April 2009 archive

Help a Reporter Out – Easy and Cheap PR

For a small business owner, PR campaigns are tough. It’s hard to reach out to reporters on your own and going through an agency is expensive. Help A Reporter Out is an easy way to get a boat load of opportunities to get published, and it’s free.
By signing up for the service, you are offering to become a source. Reporters that need a subject matter expert will forward their requests to Peter Shankman, who organizes them and forwards them on to sources. You can sign up to receive the requests here.
The only problem with HARO is the volume. A typical email could contain about 30 inquiries and they’re sent 3 times a day. You may only be interested in 1 in 100 topics so it presents a real information overload problem.
Luckily, Gmail’s filtering rules are perfect for sorting through mountains of information. Here’s how I’ve set up a filter to send me relevant requests:
1. Sign up at helpareporter.com with a gmail address
2. Create a new filter in gmail that looks for “shankman” as the sender
3. Create keywords to identify the inquiries that are likely to be relevant
4. Skip the inbox, apply a label (‘HARO’ will work) or forward it on to a different email address.
(If your RSS reader supports authenticated feeds, you can even turn that gmail label into an RSS feed and read it there. Google Reader does not have that option.)
Once you have the right email message, it’s easy to ctrl+f to find the appropriate query. Gmail even highlights the term that triggered the filter. As always, be take care when reaching out to these reporters and make sure you can really contribute good info. This could be your opportunity to build a relationship with a valuable contact in your industry.

I remember that / I love that

Oh yeah! Thinking about something or someone that hasn’t crossed your mind in years is a pleasant experience. I remember that! It’s kind of like scratching an old itch, an echo of the feeling you get when an answer is stuck on the tip of your tongue but then, there it is… Got it!

Sometimes that nice moment of realization is translated to the memory itself. “I remember that!” becomes “I love that!” I’m reminded of this phenomenon every time I run out and buy a song I was recently reintroduced to only to realize later that I didn’t especially like it in the first place. That’s why I’ll accept a Facebook friend request from someone I wasn’t even high school friends with. (Although I have gotten over that one in time – I ignore most friend requests lately.)

The transfer factor is multiplied when an old item is presently unavailable or if it achieves cult status. “New York Seltzer Water was the BEST!” or “I LOVED Married with Children and watched it every night!”
Just don’t let it get too mainstream. “Nah, I didn’t really get into Transformers much – I was more of a GoBot man.”

Our memories are unreliable and surprisingly pliable by present forces. Nostalgia is a powerful thing and the smart marketer will remember that. So will the smart consumer.

Logical Marketing: An Oxymoron

I’m a pretty logical thinker. I like to systematically break down a problem into its base parts until I understand all of the variables. I love figs. When I need make a decision (especially when spending money) I’m obsessive about research, listing pros and cons and triple checking my work. The problem is that people don’t really make decisions based on logic, myself included.
The truth is, we’re much more primal and impulsive than we like to think. If it were possible to be completely honest about why I do the things I do or buy the things I do, I wouldn’t find a list of benefits or features. I’d find emotion, needs, justification.
The truth is, even logical arguments aren’t logical if you look closely enough. I’m reading Godel Escher Bach right now (a real mind bender!) and it shows that there is no completely self evident statement. You can always question the assumptions of an argument into statements and then question the assumptions of those statements, on and on indefinitely. Eventually you need to just accept that a concept ‘feels right.’ In other words, you need to take a leap of faith.
So despite my love for data points and even though it makes me feel better to have all the background on an issue, it still comes down to feelings. My takeaway from a Marketing point of view: speak to emotional benefits, indirectly if need be, and take a flier on a project every once in a while.

Beyond ‘copy & paste’ knowledge

Because I wear several hats at work, I tend to be kind of a jack of all trades but a master of none. That’s okay for most applications but I’m resolving to go deeper in a few areas.

I recently took the Strengths Finder test to better understand my own style and how I interact with others at work. One of my top themes as identified by the test is a desire to learn and continuously improve. That rings true to me because I do like to take on new challenges and stretch my thinking. (I love trivia too, Jeopardy rocks!)

I find that when I’m learning a new skill, there is a progression of understanding:
1. There is no understanding but there is an interest in the results
2. Borrowing knowledge from others, I can mimic tactics to get some of the results
3. Because of thorough understanding of the dynamics, I can create original ways of driving the best results

I usually end up somewhere between 2 and 3 before moving on to the next skill. This tendency to skip around to new topics leaves me with a fairly wide breadth of basic knowledge within the Marketing discipline but few areas of true expertise.

Because remarkable results are usually only achieved with original tactics, I’m required to partner with an expert to get the results that I want or I fall short of being great. I’m all for outsourcing, letting the pros do their work. But for personal reasons, I also want to contribute. I want to become an expert that people go to when they recognize a need for a special skill.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be working to identify one or two or three skills that I can commit to and really dig into this year. So far, I’m thinking writing for persuasion and HTML…

Neo’s specialist, the Keymaster