Category Archives: Story Time

The BEST Approach to get Media Coverage for Your Business

Most entrepreneurs and small businesses do not have the budget to shell out high dollars for paid advertisements to promote their services. Instead, they need to rely on cost effective or free ways to get their message out. The same is true for public relations professionals who are tasked with gaining publicity and raising awareness for their organization. While their marketing and advertising colleagues often have a nice chunk of change to spend on ads or partnerships that promise coverage, the majority of the publicity the public relations team brings in is done with little or no cost.

I’d like to share what I have found to be one of the most successful methods of getting a news outlet to talk about your work and demonstrate how you can do the same for your business. It all comes down to identifying a great story and crafting the perfect pitch. Media with CHS 2

  1. Make your pitch a story and not a commercial

My first tip is the most important. Do NOT make your pitch a commercial. No one is interested in how wonderful and intelligent your product is. If your pitch goes on and on about why everyone needs to buy this product or how great of a business person you are, it will get thrown in the trash, along with your reputation.

The best way to promote your business is to dig a little deeper and find a real life example that clearly illustrates why something is news worthy. This will take more effort on your part but it will make all the difference in whether or not you get coverage, and ultimately, the story that comes out will resonate with your target audience much better than an expensive commercial.

  1. Find the essential “characters” for your pitch

Your pitch needs to focus around the main character. This should be someone who is not affiliated with your business; such as a customer or a client. If you are promoting a product or a service, find someone who uses it on their own (meaning they are not getting paid to do so) and who genuinely has a positive experience with it. Your pitch will highlight their experience and what led them to use your service/product and the difference it has made on their life.

Secondly, you need an expert; whether it’s yourself or a designated spokesperson for your company.   This role is to discuss how the service or product benefitted your main character. They should also discuss what they personally did to help this person and what their work means to the community. This role does not include showing off, gloating or trying to steal the spotlight.

  1. Is there a conflict and resolution?

In order to have a story, your main character needs to have a conflict that your expert has solved by his/her service or product. In addition, you need to make the case that this is something that can help all of the reporter’s audience as well. It can’t be something that will only benefit one person.

Once you have your two main characters, the conflict and the resolution, you can plug your information into a simple format. I’m going to coach you through this format using a recent story I worked on that resulted in coverage for one of my clients, Dr. Oleg Tcheremissine. Claire and the Oosterhuis's

  • Introduction of main character

Example: Peter Oosterhuis, a former golf pro and CBS sports commentator, is incredibly popular and respected among his peers, fans, and family. He has a long and storied career in golf and is known best for defeating golf legends such as Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer.

  • Describe the Conflict

Recently, Peter and his wife began to notice lapses in his memory and professionalism. He struggled with everyday tasks and was growing increasingly frustrated with the mental changes he was experiencing.

  • Introduction of your expert

Peter went to go see a doctor in Texas. The doctor diagnosed him with Alzheimer’s disease; and suggested that he go to Charlotte where the experts there would be the best to treat him. Peter went to Charlotte where he began seeing Dr. Oleg Tcheremissine, who enrolled him in a groundbreaking clinical trial.

  • Resolution

While we don’t know if Peter is receiving the actual drug or a placebo in the trial, he and his wife are on a mission to raise awareness and funding for the treatment and research of Alzheimer’s disease. They want to let others know that this trial is significant for the development of a drug that may ultimately lead to a cure for this devastating disease.

  • Impact- Why should anyone care?

Alzheimer’s can happen to anyone- even the greatest athletes like Peter. The more we talk about this disease, the better the chances of finding a cure. Everyone in Charlotte would appreciate that the world’s best doctors and researchers are located in their backyard and should they or a loved one ever need treatment for Alzheimer’s, they won’t have to go anywhere else.

Results:

WCNC, the NBC affiliate in Charlotte, covered this story and ran it during their nightly news cast.

The Alzheimer’s Association shared this story as a message of hope and education for all of the patients and caregivers that follow their YouTube Channel.

Peter’s story remains one of the most viewed on the Carolinas HealthCare System’s Daily Dose blog, which is followed by thousands of people in North and South Carolina.

The Charlotte Observer did an in depth piece on Peter and his wife and describes the clinical trial that has the potential to delay the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

  1. B-Roll Media with CHS

To provide an additional incentive to reporters, you must find b-roll to support your story. According to the Content Marketing Institute, b-roll is the extra footage captured to enrich the story you’re telling. Instead of featuring only talking heads on video, you want to include additional video footage, still photographs, animation or other graphic elements.

In the case of Peter’s story, we reached out to the Quail Hollow Golf Course who allowed us access to film Peter playing golf there, we supplied reporters with old photographs of Peter and his wife and coordinated with Dr. Tcheremissine at the neurology clinic to film a checkup with Peter. Those visuals really made the story come to life and allowed the viewer to see what it was like to experience what Peter was going through.

  1. Fact Sheet

If you are pitching a story idea to the media, it is your responsibility to know your topic inside and out and you must be able to teach the reporter about it. Often times, the expert may be so advanced they don’t break down the information in an easy to understand way; so the reporter will often rely on you to explain it to them. Or if you are doing the interview yourself, you must absolutely be prepared for every potential question they can ask you. Plus, reporters are on tight deadlines so they don’t often have the time to research each topic. This is where you can be a huge help to them. I like to supply reporters with a fact sheet before and after each interview with suggested questions, key messages, and data. You can even go as far as to write the story for them and supply quotes, photos and links for more information.

Recently I worked on a story about a young woman who got married in her father’s hospital room just days before he passed away. A reporter with People Magazine was at the airport so couldn’t be there in person- so I took photos for her and provided as much information as I could so she could write her story.

  1. Share and Follow Up

Now that you put in all that work to get your story in the spotlight, it’s time to share it! Post the link on social media, your company’s YouTube page, and email your family, friends, and contacts. When the share the coverage with their networks, it gets even more exposure! Plus, it’s a great way to build relationships with everyone involved and if the experience was positive, it will be that much easier to work with that reporter on another story in the future. When reporter Lena Sun with The Washington Post covered the behavioral health integration model, we shared the link and connected with Lena on Twitter to immediately to promote the story, which resulted in greater exposure of the report and our behavioral health team.

Conclusion

According to research done by Paul Zak and his team at the University of California, Berkeley, stories “shape our brains, tie strangers together and move us to be more empathic and generous.” These are all the emotions we should try to evoke when reaching out to our target audiences. Anything less than that and they will change the channel, skip over the story, and stop engaging with you. I encourage you to put on your own reporter hat and ask questions to find that great story that will resonate with reporters and audiences to ultimately help you achieve your goal- showcasing the great work of you/your company and getting your audience to respond and connect with you.

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Claire Simmons is with the clinical public relations team at Carolinas HealthCare System in Charlotte, N.C. She is responsible for developing strategic communications initiatives and coordinating public relations activities for women and children’s services, behavioral health and neurosciences. Claire develops and manages annual communications plans that promote new programs, facilities, services and other activities for her various clinical specialties. As a former news producer and reporter, Claire’s favorite aspect of her work revolves around telling stories that connect with the community while promoting her clients. Connect with Claire on LinkedIn or email her at Claire.Simmons@carolinashealthcare.org.

THE WIMS GUIDE PIVOT

The WIMS Guide Pivot

I originally launched my blog, The WIMS Guide a little over a year now, and have been writing sporadically ever since. I mostly receive positive feedback with each post, which is nice, but to be brutally honest with myself it wasn’t going anywhere. And to keep doing it in that perpetually half-assed manner is just not in my nature. So I made it a point to redo the blog in order to breathe new life into and to tweak the approach as well. Here’s a brief overview of the concept, let me know what you think and perhaps even go one step further – and actually subscribe.

Now I read a ton daily, not just books but lots of blogs and how-to articles like “The Top X Things to Improve Your Y” type stuff. A lot of them are just subtly trying to sell you stuff, and usually they’re written by some intern but placed under the by-line of a famous entrepreneur or a partner at a large firm who most likely didn’t even read it before posting (I know this because I used to and still write for some).

I’m not just trying to bash Inc., Entrepreneur, Huffington Post, Business Insider, Elite Daily, etc. of the world as a lot of their content is quality. However so much of what’s out there is the same. Its lessons learned, tips to keep in mind, success stories from people who have already made it. At times I love reading them of course, but other times I’d prefer a different approach and angle.

So, rather than focus solely on the destination, I want to create content that focuses more on the journey. I want stories, insights, and life hacks from the people who are still in the trenches, scratching and clawing their way to success but haven’t quite made it yet. I want to read the words of the hungry hustlers and learn what they’re doing on a daily basis to achieve their goals.

We live in a world today that anyone can realistically become a pseudo-celebrity. With the compounding nature of our social networks, any one of you can create a massive following and loyal audience. I want The WIMS Guide to help enable that, not by only writing content myself, but with A LOT of help from my friends.

I’ve enlisted the help from members of my network, spanning across an extremely diverse range of backgrounds and expertise. The content will be primarily geared towards entrepreneurship and ways to enhance the daily grind in the lives of young professionals but with an occasional curve ball thrown in there to keep you on your toes.

We’re going to have entrepreneurs, consultants, health care professionals, bloggers, MBA students, lawyers, bankers, accountants, real estate brokers, investors, and on and on. The main goal is to provide an outlet to empower and raise each other up rather than focusing so much on celebrity entrepreneurs that we don’t even know.

If you have a compelling story you’d like to share, or know someone that does please send an email to mike@wimsguide.com with an overview of the concept. If you’re not a writer but want to share your thoughts on the concept, I’d love to hear that too.

Finally, to end with a shameless plug: please make sure to subscribe and share!

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Marketing Process Outsourcing

The New WIMS Inc: Putting In-House Marketing Departments on Notice

Unlike my typical blog posts, this one is certainly going to piss people off, including current and former colleagues, friends, clients, and prospects. While I usually try to avoid that, I can’t any longer as some things just need to be said. Change can be a scary and complicated thing, but there’s just a better way to do business and it’s nothing personal.

Now, the trend of outsourcing is far from a new or innovative concept. Yet companies like professional services firms continue to allocate extremely high budgets of $500,000-$1,000,000 and often much more to their in-house marketing departments. They do this despite the fact that they could spend a fraction of the cost while simultaneously getting significantly better service and results.

Regardless if you prefer to keep your team in house or to use a consulting firm, one thing is constant in either case, you need to DEMAND to see ROI. There are some advantages to keeping the team in-house I’ll admit that, but you should at least be able to make an apples to apples comparison between both approaches.

The way to do that is ROI, the objective metric that evens out all playing fields. I’ve seen many CMO’s apply the “smoke and mirrors” strategy year after year. They avoid accountability by overlooking past failures while waving the amazing, shiny new “marketing strategy” that they’re going to deploy this year. This is often just the old strategy repackaged to appear new however. CEO’s looking to avoid conflict accept it as a cost of doing business and then proceed to kick the can further down the road.

Now while there are plenty of exceptions, as there always are when dealing with people, there’s something I’ve often observed in the corporate world, I call it the “comfort theory.” Essentially, when you’re paying someone a predictable and stable salary it inherently allows most people to start cutting corners and reducing the quality of their work because they can get away with it. Not only is there a reduced quality of work, but why subsidize employee’s internet browsing time and social media addiction when you can just pay for the work that’s actually done. Besides, I doubt they’re going to give you a cut of their fantasy football winnings despite squandering hours a week of your time managing their team.

Don’t just take my word for it, conduct your own experiment and see for yourself. The next time you’re in a meeting with your marketing department demand more out of them or suggest changes, and watch the level of pushback, reluctance, and resistance you get. On the contrary call a consultant about a new project idea and watch them passionately geek out about all the possibilities.

I understand the comfort of familiarity and the status quo believe me, but is it really worth spending $50,000-100,000 on a salary for someone to just write an occasional blog post or article, blankly stare at a twitter feed, or create an occasional ad. You can get the same result or better for a tenth of the cost in many cases.

As another experiment, this Friday afternoon say around 3pm, take a walk around your building and see how empty the offices and cubicles are. The mentality of being an employee and working for your boss vs. being a client and working for your business partner can’t be compared. Working with independent contractors that need your business takes the quality of work to another level. They are mini-CEOs trying to better their lives, they’re not just punching a clock while desperately waiting to leave the office early on Friday afternoon. They’re the ones working at midnight on a Saturday because they’re hungry and ambitious.

You create the best work when you absolutely need to, like when writing a paper the night before it’s due. There’s something about having your life depending on it that generates this hyper-focus of productivity. Imagine having a team of people producing this kind of work every day because that’s how they approach their live, very deliberately.

Typical counter-arguments for in-house departments include things like, “oh but we know the brand so well,” or “what if someone urgently needs a brochure for a sales call?” It may not be a popular sentiment, but people are easily replaceable. We work with various brand guidelines all the time and pick them up very quickly. Also, I’ve seen countless desks with stacks of brochures piled high collecting dust, as much as marketers may try to convince you otherwise, your beautiful brochure is not what’s going to win you new business, relationships are.

Perhaps this post is like that old “Magician’s Greatest Secrets Revealed” show where the masked magician showed you how the tricks were really done and made a lot of magicians extremely angry. If you’re feeling that way right now I hope you take this opportunity to step your game up and prove me wrong.

Changing a decades long mindset of keeping marketing teams in-house is going to require evolution and a rebuilding process, but there’s definitely hope. It will force people to BE BETTER. Think about the Golden State Warriors a few years ago. They were very bad, but they had some decent and promising players, they stuck to their long-term plan to build their team, make a few strategic moves and then a few years later they won a championship. The metaphor is very relative in business as well.

For the sake of full transparency, this long-winded blog post has the additional goal of announcing the new WIMS, Inc. We now offer a complete suite of marketing, CRM, and business development services that are provided for literally a fraction of the total cost you’re paying for your entire marketing department. By leveraging strategic partnerships and a deep team of independent contractors we are now able to offer literally any marketing service, and to any size firm in any industry. If you’re interested in video, we can develop the content, build an entire distribution network, and even create your own online channel. If audio is your thing, we can help with the creation, publishing, and promotion of your own radio show and/or podcast. If you need a website, an ad campaign, online content creation, or social media network, whatever it is you’re looking for, we can help facilitate.

Give us a call or send us an email and we’ll be happy to provide you with a FREE consultation to see if our companies would be a good fit to work together. Part of building strong long-term relationships includes occasionally offering some free advice, which we do happily. What do you have to lose by at least evaluating whether it’s worth pursuing a potential 6-figure a year cost reduction in your marketing expenses?

cut your teeth

Cut Your Teeth

Little did I know when I first heard this rather graphic and cringe-worthy phrase how literal it could be. If you haven’t heard it before, this will explain it for you.

But first to quickly digress, after receiving such positive and encouraging feedback from my post last week (if you haven’t read it yet, you can check it out here) I figured why not tell another embarrassing and self-depreciating yet important lesson learned story. That being said, if you want more of these types of posts please let me know, and on the contrary if you’d rather me go back to providing more practical marketing/entrepreneurial advice I can accommodate that as well, regardless I’d love to hear your thoughts! Now back to the story.

A couple months ago on a Friday evening, I had just arrived to Miami for a business trip. I had driven about 11 hours straight on limited sleep as it is after a few late nights working. Needless to say, I was extremely relieved to arrive at my best friend’s place where I was staying that first night and immediately poured a glass of wine after walking through the door. I didn’t even make it through the first glass before getting up to walk to the bathroom. But on the way, disaster struck!

Somehow out of nowhere I fainted, falling face first into his granite sink and literally cut my tooth in half, while chipping several others, and bit through my lip. To add insult to injury my limp body subsequently collapsed into a kitty litter box, which thankfully at least had recently been cleaned out. I came to a few minutes later laying in the litter box, and lots of blood all over me. For full disclosure’s sake, the picture above is not of me, my accident looked much worse.

Luckily my friend and his girlfriend were there to help clean me up, and get me back to the couch where I promptly received 1950’s era medical treatment, i.e. a towel, a bag of ice, and aspirin. Of course I didn’t have health insurance at the time (nor dental) so I essentially had to just suck it up. That’s one of the trade-offs you have to sometimes make when going from a corporate gig to becoming an entrepreneur.

I spent the rest of the weekend sleeping, recovering, and mulling over whether or not to just head home with my tail between my legs and finish recovering with my fiancé in the comforts of my own home. Considering I can be a little vain, and didn’t want people to see me looking like that, I came very close to making that decision. Not to mention I had a feeling my reputation as a partier would generally be considered the culprit for my accident, and I wanted to avoid the condescending, “uh huh, sure that’s how it happened…” comments that would likely ensue.

Obviously, I didn’t make what in hindsight would’ve been a very poor decision or I wouldn’t be telling you this story now. Come Monday morning I decided that despite how much pain I was in, and how bad my face looked, I needed to rally and make the best of the trip.

As an entrepreneur you don’t have the luxury of taking a paid sick day. I knew I desperately needed to close business while I was there so I mustered all the courage I could, bought a BIG bottle of ibuprofen, and got to work.

An hour after making this decision I got a call about an opportunity I hadn’t even anticipated with a potential dream client. Since I was still in town I was able to make some moves, and ended up landing it! That client then led to another big opportunity with another client in Miami as well. Not to mention I was still able to attend the HYPE Awards with an interesting yet lisp-y story to tell.

Not only does being an entrepreneur, or any professional for that matter, require skill, intelligence, and hard work, but it also requires a little grit and relentless determination as well. The easier and comfortable decision is always to give up and call it a day, but that’s not what’s going to make you successful. Sometimes you have to learn by figuratively cutting your teeth, and sometimes it takes literally cutting them to learn what you’re capable of.

Running out of Runway

Running Out of Runway

Typically I don’t discuss my personal life or experiences in this forum, I now realize how much of a missed opportunity that has been. While people sometimes enjoy reading how-to guides and the “Top 10 Tips for X,” it’s the personal, and hopefully relatable stories that really move people and resonates with them. This story is about the moment when you get the sobering realization that you are speeding rapidly down the runway, and you better take off very soon…

So, a couple of weeks ago, my fiancé and I were invited out to dinner with my future in-laws. Initially it seemed normal enough, and I didn’t think much of it as dinner with them is pretty common. But then all of a suddenly it dawned on me, I was about to get grilled.

To set the scene a bit, while my future father-in-law is one of the nicest men around and we do have a great relationship, he is also a typical alpha-male and very successful self-made entrepreneur in the aviation industry. He knows better than anyone the struggle it is to start your own business, but at the same time he also has his only daughter’s present and future to be concerned about, and he wanted reassurance that both were in good hands.

Now, I’m an eternal optimist for the most part, so I excitedly began telling him about all the amazing opportunities I have going on, the wonderful current clients and projects, the great prospective ones coming up, etc. Success is a foregone conclusion in my mind, and only a matter of time. The thought of failure doesn’t even cross my mind.

Needless to say, he was thoroughly unimpressed. He had heard similar things like this from me before but at this point wanted to see real tangible results. He now wanted me to put a deadline on when, if I wasn’t making enough money that I would give up my dream, face reality and get a real job to make real money. Up until this conversation I hadn’t really made the connection that what some people (like myself) consider optimism, others consider bull shit. I can’t say I blame him. After all, over a very long career he’s seen it all before, and seen many optimistic young men just like me with all the passion in the world still fail.

Gulp!

While I was feeling pretty down after this conversation, I certainly wasn’t going to let it defeat me. After the initial sting wore off I realized that I had two choices: I could take his advice and go update my resume, or I could use it as motivation to light a fire and get back to work.

Obviously I chose the latter, as some of the recent success I’ve been having prior to this was extremely encouraging and I just know that this is what I’m meant to be doing. But I also knew that I needed to tweak my approach.

Now I have simplified my priorities to the following: provide exceptional service for the clients I already have, track my time and bill them regularly (unfortunately collecting is by far the hardest part of being an entrepreneur), and then focus on bringing in new business after the first two are covered.

At the time it was a very awkward and uncomfortable conversation with my future father-in-law, but in hindsight it was very necessary. In the couple weeks since I’ve been much more focused and disciplined in the day-to-day operations of my business. I’ve always had a keen instinct for self-preservation (that’s even more so now that I have others to take care of as well) so there’s really no greater motivation than realizing that if you don’t soon take off, you’re going to crash and burn.