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4 more ways to annoy an editor

Last year we posted an article called “4 sure-fire ways to annoy an editor with your press release,” and it was one of our most popular posts ever (mainly with editors, I’ll admit.) We’ve decided to share a few more, partly because it’s kind of fun, and partly because editors are still being annoyed by inappropriately written press releases. This isn’t about obeying finicky rules just for the sake of it—it’s about upping the odds that your company’s message will be read and that your relationship with the trade press is not harmed.

 

You write a zero-content piece 

This is the press release that sneaks its way into a magazine’s website, but usually won’t get as far as the print edition. It is usually a corporate puff piece that speaks in generalities and lacks pretty much any definitive statement. It’s not about a new product or a new initiative or a specific event or a new hire that will impact your market or a new location. It says nothing that the publication’s readership cares about. It makes the company that sent it seem out of touch—and that not only annoys editors, it annoys readers, your potential customers. This is especially true in our industries (oil and gas, mining, construction and so on.)

 

You misuse exclamation points!!!

There is no rational explanation for using an exclamation point in a press release. It is not an ad or a marketing brochure. It is a statement of facts, a report, a sober, business-like announcement. Nothing shouts “Amateur!” like an exclamation point in a press release. Of course, you’ll notice that I used one with the word “amateur” because it was a shout; shouts kind of require that kind of punctuation. If you don’t have a shouted quote in your press release, you don’t need an exclamation point. Of course, if your CEO really is that ebullient in his quotes, maybe you could sneak one in. But I can’t imagine the circumstance that would really call for one.

 

You confuse marketing with a press release

This is one that editors see a lot, especially when press releases are handled by a company’s marketing department. Even so, this usually happens because an executive is pressuring the marketing or communications department to “do a better job of selling” in their press releases. The trouble is, that’s not what a press release is for. The press release is essentially a no-cost service provided by the publication because they know that their readers do want to know, right away, when something new comes down the pike. But those same publications know that their own reputations as trustworthy sources of news are put at risk when they print, as news, that a certain product is game-changing, revolutionary, the best in the world, or whatever other superlative the manufacturer conjures. If it really is revolutionary—and few things really are—the bare facts should make that clear and they will have all the more power for being unadorned.

 

You Go on a random capitalization Rampage

We see this most often on company websites, when a press release is simply posted to the news tab of the site and has, too often, not had the benefit of a professional edit. While a trade publication may correct your mistakes, why make their job harder? Random capitalization is another of those mistakes that can make your press release look amateur, and that is not a message you want to communicate. There are a few basic rules to keep in mind

– Capitalize proper names and proper nouns, including actual product names

– Capitalize the first word in a sentence

Titles are the toughest to get right, for some reason—at least they are for me. Capitalize a title only if it comes before the name, as in President George Washington. But when it comes after the name, the title should not be capitalized. And stick to real titles. Don Smith, Mechanic, and Writer Matt Fueston don’t quite count as formal titles, unfortunately.

 

 

 

 

Matt Fueston is an Account Manager for Ellenbecker Communications, is responsible for new business development, and contributes as a staff writer. He believes in the intersection between Sales and Marketing.

 


Are improved equipment sales adding resources to marketing departments in 2015?

I was encouraged early on in 2014 by articles in the trade press forecasting slight improvements to the construction sector. But it really wasn’t until CONEXPO in March that I started hearing stories that made me believe we might be at a turning point.

One manufacturer told me that they had done more business on the first day of the show than they’d done in all five days of the last show, back in 2011. It’s not a surprise that business would be better in 2014, but it was the degree of difference that was surprising. And this wasn’t the only time I heard that kind of story.

A big part of my job entails talking to non-clients (or, as I prefer to say, “potential clients”) and recently a new narrative began to emerge. I started hearing very similar comments from a number of marketing managers of companies catering to the construction industry. They could be summed up as, “If sales can maintain the current pace, we’re going to be able to do more in 2015.” Depending on the company, that may mean more advertising dollars, or maybe a greater focus on content creation, perhaps more investment in social media or just catching up on all those brochures that need to be updated. Some companies without agencies now may consider signing an agency in 2015, some will add staff in-house, and some will turn to freelancers to help them keep up with the demand for more quality content.

For construction equipment manufacturers, there is certainly more reason for optimism than simple anecdotal evidence, though. Construction Equipment reported in its June issue on the results of their reader survey that indicated that almost two-thirds of respondents expected to replace some portion of their equipment fleet this year. In August Equipment Today reported on a study by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers that found “40 to 43 percent of companies with fewer than 1,000 employees indicate that they will increase fleet size over the next 12 months… and about 25 percent of companies with 1,000 or more employees are planning to expand their fleets.”

What about your department? Are you thinking about doing more next year? Have you been given more resources to support your 2015 action plan? And for those of you in other industries, how does your outlook for 2015 differ? Feel free to give me a call if you’d like to bounce some ideas off someone—no commitment necessary. There are incremental steps you can take to improve your content creation, for example, that are scalable and affordable.

 

 

 

 

 

Matt Fueston is an Account Manager for Ellenbecker Communications, is responsible for new business development, and contributes as a staff writer. He believes in the intersection between Sales and Marketing.

 


Art of Editing

“What to leave in, what to leave out”

Well those drifter’s days are past me now
I’ve got so much more to think about
Deadlines and commitments
What to leave in, what to leave out.”   

Against the Wind, by Bob Seger

When Bob Seger wrote those lyrics back in the late seventies, I doubt that he was thinking about writing, editing or publishing. But lines two to four of that verse could easily be the theme song for an editing seminar. (The references to deadlines and commitments are just a bonus, particularly from a writer or editor’s point of view.)

Editing is all about knowing what to leave in, and what to leave out. That is true of any kind of editing, even the kind of self-editing a good writer does as part of his regular process. Some are natural masters of the art, like the great Elmore Leonard, who famously said that he left out the parts that people didn’t read. Most of us mere mortals need an actual editor, however.*

This principle definitely applies to a press release—if the first draft is 650 words, it will be worlds better if cut to 400. And not just because a person is more likely to read a short piece than a long one. A piece that only contains necessary information will better represent your company. That is true because those 400 carefully chosen words are focused on the message, rather than distracting from it with a lot of unnecessary “static.”

This is where the art and the skill of editing come in. A really good editor can save a piece of content, because they know what to leave in, what to leave out.

(* This short piece went through two edits before being finalized.)

 

 

 

Matt Fueston is an Account Manager for Ellenbecker Communications, is responsible for new business development, and contributes as a staff writer. He believes in the intersection between Sales and Marketing.


6 steps to executing your job-story program

Once you have story ideas rolling in from the field, and you’ve decided which ones you’d like to pursue, it’s time to assign a writer and a photographer. There are a few options you can consider in choosing a writer and photographer, and we’ll discuss those in another post. But for now, we’ll assume those choices have been made.

Ellcom managing editor Sara Schmuck on-site at a quartzite quarry in Minnesota.

I asked Sara Schmuck, the managing editor of our client publications, to share a basic checklist for those of you that may not currently have a set process for your job-story program. When you look at the list, you may just nod your head and say, “Common sense,” but I can assure you that every one of these steps has been missed by some marketing manager at some point in time, and the result has been the birth of a self-reproducing headache factory all his or her own.

Here is your basic checklist:

1. Well ahead of time, set up a specific date and time for writer and photographer to be on the job site. This should be agreed to by the salesman and the company being featured so that there are no last-minute surprises. Make arrangements to interview key people on the job site or via telephone before or after the job site visit.

2. After the job-site visit and interviews, the writer will write up the draft, and submit the first draft to you.

3. After you have made your edits, and the writer has tweaked the revision based on those edits, only then submit the revised draft to the other stakeholders, such as the dealer, contractor, etc.

4. Make sure you get formal approval to use customer information/photos for marketing purposes. And document that approval.

5. Submit the final story to an appropriate trade journal. (Be aware of the magazine’s publication rights’ expectations.)

6. Maximize the exposure for your story. Publish it on your website and in appropriate marketing collateral material in full or abridged versions.

Of course, each of the items on Sara’s checklist could be the subject of a full blog post or article all its own, but this skeleton outline should provide you with the structure you need to execute your job-story program.

 


 

 

Matt Fueston is an Account Manager for Ellenbecker Communications, is responsible for new business development, and contributes as a staff writer. He believes in the intersection between Sales and Marketing.

 

 


Setting up your job-story program

Matt Fueston is an Account Manager for Ellenbecker Communications, is responsible for new business development, and contributes as a staff writer. He believes in the intersection between Sales and Marketing.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, when I was in sales I loved my company’s marketers, because when they did a good job, they made my job easier. Most of my sales career was devoted to opening new territories or channels, and the people I talked to didn’t necessarily know me or my company’s products. The third-party credibility that a job-story or application story in the trade press gave might be the difference in whether I had a chilly reception or a warm one. And while I was perfectly capable of handling the chilly reception, why would I make the job harder than it had to be? Why extend the sales cycle by an extra visit or two when you could hit the ground running?

Do you have a regular program in your company that generates a steady stream of high-quality job stories?

If you don’t, our managing editor for client publications, Sara Schmuck, has a list of suggestions that can jump-start your program.

1. Start with mentioning the whole idea of job stories and why they are a useful marketing tool to the sales and marketing team. Maybe finding a story that was done for a similar company is a good start and will serve as inspiration. This is because the sales team may not be able to picture just what you have in mind without an example. We tend to think in terms of stories; they tend to think in terms of quotas.

2. Internally communicate the desire to actively pursue success stories. Call them job stories, features, success stories, whatever sounds appealing within your company. A mass email to your team or an article in an internal newsletter is a good place to start—or maybe you can pitch it during a big sales meeting, as part of your marketing department presentation.

3. Talk personally to salesmen who know customers and will be able to identify happy customers and those willing to share their testimonial.

4. Follow up with salesmen, asking them to talk to customers and request permission to feature them. Telling them that they will be able to approve whatever is written or photographed usually helps. They are proud to be featured, usually.

The whole idea here is to get the story-funnel full. You generally need a lot possibilities stacked up before you get one that makes it all the way through the process and gets signed off and approved by all stakeholders.

Sara has managed story funnels as large as 80 submitted ideas to come up with two or three that make it to the assignment phase—that is, when a story is assigned to a writer and a photographer. That is an extreme example, but not as extreme as you might think.

In an upcoming blog post, I’ll ask Sara to describe the actual process of taking a story from idea to publishing, and a few suggestions on how to manage and nurture the story ideas that you get.

In the meantime—you’ve got stories. Let’s get ‘em told!


Booth invitations—the medium matters

Jenny Ellenbecker is the Tradeshow Manager for Ellenbecker Communications. She has planned and executed tradeshow strategies for clients for over a decade, including for some of the biggest expos in the mining, construction and oil and gas industries.

In an earlier blog post, I talked about how important it is to target your pre-show marketing to the few hundred or few thousand people—both customers and prospective customers— that matter most to your success. But how do you do that, once you have identified your target audience and customized a message that talks directly to them?

The medium matters.

When I say medium, I am referring the actual marketing piece that is carrying your carefully crafted message. Is it an eblast? Is it a postcard? Is it something more exotic?

I’m not going to talk much about eblasts, mainly because everyone does them, and because there are so many issues that can derail or dilute their effectiveness. They can be caught by the recipient’s spam filter and never get a chance to do their job. Even if they make it into the inbox, the email program may block any active content or the awesome graphics your artist worked so hard to create. Some of them get through, and some are actually read by the recipient, and this may well be worth the time and expense. Like an ad in a magazine, they are a way to get a general message in front of a lot of people. We approach every eblast on a case by case basis.

I should probably add that I’m not talking about targeted emails here—we consider them to be something quite different from an eblast. By its nature, an eblast is general and “blasts” out to a large list. A targeted email goes to one person at a time, or to a small group of people. And these are generally people who are used to getting an email from you and are likely to read your message.

But there is an “old school” message-delivery system that we still like here at Ellcom—Direct Mail (DM.) A DM piece can be crafted to stand out from all the other physical mail a prospect gets. Maybe by the creative use of shapes or colors or copy you can stand out from the crowd. Or perhaps you can include a small promotional item, or send an invitation in the same format as a birthday or holiday card—those almost always get opened! DM is not always appropriate—but it is another option to consider when sending to a relatively small, targeted group of recipients.

And finally, you may consider actual phone calls to invite a few dozen or even a few hundred special customers or prospects. Either the salesperson for an area or a marketing person may make these simple calls—the fact is that most of the calls will likely roll to voicemail, where you can leave a brief, warm invitation to a special event you are hosting, or perhaps just an invitation to see your new equipment at your booth. This is an unusually personal touch that can help your message stand out from all the background static that surrounds a major tradeshow.


Make the most of your pre-show marketing

Jenny Ellenbecker is the Tradeshow Manager for Ellenbecker Communications. She has planned and executed tradeshow strategies for clients for over a decade, including for some of the biggest expos in the mining, construction and oil and gas industries.

As we’ve said before on this blog, you just don’t throw a party and then forget to invite anyone. But that’s what you have done, in effect, if you don’t aggressively market your presence at a tradeshow in the months leading up to it.

Many reports have shown that most attendees know well in advance of the opening ceremony just which booths they will visit. Therefore, setting up a booth—no matter how attractive—and just hoping that someone strolls by and decides to drop in is simply not a viable strategy. And this is even more critical as corporate budgets are cut at the same time that tradeshows costs continue to climb!

Here at Ellcom, we have a lot of tradeshows on the horizon that serve important industries for our clients’ diverse product lines. Power-Gen, NGWA, the ARA show, CONEXPO-CON/AGG, OTC…

And pre-show marketing is a big part of our planning for each and every one of these shows.

Of course, there are a lot of tools you can use to reach your audience. Advertising plays a part, as does participation in some of the marketing plans sponsored by the various organizations putting on these shows. Then there are invitations of one sort or another—and other familiar methods.

We’ve noticed a trend in pre-show marketing that we find troubling. I call it the “spamification effect.” What I mean is that budget-cutting is leading many companies to turn to massive eblast campaigns as their primary pre-show marketing tool. For a few hundred or a few thousand dollars, you can send an emailed invitation out to tens of thousands of potential attendees. Bam! Mission accomplished, right?

I’m not so sure.

Of course, these campaigns have their place as a mass-marketing announcement of your presence, just as paid ads do. But the question I always ask is, “Are they really targeting the people you most want to see walk in your booth?”

As any salesman will tell you, a lead is not the same as a qualified lead. And we strongly suggest that our clients focus on targeting their pre-show marketing as much as possible to the hundred or few hundred or few thousand people who are the most important to their success. That includes current customers and your top prospects for new customers.

Your salesmen know who those people are; get their addresses and email addresses and make sure that these key people receive a targeted invitation to your booth. Make sure that your eblast or postcard or other direct mail piece is customized to appeal to a group or sub-group that these people belong to. You likely have several such groups that these key contacts can be sorted into into—customize a separate message for each of these different groups.

Make sure that the message is something they will care about. We all react more favorably to a message that speaks to us, our specific interests, than to a general message that we know is going to all ten or twenty thousand attendees.

And in an upcoming blog post, I’ll talk a little more about the actual media you may choose to use to accomplish your pre-show marketing goals.


Are you sending out enough PR?

If your company has more than a handful of products and yet your last press release was in February of this year—or 2010!—the answer is probably “no.”

“Wait a minute! Aren’t we always reading marketing and PR articles that say editors hate getting inundated by too many press releases?”

Excellent question! However, a better question is, “What is the rule for determining whether we should send or not send a press release?”

“Is it newsworthy? Does it apply to the editor we’re sending it to? Does it actually say anything?”

Exactly!

You DO have stories to tell

Maybe you are too close to your products to be able to be truly impartial. You deal with them every day. Nothing that your company or products do or say can really surprise you. That is why you either need to consult an outside authority like an agency or train yourself to think like an outsider.

In our experience, all companies have stories to tell, have news to report. Talk to us—or any other good agency—and I’ll bet we can uncover the news.

And what of the editors? Remember, the editors aren’t against press releases or stories—they just don’t want stories that don’t make sense, will take hours to re-write, are poorly researched, sound like a sales pitch or that don’t address their demographic. They need stories to keep their magazines full, interesting and relevant. They want your stories! And yes, that includes press releases.

How much is enough—or too much?

It depends on your company, the size of your market, the number of products and different categories you have and the industries in which you play. But in general, for larger companies with multiple categories, if you don’t send out, on average, at least one press release per month, you are likely overlooking something. (Obviously, if you have just a few products, this number may be smaller.)

Nothing communicates your message better than a well-written job story.

And at least a few times per year, you need to commission an application story or case study to submit to the trade press as an editorial piece. Writing and overall journalistic standards have to be at least as high as those of the magazines, but given that, your stories will find a home. This will help to keep your message and your company toward the top of your potential customers’ consciousness.

We’ll take it as a given that you’re not going to try to publish a press release that says no more than, “Hey! Here we are! Woo-hoo!” But any real info that you have to share with the trade—be it new product, an upgrade to existing product, a new location or a new vice-president of something—is information that the editor wants to know and to share.

Bottom line

What is the bottom-line? If you don’t have the time to stay on top of PR, have someone else internally or externally handle it for you. It is just too important to let slide for 6 months, as I’ve seen on many equipment manufacturers’ websites. Or a year. Or two. Or more, in some cases.

If you need help, give us a call—maybe we can steer you the right direction even if you don’t end up as our client.

 

 

 

 

Matt Fueston is an Account Manager for Ellenbecker Communications, is responsible for new business development, and contributes as a staff writer. He believes in the intersection between Sales and Marketing.

tagged in PR

Why “in-house” publications are perfect brand messengers

Sara Schmuck is the Managing Editor for Client Publications for Ellenbecker Communications. She has worked in marketing for the equipment industry for years and previously worked as a newspaper reporter and editor. She prides herself on practical solutions to whatever marketing challenge she faces. She enjoys the process of communicating—from photography to typography and all the stuff in between.

Equipment manufacturers don’t market to their consumers with sales blitzes (Back-to-school 0% financing!) or with tear-inducing TV commercials (“When you care enough to send the very best”).

Publications, whether a newsletter or full-fledged magazine, are effective mediums to reach out to potential customers and to make current customers feel like they’re a part of the family.

Manufacturing company marketing managers should rely on in-house publications as much or more than their sales forces or other print, web or broadcast media to effectively carry out their message. While a good salesman can seal the deal, a great publication can quietly open the door.

Publications aren’t cheap to produce when companies consider expert writers, photographers and printing and distribution costs. Even online publications carry a lot of the same production costs as a hard copy pub. But there shouldn’t be sticker shock because a good publication pairs with other marketing strategies to get higher brand recall and meaningful interaction.

Selling points for a company publication:

  • An in-house publication will consistently share the brand’s message. We can’t expect that from the “neutral” trade press. Our clients like to be in control, after all.
  • An in-house publication establishes the company as an open communicator–ready to spend a little time together without it hinging on a sale. A well done publication establishes the company as a leader, an expert, a trusted authority that doesn’t just reach out to consumers when they want to sell something.
  • A potential customer might have seen an ad or read a little something about a product in a press release. That is nice. But additional details and selling points come out clearly in a customized publication. It’s like having a salesman visit that customer, even if that salesman doesn’t know the customer is in the market for a purchase. Many of our readers tell us they read our publications from cover to cover, including articles that don’t speak directly to their work. They have staying power beyond a brief ad.
  • Distribution. This is a key factor in successful publications. You can talk to current customers and introduce yourself to those you want to be customers. This database is useful for future sales leads or customized regional marketing.

These are all great starting points for a company publication.

But the very best newsletters and magazines are at least in part about the customer, not just the manufacturer. Equipment buyers are accustomed to hearing pitches. They know how to read a spec sheet to get the functions they need. It’s our job to remind them of all these things, of course, and to help manufacturers set their equipment apart from the rest. However, consumers also deeply care about what other successful companies in their industry are doing. They want to read about techniques that make their jobs easier. They want to know what equipment others are purchasing and why.

This type of conversational, journalistic-style of reporting on the industry actually does sell stuff! I can testify that salesmen often carry our magazines and hand them to potential customers, saying, “If you don’t believe me, see what this guy said.” And it works for them.

The best in-house publications make those featured in them feel like stars. They make readers think they are paging through an industry publication, not a sales flyer. And the very best publications make readers want to be a part of the family.


Does PR really add value to my business?

Matt Fueston is an Account Manager for Ellenbecker Communications, is responsible for new business development, and contributes as a staff writer. He has served as a sales manager, national sales manager, regional sales manager and Federal sales manager in previous incarnations. He believes in the intersection between Sales and Marketing.

It’s a fair question. And when dozens—maybe even hundreds—of other urgent matters are clamoring for your attention, maybe the snap decision is “No. A press release, an article—they’re not asking for the sale. And if they’re not asking for the sale, what good are they?”

I understand the question, and the frustration behind the question. I’ve been on the sales side of the table, too. But it is my experience in equipment sales that has enriched my appreciation of the importance of good marketing—especially, of good PR and good content marketing.

Don’t be a stranger

I should start off with one exception. If your company is so big and pervasive that customers know every category of product you make and they come to you to buy—if your salespeople really just have to take orders and you have all the market penetration you want—then skip the rest of the article. You truly don’t need everyday PR.

As an ex-salesman and sales manager who specialized in new business development, I can tell you that the biggest helping hand Marketing could give me was to make sure that my company and my products were not strangers to my prospects. They could do that by making my company’s products a familiar and comfortable presence in the media that my prospects read regularly. One of the steepest hills to climb for a sales pro is when an introduction to the prospect brings you nothing but a blank stare. You can almost see the thought-bubble above the buyer’s head. (“Why is this guy talking to me? What does he even have that I need? I’ve never heard of his company before!” Or, “I need an X-machine, not the Y-machine he sells…”)

Or maybe that prospect—let’s call him Bob—has just one really personal and vivid memory of your company. Maybe the only real experience he’s had with your company was that one time one of your salespeople had a bad day and snapped at Bob at a trade show even though he didn’t know who Bob was… Or maybe Bob read an article about how your competitor’s Model ABC is so much better than your model XYZ, and that’s really all he knows. How do you think he will respond the first time your salesperson stops in?

But on the other hand, let’s say Bob has seen about one press release a month in the trade press detailing new products, new upgrades, special programs, key new hires or internal promotions or growth announcements. He’s read case histories about guys like himself and how your product solved a problem for them—not heavy-handed advertorials, which he believes are just so much, shall we say, “blarney,” but stories about the job itself which mention your products in a properly journalistic tone and are really interesting to read.

In the second instance, even the time your old, now-retired salesman snapped at Bob isn’t likely to be held against the whole company. Bob knows there are bad apples in every barrel, that everyone has bad days—he’s read so much good about your company that he is at least open to buying from you. He knows that your company is growing, it’s an exciting bunch of people to be associated with, you have products that a lot of his peers have come to trust…

That’s the value PR brings.

You have the stories—tell them!

According to a study in the United Kingdom last year, 8 in 10 business decision makers prefer articles to ads to help them choose products and services, and 70% of people say they feel closer to a brand that publishes content. So publish your content!

Like most of your peers, you represent an honorable company that really tries to create the very best possible solution for your customers. Not only because it is the right thing to do, but because that is the way to financial success. But remember, no matter what you do, no one will know it, except those to whom you do it, unless…

If you want the larger world to know, if you want current non-customers to know, you must tell them.

And PR is the tool you use.

tagged in PR