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March 2014

Spring cleaning for small retailers

Kelly Sharp is the owner of Heart of Iowa Market Place

When I thought about the topic of spring cleaning for small retailers, I had no idea that a marketing expert named Margaret Shrum had already tackled the topic. Nor did I know that Shrum goes by the moniker "The Lingerie Goddess."

But, it turns out that she and I share some of the same ideas on the topic and it's only right to give credit where credit is due.

For instance, we agree spring cleaning for retailers means moving out merchandise that's been sitting around awhile to make way for new product lines. Shrum notes that spring cleaning can "drive sales by creating a buzz about the surplus products that may have been hidden in back stock." That dovetails nicely with my preference for sampling products that haven't been moving. Sampling works.

I'm very big on knowing what inventory I have, what's selling and what's not. My business, the Heart of Iowa Market Place, is very a focused specialty retailer -- we sell distinctly Iowa gift items and products -- but we've also had a few products that, for whatever reason, just didn't move.

It's hard for some small retailers to admit it, but if a product you thought was going to be a big seller isn't moving, get rid of it. Sell it as fast as you can to make room for products that will sell faster and at better margins. We all make mistakes. Admit it wasn't the right product for your store and move on.

Shrum recommends making sure your employees are well-versed in your spring-cleaning products and "have their own dialogue" to connect with clients. She suggests generating more sales by having store staff "mention the weekly promotion to their clients via email and phone and as they greet all walk in traffic."

Here's how I'd phrase it: "If you want to move a product, you've got to tell customers about it."

We're in agreement, too, on the value of social media to spread the word about featured sale items.

"Finally, spring cleaning is something that can go on throughout the year and help to decrease the end of season markdowns. Keep track of how well each campaign does and rotate the successful ones in between the seasons," Shrum says.

Amen to that!

I've never met Margaret Shrum but I already like her.

Leadership lessons learned from the Cyclone basketball team

Kyle Oppenhuizen is a Business Record reporter and the 2014 president-elect of the Young Professionals Connection (YPC). 

First of all, let me go on the record in saying this:

I love this year’s Iowa State Cyclones basketball team. Win or lose in tonight’s Sweet 16 game against the University of Connecticut, this team holds a special place in my heart for so many reasons.

Hilton vs. OSU

Now you know my (strong) bias.

One of the special things about these Cyclones is the leadership that its coaches and players have shown. As a young professional, I try to soak in leadership lessons however I can, and there have been plenty of opportunities while watching this team.

Here’s are a few strong leadership moments from this season:

Keep your cool: In the last few minutes of Sunday’s NCAA Tournament game against North Carolina, Iowa State found itself trailing by five points during the last media timeout. The season was on the line, and the team had its back against the wall. What did coach Fred Hoiberg tell his team? Smile. It worked. The team went on a run and eventually won the game. Lesson learned: In trying circumstances, keep your cool and your team will follow suit.

Keep a good attitude: Of course, in that game against North Carolina, the Cyclones were playing without one of their best players, Georges Niang. Niang broke a bone in his foot during Iowa State’s first round game. It was a devastating turn of events for the Cyclones, but not only did Hoiberg find a way to adjust his game plan in less than two days, Niang actually called a team meeting on Saturday night before the game just to get everyone in the same room to talk as a team. The Cyclones could have easily folded, but instead they went out and earned one of the biggest wins in school history. Lesson learned: Adversity will hit, but with the right attitude you can overcome it.

Have confidence: In Iowa State’s final regular season game against Oklahoma State, Naz Long missed a three-pointer late in the game that would have given the Cyclones the lead. During a stoppage of play, Long told an Oklahoma State player “I’ll put any dollar that if I get this ball again, it’s going in.” He got it again, and put in a long three-pointer at the buzzer to tie the game, sending Hilton Coliseum into the kind of frenzy I’ve rarely witnessed. Lesson learned: A little confidence goes a long way.

Be a team player: Melvin Ejim just does things the right way. A true student-athlete, Ejim is smart, well-spoken, and full of class. And the Big 12’s Player of the Year. He’s not flashy, and he’s not always the most talented player on the court. But he makes plays within the flow of the offense and often acts as the glue that pulls the Cyclones together. Lesson learned: It’s not always the most charismatic, or the most God-gifted, or the most outspoken person who is the best leader. Hard work and the desire to most-effectively help your team will pay off in the long run.

Learn from hardship: This team is full of guys that have gotten a second chance in some way and made the most of it. Lesson learned: People make mistakes, and sometimes just run into tough circumstances. What counts is how you learn, grow and respond.

Take advantage of the moment: Maybe my favorite story so far: There’s been some speculation that playing at Madison Square Garden in New York City will be a bit intimidating to the Cyclones, especially since their opponent has already played there twice this season. But according to a photo on the Iowa State Athletics Facebook page, Hoiberg gathered his players at midcourt during Thursday’s practice and said “See those bright lights up there? This is what we played for all year.” Lesson learned: Enjoy the moment. Don’t fear it.

Have some fun: Oh, I almost forgot. After Iowa State’s win Sunday, Hoiberg broke out his dance moves in the postgame locker room celebration. Let’s put it this way: The Mayor dances about like me, which is not a ringing endorsement. But he owned it, and his players loved it. Lesson learned: It’s OK to cut loose every once in awhile.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. Hopefully I can learn a few more lessons, but whatever happens from here on out, I’ve enjoyed the ride.

Go Cyclones!

Improve content for better touch points

Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals, a startup company focused on helping businesses gain referrals from customers.

People develop their perceptions of businesses based on the overall quality of touchpoints they encounter. As impressions can be both positive and negative - it is the responsibility of a business to consider how their intended message is perceived. After all, not all contact with prospects and clients is constructive. Continually finding ways to put yourself in front of your customers so that you are fresh in their mind is a good thing. But keep in mind this will only strengthen your relationship (and lead to referrals) if the message is well thought out and its delivery fitting.

Some businesses spend more energy on finding ways to reach their audience than the message they are conveying. The result is often communication that is ill-received and does more harm than good. To better illustrate this I have attached a letter a friend of mine received after purchasing a new vehicle. It is clear with the example what the salesman was trying to achieve and where he fell (considerably) short.

In an attempt to reach out to the new customer and potentially reel in some referral business the salesman chose to send a generic thank you message. The first mistake is that it does not reference anything personal but the name of the buyer pulled from a list. The actual content of the letter is confusing and is an obvious attempt at gaining more referrals.

The problem? This is obviously an email template printout sent to a list of people. Keep in mind this letter was received in the mail - not electronically. I don’t believe you can click on links printed on an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper.

The salesman was thinking touchpoint and follow up. But the recipient was thinking mailmerge and cheap. You see this type of thing often. Newsletters with plastered with advertisements and flimsy content. Noisy pop ups on popular websites. The list goes on.

The alternative is to pay more attention to the content you are sending to your prospects and clients. At Rocket Referrals we believe in sending straightforward handwritten notes for example. People appreciate simplicity with communication. Keep it personal and classy, they will notice. Over time the positive touchpoints will serve as the foundation for your brand and sales will follow.

Dollars bills down the drain

Water drippingRob Smith is a principal at Architects Smith Metzger

February 10 was a historic day for me. My office got new toilets! I took the plunge after years of replacing flappers and other fixes to old toilets.

What got me to pay $1,700 for FOUR TOILETS? My soaring water bill, that’s what! Staff would show up Monday morning and find a toilet running. I got to the point where I would do a toilet check before leaving for the weekend.  

You would not think a running toilet would amount to much, but it sure did.

The water bill was usually around $100 for 3,000 gallons of water. Then last summer things started to change. It went to 6,000 gallons, then 16,000, then in January it hit 55,000 gallons. I was embarrassed and decided it was time to do something. 

Drake IIBut what toilet to buy? Went with a Toto Drake II. Not only does it use 1.28 gallons per flush which is less than the high efficient models at 1.6 gpf, but it really flushes. My biggest worry was spending the savings on plungers.

About time someone figured out a better mousetrap. The hole from the tank is bigger so lots of water dumps into the toilet. Two jets create the “double cyclone” and flush with power I have never seen before.

My water bill for the first month with new toilets is the lowest it has been in three years. I figure the savings will easily pay for the toilets in one year.

The guy who knows more about these toilets is David Lekowsky at American Plumbing Supply Co., but beware: He gets really excited talking about these great toilets!

Send your thoughts to rsmith@smithmetzger.com

How to manage nonprofit social media

Katie Stocking is the owner of Happy Medium LLC.

Managing social media for our clients is sometimes tough work, mostly a lot of fun, but everything has its challenges right? Managing social media for a nonprofit can be even tougher! I serve as a Bravo Greater Des Moines board member and was recently asked to discuss all things social media with some of the organizations we help fund. (On a side note, there are some really amazing and very cool cultural organizations around Des Moines – so get out and experience it, find them on Facebook!) Here are some tips we discussed which you could hopefully use to help out your favorite non-profit (if you don’t already work for one!)

Sometimes people just want to be in the loop: Maybe you don’t think the things you do everyday are very fancy, but really they kind of are! If you’re a food bank and you’re getting a load of food (hopefully something you do every day) take a picture, put it on your Facebook and give a shout out to whoever donated it (if they are ok with that). People will literally “like” it – I swear!

Commit: I totally get it, resources are especially limited in a non-profit environment. However, keeping in touch with the community of people who support your organization really should be made a top priority. Social media is a fantastic way to stay in touch for very low to no cost. Dedicate someone to your social media accounts to make sure there is accountability. Otherwise, you might look at your Facebook page and realize your last post was in July of 2013….oops!

Don’t beg: You need a lot of money to do all of the amazing things you’re doing to change the world. Everyone thinks that is awesome. However, the quickest way to lose engaged followers is to constantly be begging them for donations. If you’re doing a capital campaign, you should definitely announce it on your social media platforms (along with anywhere else you are announcing), but it would not be a good plan to discuss the capital campaign every single day from the announcement until the completion. Bring up when you hit big goals or had a large contribution you want to share. Other than that, find a place on your website people can contribute and it can live there every day!

Don’t try to be everywhere: If you’re already low on resources, don’t feel like you have to sign your organization up for every platform social media has to offer. Find one or two that make the most sense for you and work to make those the best they can be. You’ll have a much better chance of success and fresh content if you are running two platforms rather than fifteen.

There are a ton of other resources online for this, but a great start is getting a specific point person to manage this for you. Either someone internally or a volunteer would be perfect. The community deserves to know about all of the wonderful things you’re doing, and hopefully growing awareness will help grow your donations!

Tweet me your questions @klstocking.


Networking tips and tricks - Tip 3: Leaving a conversation

Danny Beyer is a sales executive at Kabel Business Services. He is a serial networker and often speaks about networking tips to groups in the community.

I had the opportunity to lead a Networking 101 seminar for YPC a couple of weeks ago. During that event we covered a lot of topics. The most popular seemed to be the tips on how to exit a conversation. There was great feedback immediately following the event and I even received a couple emails mentioning how people have used these tips in the past week. Here’s a brief synopsis of what was covered. 

  • Use drinks to your advantage - it’s pretty simple. Drinks need refilled when they’re empty. When I find myself in the middle of a conversation that is either unproductive or needs to end, I simply excuse myself to refill my drink. The other party is free to join you in your refill or can continue networking.  
  • Introduce a useful connection – as the conversation progresses and reaches a natural ending, an easy transition is to introduce a useful connection or friend. I’m not recommending putting a friend in a situation you’re not enjoying, I’m recommending only introducing someone if it makes sense both parties meet. For example:  I would introduce a mortgage banker to a real estate agent I was talking to if the conversation was at a close but we couldn’t figure out how to end it. 
  • Do them the favor of ending the conversation – this is my personal favorite.  When a conversation is coming to a close I will use the following dialogue: “It was so nice to meet you this evening. I don’t want to monopolize all of your time tonight and I know you want to make other conversations. Let’s connect later. Thank you so much for your time and happy connecting!” This allows the other person to feel good about the meeting while ending the conversation on a high note.

The purpose of these tips is to make the end of the conversation as positive as possible. This way the relationship can continue and the opportunity for future conversations remains strong. Leave the other party feeling good and make sure to follow up when the conversation can truly be used to build a long term relationship.

What happens when a brand gets perspective

I love it when a brand develops enough confidence to stand for something bigger and more important than whatever it is they sell.

That sort of self-understanding and clear vision on who their audience is and how they can truly help them is rare. And it is branding at it's finest.

Check out this TV spot from Dove.  They've figured out that their brand is all about women and celebrating a woman's beauty -- true beauty.


Notice that you did not see or hear one Dove product's name or even its product category.  

When you can do this for your audience -- your brand has grown up and is really ready to own the marketplace.  

When you don't think your audience won't get it unless you club them over the head.  When you stop worrying about how many times you mention your product or show it within 30 seconds.  When you finally understand what it is you sell -- bravo, your brand is ready and so are you.


~ Drew McLellan, MMG's Top Dog


The future face of litigation in Iowa

Matt McKinney is an attorney at BrownWinick Attorneys at Law.

Consistent with the “Rule of Threes,” litigation, including business litigation, may soon undergo further changes in Iowa. The first change, which is largely rolled out across the state, enables litigants to access important case documents and submit legal filings with the court online, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Second, litigants in Iowa’s most populous county, Polk, will soon “enjoy” litigating their cases in a new courthouse. And third, if the Iowa Supreme Court’s recently proposed rules are adopted, civil litigants (citizens and businesses alike) could soon find themselves sailing through the litigation process more quickly and at a lower cost.

More than 3,000,000 Iowans, but only 204 Civil Jury Trials in 2012

Statistics clearly show that Iowan’s are utilizing Iowa’s court system less and less. In fact, in just 10 years, civil cases tried to an Iowa jury dropped a staggering 63%. Indeed, in 2012, only 204 civil cases were tried to a jury. Many attorneys and legal commentators attribute the dramatic decline to the rising costs - both time and money - in litigating a case to trial. A 10-year snapshot of Iowa jury trials plainly depicts the drastic downward trend.  

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 11.32.39 AM

To address this significant slide, the Iowa Supreme Court established a Civil Justice Reform Task Force. The Task Force was charged with diagnosing weaknesses and prescribing improvements to Iowa’s civil justice system. More than four years and hours of work later, the Iowa Supreme Court incorporated the Task Force’s findings into two (2) proposed rules. As summarized briefly below, both rules aim to reduce costs and delays while simultaneously providing Iowan’s greater access to courts. Our Supreme Court promulgated the draft rules in late 2013 and is currently seeking comments from the public (the comment period closes March 17, 2014).

 First Rule - Expedited Civil Actions

The first proposed rule, titled “Expedited Civil Actions,” contains provisions that allows litigants seeking limited damages (generally $75,000 or less) to try their case in an expedited fashion. Specifically, the rule states cases must be tried within one year or less. Comparatively, today’s litigants often wait two or more years to try their case. To meet this accelerated timeframe, the rule contemplates several changes. For instance, the rule requires parties to voluntarily and timely disclose information to opponents. Currently, parties are not required to voluntarily disclose most information to their opponents. Further, the rule places significant constraints on the discovery a party may conduct by limiting the number of depositions, requests for production, and interrogatories a party may use. Lastly, the rule incorporates a six-hour trial limit and requires cases be submitted to a judge or jury in two business days or less (a far cry from the weeks of trial time that currently drag on in many civil cases).

To read the full text of this First Rule, including additional requirements, click here: http://www.iowacourts.gov/wfdata/frame3495-1263/File3.pdf

Second Rule - Discovery Amendments

The second rule, titled “Proposed Discovery Amendments,” contains broader reforms that would apply to most lawsuits filed in Iowa, including the expedited actions referenced above. Similar to the first rule, the second focuses on streamlining litigation by providing litigants and the court with a new “toolkit.” One of the new tools requires parties to promptly participate in mandatory conferences within two (2) weeks of first responding to a lawsuit. The mandatory meeting will facilitate early discussions between parties, including perhaps settlement discussions, and spur the parties to drive the litigation forward.  Additionally, the rule requires parties to voluntarily and in a timely manner turn over key information to opponents - yet another acceleration tool that is not available today. Finally, the rule imposes heightened obligations upon parties to fairly respond to discovery and timely resolve discovery disputes without involving the court. This latter tool addresses what many attorneys believe is the greatest cause of delay and cost in litigation.

To read the full text of this Second Rule, including additional requirements, click here: http://www.iowacourts.gov/wfdata/frame3495-1263/File2.pdf

As referenced above, the Iowa Supreme Court is seeking public comment on these proposed rules. Comments must be submitted prior to March 17, 2014 at 4:30 p.m.  According to this Supreme Court Order (link), comments may be submitted by emailing them to rules.comments@iowacourts.gov. The email must state “Discovery Rules” or “Expedited Civil Action” in the subject line of the email and the comments must be sent as an attachment to the email in Microsoft Word format. Comments may also be delivered in person or mailed to the Clerk of the Supreme Court, Judicial Branch Building, 1111 East Court Avenue, Des Moines, Iowa, 50319.

For more information on these or other rules, please consider contacting a licensed attorney.

Inspire referrals with the rule of the few

Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals, a startup company focused on helping businesses gain referrals from customers.

Extensive investigation into human psychology continues to shape the marketing strategies that we are faced with daily. Sure, technology and changing trends in social relationships change the ways in which the messages are spread - yet the same underlying elements in psychology have been used for decades. First published in 1984, Robert Cialdini outlined in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion six principles of influence that are just as effective today. They have, however, been primarily used in traditional marketing tactics that have gradually lost their potency over time. Therefore, I continually think of ways Dr. Cialdini’s principles of influence could be incorporated into referral marketing - in attempt to spice things up a little bit. After all, recent studies show that today people trust recommendations from friends and family seven times more than traditional advertising.


Today I am going to expand on Dr. Cialdini’s sixth principle of influence: scarcity. The idea behind this is that something is deemed more attractive when its availability is limited or when we stand to lose the opportunity to acquire it on favorable terms. In traditional marketing we see it daily with items offered in limited quantities or special offers that soon expire. Let’s not kid ourselves, it works. Not all the time, but the thought of losing an exclusive offer leads us to pull the emotional trigger more than you may realize.

As a business you can incorporate “the rule of the few” into your referral strategy with the help of your best clients. It starts by providing a unique offer that your current clients can give away to their friends and family. But here is the trick: it has to have exclusive value, and it must be for a limited time.

Exclusive value and limited time

For the offer to have value for your client to give away it must be exclusive to only one of their friends or family members. You want your client to feel like they are giving something special away - offering it out to all their buddies will belittle their social contribution. The offer must also have some actual value - such as a discount or extended service that they will not find elsewhere. If they can find the same coupon on your website it is not exclusive. Also, an offer for a free quote for a friend or family member is NOT a special offer. If you’re too frugal with the offer it will not be given away, let alone be redeemed by the referred individual. Finally, in honor of the principle of scarcity, the offer should have an expiration date. This will encourage the referred individual to take action.


Look back to look forward

Kelly Sharp is the owner of Heart of Iowa Market Place

Whether it's business or my favorite sport of running, we always hear about the benefits of consistency.

Quotes about consistency are everywhere. "Slow and steady wins the race," according to Aesop. Joe Paterno said, "You have to perform at a consistently higher level than others. That's the mark of a true professional." Jim Rohn says, "Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying the basic fundamentals." And there's even Doug Cooper's, “Variety may be the spice of life, but consistency pays the bills.”

Sometimes, though, consistency isn't such a virtue. Especially for specialty retailers.

Far too often, small business owners keep doing the same things over and over, never really stopping to see if there's a better way to do things.

After the busy holiday season I started to review which areas of operation at my business, the Heart of Iowa Market Place, took a great deal of my time and the staff's time. We asked: Is there a way to make things more efficient?

One area that was very labor intensive was our shipping operation. There's nothing better for a small retailer than to have a client with a large number of orders. Our challenge, of course, was that those large orders took a lot of time and could be susceptible to errors.

By talking to our shipping vendor, we were able to streamline the process and directly upload addresses. We saved time and money and increased accuracy in the process. We were also able to add value for clients by providing tracking numbers and shipping timelines. Without breaking away of our consistent routine and stopping to review our day-to-day operations, we never would've been able to implement these valuable strategies.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Invite people you trust to come in and look at your operations. Encourage input from your employees, customers, vendors and other business owners you know. And, take time to think about doing things in different and better ways.

Doing that can save you a lot of time and money.

Which brings me to a final quote: "If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten."

Stop doing what you've always done, and you may be pleasantly surprised at what you get.


Does anyone know my hosting information?

Katie Stocking is the owner of Happy Medium LLC.

Sometimes clients can be pretty predictable – most of them, actually. At Happy Medium, when we begin a website project for a client, one of the first pieces of information we ask for is their current hosting information (site, logins etc…) Pretty much every time, the answer from the client is “can I get back to you?” Aka… I have no idea and I don’t honestly even know where to begin to find out. It’s really simple to not know actually. To be honest, I couldn’t tell you much about the itsahappymedium.com site hosting information either. What I can tell you, though, is where our password sheet is, and I know the information is on there.

It is really important to keep your website login and your hosting information in a place where it is easily accessible for a lot of reasons. Hopefully you’re using that website login (or someone is) to log into your site often and keep it up to date. (yes, checking your site weekly is important!)

If you own a company, or are in any way responsible for your company's website, I would suggest filling out this form today and posting it somewhere visible to anyone who might need it. Otherwise, it will be the year 2017, you’ll be ready for a new website and you’ll be wondering where the heck that email from 2014 from Hostgator is with your hosting login information. When you realize you don’t have it, you’ll get to spend quite a bit of time on the phone with someone you don’t know trying to get to the bottom of this mess. Or, you could just print and fill this out, post it and get to go to a happy hour instead when the time comes.

Good luck! 

-- @interactivekate

Is it a square peg in a square hole?

Rob Smith is a principal at Architects Smith Metzger

“The old Plex did not know it was really a YMCA in disguise” is what my partner, Daryl Metzger, said about the downtown YMCA moving into the abandoned Polk County Convention Center. Name one building in the downtown core you could put tape on the floor and play a game of basketball! Repurposing the Plex as a YMCA is a great fit and very sustainable.

It got me thinking about other buildings in downtown and what would be a great fit. Sometimes in building renovation I have tried to put a square peg in a round hole which makes the effort less sustainable.

Many premiere buildings like the Equitable, Des Moines, and Younkers are being transformed into housing. Is that the best fit? While the first two have smaller windows and seemingly more adaptable to housing, it will be interesting to see how the Younkers building deals with those monumental windows.

Could the City garage on 5th between Court and Walnut be transformed into the year round farmers market you hear about? You could just walk past vendors as you go up the ramp. Enclosed and partially heated it could be an easy change. Or maybe the Brown Garage on Grand with its big south facing windows?

The Insurance Exchange Building (the one with the Travelers umbrella) has always been one of those class B buildings in the downtown core. How about a fitness center piggy backing on the YMCA across the street? Full of trainers, nutritionists, physical therapists, chiropractors, and natural food restaurants. 

Let me know what you think would be a great fit for buildings waiting to be born again.


Send your thoughts to rsmith@smithmetzer.com

In PR — make it personal

RosenDrew McLellan is the Top Dog at McLellan Marketing Group

I receive a lot of email pitches from people who want me to write about some product, service, app, or book on my blog.

I can’t even imagine what journalists and popular blogs like the Huffington Post must get.

Most of them get a form “thank you but no” email from me. They haven’t done their research, don’t know what I write about and many times — it’s a form letter that I know I received along with about 200 other marketing bloggers. Many times, they don’t even address me by name.

But every once in awhile, someone does it well. Emanuel Rosen, who I’ve never met in person but we’ve interacted for a few years in social media circles, has written a new book called Absolute Value. He sent me a message on Facebook about his book, asking if he could send me a copy.

When I received the book, I saw that Emanuel took the time to jot me a note on the inside, even referencing that he knew I lived in Iowa. Now I am not suggesting that I was the only person he sent a book to or even the only one to receive a personalized copy. I know better. But he did invest some time and effort — which makes me much more likely to notice or want to be helpful.

Usually when I get a book in the mail, I had no idea it was coming and there’s nothing but a promotional flier inside. So I don’t even know if the publisher or author sent it. I’m a fast reader but there’s no way I could read them all. So I have to choose.

Emanuel’s book went to the top of my pile because he bothered to make a personal connection and demonstrate that I wasn’t just the 150th person on some list. In fairness, it also went to the top of my pile because his earlier book, The Anatomy of Buzz, was a great read so I was confident that his new book would be as well.

Turns out, I was right. It was very thought-provoking and raised some serious questions about how the power of branding may be shifting, which is a topic that’s near and dear to my heart. I wrote a review (read it here) and encouraged my blog readers to check it out.

So let’s look at the recipe card for how Emanuel got the results he wanted, because they’re the same steps you should take if you’re trying to get the media’s attention.

  • He established the connection between us before he needed to ask for the review
  • He stayed in touch periodically to keep the connection open (we’d occasionally comment on each other’s FB posts etc)
  • When he wanted me to help him promote his book, he made a personal ask
  • He made it easy for me — he sent me a copy of his book
  • He let me know I wasn’t just a cog in the wheel by personalizing the signature in the book
  • When I sent him an email saying that I liked the book and was going to write about it, he was genuinely appreciative
  • No doubt eventually he will comment on the blog post or shoot me a thank you on FB (I just posted the review tonight, so I am guessing on this one, but I think it’s a pretty safe bet)
  • He will promote the blog post — giving me some exposure to his list of contacts

That, my friends, is how it should be done. It’s not complicated, but it is human to human, not PR machine to the masses. And being the guy on the receiving end — I can tell you, that’s a difference you can feel.


~ Drew McLellan, MMG's Top Dog

In PR, timing is everything

Claire Celsi is a public relations practitioner in West Des Moines, Iowa.

The news cycle is a tireless beast. There are countless media outlets looking for stories and content - 24 hours a day. I always recommend that clients tell their own stories by starting a blog and using their website as a self-publishing tool. But, there are times when it's Images-1appropriate and even necessary to reach out to the media and entice them to help out by telling a compelling story on your behalf.

Interaction with the media is like a graceful dance routine. Timing is everything! Getting pushy and over-eager is like stepping on your partner's toes. Sitting around the edge of the dance floor doesn't work either. No one will notice you unless you take a chance and get our there and dance.

When sharing news with the media, it's important to remember that the timing of your outreach is crucial to success. Be sure to follow these recommendations to have a better chance of getting noticed:

  1. Give enough advance notice: When publicizing an event or something that has a shelf life - like an application deadline - don't send it to the media one day ahead of time. Unless it's breaking news, editors need a little time to fit it in the right spot in their newspaper or newscast.
  2. Seasonality: If launching a new product tied to the weather or time of year, make sure your pitch is delivered to the media when it makes sense to talk about it. For example, if you have a new line of kids backpacks, start talking about it in July when parents are shopping for back-to-school purchases.
  3. Pay attention to the reporter's schedule. Sending a news release on Sunday or the day before a holiday almost gurantees that no one will be there to read it. Even the time of day can make a big difference.
  4. Be cognizant of breaking news or other big stories. Trying to pitch a reporter during the Iowa State Fair is an uphill climb. The reporters are either at the fair or on vacation, so don't expect to get a response.
  5. Stories are cyclical, but if that reporter just wrote a piece about the same subject two weeks ago, don't expect them to write about your news. Wait a few months or come back with a fresh angle.

Having a great story to tell is very important. But it won't matter if you botch the timing.

Networking tips and tricks - Tip 2: Find people’s stories

Danny Beyer is a sales executive at Kabel Business Services. He is a serial networker and often speaks about networking tips to groups in the community.

I had the opportunity to go through Dale Carnegie when I was working at Hy-Vee. Up until that class I had always found it difficult to engage with strangers and make small talk. In fact, I hated it. Discussing the weather or the latest news headline always seemed so shallow. The best lesson I received from that entire course was the fact that everyone has a story to tell. The easiest to way to connect with people – find that story.

This goes hand in hand with my last blog about asking others what they’re passionate about. The next step is to listen and actively engage in whatever turn the conversation takes. Once someone starts telling their story, they must become the most important person in the room, no matter who walks in the door. It is only by making them the center point that you will truly engage in the current conversation and ask the questions that will continue the story.

The thing that I’ve realized over the years is that everyone, yes everyone, has an interesting story to tell. It’s finding that story that makes someone a great conversationalist. We all have our favorite vacation memory, best meal, favorite drink, or intriguing hobby. We’re also really good at telling that story to whoever is willing to listen. By sharing this passion, we develop a deeper connection and better relationship that ultimately builds trust. 

The next time you’re at a networking event and really not in the mood to be there, try finding a person’s story. We all have a great story to tell, if only someone would listen.

-Danny Beyer

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