5 Ways to Lose an Audience

Has your appeal to large audiences been trailing off lately? Are you getting fewer and fewer “likes” or “shares” on your content — none, maybe? Ugh. We all struggle with it.

We can blame changing algorithms, insufficient SEO, and the ever increasing shrieking noise of the online marketplace. But if your sales have been flat since Q1 2016, then consider something else — you, yourself may be to blame.

There are lots of ways to attract an audience, but there are even more ways to drive them off. I call them “audience repellents.” Here are five that I see most often:

(1) Bragging and Humble Bragging

Whereas, “bragging” is a self-inflicted wound, and “humble bragging” is pouring lemon juice on it.

We don’t like braggarts at a cocktail party, so it stands to reason we don’t like it from businesses, either. Humble bragging is bragging online about your business accomplishments, but pretending to be modest while you’re doing it.

A business humble brag usually starts with the words, “We’re just thrilled to announce that…,” Or, “We’re so humble and honored to have…”  

We all like attention for our business achievements, but when bragging is the main substance of almost all of your public interaction, and you feel you have to brag to get people to notice you, you become repellent in the minds of your audience.

I don’t think perpetual braggers are deliberately trying to turn people off.  You might think that your audiences will be impressed and even love you MORE. But actually, the OPPOSITE is true!

There is a Harvard business study that proves that people dislike and lose respect for companies and individuals who brag, and especially who humble brag. 

So, lighten up on bragging and opt for achieving “3rd Party Credibility.” People believe what other people say about you, not what you say about yourself. Send out a press release so that the media can make your announcement. If you’ve won an award from an entity, let the entity make the announcement on your behalf. Hide it on your website somewhere.

Just resist the urge to run out into the town square and shout, “Look at me! Look at me!”

(2) Failure to Connect and Engage

You can visit many social media business pages, websites and posts and see nothing but brags and self-serving sales messages, as if social media itself was created just so marketers could advertise for free. You will also observe that there’s not much of an audience there, either.

To attract an audience, you need to make the bulk of your communications strategy about delivering the information they want, not what you want. If someone’s not interested in you as an organization or as a solo professional, they certainly won’t care about your sales agenda.

(3) Failure to Understand Your Audience

I learned this the hard way, back when we were trying to make our rock band famous. More often than not, in order to pay the rent, we had to play gigs to please audiences who were more into hearing Top 40 music than any of my original tunes.

Once we were booked as an opening act for David Brenner, and his audience comprised the blue hair casino crowd who lived for Frank Sinatra and yelled “turn it down!” when their grandkids had the radio on.

Anxious to show off on a big stage, my band played mostly our original rock tunes. After each one, all we got were golf claps. But when we played “The Rose” at the end, back then a top-of-the-charts ballad, we got a standing ovation.

There’s something to be said for “givin’ ’em what they want.”

(3) Giving Up too Soon

It takes time, and lots of repetition, to get people to notice you. Unless, of course, you’ve just landed a jet in the Hudson River without killing anyone.

And by time, I mean months, even years. There was a saying long ago: “Just when you’re getting sick of your own messaging is when people start paying attention.”

Keep your communications frequent, relevant to your audience and consistently value-driven.

(4) Your Website Isn’t Media Friendly

Never forget that the “media” is one of your most important audiences. The people most likely to tell others about you and give you mass exposure are journalists, editors, TV producers, radio talk show hosts, podcast hosts, and thousands of bloggers. They’re always looking for experts to interview.

To research your company and judge whether you’re credible, they’ll look at your website. If you don’t have an online press room providing the kind of information a journalist needs to do his/her job, they’ll probably blow you off. Either that, or they’ll search LinkedIn for your leadership’s LinkedIn profiles. No LinkedIn profiles?

They will move on to another company or expert who has their act together. It wasn’t you.

(5) Failure to be Passionate about Your Brand

An audience-attracting brand regularly expresses genuine  passion for something greater than itself. 

Apple has a passion for beautiful design. Nike is passionate about athletes. Harley Davidson is passionate about freedom and adventure. Ben & Jerry’s is passionate about the earth and the environment.

Get your positioning team back together and commit yourself heart and soul to ONE ideal you can stand behind. Your passion is a magnet for people who share your values, because it inspires trust and a sense of loyalty.

A business without authentic passion resorts to humble bragging.

I am thrilled and honored that you have read this post.

PR, Not Marketing, Is Best for Entrepreneurs

 

A couple of people have made concerning remarks to me recently that were so uninformed that I want to set the record straight immediately.

In fact, these remarks have prodded me to be more aggressive in my mission to convince new business owners that a focus on PR, not marketing, is the correct way to put a new business on the map. Why?

  1. PR is more cost-effective for a new business
  2. PR builds brand awareness — exactly what you need right now
  3. PR finds, and capitalizes, on FREE ways to get exposure and establish trust

I don’t hate marketing — my MBA is in marketing. I’ve drawn more positioning maps and written more marketing plans than most. Marketing is wonderful and fun. What I generally object to is how today’s generation of marketers are either doing a turf grab on the PR function or neglecting to incorporate it into the strategy altogether because they don’t know what they don’t know.

I won’t argue that, in today’s environment, PR and marketing are engaged to be married. I resisted this for a long time. If PR needs to change her name, so be it. But her roles will be the same. The following table explains the differences:

“Content” falls under the PR umbrella, as does non-promotional social media. Anything you do to educate people (workshops, seminars and speaking gigs) is also PR. “Branding” is a partnership between marketing and PR… logo and graphic identity (which belongs to marketing, because it involves “package design”) plus getting the word out via non paid channels, which is PR.

You can’t lump everything under marketing, because marketing is SALES ONLY.

Entrepreneurs will do themselves a great service by learning about public relations BEFORE they jump into using budget-sapping marketing strategies. Building your brand comes first. Later, when you have some money, go ahead and buy advertising to sell your stuff.

Let’s debate. Bring it on!

This post is dedicated to my fellow brothers and sisters in the public relations profession. Please add to this any important distinctions I may have missed.

PR & Communications Trends in 2018

Next year, business communicators are going to work harder than ever to adapt to a radical shift in the consumer mindset, part of which is, “What’s in it for me?” The most crucial objectives are to stay relevant, understand new technologies, and give the market what it wants. But don’t fret – givers get.

Accordingly, expect to see the following practices emerge in 2018.

1. Battling the “me” epidemic in social media. We will be forced to move away from ego-centric, sales-focused marketing communication (humble brags, ninja advertising) and create content that the audience wants. The new objective becomes earning audience trust before moving in for the sale. This is where PR shines.

2. Hiring seasoned strategists to manage the social media function.Stronger writers and business strategists will take the reins of social media and apply more savvy approaches to winning the hearts of key publics with robust, multi-channel content.

3. Businesses as media outlets. While it will still be important to work with traditional and digital media outlets to relay messages to big audiences, resource-rich companies will leverage social media channels (YouTube, Facebook, blogs, mobile phone video, etc.) to create, host and distribute their own content.

4. The blurring of lines between public relations and marketing.  A larger portion of the marketing budget will be spent on audience attraction through brand journalism. Advertising budgets will shrink. Marketing professionals will acquire and apply public relations skills to fill the gaps.

5. Return to human connection. The more we rely on technology to communicate, the more we crave real, heart-felt human connection. Businesses will find creative ways to engage with audiences and devote more resources to building attractive personal brands for leadership and customer-facing personnel.

 

Brag Busting

One of the most important goals of public relations-type communication is to secure “third party credibility.” This is when other people say wonderful things about you rather than your having to do it yourself.

When you do it yourself, you’re bragging and it’s tacky (always has been) and people ignore it. When other people talk about your importance and wonderfulness, it’s societal “proof” that you are important and wonderful. People believe what other people say about you, whether it’s good or bad, true or not.

Good “word of mouth” is the best thing your business can achieve. You’re not going to get it by bragging.

It’s a psychology thing.

Back in the day, when we wanted to guarantee people knew about us and why we were the right ones with whom to do business, we bought advertising. Advertising ensured that our message would be exposed to our target audiences. It was expensive, though. To get people’s notice takes frequency, and frequency (in advertising) takes money. Lots of it.

And, it wasn’t exactly third party endorsement. It was advertising. Period. There’s no free lunch in marketing, though bless us, we’re always looking for loopholes.

In days of pre-Internet, we secured third party endorsement by announcing our achievements and newsworthy stories via press releases and pitches to the traditional media. If the media presented you in a favorable light, readers, viewers and listeners automatically assumed you were important, credible and trustworthy. There were no guarantees that the media would spread the news, but when it did, the impact was impressive.

Low-budget businesses have always tried to get the word out to traditional media by disguising its advertising in press releases. It doesn’t work very well as a loophole — editors are hip to it and shut it down.

When the Internet came along, it opened the door for low-budget businesses to use free social media channels to promote themselves. Rather than strive for third party credibility, they’ve skipped the media relations and influencer marketing steps and have gone straight to the unfortunate tactic of telling the world how wonderful they are.

I’m so honored and pleased to have won this award… We’re so honored and pleased to have presented a check for $10,000 to a local charity… I’m thrilled to have been promoted to EVP…

You get the idea. The mistake with this “humble bragging” approach is that it has virtually no effect on your bottom line, because no one cares. Well, except for your mother. And maybe your board of directors. And well-meaning friends. And sycophants.

Even with the massive potential exposure available to us in the digital age, third party endorsement is still as important as it ever was for business success. It takes a lot of work and time to get it nowadays, but it’s most effective for achieving true success.

Blog Creation Tip: OPW (Other People’s Words)

This is a quick tip for anyone who doesn’t have a blog because they:

a) can’t write

b) hate to write

c) don’t have time to write

d) don’t have anything interesting to write about

So here’s a good one — interview people! Have a Q&A session with someone who’s interesting, has particular expertise, owns a popular local restaurant, is someone you admire — any one of a million people and subjects your audience might find interesting.

If the interview is face-to-face, record it with your phone or a digital recorder. You can also record remotely using a free conference call service, Skype, and others.

Transcribe the interview. I use an online transcription service that charges $1.00 a minute. Clean up the text so that it reads smoothly and eliminates any parts where the conversation strayed off topic.

Ask your interviewee for a headshot and short bio. Add it to the beginning of the interview, after you’ve written a brief introduction.

Aim for one interview a week, then tell your contacts in social media that the blog is now available on your website.

Voila! It’s an interesting piece of content that took minimal time, strengthened your relationship with the interviewee, is something your interviewee is likely to share — there are so many great strategic benefits.

I do this all the time, and am happy to answer questions.

 

 

 

 

Research: Ready to See Daylight?

Have you ever been shocked to realize that something you once thought of as the truth, something you’d been led to believe your entire life, was a complete falsehood?

Most of us can cite hundreds of examples. Santa isn’t real. The earth is round. Some fat is actually good for you. Boomers rock. All shockers — all true.

Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” describes the painful passage to realization beautifully. It’s about people with entrenched beliefs who stumble out of the darkness of a cave (their current beliefs) into the light, and see the true nature of things.

This is what research does for our business. Not doing research (and acting on assumptions) is a sure-fire way to ensure failure. It takes a lot of courage to leave that darkness voluntarily. I’ve worked with too many businesses who prefer to keep the blinders on, costing them millions.

According to research conducted by Attest, a market research firm, 26 percent of businesses surveyed said they do not conduct any research prior to launching a new product or service. Thirty-five percent said that research was irrelevant and 21 percent said they couldn’t afford it. And 91 percent of respondents said they didn’t understand the buying behaviors of millennials, and don’t know how to go about it.

Today, there is a multitude of new technologies and resources that make it possible to conduct research affordably and with a depth of insight. But that doesn’t mean that one time-honored technique is out of date. It’s called, “talking to people.”

We don’t do it enough, having a chat with the people who matter to the success of our business. Asking a consumer, “Why do you buy,” and “How do you choose?” are questions you should be asking before you start a business and as often as you can after you’ve opened the doors.

As you begin your planning for the coming year, consider talking to the target audiences whose buying behavior baffles you most. This will help you to put aside the assumptions you’ve been making in how they think, what drives their behavior and what pleases them.

 

Is Your Content Cringe Worthy?

In this new digital age, where content is king, it is now more critical than ever to connect with, and deliver value to, the people who matter to the success of your business.

Unfortunately, some people never got the memo.

You’ve probably met a few of them during your business travels. You soon realize they’re not there to connect with you, or build a strong business relationship. The only thing they want to do is sell you something.

The first time I met someone like this was at a chamber mixer. His name was Sam. Let’s just say that all he did was talk about himself, and before I had the chance to tell him about me and my practice, he turned and walked away. I was dumbfounded!

A couple of days later, he sends me an email, addressed to “Dear Friend,” offering me a 20 percent discount on whatever it is he sells. I hit “delete” so hard my neighbor’s computer broke.

If people like Sam treat people the way he did to me in our awkward, face-to-face encounter, imagine how he behaves online in the massive, impersonal world of digital communications. People like Sam have unlimited access to more than 200 free social media channels, and they push their selling messages to millions of people every day, especially the hyped up ones who blow up our email inboxes and force us to constantly hit “DELETE”, which leads to carpal tunnel syndrome and years of supressed rage.

You see…Sam – which rhymes with spam — is a taker. He never gives back. He talks at us, but he doesn’t listen. He brags, but doesn’t praise. All he wants to do is advance his own agenda. When you’re with him, you wonder if he even sees you as a human being, or just a means to an end.

Over the years, I’ve pondered Sam’s brutally selfish and rude, behavior. I mean, “Did this guy actually have any customers who weren’t relatives? Is he even still in business?”

He made me wonder, “Why is it that when business people promote themselves so many of them become ego-centric and blind to the needs of their target audiences? Are these the same people who won’t let you merge in during rush hour traffic?”

In their defense, some people believe that aggressive self promotion is how you’re supposed to grow a business. But this is old school thinking. Times have changed. And with change comes confusion and a new set of challenges.

For example, to succeed in today’s market, we still have to distinctively position ourselves and convey that we’re wonderful, amazing and worthy of their business. But we need to tread lightly and not undermine ourselves.

Another challenge is that nurturing relationships takes longer than we’d like, and makes us anxious because we have bills to pay, so we tend to slip into default mode  and shout our messages from the rooftops. The problem is when ALL we talk about is ourselves and the benefits we provide and the awards we’ve won.  Me. Me. Me.  24/7, 365.

It’s as if we’re thinking, “Hey! If I can just shout loudly enough, customers are going to jump right into my lap!” But the harsh reality is that today’s consumers are fed up by it, and the sound of their silence is deafening.

If we really want to attract attention to our wonderfulness, we need to start communicating in a whole new way. It may seem counter-intuitive but it is so much more effective for achieving your goals.

I don’t want to sound like the schoolyard bully, but no one really cares about YOU.  But who do you suppose they do care about? Themselves. It’s human. We all want to be noticed and cared about.

So how do we get people to care about us, and show we care in return?

Obviously the old styles of self promotion aren’t working any more. Advertising is growing less effective. We’ve grown immune to and most of us hit fast forward or tune it out. Cold calling is a big “no-no” these days. We’re irritated by it. The ‘hard sell’ on the first social media contact is completely inappropriate. Today’s consumers want to be wined and dined first. After they’ve learned to trust you, they’ll come closer.

 The more we rely on technology for communication, the more we crave  real, heart-felt, human connection. We seek out people to do business with, not the faceless corporations of old. We decide if a business is credible and trustworthy by the quality of its experts and how much we think they care about us, the community, and the world.

This is where the “E” word comes in – EMPATHY. Demonstrating empathy is critical to influencing the behavior of your audience. It’s about listening to them, having two-way conversations, understanding and curing their “pain,” and putting their interests above your instinctive need to self-promote.

Positive relationships are the oxygen of commerce in the digital age.

Don’t focus solely on yourself. Publicly recognize the achievements of others. Model for them how to lead a more satisfying life. Make them laugh, shed tears of joy. And share valuable information.

I have a vision. That by shifting thinking away from “me-me-me” to “you-you-you,” fewer business will fail and greater goodness will expand into the world.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”

And that goes for every business, too. Let’s choose the light.

Hey, Sam — Are you listening?

Episode 12: Ken Grant

Welcome to Episode #12 of the Media Pro Spotlight podcast. In this episode, Ken Grant, a former journalist who has been affectionately nicknamed by his peers “The Godfather of Social Media in Delaware,” tells us about his years in the radio and print industries, what it’s like behind the scenes at a political convention, and his approach to building solid relationships with journalists.

Listen to the Audio

Some of the key takeaways from Ken are:

  • How radio and print media have changed over the years
  • An exploration of the “immediacy factor”
  • Why he couldn’t use “Kenny G” as his on-air radio name
  • Why more businesses need to step forward to tell their stories
  • The kinds of stories that may appear about the presidential candidates in the months to come

Read the Transcript

You can download a complete, word-for-word transcript of this episode here:

Episode 12 Transcript Ken Grant

Links & Resources

Ken’s Parking Citation Appeal Chronicle

Sites to learn what’s going on In Wilmington, Delaware:

www.DowntownVisions.com

www.InWilmington.com

www.VisitWilmington.com

Twitter: @kengrantde

Email: kengrant7@gmail.com

About Dana Dobson

Dana Dobson is CEO of Dana Dobson Public Relations, a boutique PR firm that helps businesses with creative publicity campaigns and business building content strategies. She is an award-winning B-2-B business writer, specializing in producing compelling, persuasive content for businesses in the services sector. She is the creator of the PR Breakthrough Publicity workshop series, an online training program that teaches you how to launch your own successful publicity campaigns, and she is also the host of the Media Pro Spotlight podcast, featuring interviews with top media talent. Dana speaks frequently on building market presence for executive and subject matter experts, demystifying media relations and how to write effectively.

Who Would You Like Us to Interview?

Is there a member of the media you’d like to know more about? Perhaps someone you’ve been trying to contact but have been unsuccessful, or someone whose work you admire? Are there any particular questions you’d like us to ask media professionals during the interview? I’d love to hear from you.

Subscribe to the Podcast

If you have enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe!

Spread the Word

If you enjoyed Media Pro Spotlight and find it useful, please rate it on iTunes and write a brief review, and share it with friends and colleagues. When you review the podcast, it makes it easier for people who need this information to find it.

See you next time!

 

Episode 10: John Infanti

Welcome to Episode #10 of the Media Pro Spotlight podcast. In this episode, John Infanti, an award-winning producer at 6ABC Action News in Philadelphia, describes the hectic life of a television news producer, how he puts together daily newscasts, how social media has changed the game on news gathering and reporting, and how to build collaborative relationships with members of the news media.

Listen to the Audio

Some of the key takeaways from John are:

  • The Action News approach to news gathering and its commitment to serving the enitre community
  • Why he decided to make a career in journalism
  • What a “day in the life” of a network affiliate news producer is like
  • Some examples of really good story pitches
  • Why relationship building is the most important part of media relations

Read the Transcript

You can download a complete, word-for-word transcript of this episode here:

Episode 10 Transcript John Infanti

Links & Resources

6ABC Action News

Twitter: @John6abc

About Dana Dobson

Dana Dobson is CEO of Dana Dobson Public Relations, a boutique PR firm that helps businesses with creative publicity campaigns and business building content strategies. She is an award-winning B-2-B business writer, specializing in producing compelling, persuasive content for businesses in the services sector. She is the creator of the PR Breakthrough Publicity workshop series, an online training program that teaches you how to launch your own successful publicity campaigns, and she is also the host of the Media Pro Spotlight podcast, featuring interviews with top media talent. Dana speaks frequently on building market presence for executive and subject matter experts, demystifying media relations and how to write effectively.

Who Would You Like Us to Interview?

Is there a member of the media you’d like to know more about? Perhaps someone you’ve been trying to contact but have been unsuccessful, or someone whose work you admire? Are there any particular questions you’d like us to ask media professionals during the interview? I’d love to hear from you.

Subscribe to the Podcast

If you have enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe!

Spread the Word

If you enjoyed Media Pro Spotlight and find it useful, please rate it on iTunes and write a brief review, and share it with friends and colleagues. When you review the podcast, it makes it easier for people who need this information to find it.

See you next time!

 

Episode 8: Jason Lee

Welcome to Episode #8 of the Media Pro Spotlight podcast. In this episode, Jason Lee, the producer of PHL17 Morning News (who also fills in as an anchor and reporter), tells us how he goes about putting together a news program that airs Monday through Friday at 5:30 a.m. He’ll explain key TV production terms such as “stacking” and “package” so that you can be a better resource when pitching your stories and events.

Listen to the Audio

Some of the key takeaways from Jason are:

  • The ever increasing need for journalists to be multi-skilled
  • How radio show technology has “evolved” over the last two decades
  • What time he has to get up each morning to produce a 5:30 a.m. show (gasp!)
  • How he puts a show together and from where he gets his content
  • Criteria for knowing when a story is “good”

Read the Transcript

You can download a complete, word-for-word transcript of this episode here:

Episode 8 Transcript Jason Lee

Links & Resources

PHL17 Morning News

Jason Lee: jasonlee@phl17.com

About Dana Dobson

Dana Dobson is CEO of Dana Dobson Public Relations, a boutique PR firm that helps businesses with creative publicity campaigns and business building content strategies. She is an award-winning B-2-B business writer, specializing in producing compelling, persuasive content for businesses in the services sector. She is the creator of the PR Breakthrough Publicity workshop series, an online training program that teaches you how to launch your own successful publicity campaigns, and she is also the host of the Media Pro Spotlight podcast, featuring interviews with top media talent. Dana speaks frequently on building market presence for executive and subject matter experts, demystifying media relations and how to write effectively.

Who Would You Like Us to Interview?

Is there a member of the media you’d like to know more about? Perhaps someone you’ve been trying to contact but have been unsuccessful, or someone whose work you admire? Are there any particular questions you’d like us to ask media professionals during the interview? I’d love to hear from you.

Subscribe to the Podcast

If you have enjoyed this podcast, please subscribe!

Spread the Word

If you enjoyed Media Pro Spotlight and find it useful, please rate it on iTunes and write a brief review, and share it with friends and colleagues. When you review the podcast, it makes it easier for people who need this information to find it.

See you next time!