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Archive for Miscellaneous’ Category

28

Aug
2013
Comments Off on 5 Tips for Getting New Clients

5 Tips for Getting New Clients

SSC on LinkedIn

Finding new customers is perhaps the most challenging task every organization faces. It’s time consuming, expensive and difficult.  Yet there are some things we can do to make that job a little more fruitful. Here are five tips you can try.

1. Ask for referrals. It’s always easier to get a meeting when someone has recommended you. Ask your current clients (particularly ones where you have a strong relationship) if they might be able to make a referral to any of their business associates.

2. Use LinkedIn. This is the precise mission of this social media site. It’s a place where you can renew old relationships and make new ones. Get active and reach out to others on a regular basis. It will pay dividends.

3. Attend workshops, seminars, conferences, etc. Every day there are dozens of meetings and events you can attend that are open to the public. Whether they are specific to your industry or more general like Chamber of Commerce luncheons, attending events is a great way to meet new faces.  Be sure to bring plenty of business cards to pass out.

4. Submit a press release to the local media. Getting your name in print is a great way to make the phone ring. Find an interesting angle about you and your company and draft a press release about that topic. Be sure to include photos and be available for follow-up inquiries.

5. Update the news section of your website. If you have a recent success story, be sure to post it on your website and social media sites.  People are always searching for informative content and fresh ideas. Too many companies neglect to update their content on a regular basis. This negatively impacts your SEO and causes users to abandon your site if they do land there.

David Walker

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8

Jul
2013
Comments Off on Video Editing: We’ll Fix It in Post

Video Editing: We’ll Fix It in Post

Editing a Shot

When you have completed your video shoot, the fun of editing and post-production begins. Let’s discuss how smart planning–before and after the shoot wraps–can help during the editing stage.

Without proper sound quality, lighting and the right scripts or questions for interviews, you’ll be left with nothing more than junk footage. Make a checklist and go over all of your equipment, gear, shot list, interview questions and scripts at least a day before each and every shoot.  Remember to check for small things. Don’t embarrass yourself in front of a client by not having something minor, like a 9-volt battery.

So everything went well on location and now it’s actually time to begin processing the footage. Prep your footage for whatever software you’ll be using for editing. Usually this consists of some type of file converting before importing into your software of choice. We prefer to use Final Cut Pro X, but are beginning the transition to Adobe Premiere and Adobe After Effects. We find that Final Cut Pro X is extremely intuitive, but limited overall. However, this hasn’t held us back from creating some pretty cool videos. This goes back to the preparation and some know-how. If you know how to creatively use a camera, understand lighting concepts and audio capture, your raw footage will be really nice, making the software you use less important.

What to do when something goes wrong? We’ve found sometimes–no matter how careful or good you are–mistakes will happen. The beauty of video editing is there are several ways to easily fix a mistake. If your color is way off for some clips and you just can’t correct it and make flesh tones look good, a simple solution is to make the clips black and white and follow the design style throughout the remainder of the video. Or, if some audio is good on a clip and a person looks strange on camera, use the audio and cover the weird parts with B-Roll footage. Again, it’s a very simple fix.

The most important thing about creating video is to look at everything from the viewers’ perspective. If you can’t understand what the message is quickly, you’ll lose your audience’s attention quickly. Be creative, but simple. There’s nothing worse than trying to watch a video with a million quick cuts, shaky camera work and too many effects. Let us state this again: Keep the video creative, but simple. What that means is up to you. Always remember, if something is off in the video you can always “Fix it in Post.”

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28

Jun
2013
Comments Off on It’s In the Cloud: What Cloud Computing Means for You

It’s In the Cloud: What Cloud Computing Means for You

Mobile Devices and a Computer Connected to the Cloud

Are you in the cloud? Are you in the cloud and don’t know it? To answer those questions, first we’d better define “the cloud.” Think of it as using the Internet to store data and programs instead of the hard drives in your office computer or network. The simplest example is Web mail. If you have access to email through a browser program, you’re already working in the cloud. But the cloud is more than email.

Small businesses typically use the cloud for subscribing to software and services. This is called Software-as-a-Service, or for the geeks out there, SaaS. A common service like Dropbox or SugarSync stores synced copies of files for you and selected coworkers to access with any computer, tablet or phone with a connection to the Internet. Without that connection, there is no cloud computing. That bears repeating: If you don’t have a fast, reliable Internet connection, forget about “the cloud.”

Software vendors have started moving their applications to a subscription service. Two of the most prominent are Microsoft Office 365 and Adobe Creative Cloud. This marketing strategy enables them to even out their sales volume, but is it beneficial to your bottom line?

If you’ve been upgrading software only when replacing computers as a capital expenditure, subscribing to software will be an accounting change, which brings an increase in your monthly expenses. Before making the leap, run the numbers to see the effect it will have on your total cost of ownership. After these calculations, you won’t have your head in the clouds; you can make an informed decision about one of the fastest growing segments of business computing.

Links to Cloud Products:

Microsoft Office 365 Small Business Premium

Adobe Creative Cloud

Google Apps for Business

Apple iCloud

 

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19

Jun
2013
Comments Off on Best Practices for Web Monitoring: Don’t Just Google It

Best Practices for Web Monitoring: Don’t Just Google It

Google, Yahoo, or Bing?

In public relations, we all know there is more work to be done after a news release is distributed. For an agency to show its worth to a client, we need to track the news release and see what print publications, online news sources, blogs, wires, etc. pick it up.

Most PR firms use a news release distribution service such as Cision, Vocus, BusinessWire or PRNewswire to make sure the appropriate media outlets receive the information. These distribution services will usually send a report letting the agency know which outlets received the release. However, even though these reports are pretty good at letting you know where the release was picked up, they can miss a couple of key locations.

If you think a few good clips are missing from your pile, where should you look first? Of course just about anyone will tell you, “Google it.” And, they would be right. Checking Google for clips is a great place to start. You can either copy and paste the headline of your release into the Google Search bar, or you can search for specific keywords within your release. You will probably find the majority of the clips that came in with the report from your distribution service, but you may be surprised that you can find several other clips that the report missed.

OK. You “Googled it.” The search for clips doesn’t stop there. Though Google is still the world’s most popular search engine, there are other search engines to try if you want to be thorough in your clip search. Aside from the all mighty Google, Bing, Yahoo and Wolfram Alpha are some of the other top search engines to use.

Also, if you really want to stay on top of clips about your clients, consider signing up for Google Alerts, Bing Alerts, or both. That way, you can be notified about your client’s placements as they happen, once a day or once a week. The more methods you use to track your release, the more clips you will find.

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22

May
2013
Comments Off on Five Tips for Improving Your B2B Email Marketing Efforts

Five Tips for Improving Your B2B Email Marketing Efforts

An Email

B2B email overload is at an all time high, making it more challenging than ever to get noticed and get results. By following these five simple tried-and-true tips, you can achieve better open and click-through rates for your B2B e-blasts.

Build and Refine Your Lists

A relevant and accurate database is the primary key to email marketing success.  Use every opportunity you can to build your email list including trade shows, web registrations and orders. Gather pertinent information about each contact so you can create segmented, targeted lists.  Refresh your list after each mailing to delete bounces, update addresses and correct errors.

Strive for Preview Perfection

The sender’s name and the email subject line are the two elements recipients will evaluate to determine whether to open the message. Make sure the sender’s name and address will be easily recognizable, trustworthy and familiar to the recipient. Keep your email subject short and sweet—about 50 characters or less. Avoid all the “flash” including all caps, exclamation points and other symbols. Instead, focus on quickly conveying the value of content inside.

Craft Compelling Content

Your copy should be chock full of useful, timely information that leaves the recipient enlightened and excited for more. Use targeted copy designed specifically for the group you are reaching out to. Instead of producing one general blast, send out customized versions with a narrow copy focus that speaks directly to each targeted list. Pure and shameless self promotion is quickest way to turn recipients off and send them straight to the “unsubscribe” button. Finally, consider including a special offer, promotion code or incentive available only to recipients.

Remember, Timing is Everything

Reports indicate that the best time to send B2B email is Tuesday between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. to maximize your open rate potential. The worst is Monday between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. This rule of thumb should only be followed for B2B email blasts. Consumer emails oftentimes get the best results when sent during “off hours” (between 8 p.m. and 12 a.m.).

Pay Attention to What Works

Study the correspondence that wins you the best open and click-through rates. Look for a pattern.  Do incentives equal clicks? Are you getting the best open rates when you include certain keywords in the subject line? Once you get to know your audience and what makes them click, you can follow a template approach for all your future blasts.

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1

May
2013
Comments Off on WordPress isn’t just for Bloggers

WordPress isn’t just for Bloggers

Wordpress Logo

WordPress was once just considered a platform to be used exclusively by traditional bloggers. Now it’s the base for over 60 million websites worldwide. With its extremely intuitive dashboard (content management system) which allows non-tech savvy users to easily edit content, it is becoming the platform of choice for many new business website development projects. The core software is developed by hundreds of volunteers and is “open source” at its finest, free to use for all who wish to venture into the world of widgets and themes.

Being highly customizable with the use of widgets is one of the most appealing aspects of WordPress. Widgets such as a twitter feed, java image rotator and embedded video player are some of the most popular choices. Within the dashboard you can add these widgets to the body of the website, sidebars or footer. Repositioning of the widgets once they are installed is as easy as drag and drop, upload and test.

Now that WordPress has become so popular, different styles or “themes” (the user interface design/or front side of the website users see) are in abundance. There are many free themes available to download. If you’re looking for something a little bit different or a very specific type of design, you may have to pay for premium selections. Luckily even these are extremely affordable from most online sources.

For blogging, WordPress is very much the product of choice. The easy to use dashboard makes posting a new blog entry simple. You can easily copy and paste a pre-written article or type in something new in the editor. Pulling a video feed or placing image files within an article is simple as well. Having the additional elements within the blog article can really liven up the look and feel of the post. Being able to do it easily yourself makes it that much more fun — and downright cool!

Becoming familiar with WordPress will take some time. If you’re looking to build a website on this platform, hire a professional to do the development. Once the website is complete, spend time with the programmer and get some hands-on training. Also, be sure to watch some tutorials. There are plenty of resources for these videos online. Just ask your programmer where to find these videos. Once you choose and use this platform, you’ll never want to use anything else for your website content management.

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2

Apr
2013
Comments Off on Running a Public Relations Firm

Running a Public Relations Firm

Stevens Strategic Communications, Inc.

The debate rages on.  Just what is a public relations firm?  Over the years technology and our economy have caused the definition to change.  In many ways, when I think of the words public relations, the word Catholic or universal comes to mind.

In essence the public relations firm is one that deals with our relationships with all of our publics.  That means our customers.  Our employees.  Our communities.  Our world.

We create messages for audiences and determine the best ways to reach that audience.  Is it advertising?  Social media?  Videos?  Media relations?

Yes, we used to have advertising agencies, public relations firms, and specialty shops.  We even had agencies of record.  Now we provide the best we have to our clients.  Timing, messaging, quality and cost are critical.  Now that we have an understanding of what a public relations firm does—just about everything in terms of communications—then how do you staff?

In the military, I was always impressed with our Special Forces.  These were teams of soldiers with more than one refined skill.  They are linguists, mechanics, snipers, medics, demolition experts.  They are people who accomplish their mission.  In fact, in the military we learned the value of being resourceful even when we weren’t green berets.   So many of us were crossed-trained to do more than our primary military specialty.  That’s how I see the public relations firm of today.

We have social media people who are great account executives.  Crisis specialists who know advertising.  Video producers who know how to write.  Engineers who can create speeches.  Art directors with audio engineering expertise.  Research executives who can handle direct marketing.  Wow.  Our guys are talented.

Survival in the business world today requires that we have many skills, stay up to date on trends, and work hard to stay ahead of the pack.  We want to do all of this while we are having a good time helping our clients succeed.

(FLASH) That is my snapshot of running a PR firm today.  It’s providing the right climate for great, talented people—so they can do great things for great clients!

— Ed Stevens, APR
President, Stevens Strategic Communications

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11

Mar
2013
Comments Off on Save Dollars with the Use of E-Learning

Save Dollars with the Use of E-Learning

e-learning

Gasoline is hovering around $4 a gallon and does not appear to decrease in price soon.  With the consolidation of commercial airlines and the added cost of airport security tacked onto your ticket, traveling the friendly skies isn’t so friendly anymore.  So why keep running corporate training sessions on-location?

The cost of bringing people into town for meetings, education and marketing presentations can be avoided.  With e-learning, all the costs associated with travel and holding events in brick and mortar facilities are eliminated.  Vastly improved connection speed means virtually any organization can train both internal and external audiences with e-learning.  Plus, both software and cloud computing capabilities have made it much simpler to create your own customized e-learning programs (versus paying for off-the-shelf e-learning modules).

A few other great things about e-learning that make it the way to go include:

–          It can easily be updated as things change

–          It’s instantly scalable, meaning you can distribute it around the world with one click

–          You can take the training anywhere/anytime

–          You can track and audit who has taken the training

–          You eliminate printed materials that quickly become obsolete

The next time you need to train associates or customers, consider how much you could save by using e-learning.

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7

Mar
2013
Comments Off on Crisis is Warfare in Action: Guidelines to Follow During Crises

Crisis is Warfare in Action: Guidelines to Follow During Crises

Tough Decisions Ahead Roadsign

When a crisis occurs, it resembles going to war. As a graduate of the Army War College, I learned how to handle crises simulate operations and win the battle at hand.

Much like the public relations profession, the military looks at the crisis at hand in terms of these specific guideposts:

– VISION

– MISSION

– VALUES

– STRATEGIC PRIORITY AREAS

– STRATEGIC OBJECTIVES

– ACTIONS AND KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS

– CRITICAL SUCCESS FACTORS, RISKS AND RESOURCE IMPLICATIONS

VISION

We need to move from this crisis to a better place.

MISSION

Define roles for your emergency response team.

VALUES

Truth, integrity, responsiveness, empathy.

STRATEGIC PRIORITY AREAS

Where did the crisis occur? What is the safe area? Do we need a marshaling point for media?

STRATEGIC OBJECTIVES

Use time, numbers, metrics and analytics as much as you can.

ACTIONS AND KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS

These should have been established in advance in a crisis communications plan.

CRITICAL SUCCESS FACTORS

Safety, protection, acceptance, media coverage.

RISKS

Better to be safe, not sorry. Err on the side of doing what is right no matter what it costs.

RESOURCE IMPLICATIONS

Can we do it ourselves? Do we need help? What will it cost to protect or save my reputation/business?

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27

Feb
2013
Comments Off on E-mail Etiquette

E-mail Etiquette

Email on a Computer

The importance of E-mails in this digital age cannot be bargained. E-mails are used not only for personal communication but also for business or official correspondence. Over the years, the excessive use of E-mails as the primary means of communication has led to most people overlooking the etiquette that should be observed when composing emails. However, whether the E-mail is personal or official, there are some rules that need to be followed.

Subject Line

First and foremost, you must have a subject line. Many people receive hundreds if not thousands of E-mails on a daily basis and needless to say, they do not have the time to read all of them. Most people just skim through the unread E-mails checking for the ones that look important. This is usually done by reading the subject lines of the E-mails. In other words, if you do not have a subject line for your E-mail, your recipient might not even open it.

Salutation

You should always have a salutation. This can be as simple as “Hi Pat,” A salutation shows that you care about the other party and as the saying goes, people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care. It also helps the recipient to know from the onset that your E-mail is not spam since you have mentioned his or her name. This is especially true if you are doing some E-mail marketing.

Humor

Using humor in E-mails might be counterproductive. Sometimes, what you consider funny might be considered offensive by another person. So unless you are very sure that the joke is not ambiguous, it is best to avoid it altogether and just stick to the main point. The rule of thumb is, it is better to be safe than to be sorry.

Length

You should also be careful about how long your E-mail is. Most people want to spend very little time reading through their E-mails. If you write a very lengthy one, your recipient might just read a few lines from the first paragraph and ignore the rest. Try as much as possible to be concise. If the information you want to share is available online, just share the links instead of rewriting the entire Web page in an E-mail.

BCC

Ensure proper use of BCC and CC fields. The CC (Carbon Copy) is for adding addresses of other recipients of the E-mail. The BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) works just as the CC. However, when you add addresses in BCC field, the different people that receive the E-mail in the BCC field will not know who else was listed there with them. It is important to note that some E-mail interfaces may allow the BCC list of E-mail recipients to “Reply To All” of the E-mail addresses listed within the To, CC and BCC fields, thereby disclosing all of the E-mail addresses as well as the specific way the E-mail addresses were categorized. For this reason, it is often most suitable to forward a distributed E-mail to a contact instead of using the BCC field.

Respond

Last but not least, you should always reply to your E-mails. A reply is an acknowledgement to the sender that you have received the E-mail. Of course there are some exceptions such as spam or E-mails that come to your inbox as a result of a subscription on a certain website.

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