are, your experience and how you can contribute to something new and shiny is the crux of it. Especially in an in-person environment. You need to be able to introduce yourself and give a snapshot of what you do, succinctly and interestingly to a random stranger, without referring to the weather or other bizarre small-talk. 

Next is content. You might be the best cupcake creator in the land, but without sharing content on said amazing cupcakes, you're slotted in with the mediocre. And you don't want that.

So when you've figured out what it is you do, or want to do in the future that you'd like to work towards, you can confidently tell people of that in an interesting way, your next step is getting your story straight and telling it really well, to an audience who want to know all about your salted caramel, gluten free delight. No point in yelling from the rooftops how amazing your dairy based cupcakes are to a vegan audience who are all quietly grossed out by your use of animal products. 

Are you picking up what I'm throwing down?

Let's sum it up.

1) What is it you do or want to do in the future?

2) Have you got your elevator pitch nailed?

3) Does your story make sense for your audience?

If personal branding is the missing piece from your plans for success, go here for the next step.

 

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Sexism towards men is a fallacy.

My reference in this blog to men and women also include those who identify as such and transgender folk, too.

I feel like not a great amount of people understand what sexism is.  If I read another comment from a disgruntled white man about women being sexist towards men, I think I'll scream.

You can be discriminative towards men.  You can be a jerk towards men.  You can have an attitude of exclusion towards men.  You can not be sexist towards men.  Here's why.

Sexism is a form of oppression.  Just like Racism.  You can't be racist towards white people.  You can be discriminatory, but not racist.  Oppression happens to minority groups, not to majority rules.  You can challenge me all you like on this, but in this case I am right and you are very wrong.

And I know the dictionary says sexism is against any sex and actually, I believe that more if the definition is talking about transgender people or non-conforming to gender people, but, it isn't. The dictionary is wrong.  

Moving on.  It's International Women's Day, today. Ordinarily, I'd enjoy the day, reflect on the increasingly difficult road women have travelled to get to where we are now, feel compassion toward women in places like Mexico and the Middle East where life is still very difficult.  But this year, I felt compelled to rant on my blog because of the comments section on stuff.co.nz.  

Part of my job as a public relations and content strategist is to pitch stories about my clients to mainstream media outlets.  I had three positive women stories in mainstream over the weekend, and I don't usually read the comments, however in this one  I'm really glad I did.  Because for the last few years, I've been reasonably protected from sexism and discrimination, thanks to my incredibly large privilege. The comments in that article are grotesque.  Full of stupidity.  And I mean real moronic comments from moronic men who really don't have a clue.  Go ahead and read them, if you've got a strong stomach. 

And bizarrely, up until May last year, I naively thought that equality was here.  That we'd achieved it.  That in New Zealand, our progressiveness had somewhat eliminated sexism and discrimination against women.  Yeah, nah.  

Last May, I was very pregnant and still pitching for business, because while I'm a working mother, I'm also self-employed and have a career and unfortunately ditching my career and taking a long maternity leave where I get to put my feet up a month before giving birth, actually isn't an option.  My scheduled C-Section was on 7th July and on 6th July I was still pitching for business,  but that's another story.

This pitch in particular (the one in June), was going well.  I delivered my value, I educated best practice, I gave 10% of the solution away for free, because that's what I do.  I closed well.  

The next day I got some feedback.  Not from the owner of the business, but from their receptionist.  She said "The boss really liked you, but he thought your pregnancy would get in the way of you doing a really great job.  He thought it might look weird, you being pregnant while pitching our story to the media"

TRUE STORY.

Furious, much? Sure was.  How can a man (or anyone for that matter) know how my pregnancy affects my ability to do my job.  It was clear it didn't affect my ability to pitch as that was excellent.  The work would have been well finished by the time I was due to have my scheduled c-section.  And to comment on how I looked while pitching to the media?  Honestly, mainstream media professionals don't actually have time to be affected by a pregnant pr person.  Pitches are mainly done over the phone and email and in some instances in person where the relationship is incredibly strong.

After about 5 minutes of exasperation - (There's no time for a drawn out indulgence, I'm a self employed woman with a busy pr firm to run!) I got on with working with excellent clients who absolutely support working mothers, such as, but not limited to, IT Engine, OptimalBI, Simply Payroll, PaperKite, Posboss, Optimation, Spotlight Reporting  and Red Vespa.

I'm back from my brief maternity leave because I love my job and it is my right to go back to work and earn an income for my family. My infant son is well cared for, as is my preschooler daughter.  I'm lucky I have excellent clients on my books who not only supported my maternity leave, despite their work sometimes left in the hands of contractors who were a mix of both appalling and excellent, but the same clients support me now as a working mother of two.  They are choice.

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Perfection Paralysis - not something I suffer from. Clearly.

Welcome, friends.  My new site is finally here.  As you can see, it's a work in progress, but we're getting there.

Still to do is a migrate of my good blog posts, the ones you've said were helpful or interesting.  I've also to sort out my images situation.  I haven't totally finished my brand story, yet, but I'll let you know when we're closer to that finishing.  The kitten is cute, though, right?

The thing I'd like you to pay attention to mostly, is that the direction of LOUD! in Public, as you know it, has changed.  Originally, when I first arrived in Wellington, there seemed to be a need for media relations support.  Assisting people a voice in the mainstream media was my niche and, for the last 3 years it's certainly been a wild ride.  However, for businesses and individuals, putting all your effort (i.e. budget!) in to just one sector, is setting you up for disappointment and liability. So, I've expanded my tricks to a fuller, more robust solution.  Let's see how it goes.

Thanks for your support.

Lou D

 

 

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 How to PR in 2016

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How to PR in 2016

Here's the thing. If you are not very good at telling your story, the story of the work you do and the story of your business, then you've got a problem. If you are great at telling your story, but no one is listening - it's the same problem. Maybe worse.

I'm not here to teach you how to suck eggs, but if you're feeling a little lost where PR is concerned, here's some things to consider.

1) PR is not an exclusive media relations gig. People like me who work in PR, can do some really cool, clever and epic sh!t. If you put all your effort in to Media Relations and appearing in the news, you will walk away a very unhappy camper.

2) Journalists mostly hate press releases. They hate them because no one can get them right. Unless you know that a journalist loves cold calls, send them an email with your story pitch. If you can nail your pitch in a sentence, well done you! Better yet, tweet your favourite journalist. They're more likely to see your tweet instead of your email that is probably lost in eleven billion terribly written press releases.

3) Content is where it's at. Contrary to popular opinion, the internet is not saturated with quality content. It's saturated with rubbish. So, if you go on ahead and produce great things, you'll be contenting for the greater good of the internet and that's what everyone wants. The Greater Good!

4) Google is your master. So make sure you do what Google tells you to do, which is to produce quality content that people want to see. You'll need help from a strategist for this, because there's quite a bit of trickery you need to overcome. You can probably learn how to do this yourself, but why bother when there's a bunch of us who can just do it for you.

5) Facebook is the leading, numero uno social media platform in the world. Use it. Give Facebook money to put your posts in front of the right people. Get someone else to check your post or ad to make sure it is sensical and not a rubbish waste of money.

6) Influencers are the sugar on your date scone.  What's an influencer, you ask? An individual who devotes many hours and days of time to their personal brands, who has wonderful and marvellous opinions, who heads up or is a prominent member of a community of people with members of the types of people you'd like to reach.  Someone who is able to persuade others to try, read, do something.  There is a price tag attached to these people, but largely, if you choose to engage with the right influences, your investment will pay off.

Still drowning? Call me. I can almost certainly help you and if I can't I know a cast of thousands who can and I will happily introduce you.

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ekim

What a shit storm, eh?  Ekim Burgers owner, Mike Duffy, caught publicly running his mouth on all things from how people in hospitality are treated, to terrible middle class housewives, kids being kids, lawyers, office workers letting off steam - everyone got a mention in his reasonably vitriolic rant.

Seems to me that Mike has had enough and needs a break.

But what sparked all of this?  An innocent private message from a Mother to the business's facebook page, letting Mike know that  her son had been sick after having one of Mike's burgers.  I can't begin to understand what sort of pressure Mike was under before receiving that message, but it's clear that message struck a nerve.

His audience has been mixed in their comments of support - roughly half congratulate him, the other, vow never to go or return again.  From a business ownership point of view, alienating those with disposable income to spend at your establishment is probably not a great move.

In terms of a save, there were a number of things he could have done - if he'd cared about what this was going to do to his business - he's since made it perfectly clear he's not interested in anyone's view point that doesn't align with his.  Fair enough - we're all entitled to an opinion and to stand by it, regardless of how unpopular it might be.  However, after the media got involved to cover the story further, including giving him the oxygen to continue his rant on camera, that seemed to be more about the hospitality industry in general and not the issue of food poisoning,(which is what started the whole thing), one teeny, tiny piece of advice that I'm sure is completely unwanted by Mike (and that's fine, too) - when speaking on camera about potential food poisoning risks.. wash your hands.

Here's the cover from the Dom including the video.  

http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/food-wine/food-news/68165320/wellingtons-ekim-burger-fires-off-expletivefilled-facebook-rant-at-customers


Will you go back to Ekim?  

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The #1 thing women in business suck most at...

Honesty time.  I used to be utterly rubbish at closing business deals and I've figured out some reasons why you might be sucking at closing, too! This isn't just for women or people who identify as women, there are men who suck this too, but I've found it's less of a problem for them.

1) Do you have a super strong value proposition?  You know your skill set, you know what work you can do to solve a problem and you know your work is stellarly strong, but unfortunately your potential clients don't.  So you have to tell them.  But if you can't sum up your value proposition, in one sentence, then you'll run into problems.

2) Do you believe in your value proposition?  If there's even the slightest hint that you don't believe in what you offer, you'll lose.  Any wobbles in the value of your service will be picked up smartly by your potential customer and it's all over rover.

3) How many personas do you have?  I have two.  The real me that is somewhat arrogant, extremely loud, creative and strategic thinker, no idea is a bad idea type of person.  People I know well or work with gets to see the real me and this other strange person that seems to pop up in situations where I feel intimidated or unprepared or spoken over pops up on other occasions and usually it's in  a closing situation.  This other persona is quiet, reserved, speaks only when spoken to etc.  Some people might prefer that side to me,  but it isn't authentic.  My clients refer me as the arrogant, experienced know it all with the loud and proud persona, not this quiet and reserved person - so often, the potential customer is confused when they meet me, sometimes feel like they've been sold a dud from their mate (one of my existing client's perhaps) and are left feeling uninspired and a bit ripped off that they didn't get the full LOUD experience of creative discussion they've been told about.  This is my biggest problem in closing and something I have to really work on!

4) It isn't in our nature to be pushy or particularly driven when it comes to claiming what the next steps are or taking control of a situation.  Mostly, I think we as women in business have this strange thing in us that holds us back from taking a sales opportunity to the next level.  

This is what we should be saying -  "thanks for your time, xyz, this is what's going to happen next - I'll send you a statement of work that we've agreed on just now and a terms letter that you'll sign and send back to me.  Then, we're going to kick off with the first phase, exciting, isn't it!"

But what we usually say is - "thanks for your time, xyz, come back to me when you've mulled over what we've talked about and let me know if you've got any questions'

I know if I were hiring a service, which one of those statements I'd rather hear from someone pitching!

5) Do you really want this business?  If you're not 100% excited by the prospect of actually doing the work you've proposed that you'll do, it'll show crystal clear in your pitch meetings and you'll lose out.  I mitigate this by doing a tonne of research on a company that has shown some interest in working with me.  If I'm not totally inspired, I tell them up front before we waste anyone's time.  And if this is the case for something you've been asked to pitch towards, there are other ways of getting around it - not being a subject matter expert in the field of the potential client is probably the best and easiest way to let someone down.  Saying you're too busy is a lame cop-out - don't ever do that.

As self-employed women in business, what else do you struggle with?  Let's get open kimono on it all and get better at business.  Comment below or feel free to flick me a tweet or an email!

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Pay to Play - Why sponsored comments suck

Reading one of my favourite PR blogs today, the author talks about why she thinks Sponsored Comments suck.  I agree with her.  Completely.

I'm sure I've covered earned media before - where your story is good enough and attractive to the right audience, to be covered in mainstream media by a journalist - that you don't have to pay for.

So I'm sure you'll know about pay to play - where a journalist or similar will still work with you on a story, but it is largely advertorial and you'll end up paying for the placement for that.  Sometimes it's called a "Sponsored Feature" but there's loads of different marketing terms for them, so we lump them all together and call it Pay to Play.

But have you heard of sponsored comments?  Yep.  I know what you're thinking.  Why would you pay to comment when it's generally free?  Why would you?  Well, the US and the UK and to some extent parts of the rest of the world are about five years ahead of us when it comes to PR and content and storytelling.  While we are still telling our clients to not read the comments - some big media overseas have already shut those suckers down.  They claim the comments forums are too big and difficult and costly to manage.
You can still comment, but in some cases now, it'll cost you.  Pay to Play.

Here, in little old New Zealand - I imagine it's a job to manage comments, but certainly not an impossibly difficult one.  Over anywhere else where the population of opinionated contributors, spammers and the like is considerably larger than ours - it seems to make good business sense to axe free commentary and push the ones who are serious about voicing their ideas behind a pay gate.  Does that take away free speech?  Shouldn't think so, given that most stories are shared on other platforms with open commentary. 


Still, thinking about the effectiveness of this, to me it's a terrible idea. People will soon cotton on to the types of paid comments published. These comments won't be ones written with amusing yet terrible language. They'll be well-formed, thought out and written by a publicist or communications manager. It'll turn to a form of weak advertising with few eyeballs and low engagement and unless the ads are super-bowl cool, it'll be yet another liability-filled ad space. Maybe. Someone, change my mind.

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Why distribution is the new black...

"Content that may not be considered by the PR team to be “newsworthy” enough for a pitch to top-tier media may still be of vital interest to core audiences."

Do you know how delighted I am to see this very phrase on one of my favourite PR blogs?  Chuffed.  Utterly chuffed.

I've been harping on and on about this exact thing for years, so to see this validation on a massively famous blog - just delightful. 

One of the first things potential clients say to me "we tried PR, we sent a press release to all the editors of every mainstream outlet and it didn't get picked up by anyone.  PR sucks.  It'll be a hard sell to get us to do PR again!"

Some media-savvy individuals will be able to point out at a hundred yards what's wrong with that scenario above, but just in case you're not one of them - listen up.

There is a home for EVERY SINGLE STORY, but it isn't always going to be the front page of your local news. In fact, something like 95% of the news and stories in your business is not destined for the bright lights of mainstream media.  But, there is a home for that 95%.  It's all about distribution.  Figuring out who actually needs to know about that story and most importantly, how does that audience you've identified, prefer to consume their news?  Is it via a measurable customer newsletter? Is it a video on YouTube?  Is it a press release on your own website?  Is it in 140 characters or less on twitter?  Is it via an event or a stunt?  A blog post?  Word of mouth?

That audience of yours, hangs out in some weird and wonderful places.  The other side of a newspaper isn't always going to be it and if I'm honest, while it's super nice to have those column inches and a bit of fame for five minutes, we really need to put our audience first with any communication we have to share.

Are you picking up what I'm throwing down?

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Overpaid, lying, sneaky spin doctors

Client says jump; agency not only asks “how high?” but also “out of which window?”

This, taken out of an anonymous blog post from a publicist that has left her job and indefinitely quit the PR industry.  It's clear from the writer's entire post that she is done.  And what's more, she's done the right thing by jumping ship before it gets worse.  

It's old, but you can read her entire post, here.

Most of us, and I'm referring to PR professionals working more or less in Media Relations, work exceptionally hard for their clients.  You need an incredibly thick skin, because in the course of a day you can be yelled at by your client, verbally abused by journalists or be the recipient of horrible emails, enter panic mode when the absolutely non-newsworthy story on your to do list is just that and doesn't fit anywhere and for good measure, add the uncomfortable scenario of having to tell a cross client that you can't cover up their terrible behaviour and they'd be better off coming clean.

I'd like to think publicists in general, would bend over backwards to deliver as best a service with fantastic results as they can.  I'd like to think that we work ethically and honestly while still doing our very best for the profile of our customers.

However, a subscriber poll in the NBR recently, suggested that 62% of those surveyed, thought very little of PR people, that we're nothing more than overpaid, lying, sneaky spin-doctors.  Bit of an eye-opener really, if we all think we are doing a great job for our clients and that our industry is one to be proud of, yet more than half of a surveyed group think we're all full of it.  

So what needs to happen?  A campaign for our industry that shows what we actually do vs the perception?  Making it a mandatory requirement to join a professional body, that adheres to a set of values, proving that we're all in this job for the right reasons?  What will it take, for those 62% to change their perception of us?  

I can see why some of them might be bitter.  If they had engaged an agency to wave a magical change wand over their reputations, businesses, personal interests and found they weren't successful and paid a tonne of cash believing that everything in their lives would be fixed with the help of a team of publicists and found they were no better off?  It only takes one of those instances to form a strong, negative opinion and a well-oiled word of mouth vehicle to change perception - even of those not directly affected!

Media Relations is hard.  Essentially you are delivering a service based on skill, experience and relationships that has zero guarantees of success.  We can only advise and proceed with a line of work that is likely to have a good result.  A good result with no guarantees.  We aren't journalists or reporters. We certainly aren't in control of the channels we use to help tell stories of businesses and individuals.  So when you engage with an agency, it has to be made crystal clear that a whole lot of factors could adversely affect an outcome.

Having had a recent experience with a former client not understanding exactly how uninteresting her business story was, it's certainly given me the wobbles that people don't really understand what PR, namely Media Relations, actually is.  When they contact me with a story of woe or excitement, asking me if I can help them.  My answer is nearly always yes, because I probably can help them, but, if they believe that the front page of the Dom or a prime spot on One news is what they understand "help" to be, in most cases, they're sorely mistaken.

So, while it's been a bit raw to see 62% of those surveyed thinking we're awful people, it's kicked me into gear to offer a far more transparent process around PR engagements.  A more detailed letter of engagement to start with and hopefully some education around exactly what I do and how I can help in a positive way.

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