Building a Million Dollar Business Part Time #10: How We Are Getting Press & Buzz

Let’s continue our discussion of how to do marketing and pr, shall we? Especially since Esther and I spent all %*$#i day organizing our email folders since we are so overwhelmed by the response to our project (good) and seem to have had the email-organization part of our brains partially lobotomized (bad).

We are a tad overwhelmed at the Hot Mommas Project right now and looking forward to Fall reinforcements

We are a tad overwhelmed at the Hot Mommas Project right now and looking forward to Fall reinforcements

Left, please find the metaphoric “Rock Holding Steamroller.” It is the visual representation of how we are feeling right now.  I am not sure if we are the rock, or the steamroller, but I think we are the rock.

Here are things we’ve learned about PR over the past couple of months which is a mix of:

1. Stuff we’ve read

2. Stuff we’ve done

3. Meeting with experts, namely Hot Mommas Project case protagonist Susan Apgood who owns one of the nation’s largest radio PR companies (News Generation) and Racine Tucker-Hamilton at the George Washington School of Business communications office.  Also, White Trash Mom from the BlogHer conference says she’ll help us. Note: PR is completely new for me as my background is in nerdy service-type businesses where no one cared what we did (see “pre-steps” section of older post for more on background).

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INTERLUDE [Samba music plays]

First, let’s start with a quick story about how MUCH we had to learn about PR, buzz, and getting the word out there for the Hot Mommas Project Case Study Competition.

Setting: Bus on the way to Guy Kawasaki’s party.

Esther and I are sitting toward the rear of the bus and the women in front of us learn, through Twitter, that another bus is lost. Esther and I were about to learn we were WAY behind in the social media department.

Women in front of us: “Hey! Are you all up front on Twitter?”

Voice from front of bus: “Who’s NOT on Twitter?”

All: Laughter

Me and Esther: [Blank stare. Silence]

Women in front of us: “Hey driver! The people on Twitter on the other bus just told us they’re lost.”

Bus driver: “What’s Twitter?”

All: Laughter

Me and Esther: [Blank stare. Silence]

With social media tails between our legs, Esther and I immediately sign up for http://www.Twitter.com on our mobiles. I am “chiefhotmomma” and she is “hotmommasintern.”  I had not gotten on Twitter before thinking it was sort of stalkeresque.  However, in Silicon Valley I felt like Bert – my father-in-law -  when he said he “couldn’t be bothered with all that email mumbo jumbo” and that his grandkids could, “pick up the phone so he could hear their beautiful voices.” (Sorry to out you Bert.) I am happy to report now Bert is on email…and we are now on Twitter….”Tweeting.” Feel free to “follow” us as ChiefHotMomma and HotMommasIntern.

END INTERLUDE [Samba music ends]

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Now, on to our PR takeaways:

1. PR is the cheapest form of marketing. If what you’re doing is newsworthy, work it. And, if you THINK you are creative, think again. Esther and I thought we were creative. We developed this press release titled “Hot Mommas Project Produces Role Models on Paper for Women Across the Globe.” Ha! We were totally delusional. Look what Racine Tucker-Hamilton came up with: http://business.gwu.edu/news/archive/2008/0703.cfm

2. Develop a media plan.Racine shared a one-page media plan with us that articulated the following:

- GOALS: What is the goal? To increase news coverage, create awareness, all of the above? Articulate these goals in 1 to 5 bullets.

- AUDIENCE: Who is the audience? For us, it could be women, but, we’ll probably also be targeting their husbands, partners, and leaders in education and policy. Articulate this in 1 to 7 bullets.

- MESSAGES/PITCHES: Write out the message points in 1 to 5 bullets. My friend who has a long history in PR used to say, “Focus on 3 message points max.” So, my guess is that we will draw the 3 best points from our list depending on the conversation. Make it clear how you are different. Click here for some sample what, where, when, why message points I am going to run by Racine and Susan along with the following:

Exposure to role models increases one’s sense of self efficacy, or the feeling of ‘I can do that.’ The Hot Mommas Project approach of providing role models on paper hits the nail on the head and fills a void that exists in women’s leadership education today.

-MEDIA TARGETS: This can be as big as one needs it to be, however, Susan recommended we target folks like Working Woman, Pink, etc. News release service providers like Cision, Vocus,and MediaMap (which was acquired by Bacon’s, which merged with Cision) can help as well.

-PLAN/KEY ACTIONS: These are action steps that will be taken based on the above goals. 5 or so bullets.

-TIMELINE: These are dates associated with key actions, like creating a press release, creating media lists, distributing press release, pitching, and follow up (to include thank yous to contacts).

-MEASUREMENT/KEY NUMBERS: Susan also mentioned being very clear about what we want to accomplish (e.g., x media impressions, or x placements in certain types of magazines or newspapers). We need to have a way to measure hits (aka coverage).

3. Develop a press kit. Again, we consulted Susan Apgood of News Generation on our story angle.  We had it completely reversed, so, were glad we had spoken with her. Here is a pretty concise article on developing a press kit. If there is no interest in the story, Susan says you can sometimes resort to a “what’s in it for you” approach (e.g., we are targeting professional women and you will have exposure).

4. Distribute the press kit/press release.

4a. Push the story out through press releases or Hot Mommas-initiated contact. Here are a couple of resources: Peter Shankman’s “Help a Reporter Out” which is AWESOME and FREE. He sends 3 emails a day on stories reporters are looking to write.  Michelle Woodward, who is a master-certified life coach (sort of like the Mr. Miyagi of life coaches) put us onto this. Also, you can distribute mass news releases in a targeted fashion with Cision & Vocus.

Note: This same method can be used with organizations (see #5 below) where you might want to promote something to their membership or employees.

4b. “Pull.” For instance, George Washington University School of Business did a newsletter piece on the Hot Mommas Project. Then communications for the entire university put it out there. Then the story was picked up by newswires. People started calling. We just sort of sat there. It was awesome.

4c. There may be some other way of which I’m unaware, so, adding “c” in here.

Side note: Make it easy for the reporter.  A year or so ago our cases were being used at Western Michigan University and we wrote a press release, looked into media outlets, and followed up. At the end of the day, it failed miserably because we were making the reporter work too hard to figure out the story.  So, being clear on our story is key, as is running it by some PR experts (as to whether it is a good story…or, whether it totally blows). We have our facts, figures, quotes, and sources teed up.

5. Interviews and Appearances.

- INTERVIEWS: Susan says before meeting with anyone, have a media training session and prepare for potential questions. Have fun facts memorized, and learn how avoid answering certain questions. I am still working on this and talked with a really amazing reporter the other day who gave me some great feedback.

- PRESENTATIONS: Know audience and practice. For example, I delivered a presentation recently at an Entrepreneur’s Organization  retreat (formerly YEO, like YPO but funner. Yes, “funner” is a joke people): “What Women Want: 3 Secrets to Attracting and Retaining High Performing Female Employees.”  I thought the presentation went pretty well, and was right in the sense that the presentation received one of the top scores. (Here are the presentation notes eo_what-women-want_61108.) However, I recorded it with my video camera and realized I said “uh” a bunch of times (hence, the practice concept mentioned at the top of this paragraph).

6. Whatever works in your industry.  The ultimate caveat of caveats: Remember to adapt any PR or marketing strategies to your industry. For instance, friend and Hot Mommas Project Host Committee Member Richard Barney said that in his former industry (real estate), the company tried tons of cool stuff and events and giveaways. But, it all came down to referrals, referrals, referrals. Whatever works in your industry, do it. We are figuring it out right now. I have some creative giveaway ideas with which www.OnSalePromos.com is helping us. (OnSalePromos on Twitter).

7. Create buzz. To create buzz, we are largely relying on the world of social media and membership organizations. To the extent that it links in with coverage in press, great. So, what are we doing?

- Now: Blogging. We are not sure if this is working, but then we get out to BlogHer and people say, “Oh! We’ve heard of you!” Maybe it’s because we’re listed on http://moms.alltop.com.  Sample research and role model series posts. As you read in the vignette above, we’ve also gotten ourselves wrapped into Twitter.

- Now: Twitter.Twitter is like the “what are you doing now” application on Facebook. That’s it.  I’ve heard some folks say it drives traffic to their blog, their site, or whatever they’re posting in their status updates. See our last post mentioning Chris Brogan’s ideas on how to use Twitter.

- Now: Podcasts (examples SBTV and Hip Tranquil Chick). We’ve had a good reception with these. After this we were approached by Pink Heels and others and will be doing some partnering.

- Now: Partnering with bloggers. For instance, really cool bloggers from the BlogHER conference – like White Trash Mom and Your On Ramp - are blogging about us in September and October near the time of the Oct 13 Hot Mommas Project Case Study Competition launch.

- Now: Partnering with organizations. For example, Women’s Presidents Organzation, SBE Council, WE Inc, and the American Mustache Institute (this second one for our Cool Daddies beta section of the case study competition). They work with us to communicate with members about the competition in exchange for formal recognition as a marketing partner.

- Now: Partnering with connectors. There are some folks who we call “connectors” (like Malcom Gladwell discusses in The Tipping Point). They are people with extensive networks who are enthusastic about the Hot Mommas Project Case Study Competition. Many of these will become marketing partners, like Julie Lenzer Kirk. Others will become Host Committee Members like Michael Goldstein of Content Now or Brian Scudamore of 1800GotJunk (host committee members will email their networks for us).  Also, in a major win, Guy Kawasaki of www.Alltop.com (we’re listed here) is going to advertise the competition for us.

Future: More press. Will also ask Susan at News Generation if our stuff is radio worthy and see if she can help us get on some talk shows, etc.

Future: Facebook group, cause, or “fan.”

Future: Group on LinkedIn…if this can be done…someone told me they could put me in touch w/ the founder and that hasn’t happened.

Future: Search optimization/Google. Shashi is the man on this.

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PARTING THOUGHTS: So, at this point it’s probably pretty easy to see why I am overwhelmed and very behind on my sponsorship contact goals. Time to pick that baton back up and run with it. (Click here for sponsor post).

Building a Million Dollar Business Part Time #7: How to Implement

I also affectionately refer to this post as: “How to get s*&t done.”

What are the big takeaways from today’s post?:

1. Focus

2. Focus

3. Focus

Queen Esther with The Original Hot Mommas Project Business PartnerEsther, pictured here (with our original business partner), and I have been religiously and regularly deploying the “F-word”: FOCUS, FOCUS, FOCUS. We have been very focused on results, and – unfortunately – not fun stuff like blogs.

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What is the Hot Mommas Project: In case you are lost, the Hot Mommas Project (www.HotMommas.org) is an award-winning research and curriculum endeavor on how successful professional women balance it all.  Click here for main blog. Our goal this year is to build and launch a global case study competition in which women write their own case, tell their story, help others in doing so, and might get just get in one of the nation’s top textbooks by Prentice Hall! (Let’s not forget the cash and prizes). Click here if you would like to nominate someone you know, or be notified when the competition is live. Now, onto our post:

FocusWhat has NOT been happening. I started this post about a month ago and am only finishing it now. Why? I’ve been focusing. Two of my three team members bailed on me.  A set back, yes, but it forced a high level of prioritization.  Here are some keys and tips that are working:

1. PRIORITIES AND FOCUS: KEYS TO THE UNIVERSE. The Hot Mommas Project survey research (data from highly successful professional women who also want to have a life) indicates that PRIORITZATION AND FOCUS are the keys to the universe.  More on this in the future, just trust me.

2. SAY NO. SAYING NO IS A PART OF PRIORITIZATION AND FOCUSING. Newsflash to some of us overachiever “oh…I’ll just do it myself” types.  Men focus this naturally because of the way their brains work.Toilet paper roll not changed? Bed not made? It’s focus ladies.  The beauty of what’s NOT getting done COULD be – gasp – FOCUS. Not on the top three list, not getting done.

Note 1: See brain book which I’ve mentioned before.

Note 2: This of course does not allow frat boys doing beer bongs to claim they are “focusing.”

TIP: HAVING TROUBLE? Develop a DO NOT DO LIST.Works wonders. Did it when I was pregnant/post-preggo, hormonal, and nuts.

3. DELEGATE: THIS MEANS GOOD PEOPLE.  Esther is like having 2 staffpeople. And I don’t mean multiple personality disorders. I mean, she is on top of it.  So, the lesson here is GOOD PEOPLE ALLOW YOU TO FOCUS. Here is my time triage with a bad person/staffer:

TYPICAL DAY WITH BAD STAFFER:

2 hours – meeting and download with staffperson.

4 hours – staffperson works independently on project, I do my stuff.

2 hours – clean up of staffperson’s crap work. Assign staffperson some other less meaningful task I feel they can’t mess up.

2 hours – staff person works on their menial task, I get some work done.

After work: 1-5 hours – worrying about what crap work I’m going to see tomorrow.

-Total available time to get work done for me in a 10 hour day: 6 hours

-Total time spent worrying: 1-5 hours

-Scale power (hours of productive work by another person…”scale”): 2?

TYPICAL DAY WITH ESTHER:

2 hours – meeting and download with Esther.

4 hours - Esther works independently on project.

.5 hours – Approve and press “send” on project with Esther.

3.5 hours – Esther moves onto her next thing, I move onto my next thing.

1-5 hours – thinkng how awesome Esther is and how I am looking forward to tomorrow

-Total available time to get work done for me in a 10 hour day: 7.5 hours

-Total time spent being positive and happy: 1-5 hours

-Scale power (hours of productive work by another person…”scale”): 7.5 hrs

GOOD PEOPLE, GOOD PEOPLE, GOOD PEOPLE. Can’t say it enough. I finally get when the business books/business experts say “get good people.”

4. HAVE A PROCESS/FORUM FOR TOUCHING BASE ON PRIORITIES. Esther and I are really, really, really focused on results. We are constantly in touch about the big picture (where we are heading) and what steps we need to be taking NOW to get there.  In addition, I want to make sure to this is a rewarding experience for Esther so that we are in a mututally beneficial situation. Here is how we accomplish the above:

4a. Bi-Monthly Culture Check Ins.We sit down every other week at the beginning of the week. I ask her, “How is it going? Poor, Good, Great, Really Great?” Esther told me in our first meeting that things were going “Great.” I said, “What would get it to ‘Really Great’?” She said, “Talking with more contacts and coming to more meetings.” So…that is what we did. When there was a meeting, I included her. When there was an opportunity to speak with a partner or the media, I assigned it to her. By our next meeting two weeks later, Esther was giving the experience a “Really Great” rating. It has to be a two-way street, however. Employers working with Generation Y may be tempted to make it all about what the employee wants. However, this does not allow for growth or mentoring. During that same meeting, I rated the experience a “Great” also. I told her that when we started producing actual deliverables, I would probably lean more toward a “Really Great” rating. So…that is what we have been FOCUSED on: Actual Results. Not a lot of chasing your tail.

Tip: Think – if I could only do 3 things today, what would they be?Then FOCUS! Screen/test your answer by following up with this question: “Will these three things get me closer to my major goal MORE than other tasks?” If not – time to REPRIORITIZE.  Tim Ferriss is a real hard a*& about this stuff in The Four Hour Work Week.

4b. Daily Check Ins.  Esther and I check in daily. We work off a list of priorities. The list is shaped based on:

a. Our goal (in this case launching a case study competition) and

b. Meetings with experts (please, don’t try to reinvent the wheel…such a time drain).  For example, we met with a PR expert who told us NOT to lead with information about the Hot Mommas Project survey research.  Susan Matthews Apgood, owner of News Generation, told us, “The case study competition is much more interactive. There is something in it for people. They can participate, tell their own case study, help others, and be honored by winning prizes and getting their case published in a text book. LEAD with the story about the case study competition.” Well, this conversation changed everything for us. We had to be able to quickly adjust, and re-assign tasks based on the readjusted priorities.

5. RE-PRIORITIZE, RE-FOCUS. If you have a regular process for meeting to discuss goals and steps for achieving those goals, it allows for quick correction and re-prioritization. Catch as catch can meetings don’t always allow for this. It’s part of the criticism about virtual workplaces.  Thus, a formal structure needs to be created for communicating – even if it’s just a “call staff” note in Outlook. I would say that at every other meeting, Esther and I slightly bump up or down an item on the list.

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PARTING THOUGHT: Ted Leonsis talked about the relentless drive to execute in a Cool Daddies case we did on him. He checked in with staff regularly. He was basically seeing if they were getting the job done, and what they needed to get it done. He had a saying, “No bad days.” A bad day would lead to a bad week, a bad week would lead to a bad quarter, etc. It is about having processes for early correction. I think he was probably effective in building AOL, and achieving his other successes, because of this trait…but also because people wanted to do well for him.  Thus, steps 4a and 4b – and this post as a whole – is my attempt to model these behaviors.