Monday, January 16, 2012

A new Spielberg?

Last week, a journalist pal in Northern Ireland alerted me to a YouTune video made by a student in Lisburn. I didn't get round to watching it. Last night, I was listening to the Stephen Nolan show on R5 when the topic came up again, and the young film-maker, Matt Good, was interviewed.

I took a look at the video. Considering it was made in a 90-minute shoot, on a zero budget, it puts many professional film-makers to shame. I'm hoping to feature Matt in my web radio show on Friday. Take a look at his remarkable video and see what you think.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Pitching a feature

The power of feature article is immense. It may run to several pages in a magazine, or a double-page spread in a newspaper, nearly always accompanied by pictures. It's the sort of publicity that you can't buy, as it comes with the implicit editorial endorsement of wherever it appears. If you believe you have material for a feature about your business, review the possible journals where it might appear. It doesn't have to be a national paper or magazine. It's possible that the best place may be a low-circulation trade journal which is read by your ideal potential customer. These local or special-interest publications are also easier to persuade to take a story. 

Always remember that an editor can spot a thinly-veiled publicity pitch. Your story must have human interest or local interest, and preferably both. There should also be some obvious photo opportunities. It's often a good idea to contact the deputy editor, since they may have more time to speak to you, and if they have any ambition, they want the Editor's job, so are always looking to place impressive copy.
Here's what to do:

  1. Read the journal to get a feel for the sort of features they publish
  2. Create a one-line hook which includes an interesting angle
  3. Contact the deputy editor by phone initially
  4. Ask if you can send backup material by email
  5. Be prepared for rejection. Try again a few months later
  6. If they say they will consider the story, follow up politely
  7. Note the name of everyone you speak to
  8. Thank everyone for their consideration of your pitch
  9. Take their advice if they suggest another publication
  10. Don't give up. As long as you have a good story, someone will publish it

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Ed Milli Brand. The tiny brand of a party leader

Ed Milliband is all over the airwaves this morning. I followed him onto BBC Radio Sheffield where I spoke about his performance and brand. Having watched his speeches and media interviews as party leader, and met him briefly, my view is that he's a nice enough chap, but far from statesmanlike.

Leaders of the Opposition have a basic problem, which is that they receive a salary from the state in order to - er - oppose. It's part of our democratic system that we have a loyal opposition who act as a counterbalancing force to the government. That inevitably means that the opposition leader spends a lot of time saying what they don't like, and little time saying what they stand for.

Ed Milliband has a further problem in that he's opposing a government of two parties, which together have both the majority of seats and popular votes. A recent YouGov poll gave Mr Milliband a rating even lower than Nick Clegg (yes, even lower than Nick Clegg), at a time when the government is pursuing an austerity agenda.

However, I think that the real problem is that few of us really knwo what Mr Milliband is about, or what he stands for. His background in financial matters should make him an informed and interesting advocate of - er - whatever he believes, but there's scant evidence of it. In short, his personal brand is so small it's hard to spot. If there was a scale of branding, his score would be just one millibrand.

Monday, January 09, 2012

SEOh No....

There's a lot written and said about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). I know a number of companies who pay substantial monthly fees to raise their position in the search engines (OK, the search engine). But is it money well spent? I think it's arguable.

It seems to me, and it's certainly my experience, that customers arrive on a site after hearing about it from someone else, not from a Google search. It may be word of mouth, a link in an email or article, or a chat on a social network. Recommendation is a powerful driver of traffic.

I think it also depends on the nature of your business. Speakers, for example, charge thousands of pounds for a single speech. It's unlikely that anyone will contract a speaker they've found through a web search. People want recommendations and referrals, or will go to a broker (a speaker bureau).

In addition, a high rank in a search engine can be achieved without employing SEO companies at all. Regular blogging, coupled with frequent use of sites like YouTube and Blogger will all boost your ranking (whether or not you think it's important).

There are some very good SEO companies around, who will explain exactly what they can do, and advise you whether you need it or not. It may be a good investment. But if someone promises they can put you on the front page of Google for any search term you specify, turn around and run away.

Radio Days - And your point is?

I sometimes meet people who tell me excitedly "I was on the radio last week!" I congratulate them warmly, and ask them why. The answer is often "because someone asked me". That's fine too. I then ask "What did you achieve?". That often produces a frown and a puzzled look. "Er - publicity?" may be the answer, delivered as a question rather than a statement. 

Don't get me wrong. It's great to be on radio or TV, or be quoted in a newspaper or on a website. But it's worth taking a little time before your interview to think what you want to achieve. If you don't have an aim in mind, your interview will lack focus, and as a result, will achieve little benefit for your business. Of course, you can't use a media opportunity to sell your products or services. A reporter will see through that immediately.

What you can, and should, do is to write down your objective before the event. Keep is simple, such as mentioning your website twice, or delivering your core message three times. Tell someone else what your objective is, and after the interview, sit down with them and assess your performance.

There needs to be a reason for you to speak to a journalist. That reason should have some benefit. Otherwise, what's the point?

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Four resolutions for speakers

I don't know about you, but I don't really make New Year resolutions. They only seem to last a few weeks, or even days. However, I do a few things at the start of each year with regard to my speaking that seem to work and pay dividends, so let me share them with you now. You may find them helpful too.

1) Note what worked well last year. You will know what worked in your speeches from the audience reaction, both during and afterwards. I hope you made notes. if not, sit down and recall what those elements were. They may have been stories, case studies, or simply a line or move on stage. If it works, keep doing it.

2) Review the content of speeches. I change at least a third of the content of my speeches every year. Stories go out of date, new ones appear, and the attitudes of audiences change too. Using the opposite of the above (what didn't work last year), you should note those moments of confusion and glazed eyes in your audience. That content has to be changed or dumped.

3) Look at new research. You need to stay current in your topic. That means reading research, talking to colleagues and making sure you know what is happening globally. Google alerts make it easy to do. If you're not using them already, you should be.

4) Look at new markets. I'm looking east this year (from where I'm sitting that is). That means visiting countries like China to meet people and do more research. There are also new industries to consider. Look at where your expertise would be most valued and most in demand, and then go there.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Small is beautiful

Many years ago, I read a book that made a great impression on me. It was by the economist E F Schumacher, and was called "Small is Beautiful". He set out a number of principles, including one called "appropriate technology". This phrase came back into my mind recently when I was "researching" (a phrase that sounds so much better than randomly noodling about on the web).

There's a common belief in social networks that "bigger is better", All of the networks make announcements when they reach milestone numbers like a million or ten million. But are bigger networks better for the people in them? Is a Twitter following of ten thousand people better than a thousand? As with all these things, it depends on what you want. If you're in the business of promoting something to huge numbers, in the knowledge that a small percentage of purchasers will make you rich, then big networks are great. If you like making loads of connections, and believe that randomness leads to serendipitous business, then connect away.

However, if you're in the relationship business, where you need to build a trusted connection over time, then a small, focused network may be a much better option. In my opinion, that's where the focus will be going for most users of social media this year. I believe people will be gathering in small private groups on Facebook and Linkedin, and cutting the number of people they follow on Twitter. Niche networks, perhaps with only a few hundred people in, will be seen as very valuable. For many of us, small really is beautiful.