Today, I’m giving a talk on Digital Trends for 2017. As part of my preparation, I always like to research what other experts are forecasting and predicting. Their information usually validates my thoughts and offers more data on the why’s behind the findings.

What’s Trending:

  1. Millennials are moving away from public social networks to private ones. Think Facebook Messenger, What’s App, GroupMe. Micro-sharing information and links.
  2. Live video isn’t a maybe strategy. It’s a must have to boost engagement. Plus, there’s limited competition.
  3. Digital Assistants are here to stay. Have a question? Ask Siri, Alexa, OK Google or Cortana.
  4. Customers are using multiple devices to make up their minds to try products and services.
  5. Keywords are more conversational as voice dominates.
  6. Google’s new algorithms are putting more emphasis on local search.
  7. Native advertising is on the rise. More content-like but still sneaky.
  8. SEO and Paid Media spending will grow up to 24% of a marketing budget by 2022.
  9. Brands are creating an “immersive experience” to increase engagement.
  10. Becoming more instant is definitely the way to go.

These are top picks, but there’s always more.

And why are these trends important?

Dense marketing is yesterday’s news. Spend time and money where your target market is. Improve your video marketing and use it to grab attention. Repurpose content in ways it will be seen and shared. And finally, engage with your prospects and customers live. At workshops, events, on video.

Show the real you.

 

Special thanks to contributors Blair Nicole Nastasi, Corey Austin, Lindsay Hutter, Dave Chaffey and Jayson DeMers for their collective insights.

Ever since I was a kid, Thanksgiving reminded me of a happy time when families got together in the spirit of giving thanks.  It wasn’t a Hallmark® holiday, it was real life. We each were at a different place but connected wherever we were, and that happened to be at the kitchen table.
Life seems to be more complicated now, or maybe I see it through a different lens.  It’s still rosy if you choose that that color. I’m an eternal optimist.
I’d like to share a piece I wrote for my Gratitude Workshop, 50 Ways to Be Thankful and Show Random Acts of Kindness. It’s a reminder that being thankful begins at home.
When you think of having an Attitude of Gratitude, consider this. Being thankful comes from the head, being grateful comes from the soul.
May you enjoy holiday blessings today and always.

One of the questions I’m frequently asked is, “How do I market my blog?” There are hundreds of ways to promote a blog via PR and publicity, but I decided to ask Google the same question.  In less than 30 seconds, I found this article, How to Work with a Virtual Assistant to Market Your Blog. Hint: You don’t need a VA to do the work.  You can do it yourself or share the task. Heck, you can even ask your savvy teenager to help out!

In the post, Chris Ducker shares a list of almost 200 blog directories that you can submit your blog to. The list is a few years old, so I wanted to share a more recent resource by Harsh Agrawal who promises an epic collection of 131 verified blog directories. I’ll be curious to see what works and what doesn’t.  Information changes in a moment’s notice, so sometimes good enough is good enough. It’s the action that creates marketing momentum.

Lastly, I’d like to share HubSpot’s Guide to 50 Online Local Business Directories. You may find something new here to increase your visibility, brand awareness and exposure.

Oh, and sales.

I’ll confess.  As much as I’ve heard of Meetup groups to widen your outreach, I never realized its potential to reach a like-minded audience.

If you’re new to Meetups, they’re a great way to build your expertise, test new brand personas and prospect for clients or potential partnerships. They can also help build a list and extend your influence circle – especially if you’re traveling and speaking out of town. Let’s face it, if you’re already in a new city, why not maximize your time there and promote your business?

If you’re thinking of having an event, one way to test the waters is by creating a Meetup.

As a new Meetup leader, you have a free trial for a month and can start a group on almost any topic you like. I didn’t know what to expect and was willing to give it a try.

Hint #1: To promote your event, give everything you think might work a try.

I was surprised that within three days, I had about 15 people interested in my group and made it a point to email each and every person. You can’t be too salesy, though.  Meetups are meant to start a conversation.

You can imagine my delight when a producer from a local news station in Boston inquired and asked if she could interview me and videotape the event. All from Meetup! I responded quickly, which is appreciated by the press.

Hint: #2. Be quick to respond to a reporter’s request.

I joke that you should be available 23/7, making sure to get an hour of sleep. That’s me. Keep your phone handy and turn up the volume. I always forget to switch from silent to my favorite ring tone.

Hint #3:  Create a media package that explains your event.

A media package means information. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it needs to tell a story quickly. We had written a pitch, designed an event flyer, had a photo ready in several sizes and a working registration page via Constant Contact.

Hint #4:  Whether your event is free or paid, as the organizer, you are the voice of the event.  Always be clear and congruent. A mixed message never sells or gets press.

Hint #5: Learn what works and use it. Meetups is a platform that works depending on how you want to use it. If it doesn’t work for an event, it can lead to other opportunities, if you allow it.  So, set a good intention. Good juju will follow.

Lastly, you can’t just depend on one tactic to promote an event.  It’s a combination of trial and error, as well as proven tactics that have worked in the past.

We called the Mayor’s office for the Kids Gratitude Workshop, posted flyers, send pitches to the press, posted on calendars, invited sponsors, used email marketing from strong supporters and asked for help on social media.

One thing that was different here. The event was designed to teach kids the Attitude of Gratitude and how it opens doors to possibilities you can’t even imagine.

You’ll find that when you believe in your mission and have passion, you’ll have success.

Redefine it on your terms. Not someone else’s.

One of my clients, Lidia Kenig Scher is a transformational artist who heals through vibrational painting. Last month, a student and major collector of her art, offered to host a holiday party and silent auction in her honor to help Delibreen, an 18-month old boy who was badly burned in Iraq and flown to Shriner’s Hospital.

Lidia’s intention all along was to give a portion of the proceeds to help the little boy – but we added another layer. We decided to start a crowdfunding campaign to raise money, feature the cause and offer Lidia’s artwork as incentive for donors to give.

I’ve never created a GoFundMe campaign before, but I announced it at a presentation last week. Within minutes, Phill Naylor, a videographer from XtraLargeMedia offered to shoot the 2-minute introduction and Diane Debs from Arbonne made a pledge to donate healing baby products. I was touched and not surprised, at the same time.

What will this accomplish for Lidia, Shriners Hospital for Children, Baby Delibreen and all of the benefactors supporting the cause? Lots.

Lidia will paint from the heart and give away her artwork in return for donations to help Baby Delibreen. Shriners Hospital will benefit from the goodwill and publicity. Baby Delibreen and his family will receive funds, kindness and the generosity from others. Phill will have produced a meaningful video, Diane will have given healing products to a boy in need, and Lidia’s art collector and devoted student will know that her efforts to help were valued in contributions — far greater than her own circle, from strangers around the world.  Who knew this baby and why was he here in Boston?

You see, things happen and when faced with what we don’t know – the right people show up to help us.

There is a path to gratitude and goodness. Teach your children and the young that this is the way to heal the world.

Creating a blog is not only one of best examples of your owned media, it’s also a wonderful tool to showcase your expertise, get visibility, publicity and PR.  Bottom line, blogs help you get noticed, but you have to write and post on a consistent basis.

Robin’s Rainmakers has been a platform that has helped me increase online and offline credibility, reputation, speaking opportunities and form valuable partnerships, like the one I have with Constant Contact. I’ve also revved up my personal and professional brand. Blog all you like, but pull in traffic!

Here are 5 Ways to Pull Traffic to Your Blog

  • Use images. Take your own photos or create graphics on Canva.com. You can also use one of the hundreds of free online photo resources. Google free images and read sites like Entrepreneur.com for suggestions.  I like Gratisography.com because it’s fun. Pixabay.com is also a resource we use. See what’s here too at com/FreeBlogPhotos.
  • einstien-robinsamoraMake your images fun. Have you used Photofunia.com? You can put yourself and others in the picture. Here’s an example of a fun graphic I use in presentations. It gives me credibility and aligns me with experts.  Right?
  • Don’t forget Infographics. HubSpot has an amazing example of templates to create infographics.  Take your tips and create a visual that will be shared over and over again.  What’s to gain? Higher visibility and brand recognition.  It’s all about sharing and pinning. The Art of Engagement. Can you use any of these ideas from HubSpot? tinyurl.com/HubSpotTemplates
  • Make the most of your headlines with a title generator. Here’s a cool tool you can use to get ideas for headlines and articles. Some may be way out there – but use what looks good and think of this as an inspiration tank.  Co-Schedule also has a free headline analyzer, but start with this one first to get the swing of it. tinyurl.com/CoolTitleGenerator
  • Take advantage of YouTube. You know YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world.  And, you probably know that you can create a welcome video and mention your blog, as well as link to blog posts from video descriptions.  Did you also know that you have 5000 characters to work with in the video description area? This isn’t the place to stuff keywords, but rather be strategic in your marketing and SEO efforts.

Of course there are other ways to pull traffic to your blog.  Guest blogging, podcasting, speaking gigs, book signings, Amazon Author Central, Good Reads, by-lined articles, networking, interviews and more.

“If you just keep moving forward, you’ll amaze yourself” – Anonymous

I’ve been speaking more than usual lately, and I love it.  Mostly, because I was scared to death of speaking for years and never thought I would never have the nerve to get up and talk about what I know best: PR, branding, small business marketing and being able to combine the core values of your business and personal brand to help you achieve your best version of success.

For some it could mean improving your expert status, credibility, reputation or visibility. For others, more speaking gigs, opportunities for joint ventures or sponsorships. And that all leads to sales of one kind of another. No sales, no business.

Confidence in sales is a must have.

Here are 7 Confidence Building Exercises to Increase Sales (and your Mojo)

  1. Begin with a pep talk every day. Make one up according to where you need to go, who you need to see, how you need to feel. Practice conversations in your head and in front of the mirror. Change it up frequently. Ask your partner, spouse, friend or dog to tell you how great you are.  Say thank you.
  2. Smile and say hello to at least 5 strangers and tell them what you do. Change up your approach and see which intro gets the best response. I’ve been at the copy desk at Staples and met prospects who turned into clients. Put yourself out there – then follow up!
  3. Learn how to tell at least 3 jokes, and get good at it. You’ll never know when you need one to break the ice! Make sure they’re appropriate for the crowd.  Remember, you’re representing your brand, even after hours and that second cocktail.
  4. Challenge yourself in some new way. Go to a new MeetUp or networking group and talk about your services. Join Toastmasters®. That’s where I started. Start small if you’re nervous about the big stage. Serve as a chair person of a volunteer group.  Acknowledge, accept and put yourself out there as someone everyone should know.  You are the expert in  _____(fill in the blank), right?
  5. Give yourself lots of chances. Throw a party! There are so many adjacent possibilities to trying something new. Just like marketing and PR, you don’t put one media pitch out there, you have a MIX. It’s the same way in building confidence. Revving up your energy creates new energy.
  6. Be a better receiver. Accept compliments, ask for testimonials, build a referral program.  Sometimes, we forget how good we are or don’t ask for the business.  Make a decision to reach out to happy clients. Ask for LinkedIn recommendations. Send surveys to get feedback. Use all of the good, and learn from the not so perfect. Isn’t that how we grow?
  7. Review your progress. How are you feeling on a day by day basis? What are you accomplishing in your career or in other parts of your life? Make note of your successes, sales and growing pains and take a look at the week’s end. See how small changes in your attitude, change you!

Confidence is a game changer even if you have to act as if, for just today.

PS – This is an updated version of a blog from 2014.  I made it more relevant to the Sales and PR process. I’m a bigger believer now more than ever. Confidence is a game changer!

If you’re in the market to buy promotional products to increase your company’s brand awareness at a trade show, event or conference, it’s important to know the most common mistakes people make – so you can avoid them like the plague.

Over the last 20 years, I’ve seen the simplest jobs go wrong because of a mix up of facts, colors, formats and more.

Take a few minutes and read what the mistakes are so your order comes out exactly as you expect, at the price you want and on time!

Lack of purpose

With millions of promotional products to choose from it’s important to know the purpose of your promotional product campaign. Do you want to increase traffic to your website, landing page or promote a special offer? Based on your answer, you may be surprised that a different product, design or distribution plan may be a better idea. Without a clear goal and purpose, your marketing campaign could be doomed to fail before it really begins.

Not tailored to your audience

A custom beer koozie is a great premium for a bar or brewery, but not necessarily on target with a hospital’s image. I’ve seen buyers select premiums that are cool in their eyes, but just don’t fit. When this happens, marketers are appealing to their own taste rather than their audience’s. Take time to research the interest and hobbies of your target demographic and find a product that will appeal to them. Not sure?  Create an informal focus group!

Bland or generic design

Does your freebie or premium have visual interest? Whether it’s colorful, has a catchy slogan or pattern, you want to be sure your product gets attention and a positive reaction. If you create a giveaway that’s boring and uninteresting, chances are you’ve wasted a timely marketing opportunity. Remember, one of the goals of giving a promotional product is to create interest – in the product, service and the item itself!

What’s your distribution plan?

Before you even order promotional products, determine what you’re going to do with them. Will you give them out at a trade show or will reps hand them out to customers in the field? Are you trying to increase your customer’s loyalty by sending a product in the mail or attract a new prospect, in a totally new target market? No matter how you answer these questions, you can be select in your distribution. And, remember to keep at least a few samples in your file cabinet with important facts like where you gave them out, when and feedback. (You can use an excel spreadsheet too).

Ordering cheap items

Most promo products are fairly inexpensive and cost effective as compared to other types of marketing. I know it’s tempting to save as much money as possible and buy the cheapest products available, but sacrificing quality for quantity can actually cost you more in the long run. Be mindful that what you give out is a reflection of your brand, so going cheap isn’t always the way to go. I’m not asking you to break the bank or your budget, but here’s the deal: Your product needs to be effective, before it can be cost effective.

Printing ineffective information

This sounds like a no brainer, but don’t forget to include your website and contact information on the promotional item. The best product at the best price will be wasted if people can’t reach you. Granted, you have limited printing space to work with, so make every word count to reach your goal. A call to action isn’t a marketing maybe, it’s a marketing must! Premiums and promotional items included.

Not proofing carefully

How carefully are you reviewing the proof your promotional company is sending you? Take it from me, you may want to enlist others in your company to take a look too. Triple check the ink and PMS colors as well the actual imprint position. Once you’ve signed off on a proof and the job is in progress, additional changes will mean tossing out the old, and beginning from scratch. And, you know you’ll have to pay extra unless it’s not your fault.

Being stingy on quantities

Don’t be afraid to order a few extra premiums to have on hand for future events and surprise trade shows or meetings. Most vendors offer quantity price breaks where the price per piece decreases as the quantity increases. A company can often save 10 to 15 percent on an order by just adding more product. Plan out your event calendar and product purchases ahead of time and you can save big time.

Pay rush charges

This is one of the biggest mistakes marketers make and one of the easiest ways to reduce costs. Think and plan ahead! A typical production facility schedules weeks in advance so when a rush order comes in changes must be made immediately at the plant. A standard rush order can result in charges of 25% or more. A next day change for your million-dollar client can be – well, you don’t want to know. I’ve done it and saved the day and you could too. When you’re not in panic mode, ship by ground to avoid high freight charges. If you’re going to fly premiums overnight, why not save the money and travel yourself?

The bottom line is this.  Don’t rush through the planning stages of your promotional products campaign. Effective event purchasing can give you the results you’re looking if you use these tips on your checklist before you buy.

About the Author

Rachel Leone is a client and President of Leone Marketing.  Her firm specializes in finding perfect promotional products for trade shows and events to increase brand awareness, loyalty and recognition.  Rachel works with Fortune 500 brands as well as small business owners to engage, without a diamond ring. Her brainstorming sessions are noteworthy and complimentary. Contact Rachel at Rachel@LeoneMarketing.com.

Secret #1: Thoughts from the Dressing Room  

Become “media ready” by looking, feeling, thinking and acting like a desirable multi-million-dollar brand — even on a shoestring budget.

Action Items: You are your brand, wherever you go. Do you give off an energy of certainty and impression of increase so people will want to know you? Make someone’s life better in some small way, every day. Live life fully. Step into your greatness and your brand.

Secret #2:   Get Your Brand On    

Cultivate and position a winning brand image that includes bio, photos, signatures, media kits and more.

Look professional, branded, together and ready for business. The press will feel more confident that you’re a player. You are your brand, so act like one that’s in a successful business.

Action Items: Look at your photo – does it look like you now or your high school picture? Can a prospect recognize you in a crowded room? Do you have a signature on your email? Does it give a description of who you are and what you do?  Do you have a bio that includes some fun facts, or a cause you really believe in?  Look at your website with fresh eyes. Is there a headline on your home page with a call to action? Are all the links working? Are there misspellings? What does your branding say about you as an expert? What does it say to the media?

Secret #3: Learn the Lessons Momma Never Taught You About Being Social 

Leverage the power of social media to reach and impress media partners.

The thought of social media can be daunting if you don’t understand it. You don’t have to be everywhere, and do everything.  Which social media tools do you like? Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram (or the platform of your choice) pick what you’ll use and start engaging with your audience. Stop worrying about being perfect. Make an effort every day to promote your business. You can make an impact with 15 minutes, twice a day.

Action Items: Every day in some small way take an active role in being an expert, or noted in your field. Need content? Set up a Google alert on your ‘topic’ or ‘expertise’ and collect articles to share.  Comment on what’s going on in the news.  It’s OK to be a contrarian and have a voice.

Use social media to share your expert opinion so the press, as well as your prospects and clients, can notice you. Share content. Compliment others. Be a part of a caring community. Consistency and frequency count.

Secret #4: Get On the Inside Track

Take advantage of free publicity opportunities from HARO – Help a Reporter Out www.HelpAReporterOut.com.  Help A Reporter Out offers quality leads for people in all kinds of industries to get noticed in the media – radio, TV, blogs and articles.  It’s published 3 times a day, and it’s easy and free to sign up and get emails in your inbox.  Journalists, editors, reporters and producers will post their queries on HARO and you can respond to them and get recognized as an expert.

Take the initiative and put yourself out there.

Action Items:  Sign up for a free Help A Reporter Out account and take the time to respond to their emails.  Create a one-page template to answer press requests.  Don’t be annoyed by the press inquiries, think of them as your assistant sending you opportunities to build your business and your brand.

Secret #5: Be a Media Magnet, First. Darling Next.

Tell your story often and clearly to gain media attention. Practice makes perfect.

Create and launch media releases that tell a powerful, memorable story that demands attention and generates results.  Look at what you’re doing in your business. What’s press worthy? Are you speaking? Have a new product or service? Create a media release and send to industry publications, local media, and established contacts. It’s the who, what, when and why of what you’re doing – and can be as simple as a new office location, workshop, product or service, or being featured as a guest expert. Be clear and brief in all interviews and press opportunities and offer ‘soundbite’ quotes. Reporters have limited time – so make sure you grab their attention.

Make it easy for the press to find you and keep your PR engine going.  When journalists and bloggers begin to see you showing up in the news, they’ll be more apt to follow you.

Action Items:  Make a list of 5 things that you or your company could write a media release about.  Have video footage?  Even better!  You don’t have to win the Nobel Peace Prize to be recognized.

Secret # 6:  Pitch Don’t Bitch  

Stop complaining about the lack of press and do something about it.

Pitch your story idea to newspapers, radio and TV stations, industry magazines, niche newsletters and blogs. They’re always in need of material. It can be an idea you have tied to a holiday or special event, tips on how a new product or service is helping customers, a community service project you’re involved with or a local event.

When pitching the media, be brief, concise and to the point.  Make your headline interesting.  You never know who’ll pick up your story and where it may go.  Even if it’s controversial, it’s still news! And news fades fast, so keep the momentum going.  Be mindfully persistent, not a pest.

Action Items: Create a bucket of ideas to pitch. Make them short and sweet. Are you a newly published author? (Hint, an e-book counts). Are you a guest panelist at a prestigious event? Do you have a new way of doing XYZ that will make a difference to more than just you? Learn to pitch with perfection.

Secret #7: The Press Are Friends You Haven’t Met Yet

Relationships that matter take time. Identify key press contacts and build mutually rewarding relationships that last.

Make it a point to do your homework and keep your eyes and ears open to top reporters in your region or area of expertise. Press contacts move around a bit, so try to stay connected via social media and keep email addresses current. A savvy admin can help with this task, but ultimately, you’ll be the one to decide who you’d like to watch and follow.

Action Items: A stranger is a stranger till the first hello. Make friends with reporters you find interesting. Follow them on Twitter, and learn the fine art of retweeting. Introduce yourself at industry functions. Send a note that you liked their article and you’re a fan, even if you disagreed with their view point. Send a lead their way. Start the process of ‘getting yourself known’.

Getting noticed by the press is a journey not a destination, and every step and mention gets your name out there. You’ll get recognized as an expert if you promote your brand often enough, everywhere you’ll go. It all starts with a decision to confidently stand out from the crowd.

I gave a talk yesterday at a Leadership CEO Forum and was excited to present PR and Social Media ideas to a room of executive women, who ran successful businesses – and invested in their growth.  (I love that).

After the meeting and comments from the group, I was thinking of ways that entrepreneurs and experts could get noticed, without all kinds of fuss, muss and time restraints.

  • Walk into a room with power. What I’m talking about here is exuding confidence.  Knowing you’re the expert when you walk in to a room full of strangers. You’re well dressed, ready for action and prepared to share your knowledge.
  • Spend time getting to know your group. Before any speaking gig or meeting, it’s always good to know the players. Ask for a list beforehand if it’s available and do some research on your own. That way, you have some background information and can ask intelligent questions and give thoughtful responses.
  • Give without expectation. I often speak without getting paid because it opens the door to new circles and there’s so much possibility for potential business.  Some might say, “Nah, you’re wasting your time.”  If you’re doing something that you believe is getting you towards your goal, then go for it.
  • Make time for Q + A privately, in person if possible. After a presentation, don’t schedule yourself so tightly that you don’t have room to breathe and have a chance to talk with attendees.  I’m all for clustering a day of activities in the area I’m visiting, but there are hidden opportunities in NOT rushing. It took me a while to figure that out.
  • See an opportunity? Act on it.  I was on a tour yesterday of NewTV for an upcoming TV series and saw beautiful artwork on the wall.  I commented on it and asked if they showcased artist’s work on a monthly basis.  The answer was yes and it was a perfect opportunity for my client, Lidia Kenig-Scher to feature her paintings.  Had I not popped my head in the Director of Marketing’s office and said hi, that never might have happened.

This list could go on with other PR and marketing opportunities to increase your brand awareness and visibility – with referral programs, highlighting influencers, news jacking, podcasting and more.

But we’re looking at easy tactics here, that don’t require hours of thought. They’re free publicity tactics that are worth their weight in gold.