Showing Appreciation is Good for Business


Oscar-statues-001Watching the Academy Awards last night, I was struck with the awesomeness of the acceptance speeches and the genuine gratitude the winners expressed. Winning an Oscar can be a huge boost to an Actors’ personal brand and earning potential, for sure, and on this night they are at the height of their fame. Hearing them express gratitude and thanks to those who have touched their lives and to those who have helped them along the way was truly inspiring.

Businesses can benefit greatly from adopting this “attitude of gratitude” and if I had to pick one thing that can have the biggest impact on business, I’d say gratitude tops the list. This quote sums it up perfectly:

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” –Albert Schweitzer 

As a brand, we want to be perceived positively by consumers. It’s necessary before being memorable, engaged or advocated for.

The more deep gratitude and appreciation you show as a brand, whether it’s your personal brand or business, for every contribution no matter how small, the more love, support and success will come your way.

That said, it’s super important to demonstrate gratitude and to acknowledge the people that have helped you get where you are. This was demonstrated during the awards ceremony last night perfectly by Best Supporting Actor winner Jared Leto, snagging the coveted golden statue for his riveting role in Dallas Buyers Club, who not only thanked his single mom for teaching him to dream, but also the 36 million people what have lost the battle to aids.

“And this is for the 36 million people who have lost the battle to Aids and to those of you out there who have ever felt injustice because of who you are or who you love, tonight I stand here in front of the world with you and for you. Thank you so much and goodnight,” –Jared Leto.

It just doesn’t get much better than that.

Gratitude Helps Build Consumer Confidence and Trust.

How do you stand out in someone’s mind? How do you engage and inspire them to speak positively on your behalf? To inspire your audiences to risk their reputation and advocate for you, you must demonstrate that you are worthy. There’s no better way to build trust and consumer confidence than to incorporate gratitude into your brand communication plan. Appreciation and acknowledgement can go a long way in building brand advocates who will not only love you, like we all loved Jared last night, but who will sing your praises as well.

Say a Sincere, Authentic Thank You!

There’s nothing like the unexpected, genuine, sincere thank you. So, the next time you have the chance to express gratitude, go for it! It’s good for your business.

April Neill is a brand strategist, lifelong entrepreneur and founder/CEO of April Neill Public Relations, a boutique public relations firm serving small businesses and non-profits in Chicagoland. You can find April online at www.AprilNeillPR.com or at www.Facebook.com/AprilNeillPR.
April Neill Public Relations is passionate about helping small businesses position themselves as experts in their industry. We offer a complimentary 30-minute in-person or phone consultation. Email AprilNeill@gmail.com to make your appointment today or call (312) 772-3832 for more information.

PR Lessons Learned, Takeaways from High-Profile PR Blunders

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Garnering publicity for a startup can be a great way of generating buzz about your new business, but it can also be a tricky endeavor. That said, having a well thought-out communications plan can keep your emerging brand on track and can help you navigate the murky waters when you do find yourself in an “iffy” media situation.
We all remember when Chicago-based startup Groupon slipped up last year by saying “s**t happens, we’re a young company” in an interview with The Financial Times, a newspaper read by investors and business executives, in response to irregularities found in their financial statements. (Their shareholders were no doubt less than thrilled with their nonchalance.)
Like startups, celebrities are also concerned with protecting their “brand” and no one more so lately than Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones have felt the strain of being under the media spotlight and dealing with the consequences of a PR blunder; for them a very public recent split. There are some important PR takeaways and lessons we can learn from these high-profile media fiascos.
 
PR Lessons
Loose Lips Sink Ships. It’s doubtful that Douglas, currently promoting his role as flamboyant pianist Liberace in the HBO film ‘Behind the Candelabra’, gave any thought to how his gaffe (blurting out in an interview that his stage 4 throat cancer was the result of an HPV infection he got from oral sex) would affect his wife and ultimately, his marriage. (I can only imagine their strained conversation after he made this confession.) You’ve heard the old adage “loose lips sink ships” and in this case, the ship was their marriage.
 
Think Team. Even if you are a celebrity or CEO, it’s important to remember that you have partners, employees, spouses and/or stakeholders who are invested in what you say to the media. (In Douglas’ case, his wife had a huge stake in his admission.) It’s important to “think team” when you are putting your communications strategy together and to consider how your words will affect your stakeholders.
 
Don’t Miss a Chance to Redirect Your Story. In Douglas’ case, the greatest crime isn’t the potential cause of his cancer – he later retracted his statement – it’s that he missed out on the perfect PR opportunity to redirect his story to champion a celebrity cause. Up until his retraction, he was praised by health experts for raising awareness for HPV, largely considered an epidemic, yet often taboo topic, because it’s sexually transmitted. Having a celebrity share his personal experience could have prompted a much-needed national conversation about HPV prevention strategies; however, Douglas wasn’t willing to rise to the occasion and go there (or return there, such as it is).
 
PR Takeaways. We all need to embrace that we are human and that PR blunders happen. When they do, it’s important that we are honest and transparent with our reactions and communications.
Take Groupon former CEO Andrew Mason’s final goodbye memo when he was ousted as CEO – it was authentic and transparent and demonstrated a level of honesty that we should all strive for in our communications. Douglas’ awkward retraction, on the other hand, didn’t feel authentic and I doubt that it changed the public’s perception on what caused his cancer (and we’re not judging in the least!); he also missed out on the perfect PR opportunity to turn his PR blunder into a platform and to contribute to the public good.
April Neill is a brand strategist, lifelong entrepreneur and founder/CEO of April Neill Public Relations, a boutique public relations firm serving small businesses and non-profits in Chicagoland. You can find April online at www.AprilNeillPR.com or at www.Facebook.com/AprilNeillPR.
April Neill Public Relations is passionate about helping small businesses position themselves as experts in their industry. We offer a complimentary 30-minute in-person or phone consultation. Email AprilNeill@gmail.com to make your appointment today or call (312) 772-3832 for more information.

6 Tips for Branding Yourself as an Expert in your Field

Being recognized as an industry expert can be powerful and persuasive.
Being recognized as an industry expert can be powerful and persuasive.

In every buying decision, whether it’s hiring an accountant or finding a good mechanic, we all want an expert. We want to pay someone who has a real solution and we don’t want to waste our money or our time.

That said, you want prospects to look to your company for solutions when they are ready to buy or hire a consultant and a great way to gain market share is to position yourself as the go-to expert in your industry. Few things are as powerful or as persuasive in business.

Branding yourself as an expert has many benefits including standing out in a crowded marketplace, getting media attention, gaining partnerships that help your business grow and being able to charge higher fees due to your expert status.

Here are six tips to help brand yourself an expert in your industry:

  1. Define Your Expertise. One of the most effective ways to communicate your expert/authority status is to create an “expert” website. A professional headshot, professional design and highlights of your social influence (proof numbers of fans, followers, subscribers) along with a press room highlighting the places where your work has been featured will go a long way in positioning and defining your expert status.
  2. Deliver fresh, educational or informative content: Deliver regular content on the internet through article marketing and blogging that is informative and offers value and solutions to readers. Pay attention to hot topics that are trending and if they’re relevant to your industry, craft blog posts about those topics. In no time at all, you will be considered an expert in your field.
  3. Take part in online conversations: Post comments on other influential blogs and social media sites. Additionally, respond to comments left on your blog; it’s a great way to start a discussion and to showcase your expert knowledge.
  4. Position yourself as an expert source to the media. Pay attention to what’s going on in the news. Do you have a unique perspective to bring to a story that is trending or seasonal tips to share? Let the media know that you are available as an expert source in your industry. Also reach out to reporters and editors when there is a news story that you can weigh in on. Reporters are always looking for sources for stories and segments and this may be your chance to get your business on the 10 o’clock news!
  5. Post on YouTube: Post helpful and instructional videos on YouTube about your products or services. Soon enough, consumers will start to look to you for solutions.
  6. Seek Out Endorsements and Testimonials. Once in a while, you will get an unsolicited testimonial from a client, which will make your day. More often than not, you will have to ask. So ask! Send an email to your clients asking them to share their experience with working with you and how it has helped them. Reach out to colleagues to ask them for endorsements of your expertise. LinkinIn has a great platform for seeking out endorsements and is a great space to build your reputation.

April Neill Public Relations is passionate about helping small businesses position themselves as experts in their industry. We offer a complimentary 30-minute in-person or phone consultation. Email AprilNeill@gmail.com to make your appointment today or call (312) 772-3832 for more information. Visit us online at AprilNeillPR.com. Follow ANPR on Facebook at Facebook.com/AprilNeillPR.

7 Tips for Optimizing your Small Businesses’ Reputation Online

Building perfect reputation

A reputation can take years to build, and in today’s digital age, only seconds to tarnish. As a small business owner, your company’s brand reputation is one of its most important assets and keeping your brand’s profile spotless is important to your success. Try the following tactics to optimize your brand reputation online.

  1. You are your Brand. Online reputation management for small business owners involves maintaining a good name with your personal profile as well as your business profile so it’s important to note that you are your brand. As a business owner, your personal digital profile is more than likely linked to your business so it’s important to remember to think before you post. What are you saying about yourself that may reflect on your business image? Also be mindful of what your friends post on your social sites as well. You’ll want to monitor comments to make sure they don’t put you, or your business, in a bad light. If they do, hit delete. Your friends will understand.
  2. Monitor your search results at least once a week. Google your business at least once a week and keep an eye out for any negative content that needs addressed. And be sure to search past the first page on Google. It’s also a good idea to track what you find including the URL, the page title, your relationship to the page, (is it a social site that you have ownership or control/influence over?) and whether the comment is positive, negative or somewhere in between. You may want to keep a spreadsheet if there are numerous results and chart what action, if any, is needed.
  3. Be Authentic. It’s important to always be authentic in your responses to negativity online. If you made a mistake, be upfront about it and don’t try to “spin” the situation. Acknowledge what happened, apologize when/if appropriate, and outline your plan to make amends. Sincerity and humility speak volumes online and you will more than likely defuse the situation quickly by being upfront about it.
  4. Know when to Stand Up or Stand Down. It’s always okay to delete a comment that is abusive or one that uses offensive language and it’s important to know when to stand up to an online bully or when to stand down. If you have an unhappy customer who posts a negative comment online, your best bet is to immediately contact the person who wrote the comment and ask them if there is anything you can do to address their concerns and to give them a more positive customer experience. If that fails, if possible, leave a comment to explain what you’re doing to rectify the situation or your side of the story if there is nothing you can do to turn the situation around.
  5. Write to Boost Your Google Ranking. Writing a company blog helps connect your brand with your audience and can go a long way in boosting your page ranking on google. Using a blog can also be a great way to position yourself as a leader in your industry and to sway public opinion about your brand and create a positive fan base. That said, if a negative comment pops up on a search engine, you’ll have a better chance of dominating your ranking with positive content about your company.
  6. Diversify your Web Presence. In addition to writing a company blog, it’s important to establish a presence on social media sites. If you only have time for one, LinkedIn may be your best bet. Profiles on LinkedIn tend to rank higher on search engines and many business people search on LinkedIn for professional services. Once you establish your presence, be active. Providing new content on a regular basis and becoming interactive with your clients and prospective clients will boost your rankings and generate overall goodwill for your company.
  7. Boost Your Online Presence with PR. Sending out search-optimized press releases on a regular basis, on topics that interest your audience, can be very useful in boosting your online presence. Pay close attention to relevant keywords and phrases and infuse them into your press releases for the best results.

April Neill Public Relations is passionate about working with small businesses to increase their brand awareness and help them find their voice. We offer a complimentary 30-minute in-person or phone consultation. Email AprilNeill@gmail.com to make your appointment today or call (312) 772-3832 for more information. Visit us online at AprilNeillPR.com. Follow ANPR on Facebook at Facebook.com/AprilNeillPR.

Find Your Voice, Maximize Your Message: Five Tips for Finding Your Brand Voice

By April Neill, CEO/Founder April Neill Public Relations

As new social media platforms emerge on the web, creating a marketers paradise where businesses and brands strive to stand out and build their brand awareness in the social media realm, it’s more important than ever to find your voice.

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I’m an avid fan of American Idol and this season I’m rooting for Lazaro Arbos, a contestant who struggles to communicate while speaking. Often stuttering during interviews, Lazaro is able to overcome his speech impediment while he sings. His recent rendition of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” was spellbinding and in song, he finds his voice and a deep connection with the audience (as evidenced by his top ten ranking). Yay, go Lazaro!

Like Idol’s Lazaro, many businesses struggle to communicate their brand messages to their target audiences. Often stumbling over their words, especially in the social media realm where it can be tricky figuring out how to speak to your audience and how to find the right voice for your business, their messages tend to be mixed and confusing. Here are five top tips for finding your brand voice.

1. Know Yourself. If you’re a brand looking to promote your business or service on social media channels, it’s important to first consider who you are as a brand. Knowing who you are (what is at the heart of your brand and what your purpose and promise is) will greatly help you in developing your brand voice.

2. Know Your Audience. Be clear on who you are trying to connect with. If you’re looking to connect with diverse audiences, be sure to pair each social media platform with the audience that it best suits and plan your social media mix based on reaching the largest segments and optimizing your messages for each platform’s audience.

3. Establish Vibe, Tone. Your brand’s voice should be a clear representation of its personality and character and its vibe and tone should reflect that personality. Is your brand serious or quirky? Is your vibe professional or friendly and casual? Consistency is key and while it’s perfectly okay to establish a more serious tone with your brand messaging, coming across as human and approachable is essential. The language you use in your messaging sets the tone for your brand voice, so take the time to create a list of words, phrases, and adjectives that reflect your brand’s core and share this list with your social media manager or team. This tone may change across platforms (your tone on LinkedIn will more than likely differ from your Twitter tone), so you will need to evaluate each platform you engage on and set the tone for each.

4. Social Media Policy. A well thought-out and transparent social media policy that outlines your strategy, language and tone, and that specifies who is responsible for managing your posts will provide your business the structure to be consistent and effective with its messaging. If possible, appoint one person to be responsible for managing your social media posts, content creation, and curation. If you’re a large organization with multiple divisions engaging on your behalf, it’s even more important to establish your brand’s social media policy to outline who will be responding for what and your policies for responding to negative comments, customer service issues, and general questions. It’s important to note that it’s absolutely okay to delete a comment or block anyone leaving harassing messages or using foul language on your social sites and having a policy in place to address these issues will be a great guide for your team in dealing with them as they arise.

5. Credibility. By far, the most important concept to consider in finding your voice is building trust and credibility with your audience. Be authentic, honest and transparent; respond in real time to comments and post regularly with quality content that your audience will find interesting, entertaining, and helpful. Do this and it will go a long way in boosting your credibility. Remember, keeping your audience engaged is key so pay attention to what your audience is talking about, what they are interested in, and which posts get the most engagement.

April Neill Public Relations is passionate about working with small businesses to increase their brand awareness and help them find their voice. We offer a complimentary 30-minute in-person or phone consultation. Email AprilNeill@gmail.com to make your appointment today or call (815) 651-0656 for more information. Visit us online at AprilNeillPR.com.

Brand Story, Brand Power

iStock_000012811129_SmallBy April Neill, CEO/Founder April Neill Public Relations

Branding is about storytelling and a strong brand message has incredible power. Not just on how it is perceived in the world, but also how it positions a brand and connects it with consumers, key influencers, and stakeholders.

Whether you are launching a new brand or re-branding your existing business, it’s important to consider what’s at the heart of your brand and what your brand stands for. You really need to know yourself before you start sharing your brand’s story with the world.

In today’s technologically advanced world with the explosion of social media, it’s more important than ever to have a clear vision for your brand, authentic brand communications, and an integrated brand communications strategy.

Let me introduce myself. I’m April Neill, president of April Neill Public Relations (ANPR), a full-service marketing and public relations consulting firm specializing in meeting the needs of small businesses in the corporate, healthcare, and not-for-profit sectors. ANPR takes a strategic, holistic approach to developing brand-centered, results-driven communications and has worked with hundreds of businesses in promoting and publicizing their brand.

ANPR believes that publicity alone isn’t enough for small businesses to gain market share and drive sales. ANPR works hard to make sure that all components are covered and integrates a combination of branding, PR, social media and other marketing components to create successful PR and Marketing campaigns to tell your Brand’s story effectively and strategically.

Our goal for our Blog is to offer a platform for our readers to gain insights into the latest trends and best practices for Branding, Marketing, PR, Reputation Management and Social Media and to start a conversation about what’s working out in the real world.

Do you have a question for our communications experts? A real-life marketing success story to share? We want to hear from you! Join the conversation and tell us about it!

What’s your Brand’s Story and how are you telling it?

April Neill, CEO/Founder April Neill Public Relations
April Neill, CEO of April Neill Public Relations

April Neill is the President & Founder of April Neill Public Relations, a subsidiary of April Neill & Associates, Inc. located in Plainfield, Illinois. April can be reached at (815) 651-0656 or via email at AprilNeill@gmail.com. Visit ANPR online at AprilNeillPR.com.