I don’t know if there’s a business person out there that doesn’t perk up when the word ‘free’ comes up. And, include me there!  I love to hear about new no-cost tools and tips that will like my life and business more productive – and help me stretch my marketing and PR budget.

So in the spirit of sharing and promoting your small business and brand, I’ll list 9 below:

9 Cool Free Publicity Tools and Tactics

  1. What about a Nighttime Silhouette? Find a large empty wall on a busy road near your business and project your logo on it at night. Think of it as a cool billboard without the cost. Though I’ve never done it, I imagine you need a timer too!
  2. Volunteer your boss or CEO! If you’re out and about, online and otherwise, you’re running into journalists and industry leaders who are looking for guests on podcasts, for interviews and possibly as speakers or panelists. See if they might like to feature your CEO as an expert. Your CEO will see you as a star and advocate for the company and rewards, my friend, come in many ways. Note: This also works for you!
  3. How about the risers on stairs? Last summer, I vacationed in Maine and noticed how shops on the second floor of buildings used advertising copy to influence customers to climb the stairs and see their store. I loved this idea. Would something like this work for you? What space do you have underutilized?
  4. Don’t underestimate the value of your email signature. Email Shmemail. It doesn’t have to be boring, you know. Add links or icons to your social media feeds or landing pages where you’re featuring new products or offers. Authors can give away chapters of their books. Experts, white papers. You get it. This is free promotional space that can change up as freely as you like and costs zippo.
  5. Use Twitter as a Focus Group. Want to test out a new idea, vote on a design or get some feedback? Look no further than Twitter. Use the audience you’ve built as a sounding board to ask questions, engage in conversation and increase your visibility and PR status at the same time. It’s free and targeted. Change up your tweets and test them out.  Ask and you will receive!
  6. Be an Expert columnist. I hope most of you are blogging. And if you are, it should be easy to tweak, copy and paste. The key word here is repurpose. You’ll get lots of eyeballs as an expert in your field when you have a column. This works for online and offline publications (or other blogs). If the publisher wants compensation for the promotional real estate, fine. Be open to Q + A from readers, consider speaking at an upcoming event or offer to be an online or offline joint venture partner.
  7. Hire an Artist for Sidewalk Graffiti. You don’t have to live near an art school to find an artist who’d like to draw on your sidewalk or side of the building! If you’re going big and using the side of an abandoned building, get fellow business owners to chip in. Perhaps this artist would be thrilled with a feature story or needs that just one, je ne sais quoi piece to go to the next level? You could be the answer to his/her prayers, and he/she to yours. Open space can be used in a number of ways. Be creative in your thinking!
  8. Create a video for your LinkedIn summary. I can hear you say, I didn’t know you could do that? Well, you can! It doesn’t have to be super fancy or long, but you can include a short video in that section if you want to stand out in a crowd. Don’t forget too to beef up your LinkedIn profile with rich key word marketing and PR copy – and use all the characters.
  9. Hire an Intern to who loves Pinterest. Many of you probably know what a goldmine Pinterest is, especially to attract a female audience. You also may know that including your URL on images can link back to your website, blog or special offer landing page. Have a strategy in mind to follow and pin – and of course, be colorful and relevant to your brand!

That’s it for today, for cool PR and marketing ideas. Shake it up. Be Bold. And, Rent my Brain if you need help creating a buzz for your business!

Your business is growing, you’re taking on more clients and the responsibility that goes with it – and you’re swamped.  There’s no question, you need help.

But, you’re so busy, you don’t have time to think about interviewing or training someone new.

Sound familiar?

Luckily, there are ways to build your team without spending too much time away from your business. The key is to find qualified people who work independently and already know about your industry – and what needs to be done.

Ask many of the successful entrepreneurs you know and they’ll tell you. They’ve hired outsourced independent contractors for jobs like a VA (virtual assistant), social media manager, graphic designer, web master, editor, email marketer or PR specialist.

These professionals are business owners themselves and can help you become more productive by taking tasks off your plate so you can your spend time doing what you do best – and earning the most.

About 5 years ago, I hired Lisa, who is my right and left hand. Even though she works virtually and lives in New Mexico, I trust her to always look out for me and remind me of everything I forget. And sometimes, that’s a lot!

If you’re looking for a virtual assistant to help with your business so you can concentrate on your brilliance, read these articles…

In How To Choose A Virtual Assistant, Karyn Greenstreet shares her journey in moving away from a personal assistant and hiring a Virtual Assistant who lives 2,500 miles away.  Her valuable insights and excellent tips are noteworthy.  Remember, there’s a learning curve involved.  They’re not you (that’s why you hired them) and they’re not always in your time zone!

If you aren’t sure what types of tasks a Virtual Assistant can do for you and your business, Entrepreneur Magazine provides a list of 10 Tasks To Outsource To A Virtual Assistant. I am eternally grateful to my first VA who got my daughter out of New Orleans in her freshman year during the scare after Katrina. She kept close contact and guided Lauren off campus and to the airport – with an overnight in Chicago – and calmed me too, along the way.

Before you start the search for your own virtual assistant, check out this article ‘When is a Virtual Assistant not a Virtual Assistant…?!’ by guest blogger Michelle Dale.  She explains the virtual part in virtual assistant – just so we’re all on the same page – and part of the world.

Ready to be less stressed and more productive?

I thought so. Think about a VA.

Let’s face it. We all want attention. Some more than others.

But, if you’re a small business owner or executive on the rise, you want to be sure to get attention — to boost your image, gain credibility and be noticed for the expert you really are.  Here’s how:

7 Easy Ways to Get Attention without Selling Your Soul

  1. Make your email signature count. Whether you send 10 or 200 emails a day, your email signature tells a story – of who you are and how you think of yourself. Do you include multiple forms of contact, Skype information and time zone?  Are you offering your latest free report or a chapter in your newest book? How about logos of top associations you’re affiliated with? Put together your signature and personalize it to your brand and story. Stand out!
  2. Have a favorite reporter or editor in your industry? Why not set up a Google Alert to see what top reporters are up to? Once you get the ‘heads up’, you can decide the next course of action. Send a personal note? Small gift? Or, a Congratulations email?  Better yet – “I just saw this article (add link) and wanted to let you know I think it’s so on point“ (or however you feel). You’ll make an impression!
  3. One size doesn’t fit all. When writing to reporters, make sure your pitch is unique – at least the first paragraph. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but take time to research who you’re pitching and the types of stories they write. Customize each email as best as possible so they don’t look like they’re canned. Even if reporters don’t use your story, a well thought out and targeted pitch often goes in a file to be saved, not the trash.
  4. Spread good news. Been featured in the media? Awesome! Now share the love and use your own social media platforms to tell your audience. Use the same articles or excerpts in newsletters, presentations, notes to prospects, online media kits …and the list goes on. Market yourself as an expert and be a good promoter too!
  5. Be a Guest Blogger. If you like to write, consider being a Guest Blogger for other websites where your opinion counts. Say you’re an image consultant. Your expertise can be valued on a banking or real estate website as well as your own.  And, once is contact is made there are opportunities to connect even deeper. Don’t forget as an author that you’ll need a 50 word byline and bio – and hey, what about adding a link to your free report?
  6. Keep your website up to date. It’s been said we’re 9 months ahead of our website, and some of us lightyears! If you have a word press site, it’s easier to update more often – and by ourselves – with recent awards, testimonials and photos. Make sure your ABOUT page sings your praises. Note to self, include a monthly maintenance check too for those annoying broken links.
  7. Give attention without expecting it in return. I’m amazed at my community of giving professionals, small business owners and entrepreneurs and all their friendship. Giving comes in kind words, referrals, opportunities and forwarded emails, and everything in between. Givers get noticed, and chances are – that one time gift isn’t a random act.

I hope these tips help you as you build your business and get recognized for who you are.

There are hundreds more I talk about and teach to small business owners just like you!

Life is sometimes a surprise and when you put yourself out there – to promote a brand or yourself using PR, you really never know what the outcome will be – or where you’ll be seen.  You just have to believe!

Surprise on me/us, when we heard this weekend that my friend Steve and I would be on a billboard in the Boston DMA to promote the Nova Star cruise ferry from Portland Maine to Yarmouth Nova Scotia. How did we get there?  We were featured in a TV commercial last year for the NovaStar promotion and one of our photos was chosen for the ‘fall’ digital billboard campaign.

NovaCruise

Now, we aren’t part of SAG-AFTRA; we’re two entrepreneurs who decided to take part in the commercial shoot on Steve’s birthday while we were celebrating in Kennebunkport. We never knew when this kind of experience would present itself again, so we said YES!

You can stay in your same old/same old over and over again until you are bored to tears with your life.

You can get PR and promte yourself and your business in the same old way, but, you’ll never get different results. So, shake it up!

This is PR and promotion at its best.

It’s fun! It’s unexpected, visual and shareable.

When you take advantage of PR opportunities like this, the path is unknown. If you move forward with intention and positive energy, life will respond in kind, almost pixelating.

We had breakfast with Carly Fiorina this past Sunday and heard The Donald (pumped up and rearing to go) at a party a couple of weeks ago.

Your life and business can be as full as you want it to be, and as BOLD as you choose.

Ditch the fear and get on board.

When you celebrate who you are, then everyone else will get on board too!

Robin

PS – I’m offering a 3 Month PR Intensive to 10 small business owners, professionals and entrepreneurs who want to boost their brand and income. Write me at Robin@RobinSamoraInc.com  if you want to create a PR Roadmap that will take you from where you are now, to where you want to go!

PR, Promotions and Publicity aren’t a one size fit all strategy to get you noticed.  And, that’s a good thing.  Variety is the spice of life! In creating a PR roadmap, you want to customize the outreach experience and connect the dots from where a client is now – to where they want to go to be seen, heard and remembered. So the road less traveled is not the journey of choice!

For a handful of our Fortune 500 corporate clients, Partner Promotions is the go-to source for Brand Ambassador work in Boston. Companies like Comcast and CBS hire our marketing teams to promote their brands and actively engage with prospects and customers — to showcase new services, demonstrate products and turn loyal followers into raving fans.

After 15 years of hiring Brand Ambassadors, I’ve concluded that for me, hiring is primarily intuition based. Is the Brand Ambassador believable or not? Do I trust him/her? Would I give them the keys to my car? Eye contact is important too, or lack thereof, and I can’t discount appearance.  If my gut tells me to move forward, I almost always do, followed by a reference check (gut usually wins).

So, how does an eager and responsible college student or professional of any age — who wants to make extra cash get into the Brand Ambassador business?

Here’s An Insider’s Look – How to Get a Brand Ambassador Job at Any Age  

  1. Google Brand Ambassador companies in your area and check Facebook Groups or Craig’s List for event/gig postings; Better yet, make a connection with other Brand Ambassadors and get WOM (word of mouth) referrals.  They’re worth their weight in gold.
  2. Apply online with a headshot and resume. If you don’t have a headshot, use an attractive and recent photo of yourself — with no arms or plants sticking out of your head. Please don’t be half naked unless you’re looking for a swimsuit model job. No experience? Highlight your sales, marketing and customer service skills.
  3. Score an interview by writing a clear, concise and friendly email. Use proper English and provide contact information. This is not the time to be lazy or sloppy in your writing or coy in your contact details. Impressions count to those reading your email and hundreds of others. Trust me. Delete is an easy key to reach.
  4. Meet in person ASAP.  Be early, well dressed and groomed. Bonus points for confirming your appointment by email and text. Remember to mention a personal referral if you have one and highlight that connection. You really could earn thousands of dollars from this one meeting.  Make it count!
  5. You are unique so accentuate the positive. Have an awesome smile? Flaunt it! But, you’re not on stage giving a one person show. Be mindful that if you’re hired, you’re representing not only the client who considers you a reflection of their brand — but the Brand Ambassador company too. It’s OK to stand out, but not like a sore thumb.
  6. Highlight your experience and own it. Why would a company want to pay you double minimum wage or more?  Not sure? Make a list. You’re outgoing, friendly, worked in sales and marketing, love people, sold credit card upgrades – plus you’re flexible. State the facts, show your resume, hold eye contact and be genuine. You can be sincere and still own your power.
  7. Don’t force a square peg in a round hole.  If there’s not a connection with the hiring manager or if you don’t like the brand, let it go. There are better opportunities out there. Follow your gut to see if the fit is right. If integrity is one of your core values, honor it. You’ll be a lousy Brand Ambassador if you’re not all in.
  8. When you’re hired, give thanks. Thank your hiring manager with an email. Read the study guides or marketing materials more than once. Follow directions. Check in frequently to show you’re interested, but not needy. Get more experience, rinse and repeat.
  9. Build a referral network so you can take a team with you. Want to make life easier for a hiring manager? Bring an established team with you to your next assignment. You’ll save your boss time and aggravation, plus be a shining star. There’s also negotiating power here as a manager, which is paid at a higher rate.
  10. Keep business business and personal personal. Don’t overlap the two. News travels fast and not always to the right places.

Side note: My kids, their friends, friends of friends, strangers and people from every walk of life have helped with the many clients and Brand Ambassador positions we’ve had over the last 20 years and counting. PR, Promotions and marketing isn’t just for entrepreneurs and small business owners – it’s for anyone with a message to share.

Share a message in your voice. That’s what makes it authentic.

Do you ever mess up? I mean, REALLY mess up?

If you’re human, you have. And, not just once!

As business owners and professionals, we feel the need to be perfect, all the time.  But it’s impossible to strive for perfection and stressful at that.

So, what should we do when we mess up?

John C. Maxwell once said, “A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them.”

In this article by John Caddell, author of The Mistake Bank, we learn that to bounce back and grow stronger, we have to do several things — and not a single one includes hiding our mistake or passing if off as someone else’s.

So, the first thing to do is admit a mistake was made, not just to yourself, but to those you’ve affected.

Next, you should apologize.

But, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do that was well.

In The “Just Right” Reaction When You Mess Up at Work, Ashley Cobert talks about how to apologize, ‘just right’. That includes apologizing just once and then offering solutions; nothing more, nothing less.

Lastly, from Entrepreneur Magazine, there’s 3 Steps for Fixing Big Business Blunders and the one last step of how to save face.

You need to walk the talk!

That means if you apologize and offer solutions, you will actually have to follow through and not only fix those mistakes, but also lay out a plan to never have this blunder happen again!

With these three tips you should be able to turn a potentially disastrous situation into a learning experience.

After the longest winter I can remember, I’m thrilled to say summer is here! And, school is (almost) out.  Many business owners and entrepreneurs take time to relax and slow down a bit in June, July and August, but there are other smart and savvy pros who do the same, plus step up their game and create their own summer school to beef up on news, update their skills or take a class.

If you’d like to expand your horizon, here are several ideas to get you started – but as you know, the sky’s the limit!

1. Learn how to write

Yes, really!

In The Art of the Handwritten Note we’re reminded of how important a personal written note is in business. You might have grown up writing ‘thank you’ notes, but there’s a whole generation of younger people who feel challenged with this kind of writing. There’s no better time than now to get (re)started! What’s stopping you? If your handwriting is terrible, take a calligraphy class or better yet – slow down and write ‘like you mean it’. Your message will be heard loud and clear!

2. Learn video marketing/editing

You don’t have to become an expert and I’m certainly not suggesting that you have to edit your own videos. But, understanding the process of editing and learning about video marketing will help you plan better shoots and b-roll to create the best possible content to share with  your audience. It’s fun too, if the first subjects of your video class are your own family members!

Check out workshops in your local area to see if there’s a summer program you can attend or take classes or workshops online.

3. Learn how get the most out of your Smartphone

You think you know it all? You may be pretty app-savvy, but there’s so much more in the Smartphone world to learn!  I’ve read that most people use only 5% of their phone’s ability and just 10% of our brain! Ask a teenager in your life or neighbor to sit with you and show you the tricks they’ve learned on their phone. You can also take a class in most stores (Verizon, Sprint, AT&T) depending on what carrier you have. And of course, online learning about Smartphone is great, too.

Whatever new skill you decide to learn this summer, have fun!

I always like to see what small business owners are doing to create a buzz and promote their services. The more unique, the more I remember – and hopefully that’s the case with attracting your target audience. The #1 objective is to stand out and get noticed. If you get a buying reaction that sticks, you’ve hit a home run!

Taglines aren’t a necessity for every business, but they can help to explain your product or service, or give a valuable reminder of why your prospects should pick YOU!

Here are 5 tips for creating memorable taglines:

  1. Make your tagline clear. Don’t confuse your customers with off-subject phrases which aren’t in sync with your product or brand. Complement your company name, url and what you’re selling.
  2. Describe who you are or what you do. Words are a tool to use to communicate, but you’ve only got a few seconds here. Make your tagline simple so everyone can understand. You’ve got some freedom if you want to describe a feature, benefit or make a strong claim.
  3. Paint a picture of your services. Your tagline can create a vision in your customer’s eye. What is it that you’d like them to know about buying your products and services? You don’t have to be literal in creating a vision. And, you don’t have to be bland!
  4. Create a feeling or hit one of the five senses. Is there a certain button you can push to create a sense of urgency or make you the ‘go to’ provider? You don’t always have to be serious, fun is allowed.  Test your tagline on your circle of influence, even if it’s at your kitchen table!
  5. Write copy that resonates with your customers and your brand. You don’t have to imitate anyone. Just be you. Does your tagline tell your story?  Does it say who you are? How does it make you feel?

Here’s an example of a tagline and mobile ad I saw in South Carolina. I liked it for a few reasons. The graphic was very clear and the tagline clever.

Tagline photo

 

If I lived in the area and saw this van on the road, I would definitely want to go to this restaurant for a BBQ!

Sometimes we can’t see the forest through the trees. We overlook the obvious and make things hard on ourselves. We reinvent the wheel. Fly across the country to make new business contacts. Why don’t we harvest the fruit in our own backyard?

This week’s Rainmaker is about making local connections.

Even if your business isn’t tied to your current location – which is awesome in its own right – there may be uncovered treasure in your local market to tap into. I’m referring to local scholars and professors, consultants, executives and business owners within an hour from where you live.

Connecting with these professionals may gain you access to an entirely new level of connections. So, how do you go about meeting these local treasures?

First, I recommend you join Meetup.com and find local networking groups and events. By using the search function, you can look up professional events and groups in your geographical area. By joining a specific group, you can also check out the online profiles of current members and even connect with them online before attending a live event. That way, you have a friend in waiting when you’re ready to explore!

Next, check out EventBrite.com and search for your location. You’ll find business events, workshops, large conferences as well as fun activities like local 5K running events. It’s a great tool to keep tabs on what’s going on in your neighborhood or other areas or communities that you’re interested in. Unlike Meetup, EventBrite lets you connect with event coordinators only, not other participants.

Two other great sources for local networking events and opportunities are local colleges and universities.  You can extend that as well to include your local Chamber of Commerce, professional organizations with business workshops and one of my favorites, listings in your city’s Business Journal – a goldmine of information, leads and opportunities.

Lastly, networking at Costco is a ‘secret weapon’ for those of us in-the-know. Many local Costcos offer a free, monthly networking opportunity in their warehouse with breakfast included. It’s a great place to meet other likeminded local small business owners – even if it’s just for a coffee.

What do you do with these connections? My #1 recommendation is to follow up on LinkedIn once you’ve met in person to continue the conversations online, or make a date for coffee.

A small coffee shop works best for me, with a choice of bold brew. You?

It was an exciting week presenting my new workshop, 5 Ways Social Media Can Get You More Sales, Customers and Profits, at the Small Business Expo in Boston. Thank you to all who attended and followed up personally. It’s an exciting time for Social PR and it’s critical to a company’s branding and success – whether you’re a solo business owner, or the biggest fish in any pond!

I love sharing great articles by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs and giving credit where credit is due. The article How to Create an Elevator Pitch That Will Get You Funded by Steve Blank gives detailed information and some great tips on how to perfect your elevator pitch (or speech). Whether you’re looking to get funding or need to promote your consulting services, perfecting your elevator pitch is one of the most important things you’ll want to accomplish this week. Get a few great ‘how to’ tips here from Entrepreneur.com.

You may be familiar with HARO, but do you know about their parent company, Vocus? They’ve got an active and well-read blog that hits the in boxes of industry insiders, experts and small business owners around the globe. I liked this article 9 Things You Should Consider in Your PR Plan by Jim Dougherty because it lays out a PR Plan, clearly step by step. Work on one, three or all nine to improve your current PR plan. (And, if you don’t have a plan, we have to talk!)

Lastly, we’re featuring The Power of Testimonials (and How We Get Great Ones) written by Alex Turnbull.  This is a MUST read for anyone in business. Here’s one little snippet we’ve highlighted, but take a minute to click on the link to learn more.

“Good testimonials aren’t fluffy; they communicate very specifically the type of person the testimonial writer is and the type of problem they’ve been able to overcome. This helps readers put themselves in the storyteller’s shoes.”

And that’s a wrap for this week’s edition of Robin’s Rainmakers! If you ever have a suggestion for a great article to feature, please send me an email. I’d love to include it here.