What is Your Story?

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What is your Story?

Everyone and every company has a story. How you go about telling that story is the difference in making the story memorable and motivational. Storytelling has been going on since the beginning of human existence. The stories most of us remember as a child are the ones with a simple, yet relatable or emotional message.

Marketing professionals often forget this when writing the next data sheet, PowerPoint presentation or press announcement. All those data specs don’t tell the audience “Why should I care about this?” or “What’s in it for me?”

Say you’re introducing a new toaster. Do folks really care that the toaster was built on the latest electronic/electrical toaster platform? No. They care how the toaster will perform. How long will it last? How many things can it toast at one time, price and so on? Yes, this is a simplified example, but way too many tech marketers get hung up on the latest specifications while the customer benefits and value propositions get lost. How are all these specs relatable? One thing (among many) that I have learned in my PR/marketing career is to answer the question: Why do I care? If you can’t answer this question clearly and convincingly, then something is wrong with your marketing message.

I had the pleasure of attending a presentation by Jeff Bloomfield, the author of “Story Based Selling – Create, Connect and Close.” If you ever have the chance to attend any of his presentations – I highly

recommend it. In his book, Bloomfield discusses how we interpret and retain information. He references a study done by the London Business School on retention rates:

  • When presenting statistics/facts only retention was only 5 to 10%
  • When combined with stories & visuals retention increased to 25 to 30%
  • Storytelling alone, retention rose to 65 to 70%.

Here’s a personal story of mine. When I started out in my career, I worked for a major defense contractor; the largest employer in my town. I worked in the Human Resources department, processing in new-hires. It was a great job as I got to meet a lot of interesting people as well as interface on occasion with the higher-ups. Yes, I delivered the mail too. One day, we had a reduction in force – a massive layoff of hourly employees. I was asked to join the termination team for the day to help process out the laid-off employees. It was very emotional as the majority of hourly employees only had a few hours’ notice. Men were crying at my desk and in shock as they didn’t know how they were going to feed their families. It was long and emotionally-draining 12-hour day, processing paperwork for hundreds of people. At the end of that awful day, my boss called me into his office and laid me off! “What, that can’t be, I’m a salaried employee,” I said. The boss went on to say, “It’s affected many of us salaried employees and I’m being transferred to Africa.” Wow! You can imagine my shock. I’m sure anyone who has been laid off can relate in some fashion.

That experience was an important life lesson that left a very lasting impression on me. It was then that I decided that someday I’d have my own company in order to be more in control of my own destiny – and I did.

What’s your story?

Happy Marketing,

PJ Jennings

As president of Jennings & Associates Communications, PJ is an accomplished writer and has been published in numerous data center, IT Networking, engineering, electrical, power and renewable trade publications.

5 Tips for a Successful Trade Show

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Trade Shows – Done right can be very successful – Done wrong and you waste a lot of money and resources.

During the recent recession, many businesses opted out of doing trade shows to conserve budget. Now, trade shows have been added back into the marketing mix; albeit strategically. Being an exhibitor is expensive, so optimizing every element around a show is vital to get the kind of prospects you’re looking for. Here are 5 tips to maximize your trade show success:

#1 – Message: Define your key marketing message for the show’s attendees. What are you trying to convey to prospects? Why should someone do business with your company? Messaging should be more than you have the best widget.

#2 – Inviting Booth: Is your booth comfortable? Can people easily walk into your booth? Are there products on display? Giveaways?  Are the booth graphics compelling?

#3 – Engaged Staff: Are the folks staffing your booth professional and knowledgeable? You might say this is a no-brainer, but I see tons of booth staff chewing gum and reading their emails instead of engaging folks passing by their booth. Also, are the booth staffers outgoing? Again, this is obvious to many, but I often see engineers staffing a booth that often times are not the best in engaging attendees in conversation.

#4 ­­– Eyes Open: Is your staff working all corners of the booth? Funny how many times I’ve seen booth personnel with their back to the aisle! Yikes! This is Sales 101.

#5 – Promises: Make sure you deliver on what was promised to the prospect. “I’ll send you some literature (white papers, app notes, etc.) or “I’ll have one of our customer specialists give you a call.” Make sure your promises are kept.

With all the activities leading up to a trade show, making sure everyone is ready for “show time” can make all the difference in a successful event. Oh, and one more important tip: Make sure you keep your appointment for selecting your booth space for the next show. If not, you risk losing your seniority and preferred location.

Happy Marketing!

PJ Jennings

Jennings & Associates

www.JandACommunications.com

5 Things Not to Do if You Want to Get Press Coverage

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Based on Jennings & Associates’ 27 years of experience pitching reporters, editors, and producers, we know what succeeds and what fails when interacting with them. First, we tell you what NOT to do and then explain what you SHOULD do to get press coverage:

1) Don’t answer reporter’s questions – Folks forget, especially in the tech sector, that there7768407 are new people coming into your market niche every day. Don’t expect reporters or your target market to know everything about your company or products. Answer questions. If you don’t have the answer, let the reporter know you’ll find the answer and get back to them promptly.

2) Don’t reply to editorial requests – Even if the request is not up your alley, thank the reporter for thinking about your company and use the opportunity to see if there’s a better fit for commentary in the future.

3) PR firm tees up a great article opportunity, but you don’t respond. In today’s digital world, it’s all about content. Your PR firm is trying to position you as a thought leader in your respective market. Content is king, and if you’re not taking advantage of these content opportunities, your competition definitely will.

4) Distribute boring press announcements (yeah, your product is new, so what?). Many tech companies are guilty of distributing press announcements that are filled with technical jargon that only a handful of people will understand. You might say, “Well, I’m only interested in folks who understand my technology.” Yes, but do they really need to understand all the weeds in your technical soup? What they want to learn about are the benefits. How is this new gizmo/service going to help them? This is one of the first questions that should be answered when developing a new product launch and to garner maximum press coverage.

5) Not listening to your PR advisor. Good PR consultants have learned the hard way what reporters and editors want. Most every great PR person has had a reporter hang up on them (boy, does that sting!) because their pitch was useless. They have honed their craft to be interesting, concise and meet the needs of reporters.

Our Clients Continue to Innovate

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Our clients’ technologies continue to make great inroads to make lives safer and business processes more efficient. Client engineers, product developers and marketers are continually looking at how their specific technBusiness People Working and Technology Conceptsology can enter new markets and solve problems, where before, there was no clear answer. Take wireless communications in the oil field from ABB Wireless for example. In the past, a cellular network was the go-to communications network. However, cellular has its limits – especially in remote field locations. Today’s modern wireless networks are enabling remote visibility to critical well pad control devices, facilitating faster response if something goes wrong. When it comes to this kind of critical application, the “can you hear me now?” technology can’t deliver the needed reliable data communications in harsh remote locations.

Other “behind the scenes” technologies are power supplies from SL Power Electronics that control critical applications. While power supplies aren’t new, the electrical requirements for medical devices and home healthcare are pushing engineers to develop more energy-efficient and safer power solutions. These are expanding markets in which developing the latest technology that meets the newest safety standards is key to success. Fortunately, SL Power is at the forefront of developing and introducing the highest level of performance, efficiency and safety. When it comes to medical devices and medical imaging systems, these applications need the best-performing power to drive their operation.

A not so “behind the scenes” innovation comes from our client, Tricopian. The company has taken a whole new approach in keeping smart phones and tablets charged. Imagine you’re at an airport and your phone is low on fuel. Just go to a FuelRod kiosk (bright green; can’t miss them), swipe your credit card, and for $20 out comes a fully charged FuelRod battery. Connect it to you Apple® or Android® phone or tablet and charge up. When you arrive at the next airport, just swap the FuelRod at the kiosk for a new one for free! Pretty ingenious. While the FuelRod kiosks are not at every airport just yet, they’re rolling-out across the nation and are available now at busy airports including Atlanta, Las Vegas, San Diego, Oakland and Kansas City to name a few.

It’s such fun to work with these and our other tech clients (not mentioned in this post) who work hard to innovate and deliver tech solutions that make our lives and business processes more enjoyable, efficient and safe.

Happy Marketing!

Serving Up Fresh, Tasty Editorial Content on Time, Every Time

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Journalism_1 - CopyA public relations agency’s role can be likened to that of a sous-chef who must please two distinctive yet equally important types of people. The chef must prepare and/or supervise the preparation of delectable meals to delight the restaurant’s customers. At the same time,  he/she must satisfy the requirements of the boss – likely the restaurant owner. For example, the food must look and taste delicious – both the customer and restaurant owner insist on those qualities. At the same time, the chef must not spend too much time preparing any one particular dish or spend too much money on the ingredients to make the entrée. After all, the restaurant owner has a budget to meet and a profit to make.

In public relations, the first important person or customer is our client, whom we must satisfy completely by promoting his/her product, technology or service via various outlets such as online and print publications, social media channels as well as at trade shows, forums and symposia. Because a most effective way to promote products and services is still via trade or business magazines and newspapers, we have another customer to serve.
That customer is the editor/journalist/industry analyst of the publication, blog or research report. Trusted relationships with editors/reporters/producers/analysts are key in public relations. Over the years, we’ve developed excellent contacts and continue to nurture these relationships daily. It’s these media professionals – aka industry influencers – whom we approach for thought-leadership coverage. With our high-level focus and strategy, we are skilled at appealing to the editor’s needs for relevant content that readers/viewers learn from and enjoy. At the same time, we are highlighting our clients’ products and services without being overtly commercial. This is a delicate balance, and a recipe for success in managing media relations and meeting or exceeding client expectations.

Editors/journalists/analysts need credible resources for their articles, blogs and research reports. They need to quote experts on the subject matter they are covering. They also need complex technology explained to them so that they can understand it and then write about it for their readers to assimilate. All this researching, writing, and information dissemination takes time. No matter how efficient or effective they may be, these media professionals depend on knowledgeable, trustworthy sources for their material. Fortunately, J&A is there to provide them with the latest technology news and trends from our clients in a timely manner.

In other words, we whet the editor’s appetite for “gourmet” content. We then satisfy that need with our client’s desire for top-tier media exposure. This visibility ultimately leads to increased sales and market share. We serve our client by securing opportunities in top-tier media outlets. We serve our editor by meeting his/her deadlines and providing fresh, informative content. If the timing does not always work out perfectly, we use businesslike diplomacy and, OK, occasional pleading to achieve our goal.

We’ve been successful for over 26 years, so serving two distinct yet equally important persons seems to be working. We trust that our track record will continue, serving up fresh, relevant content to delight the “palates” of clients and editors on time and on budget.

 

Rules of (Customer) Engagement

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#1 If a business has a story to tell, public relations is the way to tell it.

#2 If a business doesn’t have a story to tell—it does, or else it wouldn’t be in business—see #1.

Every business has something to sell and every CEO wants traffic in the door. Educating reporters and consumers about your business’s product/technology/service is vital to customer adoption (sales). The more the press understands what you do and the context in which you do it, they will be more apt to mention the business in relevant (and repeated) articles.

Of course, many executives don’t have the time nor the specific resources to become a media guru and that’s where PR comes in. Public relations is the practice of learning and listening to clients’ stories and then taking those golden message nuggets to the appropriate audiences. New product launch? Check. Customer wins? Check. New CEO? Check. Regardless of whether a company is B2B or B2C, it’s important that the company’s messages are clear and reinforced in the minds of the right people.

From news releases and case studies to contributed articles and interview opportunities and social media campaigns, there are many ways to build a steady stream of excitement around your brand.  There’s no one-size-fits-all; the right approach is the one that meets the communication goals of the company.

We want all businesses to know that PR is not only applicable to them, but an important component in increasing sales.  Maybe a podcast is the right touch. Maybe the cover of a targeted trade magazine will get you in front of your prospects. Certainly, coverage in The New York Times wouldn’t hurt! Wherever you are in your communications efforts, it’s never too late (or early) to get public relations specialists involved in communicating your story.  And remember, PR builds your brand – not advertising. So if you want to improve sales, start with a focused PR program.

Old Fashioned Marketing – Not So Old Fashioned After All

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In the marketing land of email, QR codes,online ads and the like, it’s refreshing to see some old fashioned, heartwarming advertising.  Advertising that stirs the senses and reminds you – ever so nicely – why you’d want to do business with the advertiser. Case in point is the 2011 holiday gift guide brochure from Crate & Barrel. The picture of the little boy enjoying his cup of hot cocoa just makes you stop what you’re doing and think about the special times of the Holidays not to mention the need to open up the gift guide! The picture says it all. Kudos to Crate & Barrel and its creative team for capturing the Holiday spirit in a human way – no obtrusive QR codes muddling up the pages of enticing products that we just can’t live without. The 15% discount coupon and free shipping certainly helps as well.

Just thought I’d express my appreciation for a marketing piece that is very well done and appeals to all.

Do you have a favorite holiday marketing item you’d like to share?

Happy Marketing and Best for the Holidays!

PJ Jennings

Apple – Smart Timing or Smart Communications?

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Both. Apple’s meteoric rise to become one of the most enviable (and richest) businesses in the world is quite an accomplishment. Once, capsule making products relegated to mostly creative geeks serving a targeted niche, advice to now breaking the mold in consumer devices and driving sales to stratospheric levels, Apple has done so many things right; they’re too many to mention here. However, a couple of things really stand out to me. One is its understanding of customers now and well into the future —a  stark contrast to the American car companies that lost to Japan because they didn’t talk to the consumer. Or if they did, they didn’t listen. Apple has and does listen. Not only that, they extrapolate into the future and build a vision for new products that breaks the previous mold and get folks so excited they’re willing to give up sleep and wait in long lines to get their hands on the latest device. Secondly, Apple is really smart in its marketing communications. We’ve known that Steve Jobs has been ill for some time and while some criticized Apple for not being as transparent regarding Steve’s health as they thought it should, Apple stayed the course and unveiled news when the most appropriate for Steve (and the company). The latest news was shocking but not unexpected and we all wish Steve Jobs the best. The pundits went on to say how the stock was going to tank, yadda, yadda. As of this post, Apple stock is up nearly $10 per share.  Apple was prepared and has let us know more about Steve’s replacement, Tim Cook. And now it is pulling the curtain back even further and we’re learning about Apple’s head designer and creative talent, Jonathan Ive. (See AP story: Behind Apple’s products is longtime designer Ive http://yhoo.it/o9JvHi )

Instead of retreating from the bad news and going around in circles not knowing what to do  – as too often companies do when faced with adversity ­­–  Apple has taken it head on with a communications strategy that matches its products – brilliant.

Happy Marketing!

PJ Jennings

Unemployment, Earthquakes, Hurricanes, Wild Stock Market Ride, Oh My!

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Recent and current news events are enough to make one hide his or her head in the sand and wait until everything passes over. It seems that many businesses have this same mindset.  However, viagra now is not the time to be frozen. It’s time to be excited and engaged for future opportunities. While budgets may be curtailed because of uncertainty, now is the perfect time to review how things can be improved – whether personally or professionally. When the recession first started and I thought news couldn’t get any worse, a client of ours said, “stop watching the news.” As a PR professional, that’s hard to do, but he had a great point. If everyone thinks the sky is falling-then it is.  A positive fallout from all of the bad economic news is how many new entrepreneurs have emerged. As they say, when one door closes, another opens or oftentimes, many more doors open. I can speak to this with authority as I opened J&A in 1990 in the middle of a recession. People said to me, “Are you nuts?” And yet others said, “I can’t believe you haven’t done this sooner!”

My point is to stay true to what works and explore new ground. For businesses, take a look at your marketing communications and evaluate what’s working and what’s not.  Are your value propositions clear and concise? Is your brand/product/service messaging getting to the right people? Are you convincing the media that you have a great story to tell? Are you maximizing your strategic partner relationships for joint marketing campaigns and/or events?

Challenging times like these are not about being the most creative, but more about getting back to basics and using tried and true methods that prove successful time and time again.

Happy marketing!

PJ Jennings

If You Want To Build Your Brand – Start with PR

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In the world of marketing, cialis marketers are all striving for the same thing – brand recognition and brand loyalty. It’s not enough to have the best product or the industry’s first. You need to get people talking about your brand – pure and simple. While we all can’t be the next Google or Amazon, case applying savvy PR tactics and activities can elevate a company’s brand to top tier status. What about advertising you might ask? Al and Laura Ries have penned a great book entitled, buy viagra “The Fall of Advertising & the Rise of PR.” It’s not about bashing advertising, but rather about how great brands are built with PR. I couldn’t agree more. Advertising should be used to maintain the brand, not build it. PR is your key asset for building your brand as it’s much more credible and can reach larger and more targeted audiences for typically a lot less money. I invite you to check out the book as it’s a great read. You can find it on Amazon at: http://amzn.to/nM2VqG. In a perfect world, an integrated marketing communications program is the best – leading with PR.

Happy marketing!

PJ Jennings

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