Polina Opelbaum

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    • Title:Community Services Specialist
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    Upcoming #ConnectChat: How to Build a Strong Network

    Thursday, August 14, 2014, 12:24 PM [#ConnectChat]
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    Now more than ever, it is important to know how to connect with professional contacts. The challenge lies in how you build these strong networks. Social media plays a huge role in people meeting each other and forming professional relationships. Yet, it is equally as important to know how to form professional relationships offline and without the use of technology. Lisa Chau, social media strategist and PR and marketing consultant, will explain what and how to use social media when forming connections. Chau will also discuss the importance of not focusing all your efforts on social media when networking.

    To participate in the chat, join us on Twitter on Tuesday, August 19, from 3 to 4:30 p.m. EDT and follow the #ConnectChat hashtag to follow the conversation between @Lisa03755, @ProfNet and the rest of the chat participants.

    If you cannot join us on the day of the chat, you can find a recap on ProfNet Connect the following day. We hope you will join us!

    About Lisa Chau

    Lisa Chau is an international marketing and public relations professional published in U.S. News & World Report (over 50 articles on business, entrepreneurship, leadership and technology), Huffington Post and Forbes. During the most recent Social Media Week New York, she presented and moderated a panel at Columbia University: How Technology and Social Media Are Changing the Business Landscape. Her TED-Ed lesson "Networking for the Networking Averse" garnered over 16,000 views during its first week live online.

    Chau is the founder of Alpha Vert, a private digital strategy consultancy specializing in content marketing and social media. Previously, she spent five years working for her alma mater Dartmouth College, as Assistant Director of alumni affairs and Assistant Director of public relations for the Tuck School of Business. Her teaching experience includes a summer course at MIT: Introduction to Social Media and Professional Networking.

    Chau has also guest lectured MBA and undergraduate courses in e-business strategy at Baruch College and The New School.  

    Whether you're a reporter, blogger, author or other content creator, ProfNet can help you with your search for expert sources. You can send a query to tens of thousands of experts and PR agents, search the more than 60,000 profiles on ProfNet Connect, or get timely experts and story ideas by email -- all for free! Need help getting started? Email us at profnet@profnet.com.

    Keeping up With the Mompreneur Movement

    Tuesday, August 12, 2014, 3:28 PM [The Q&A Team]
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    In our mini-blog series about mompreneurs, we introduced mompreneurs, discussed the marketing done by mompreneurs, and are now ending it with some final suggestions from six mompreneurs. These mompreneurs share their experiences and expertise on the best way to balance being a mom and business owner, the future of the mompreneur movement, as well as any final tips they want to share with moms running or looking to run a business.

    Having a Healthy Balance

    Being a mother is a full-time job in itself, but balancing a business and being a mother is even more challenging. As a mompreneur, it is essential to have a healthy balance between these two things. Diana Ennen, author/speaker/coach of Virtual Word Publishing, thinks that the most important thing for a mompreneur is to figure out what works best for her.

    Ennen also says, “Set boundaries and stick to them. Be clear in the beginning how you run your business and relay that to your clients. Of course, there might be those times where you need to pitch in under an emergency and clients will appreciate that. You just want to make sure it’s not the norm.”

    Lyss Stern, CEO/Founder of Divalysscious Moms, suggests that mompreneurs can continue to keep a healthy balance between motherhood and their business by always remembering to breathe. She always tell moms that they must at least take a ten minute "MTO" (Mommy Time Out) and do something just for themselves each and every day.

    Other ways to keep a healthy balance is to involve your children in the business. Annette Giacomazzi, founder and CEO of CastCoverZ! explains, “Older children, 10 and up, can actually help with the business. They can do some basic filing, vacuuming, dusting, etc., tasks. Responsible teenagers can help with packaging, social media, the website, even answering the phone. Involving them allows you to spend time with them and you're teaching them basic skills.”

    Future of Mompreneur Movement

    Giacomazzi believes: “The future is very bright for mompreneurs. As we move into a knowledge and virtual economy, workplaces will become less and less important to the success of an enterprise. Additionally, having a drop-shipper inventory, warehouse and ship your products has made having a large space almost unnecessary. As a result, mompreneurs can run multi-million dollar businesses out of their homes and/or garages.”

    “The future is just going to continue to get better and better. Mompreneurs have been around for a long time. However, the difference today is that they are so widely known and respected and it’s commonplace today to hire one,” states Ennen. “Plus, social media has just opened up so many doors and enabled them to connect with their potential clients and clients in a way that didn’t exist before.”

    Stern strongly agrees with Ennen. She says, “We are going to see more and more mompreneurs in the workforce. Moms want to be able to be with their children, raise them while also earning money and doing something they love. There's no stopping the mompreneur movement!”

    Alison Bernstein, president/founder of Suburban Jungle Realty Group, believes that larger companies looking to retain women as they head into motherhood will provide a more fluid stepping stone and try to retain the talent providing more flexibility and helping mompreneurs while taking an interest -- therefore providing mompreneurs greater resources and a faster kickstart.

    Yet, with all these positives for the future of mompreneurs there will also be more competition. Julia Min, founding partner of TWELVElittle, explains, “Moms will be even smarter and braver to run their own business, along with raising a family. But hopefully they will have more resources to help them be a great mom and as well as business owner.”

    Resources for Mompreneurs

    Stern recommends for mothers who are looking to become mompreneurs to talk to other already established mompreneurs. There is a huge community of mompreneurs out there already that would love to help new ones. Stern throws a big event every year called the Mom Moguls Breakfast where 300 moms attended to listen to other successful mompreneurs and for the moms in attendance to ask questions, talk to the panel and more.

    “Start a blog and join a networking group. A blog will help you create relationships virtually and a professional networking group can help you with face to face interaction. Great websites such as Meetup.com can help you connect with these types of organizations,” advices Lenya Shore, cofounder of Wallaroo Hat Company.

    Giacomazzi says, “Check out ‘The Mom Inventors Handbook’ by Tamara Monosoff. Monosoff packs a ton of useful resources, practical advice and tools in a 357-page book. It's a crash course with pedigree to getting a product to market.”

    For a site that offers lots of great tips and resources for the work-at-home moms, Ennen suggests www.cwahm.com.

    Final Tips

    “The best thing to do is focus on an industry you know well and find an inefficiency. It does not have to be necessarily something related to children or what you have recently been doing -- just looking at things and being able to say to yourself that something can be done better!” –Bernstein

    “Continue to grow and learn along the way. It’s important to keep up and it’s never been easier with so many offering free webinars and teleseminars and training.” –Ennen

    “Be prepared to make mistakes (including bad decisions) and have setbacks. It's just part of the process. If you know this reality of business you won't be surprised when they happen. You just deal with them and move on.” –Giacomazzi

    “No matter what, family is priority. As long as you keep that in mind, balance between work and family will be simpler.” – Min

    “Believe! It's such a simple and overused tip in life but honestly it's the only way you're going to make it. If you believe in your product, the way you are doing business and the people on your team, others around you will feel your confidence and want to help you succeed.” – Shore

    “Don't be afraid to ask for help.” –Stern

    Whether you're a reporter, blogger, author or other content creator, ProfNet can help you with your search for expert sources. You can send a query to tens of thousands of experts and PR agents, search the more than 60,000 profiles on ProfNet Connect, or get timely experts and story ideas by email -- all for free! Need help getting started? Email us at profnet@profnet.com.

    Picture via Cristynix.com

    Patient Engagement: The Future of Healthcare Communications

    Monday, August 4, 2014, 2:36 PM [Event Recaps]
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    Business Development Institute (BDI) hosted an event about how leading healthcare brands are planning for the future including integrating big data, digital, mobile and social for innovative communications that improve patient outcomes. The event was moderated by Steve Etzler, CEO/founder of BDI. Here are the seven panels and highlights from each panel:

    Presentation: Perspectives From a Hospitality Leader in Healthcare

    Presented by: Sven Gierlinger, VP, chief experience officer, North Store – LIJ Health System

    • Worked in hospitality until he was bedridden and then saw a huge difference between the two industries.
    • Patients are not customer-system centered.
    • At the hospital he felt like a person or thing of a specified kind that one has to deal with.
    • Patients want the highest quality care; a warm welcome; interact with competent and nice people; have a hassle-free experience;  have problems fixed quickly and effectively; and consistency.
    • One of the things Gierlinger is exploring is how to select the right employees, set them up for success, and continue to engage them?

    Interview: The Evolution of Patient Engagement

    Raymond Russo, vice president, Global Chest Pain Pathway, The Medicines Company interviewed Lee Davies, SVP health practice at Makovsky.

    • Russo: Healthcare industry is one of the most regulated industries in the world, as far as what and how things are said.
    • Russo: When they did direct-to-consumer advertising, they tried to educate, motivate and then activate.
    • Russo: Effective communication changes behavior. Communicate and motivate patient to change behavior, such as take better care of themselves, seek healthcare providers, etc. This is patient activation.
    • Davies: Social media has made patients not only recipients of messages but also communicators. They are activists, ambassadors, citizen journalists.
    • Russo: Thinks social media is great and innovative, but curious how next app is going to get patient activation and its impact. He thinks it is a huge challenge and still a lot of work to be done.

    Presentation: Talking About Research Result – Patients are Our Partners

    Presented by: Bill Silberg, director of communications, Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (views are his own and not necessarily those of PCORI)

    • PCORI is an independent research institute authorized by Congress through the Affordable Care Act.
    • Why PCORI? Research hasn’t answered many questions that patients face.
    • PCORI has three strategic goals: increase quantity, quality and timelessness of research information; speed the implementation and use of evidence; influence research funded by others.
    • PCORI partners with patients on their communications efforts by featuring patient and caregiver stories on their website.
    • Lesson learned: Sometimes you need to just “shut up and listen.”

    Presentation: Using Social Media in the Age of ACA and HIPAA Regulation s

    Presented by: Joanna Belbey, social media and compliance specialist, Actiance, Inc.

    • 1 in 3 Americans use the Internet to research medical conditions. (Pew Research)
    • Risk of using an Internet-connected device liked Google Glass is security and privacy of patient data risks.
    • If you employ technology, how do you protect it from leaking out? How do you protect frontline staff from themselves?
    • If you are going to allow frontline staff to use social media, then you need to create an appropriate policy. This may take six months.
    • Here’s an action plan for social media compliance: protect patient info; keep adequate records; create an appropriate use policy and train employees; create content strategy; supervise and monitor. 

    Presentation: Painting the Starting Line Together: How Industry and Patients Must Partner to Define Engagement Goals

    Presented by: Todd Kolm, senior vice president of strategy and insights at WEGO Health moderated a discussion with patient influencer MarlaJan DeFusco and Pfizer communications expert Carrie Goldstein.

    • DeFusco: Patients need to be educated and know what kind of medicines they are taking. It is important for them to know how the medicine will affect them.
    • Defusco: Take the time to educate healthcare and pharmaceutical professionals, and that would really help patients.
    • DeFusco: Patients with chronic illnesses get lost in the transition between childhood and adulthood.

    Presentation: Engaging Patients Online to Improve Market Insight

    Presented by: Lance Hill, CEO, Within3

    • Within3 is the leader in healthcare professional digital collaboration solutions.
    • For pharmaceutical companies, the need for insight from an expanding set of stakeholders is a reality.
    • The patient perspective needs to be deeply ingrained into any healthcare strategy.

    Presentation: Rite Aid Engages & Empowers Patients With Wellness Programs

    Presented by: Jocelyn Konrad, VP healthcare initiatives, Rite Aid

    • Rite Aid acquired Health Dialog and RediClinic as part of their wellness initiatives.
    • Rite Aid’s goal with its wellness programs is to improve outcomes and reduce costs.
    • It came up with the Health Alliance program to help interact with patients.
    • The Health Alliance program is getting rave reviews from patients and physicians.

    Whether you're a reporter, blogger, author or other content creator, ProfNet can help you with your search for expert sources. You can send a query to tens of thousands of experts and PR agents, search the more than 60,000 profiles on ProfNet Connect, or get timely experts and story ideas by email -- all for free! Need help getting started? Email us at profnet@profnet.com. 

    The Q&A Team: Marketing for Mompreneurs

    Tuesday, July 29, 2014, 3:58 PM [The Q&A Team]
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    In the last Q&A Team post, we explained the mompreneur movement. We also shared the stories of women who are both raising a family and running successful businesses. We are continuing on with this topic to discuss how mompreneurs can put together a powerful marketing plan, run their social media accounts, and learn about helpful marketing lessons.

    Here are seven mompreneurs who share their marketing strategies for their businesses:

    Marketing Plan

    Diana Ennen, author/speaker/coach of Virtual Word Publishing says, "A marketing plan is so essential to your business success, but many don’t take the time to write one. It doesn’t need to be pretty or formal; it just needs to be honest and ongoing."

    “It is important to get to know your customers -- not just current ones, but also new ones who you want to engage -- and to set goals to expand the demographic you want to reach. This is true for both traditional marketing and for social media marketing and is truly how you grow your audience and take your business to the next level,” explains Carla Schneider, CEO and founder of WubbaNub.

    Lyss Stern, CEO/Founder of Divalysscious Moms, adds that "mompreneurs need to see what their competition is like and try to make themselves as different as possible. You want to stand out. Don't be a follower, be a leader.”

    "Celebrities can also be a powerful marketing tool. Wallaroo has been on the heads of Halle Berry, Marcia Cross, Blake Lively and Jennifer Garner’s kids, among others," states Lenya Shore, cofounder of Wallaroo Hat Company.

    What if you’re struggling with coming up with a marketing plan?

    "If you have the budget, it is better to hire a separate marketing/PR team since they already have the experience and connections,” says Julia Min, founding partner of TWELVElittle.

    Social Media

    First thing mompreneurs should remember when they start using social media for their business is to not be intimidated, suggests Nicole Cardone, cofounder and CEO of Sorbabes Gourmet Sorbet.

    "When using social media, mompreneurs should speak in their own voice,” says Stern. “Be who you are, be real. People will see right through your social media posts if you are not authentic to your brand.”

    Other things to remember when posting to social media accounts is that great content and images are key, says Cardone.

    Ennen also reminds mompreneurs that social media is about relationship building. “Don’t just promote. I see so many and it’s sell, sell, sell. Yet, I haven’t connected with them enough to know why I would buy from them. It’s a huge turnoff, “says Ennen.

    Ennen issues another warning: “Be careful on social media. Remember that often times long before someone hires you, they are following you and seeing what you offer. If you are constantly complaining about too much work, not knowing how to do something, or lousy clients, guess what? They are going to run and fast!”

    Shore adds, "Do not post too often; if your customers feel like you’re bombarding them, you will lose credibility and authenticity.”

    When responding to customers, Annette Giacomazzi, founder and CEO of CastCoverZ!, recommends you have one person dedicated to following up with the customers so the tone is consistent. If you’re a one-person shop, which Giacomazzi was for a long time, then respond only 1-3 times per day vs. looking at it whenever it “dings.” Otherwise, you’ll get distracted, quickly. 

    Marketing Campaigns

    Min says, “We had great success with giveaways. It really engages the followers because they post about the TWELVElittle diaper bags, talk about them amongst their friends and show desire to win our bags. We noticed a huge increase in our followers and activity in our own website.”

    For Ennen, she believes, “Probably some of my best marketing campaigns were when I took one of my best articles, developed a pitch and then sent it out to reporters, blog sites, etc., who might be interested. It landed me quite a bit of press and also resulted in clients and sales. Why it worked was because it was an article that was truly of interest and I sent it to the right places.”

    Giacomazzi uses both online and offline campaigns. Online, she uses Google AdWords, Bing, product ads on major marketplaces (Amazon, Ebay, etc.), retargeting ads and Facebook boosts. She explains that it takes a very focused, strategic and concentrated effort to get a return on your investment. Parameters change every six months so you really need to stay on top of it or you are left in the dust. 

    “Offline marketing campaigns,” explains Giacomazzi, “generate amazing results using a very clever, albeit traditional, die-cut postcard in the shape of an arm in a cast or a foot in a boot that is specifically targeted to specialty orthopedic surgeons.”

    For Shore, the campaign for their Christine Collection got them a lot of good feedback. This line of head scarves and turbans is aimed at women who have lost their hair due to a medical condition or treatment such as chemotherapy.

    Shore says about the Christine Collection, “Empowering women about feeling great without their hair wasn’t all we aimed to do though, but also make it known to outsiders that women can be beautiful without their hair.”

    Final Marketing Lessons

    Shore thinks, “Marketing is about having a balance between creating awareness, making your product newsworthy and involving your target consumers in a way that makes them trust your brand. Form relationships with your customers that are more like friendships rather than business partnerships.”

    Giacomazzi adds, “Think like a customer. What do they want to know? Share content they would find helpful and interesting. Regardless of your online or offline efforts, you must stay fresh and relevant or you’ll be playing catch-up.”

    “Be consistent. That’s one of the biggest mistakes I see. Businesses go full steam ahead for a few weeks and then disappear for a few months and then go at it again,” cautions Ennen. “Some repeat this time and time again and what happens then is the next time you say, ‘I’m back.’ No one cares.”

    Last but not least, “Do what is right for your brand. It is so easy to compare yourself with other successful companies and follow their exact path. But what works for them may not always work for you,” advices Min.

    Whether you're a reporter, blogger, author or other content creator, ProfNet can help you with your search for expert sources. You can send a query to tens of thousands of experts and PR agents, search the more than 60,000 profiles on ProfNet Connect, or get timely experts and story ideas by email -- all for free! Need help getting started? Email us at profnet@profnet.com.

    Picture via Pinterest.com/melaniekissell/

    Taking Your Mobile Business Into the Fast Lane

    Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 4:29 PM [Event Recaps]
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    Last Thursday, Social Media Club NYC hosted an event to talk about mobile businesses. The three panelists discussed why they started a mobile business, challenges they have encountered, as well as their marketing and social media strategies. The attendees also joined the conversation to share their expertise and insights on the topic. The three panelists included:

    Why did you decide to get into the mobile business industry?

    Green-Ingram: I was a bus operator at the time and a friend called me and told me to look into mobile businesses. I had a brick-and-mortar that lasted for nine months, so I thought it was a great idea. I Googled to learn more about it, but nothing was really popping up. I went to the law department in NY to find out the law behind it and they said they weren’t sure. They told me to try it and let them know how it works out. I went and bought a truck, gutted it out, and the truck was born.

    After, I didn’t know what to do and decided to go to Harlem, because I drove the bus up and down in Harlem and saw fashion. I didn’t really think it would be a big deal or get the response it did. At first people were skeptical, but I would tell them to step inside and take a look -- it's free to look. People then started coming in by word of mouth. After a piece was written about me, the word about my truck really spread.

    Mammolito: Back when HIV was a huge issue in the city, they decided to start the mobile clinic. They would park it around Chelsea and would go into a lot of areas in Brooklyn where rates were the highest. Today the mobile clinic travels into neighborhoods where people may not have access to healthcare or may just want a quick, free test and not need to worry about traveling to a hospital or center.

    Di Mille: After being involved in the advertising industry -- specifically high-end print -- for 25 years, many things had changed. My life partner and business partner at that time was also out of work. We had a substantial amount of money to start a business, and we saw a trend going around the city. We would surreptitiously stand in front of trucks and watch what they did. What I later did was re-invent the business and turn it into an event and marketing company. It’s my passion and it's what I enjoy doing.

    Why a mobile business vs. a brick-and-mortar business?

    Green-Ingram: The rent was just too high when I had a brick-and-mortar.

    Di Mille: It exposes you to many more people than if you were in one set location. You do have to pay rent with the truck, such as fines every single day.

    When you started your mobile business, what challenges did you encounter?

    Di Mille: The third day out, we parked across the street from The Plaza Hotel and within two minutes a national ice cream franchise truck approached us about being in their spot. Then within our first month, we were selling brownies, cookies and croissants, and that was a major threat to The Halal Guys who were selling shish-kebabs and all that. What they would do early on when we parked the first couple of weeks is they would park their hot dog carts in front of our truck and burn things, which would go into our truck. Fortunately, we had a photographer come out to feature a story on us and caught all this, and an article was written. This was a great thing to happen to us. We have also had problems with brick-and-mortars, where they called Hazmat and the bomb squad on us.

    Mammolito: For us, it is about limited space, such as labs and limited refrigeration. Getting parking permits is also a complete nightmare and it varies by borough.

    With a healthcare truck, did you have any challenges getting people to come in?

    Mammolito: It isn’t as big of an issue as you would think. When we have press or an event, then people are less likely to come in, because they are worried about privacy. We do want the media coverage, but we don’t want to scare people away.

    How do you let people know where you are?

    Mammolito: We have a set weekly schedule that goes out every week on Twitter, Facebook, and on our website. For events, we market it through social media and get it in event calendars. We have a small budget, so we have done some guerilla marketing.

    Di Mille: Social media plays a big role. We tweet about events and have some serial followers. If we go to four locations in a day, those people will be in all four locations. We build equity in our brands. When we do a fully-branded truck or company, our name is very prevalent and it benefits the client, because there is a lot of equity in our brand, especially in NY where people know Sweetery. Ten people come down from their building and let another 25 people know the Sweetery truck is outside giving out free cupcakes, and then those people come down too. It becomes viral.

    Since your clients want to target a specific demographic, what do you do?

    Di Mille: You can’t fine-tune too much, but you can definitely target certain areas. For example, Maker’s Mark is a client of ours, but we can’t give it out on the street. What we can do is bake with it or infuse it in ice cream. Then we go to the food editors at food magazines and park outside. We have relationships with some of these people, so we will tweet at them and get them to come down. Then the food editors will write about what an amazing cupcake they just had that was made with Maker’s Mark. This is invaluable for the brand.

    How is social media part of your marketing plan? What kind of social media accounts do you have?

    Green-Ingram: I have a Twitter, Facebook and Instagram account. I pay a lot of attention to Instagram. When my customers come onto the truck, I ask them what social media they use, and the majority of them say Instagram. I then give them little Instagram cards. They love the cards and it really catches their attention. I use the cards as my marketing tool. Some things that I post on Instagram, I try to send to my Facebook and Twitter page, but I am having an issue building a following on Facebook. I am not reaching a lot of people with my posts.

    Gary Nix: Organic reach on Facebook is at an all-time low. Big agencies are going through it as well too.

    Howard Greenstein: My co-faculty at NYU found that when you do a promoted post every several posts, the other posts tend to draft off of those and get more views. By spending a little bit of money, you can get the additional outreach and views. There is no more free exposure.

    Cecilia Pineda: If you see your Facebook engagement is not as effective as you would like it to be, but Instagram is working for you, then you should focus your energy on Instagram. Also Instagram is perfect for your business, as well as Tumblr and Pinterest.

    Mammolito: Our main focus is Facebook. I have been there for a year and a half, and it has grown from 300 to close to 6,000 followers. Most of the stuff we post is about exercise, healthy well-being, stress relief, and health recipes. That is what people are interested in and it's easy to do. We can post pictures and link it back to our site. We  do struggle with getting those people who engage with us on Facebook into our centers, because I am not sure of who those people are.

    Can you share any social media campaigns that went well and a campaign that didn't go as planned?

    Green-Ingram: I recently started a YouTube channel, so I created an event on Facebook for my YouTube launch. It was a red-carpet event for people to view my first video on YouTube, and I hired a videographer for Instagram. Not many people attended the event from the Facebook, but it was packed with people from Instagram. People were standing outside to view the YouTube video. The video features a few items that I take off the truck and pair together. It is a way to feature the items of the week.

    What lessons/tips can you share with those looking to start a mobile business?

    Di Mille: If you're interested in a mobile food business then you should be ready to work 19 hours a day -- and I really don’t think it pays off. It is a very cutthroat business. It is a street scene and you have to act accordingly. Otherwise, you need to be unique, show your individuality and shine brightly. Mobile businesses also give you the ability to move around. There are a lot of great attributes in being involved in the mobile business industry.

    Mammolito: Select your location wisely. Do some serious research.

    Green-Ingram: I would say to definitely open up a mobile business. I enjoy it, love it, and it’s my passion. It’s a lot of hard work, but I would do it all over again.

    Whether you're a reporter, blogger, author or other content creator, ProfNet can help you with your search for expert sources. You can send a query to tens of thousands of experts and PR agents, search the more than 60,000 profiles on ProfNet Connect, or get timely experts and story ideas by email -- all for free! Need help getting started? Email us at profnet@profnet.com.

    The Q&A Team: The Business of a Mompreneur

    Tuesday, July 15, 2014, 4:04 PM [The Q&A Team]
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    You may have heard of entrepreneurs, but what about another growing movement called mompreneurs? I decided to explore this movement by speaking with six mompreneurs who explained the definition of a mompreneur as well as how they got into the business.

    I will be writing a small series of blog posts on this topic, so stay tuned for the next The Q&A Team post!

    What is a Mompreneur

    Lenya Shore, cofounder of Wallaroo Hat Company, defines a mompreneur as a woman who is balancing business ownership and motherhood, and strikes a strategic balance between the most important aspects of both.

    Julia Min, founding partner of TWELVElittle, adds, “As a mom and business owner, you must be able to balance meeting demands for work and family very efficiently. This may require flexible work hours since projects may be left incomplete, and work can be completed in a variety of locations: from the office to the playroom. Most importantly, a true mompreneur knows to keep work stress separate from family time, and she makes sure her family and children are always the priority.”

    Annette Giacomazzi, founder and CEO of CastCoverZ!, agrees that being a mompreneur means recognizing that being a mom takes precedence, even over spreadsheets. Her favorite benefit is involving the entire family in the endeavor.

    For those that haven’t head of the mompreneur movement, Lyss Stern, CEO/founder of Divalysscious Moms, says, “It is growing by leaps and bounds in the U.S. as mothers try to find ways to make money, express their creativity or business acumen and also to parent their children.”

    Why Be a Mompreneur

    Jessica Bern, principal at Two Funny Brains, explains, “Being an entrepreneur is all consuming, and although I did have the choice of what my hours were, I felt like I never, ever stopped working. Therefore, it didn't provide me with more 'kid time.'”

    For Diana Ennen, author/speaker/coach of Virtual Word Publishing, in addition to getting to spend more time with your family, being a mompreneur gives you the freedom to make the kind of money you deserve with your skills.

    “My last straw with employment before I went out on my own was when I got a 25 cent raise. I was expecting at least a $15.00/hour raise and was promised as much. Needless to say, that was it. Plus, I was really good at what I did and knew those strengths would prove beneficial. I wanted to partner with others who might need my services,” says Ennen.

    What other benefits are there to being a mompreneur?

    Min believes, “Knowing that your product or business helps fellow moms is one of the most rewarding reasons to become a mompreneur. There is nothing better than watching an idea come to life, especially one that allows all moms to enjoy their motherhood journey in style.”

    How to Become a Mompreneur

    Bern thinks that often times, like most ideas, deciding on a business idea springs from the need to do something, and realizing that there is a void in the market to help accomplish whatever that need may be.

    Read how these women decided on their business:

    Ennen: “I had been a secretary for a medical testing office and was running the entire show. Once I got a lousy raise and my son was born, I knew there had to be people who would need help with word processing, typing, legal transcription, medical transcription, etc. Back then it wasn’t as accepted as it is today and many said, 'You can’t do it.' I loved to prove them wrong. Today, the word processing industry has changed and morphed into the virtual assistant industry and most businesses use virtual assistants. I was honored to be able to help so many get started. The industry is thriving.”

    Bern: “I was able to utilize my knowledge of production, humor, writing, video editing and the world of women 25-49, especially as it pertained to their behavior online and mobile, and create something that I felt was sorely needed and that was, memorable, funny, content that reflected the women we are today. My other reason was to provide work for women in Hollywood who work behind the scenes, such as directors, DP's, crew members, composers, etc. The women in these particular fields are hugely underrepresented and I wanted to be a place where they could go work, get paid and beef up their resumes/reels."

    Giacomazzi: "My daughter, Elli, was 10 when she broke her 6th bone. Feeling betrayed by her body, once again, I did what any mother would do: try to make her feel better. So, I pulled out my trusty, all-metal parts sewing machine and whipped up a cover and a matching sling, then another set and another. CastCoverz! was born. Speed ahead 5+ years and we now have 21 Made-in-the-USA branded lines, distribute another four, bought out our designer colored crutch manufacturer, have 5 employees, and we sell world-wide."

    Min: “We were at that age where most of our friends were married and thinking of having kids or were already pregnant. Conversations about babies and motherhood were common, and having fashion-forward friends, one of their biggest fears was all of the possible changes that could happen to their style. Since Jen (cofounder) and I were both working in the fashion handbag industry in NYC, we naturally thought of which handbags moms were carrying after having kids. When we realized their options were extremely limited, we were excited to launch TWELVElittle.”

    Shore: “Stephanie (cofounder) and I were traveling in Australia when we learned that sun protective textiles were the best kept beauty secret down under. Aside from identifying a niche for more fashionable, yet functional sun protective hats for women, I couldn’t escape my personal passion and interest in the category. I am extremely fair-skinned and have always been concerned about skin cancer. This combined with the lack of attractive sun hats on the market drew me towards the hat business.”

    Stern: “I became a mompreneur once my first son was born ten years ago. I was on maternity leave and had gone to a 'New Mother's Luncheon' on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. As I was walking home from that lunch a light bulb went off in my head and something told me that I had to start my own chic, sophisticated company for moms A Divalysscious Mom is a woman who feels even sexier, stronger and more gorgeous after she has a baby; a woman who understands that loving your child doesn’t mean losing yourself, and that being a mom is the most fabulous time of your life. This is my motto for myself and I feel that message is conveyed by the name I chose for my business.”

    Whether you're a reporter, blogger, author or other content creator, ProfNet can help you with your search for expert sources. You can send a query to tens of thousands of experts and PR agents, search the more than 60,000 profiles on ProfNet Connect, or get timely experts and story ideas by email -- all for free! Need help getting started? Email us at profnet@profnet.com.

    Picture via Belevation.com

    The Q&A Team: Breaking Down Event Sponsorships

    Tuesday, July 1, 2014, 3:16 PM [The Q&A Team]
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    Many businesses partner up with a nonprofit for an event sponsorship. There are benefits to both the business and nonprofit in this partnership. Yet, before the partnership is made, there are various challenges that arise. This is why Lemuel White and Mickey Lukens founded SponsorMatch (the website will be launching soon here). Their platform saves businesses and nonprofits time and money by easily connecting them to one another.

    SponsorMatch's cofounder Lukens answered questions about event sponsorships, as well as the concept behind SponsorMatch:

    How can businesses benefit from event sponsorships?

    In advertising, businesses want to reach customers with the most positive impact possible with respect to cost. Event sponsorships allow businesses of all sizes to control the experience with a customer in such a way that builds a lasting branded impression over other modes of advertising such as television or paid ads online.

    How can a business decide what event sponsorship will work best for them?

    Details of any given event vary greatly. Marketing managers must ask themselves if the particular aspect of the event (of wholes event) they wish to sponsor reinforces the right experience for their target customer and will produce the greatest return on investment.

    Is there a suggested limit on how many event sponsorships a business can have?

    Not at all. However, as with any advertising effort, the long-term return of investment must be greater than the cost of sponsorship.

    Once businesses decide on an event sponsorship, how do they promote it? Do they use social media, email campaigns, etc.?

    Depending on the business, event being sponsored, and customer being reached, promoting in a diversified combination of mediums and digital platforms is usually an effective strategy. For example, social media (when part of a strategy) can be a particularly effective and low cost way of promoting an event. 

    What if a business chooses an event sponsorship that ends up being a conflict of interest, how do they deal with the situation?

    These conflicts are easily prevented with a thorough investigation of the proposed sponsorship and background of the organization. However, if an issue arises that cannot be prevented, businesses should work with the organization to minimize any issue associated with the conflict that might impact the customer. In extreme cases, company leadership should notify customers acknowledging the issue and respond accordingly to keep from alienating trust.

    Why are event sponsorships important for nonprofits?

    The ultimate purpose of a nonprofit is to solve a particular problem in the world. Events are a valuable way for nonprofits to raise money as well as forming strong bonds with their donor base. However, event space, refreshment, tables, A/V etc., are costly. Sponsorship allows nonprofits to minimize cost allowing them to put the maximum amount of money raised towards their cause.

    What is the typical process for nonprofits to find sponsorships for their event? What are the challenges?

    With the exception of very large nonprofits, most small to medium nonprofits spend hours cold calling businesses in hopes of forming a partnership. The entire process is very informal and problematic for nonprofits where they must locate marketing decision makers, pitch their event and levels of sponsorship, and convince the business that their investment would benefit their target consumer. A big challenge to nonprofits is being able to communicate to businesses with the right information that will lead to a partnership. Nonprofits must come prepared with detailed information on their members from where they live, how much do they make, and other demographics.  

    Can you explain how SponsorMatch connects businesses with nonprofits?

    SponsorMatch works by matching a nonprofits event needs to the goals of businesses. With SponsorMatch, nonprofits and businesses are able to save time and money by being able to see exactly what each side is looking for and only reach out when those needs match. The platform will even notify both nonprofits and businesses automatically if it believes there’s a possible match. It’s like a dating website for event sponsorship for social good.

    What made you come up with the concept behind SponsorMatch?

    Our cofounder and CEO Lemuel White had worked with several small nonprofits in California. During that time he struggled with the same challenges we aim to solve with SponsorMatch. Our visions is that we wanted to use technology to help make the world a better place, and we believe giving nonprofits the resources to do that is the solution.

    How does SponsorMatch allow nonprofits to organize the different sponsorships they get?

    Nonprofits will be able to easily divide their event into levels of sponsorship. Businesses will be able to see all the details of any given event and select what level they are willing to support, at what cost, and what exposure they will receive. There will be messaging built into the platform at launch with the ability to share media and documents with marketing managers and event organizers. SponsorMatch allows both the nonprofit and business to hold all of their partnership assets, communication, and details all in one place.

    How do you see event sponsorships changing for nonprofits and businesses in the future?

    I believe technology has allowed the individual to be more informed about the businesses they purchase from and customers are placing the social impact of those businesses at the forefront. As this continues, businesses will incorporate more socially good partnerships to help communities and improve their brand. Technology will also allow nonprofits to change not only the way sponsorships are done, but also how members are found, donors are retained, and visions are fulfilled on a worldwide scale.

    Whether you're a reporter, blogger, author or other content creator, ProfNet can help you with your search for expert sources. You can send a query to tens of thousands of experts and PR agents, search the more than 60,000 profiles on ProfNet Connect, or get timely experts and story ideas by email -- all for free! Need help getting started? Email us at profnet@profnet.com.

    The Ins and Outs of Op-Ed Writing

    Wednesday, June 25, 2014, 3:36 PM [#ConnectChat]
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    Op-ed pieces have their own structure, length, voice, etc. Knowing how to merge your opinion with factual information is an important part of writing your op-ed piece and attracting readers to your story. Jennifer Finney Boylan, author, speaker, and writer for New York Times Opinion joined our last #ConnectChat to discuss op-eds. Boylan not only shared how she writes op-ed pieces and makes them into compelling stories, but also talked about how to pitch them to major publications. Here is a recap of the chat:

    Can you please tell us how you got involved in op-ed writing?

    I was a novelist for years then became a memoirist. As a man I wrote fiction. As a woman I wrote nonfiction. Symbolic? An editor at The New York Times wrote me one Halloween and asked me to write about growing up in a haunted house. So my first op-ed for NYT Opinion was the result of an editor reaching out to me. After that I started writing for the NYT "political postcard" series in election 08.

    How I went from the one-shot column that Halloween to a regular political "postcard" series is a good story. Ready? I'd had lunch with the editor in NY. I was a little tipsy. Later, I saw the Times building and thought, “O, I should stop in. They love me!” So he had me go up to the newsroom. Next thing I know, he and others were sitting around at a table, asking me, "What do you got?" I didn't really have anything. I just wanted to say, “Hi!” But suddenly I realized they thought I was there to pitch. So, thinking quickly, I pitched a half-baked idea about two general stores in my hometown-- one Republican, one Democratic. They sent me on my way, and I didn't hear anything back. And thought, “Oh, I just made a drunken fool of myself.” Three months later, the phone rings. It's a NYT editor. He says, “That thing about the general stores? Write it. Need it by tomorrow.” So I scrambled and wrote it in a day. That's how I got the gig.

    Moral of the story, freelancers: Assume everyone loves you, and waltz into NYT when drunk. No, actually: moral is: You never know when they'll want you, so don't lose heart. In my case, another columnist's work wasn't any good, so they needed a filler, and that's when they remembered me.

    How does an op-ed piece differ from another form of nonfiction writing?

    An op-ed piece differs from other nonfiction in that it really is about opinion. I'm a storyteller, so this is hard. What I mean is, as a novelist (or a memoirist), the story is the opinion. I hate to spell it out. Show don't tell, and all that. But in opinion writing, they want the story, but also the opinion, the "telling." At a certain point you have to tell the moral, make your opinion clear. Generally, you can't just tell the story, and leave it at that -- which is what my instinct is. So an op-ed is a particular kind of story that also advocates a “position.” And that position has to be backed up by fact and research, as well as your own charming voice.

    When writing an op-ed where should one draw the line on opinions if they work in a client services-based industry?

    Do know that your opinions become public, and will become associated with you. For instance, I'm the national co-chair of the board of directors of GLAAD, and I have to be careful. People will think that my opinions are GLAAD’s opinions if I write about LGBT issues. As a writer, I don't draw lines -- I want to write about everything! As a public figure, I have to be careful not to damage the brand of the organization. Bottom line is, I try to be very careful, and don't write when I'll jeopardize the organization.

    What's your philosophy on structure for nonfiction and op-ed pieces?

    I always try to start with a story, preferably humorous. Then I try to "show" how the story connects to an issue in the news, or of note. And then I try to wrap up by circling back to the joke again, preferably in a new way. That's how I do it, but there are other methods. I like leading with the story that pulls reader in.

    What is the typical length of an op-ed piece?

    On op-ed ideal length: NYT likes 800 words for standard column, like the regulars: Brooks, Collins, Bruni, etc. If I'm pitching a piece at them, I'll generally aim for 800 words, especially in the summer. Why summer, you ask? Because the regular NYT columnists take vacations in the summer, so they’re always looking for people to fill. That's how I became a regular after the "postcard" series -- I became a designated summer filler -- columnist “substitute teacher.”

    If I'm pitching an original piece, I go as long as 1,200 words. I send to editor with note, "This is long; I can cut." Because now I have a relationship with an editor, and I know she will read my work. They allow Sunday columns to go long too, because there's more space in the Sunday Review. But if you're trying to be the Best Little Freelancer In All The World, aim for 800 words.

    Is it important to add factual information to your op-ed, such as statistics, studies, etc.?

    The most important thing is having a relationship with an editor you trust. The editors at NYT Opinion really are just about the best in the world. They always make my work better. A good editor can make you see your work the way you would have seen if your eyes were clear. You have to back your opinion up with facts, yes. But facts are easy. Story is hard. That's the art of the op-ed essay. You're presenting facts and stats, but you're trying to shape an opinion. And it's the story you tell with those facts that is what makes the column sing, not the facts themselves. Look at Paul Krugman. He tells economic facts, yes. But he makes those stats into a compelling, moving story. And believe me, I don't generally think of economists as compelling and moving. But he is. For me, the story generally comes first, though. Then I try to do the research.

    What are some ways writers can grab readers’ attention with their op-ed headline?

    Remember that writers don't choose their headlines, almost ever. So whatever headline you put on your submitted piece, will almost always get changed. A lot of the time they won't consult you about the headline, in fact. This is an ancient writer/editor thing. Heads get chosen as a result of space as much as anything else, and positioning. The art of writing a good headline is itself an amazing practice. I'm not any good at this, either -- although occasionally I have flashes. My recent piece in the NYT, "Home is Where the Horses Are" was originally titled “Why the Long Face." Still, you need to have a headline on your piece when you submit it. That helps the editor know what you're up to. This is especially true if your piece is a “gimmick” piece, like Safire's old "Reading Gorbachev's Mind" columns. To sum up: Compose a headline. But this is really something you do for the editor, not for your reader.

    What type of language should writers use in their op-ed piece to help move/capture their readers?

    Each writer has his or her own style, of course. Gail Collins has mastered a casual, comic tone. David Brooks is more academic. Your best bet-- hate to say it-- is to be yourself. People can tell if you're faking it. My own regret is that I can't be quite as funny as I'd like to be in NYT Opinion. Collins is the grand master of funny-but-serious on the page. I think I am funnier in person than on the page, but maybe that's a good thing. I bet you could read a "typical" column by one of the Times' dozen or so regulars and know within a graph who wrote it.

    Do you help others write a compelling op-ed?

    I have helped others write op-eds sometimes, but I get frustrated. I'm a better writer than editor.

    What is the first thing you do before you sit down to write a first draft?

    Step one is, asking: What am I passionate about? Step two is, asking: Do I know a story that'd help me get into the subject? Let's say I want to write about cows. Maybe there's a news story about cows making chocolate milk. So I'd think, “Hm, chocolate milk.” I'd do a little research. Is milk good for you? What causes lactose intolerance? I'd sketch all that out. Then I'd think, “What stories do I know about chocolate milk?” Then I'm remembering this kid who had chocolate milk come out his nose in 1965, Richie Barnhart. Then I sit down to write. Open with the Richie Barnhart story. Then transitional graph: "I was thinking about this recently when I heard that genetically modified cows now produce chocolate milk." Then I go to the research on lactose intolerance, on how much milk kids drink. Then end by circling back to Riche Barnhart. Who, in the ideal world, would now own a dairy farm. Sometimes, it's the reverse: I'll have a good story for an opening, and look to see what it connects to.

    What's a time you couldn't get an op-ed to stick? What challenges did you face?

    I write a lot of duds, to be honest. Sometimes I can save them with a re-write. Another miracle of a good editor: she can see what's buried in the column, and help you bring it out. If the NYT doesn't take a piece of mine after all that, often I'll just abandon it, assume it's a dud. Every once in a while I send it to another paper, but that makes me feel “easy.” And when all else fails, I send it to the Huffington Post. Another word for this is “flushing it down the toilet.”

    How do writers decide which publications they should pitch their op-ed pieces to?

    Where to pitch: Well, the NYT is the best in the world, period. After that, the Washington Post and the LA Times. If your story has a strong connection to a place, though, go to the paper in that town. You can also build a portfolio of clips starting small and going more national. My first published column was for the Middletown Press, in Connecticut about graduating from that town's Wesleyan University. But given the wired world, I don't know that “building a portfolio” happens anymore. If it's your first story, it's good if you have credentials. Writing about kids? It helps if you're a parent, for instance.

    How important is timing when pitching an op-ed piece to a publication?

    Timing is everything in pitching. As is a hook. Editors aren't interested in your random genius. So know that, the Monday before Father’s Day, editors will have seven jillion pieces about daddies. So if you're going to write a Father's Day piece, write it in May, and send it in early. I had a piece ready to go for the Times this spring when I heard the news about the new SAT on the radio. I wrote my editor, “Hold the other piece, I'm writing an SAT thing.” Wrote it that night and sent it in next morning. It ran the day after. If I'd waited two days, the editor would have been swamped in SAT pieces.

    Well, editors are always swamped, especially at the Times. They leave their desks and an hour later, 1,000 pieces have come in. Other times, you have to search for the hook. I had a piece about Winnie the Pooh they took in an April, but no hook. We waited until Christmas Eve, which was the 84th anniversary of first Pooh story in London Telegraph. It took that long. Anniversaries can always provide great hooks. But it's also a cliché, especially now with 50th anniversary of the 1960s. Finding a good hook is also an art. Otherwise, sometimes you have to wait for the news cycle to give you your lede.

    Do you have any other tips for writers looking to pitch their pieces to NYT or other major publications?

    This sounds all Internet-ish: This one weird old trick. Ready? In addition to attaching your piece as an email to the editor, paste it in as text as well. That way the editor doesn't have to open your word document to read the piece. It's right there and your lede is already wooing them. Also, seriously: Use 18 point type in the email paste. Make it big. Editors are not in their 20s. Have pity. Also, I know we're getting kinky now, but use a serif font, palatino or, say, times. Don't use sans-serif font. Ever.

    What suggestions do you have on cultivating a relationship with an editor?

    Be respectful. Don't be too annoying. If they encourage you, keep conversing. Be pleasant on email, but brief. Again, have pity on overworked editors. If they say no, accept that no means no. But if they're nice with the reject, send them something else, although not right away.

    What are the benefits for writers in writing op-ed pieces?

    Well, the benefits of being in the NYT Opinion are that I'm in the company of some of the best writers in the world. When I have a piece in the Times, I feel, for a day, like one of the most influential writers in the world. Passionate email pours in from across the globe. People arguing that I'm wrong, or that they love me. There are very few things in a writers' life as powerful as that -- instantly feeling the effect of one's work. Then, the next day: it's back to being a loser. The op-ed form is hard. It looks easy, but it's such a high-wire act. I'm humbled to be included there, among my heroes.

    I should plug here the new NYT Opinion app for iPhone; you can subscribe just to the page and read the columns each day. It's a lovely app, and delivers what many people like best about the NYT, which is NYT Opinion. I wouldn't be a writer if I didn't wrap up by plugging my work. So, look for my memoir, “Stuck in the Middle with You,” in paper. Also, I wrote the intro for the new, “Trans Bodies/Trans Selves.” It’s 600+ pages of resources, by and for trans people. I have a new novella -- my first fiction about a trans person, “I’ll Give You Something to Cry About,” from Shebooks. And finally, I think I have an op-ed or two coming in the next couple of weeks at NYT Opinion.

    Whether you're a reporter, blogger, author or other content creator, ProfNet can help you with your search for expert sources. You can send a query to tens of thousands of experts and PR agents, search the more than 60,000 profiles on ProfNet Connect, or get timely experts and story ideas by email -- all for free! Need help getting started? Email us at profnet@profnet.com.

    Upcoming #ConnectChat: The Ins and Outs of Op-Ed Writing

    Thursday, June 19, 2014, 3:10 PM [#ConnectChat]
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    If you haven't yet written an op-ed piece but are interested in voicing your opinion about a particular topic, you will want to join our next #ConnectChat with Jennifer Finney Boylan, author and op-ed writer for The New York Times. Finney will discuss tips for op-ed writing, the benefits of op-ed writing, how to pitch your pieces to publications, and much more. You'll walk away ready to get started on your first op-ed piece.

    To participate in the chat, join us on Twitter on Tuesday, June 24, from 3 to 4:30 p.m. EDT and follow the #ConnectChat hashtag to follow the conversation between @JennyBoylan, @ProfNet and the rest of the chat participants.

    If you cannot join us on the day of the chat, you can find a recap on ProfNet Connect the following day. We hope you will join us!

    About Jennifer Finney Boylan

    Jennifer Finney Boylan is the author of thirteen books. Her 2003 memoir, She's Not There: a Life in Two Genders (Broadway/Doubleday/Random House) was the first bestselling work by a transgender American. A novelist, memoirist, and short story writer, she is also a nationally known advocate for civil rights. Boylan has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show on four occasions; Live with Larry King twice; the Today Show, the Barbara Walters Special, NPR's Marketplace and Talk of the Nation; she has also been the subject of documentaries on CBS News' 48 Hours and The History Channel. She is a contributing opinion writer for the Op-Ed page of The New York Times. Her latest project is the memoir, Stuck in the Middle with You: Parenthood in Three Genders, published by Random House.

    Boylan is the Anna Quindlen Writer in Residence at Barnard College of Columbia University. As an advocate for transgender equality she has given addresses at the National Press Club, been the keynote or plenary speaker at gender conventions nationwide, and spoken on hundreds of college campuses including Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Columbia, Barnard, Wesleyan, Amherst, Duke and Dartmouth.

    Whether you're a reporter, blogger, author or other content creator, ProfNet can help you with your search for expert sources. You can send a query to tens of thousands of experts and PR agents, search the more than 60,000 profiles on ProfNet Connect, or get timely experts and story ideas by email -- all for free! Need help getting started? Email us at profnet@profnet.com.

    The Q&A Team: Shout Out Your Marketing Strategy

    Tuesday, June 17, 2014, 11:03 AM [The Q&A Team]
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    Starting a business is challenging in itself, but taking the time to figure out your audience and how to connect with them requires a plan, the right tools, and creativity.

    I sat down with Nick Rosener, co-author (with Eric Lehnen) of “Shout In the Right Direction,” which aims to help entrepreneurs and small businesses with their marketing strategy.

    Rosener discussed three essential components of effective marketing plans for small businesses, and how to implement them:

    Why did you divide the book into three areas: plan, tools, and creative?

    We wanted to narrow the modern marketing process into three fundamental areas.

    The first area, plan, underscores the importance of the connection between any digital marketing strategy and the core business. Social media, for example, can’t exist in a vacuum; if it isn’t focused in a clear direction, it won’t work as well as it could. Once a company identifies a clear direction, they find themselves challenged with choosing a mix of the thousands of social networks, communication channels, and other strategies (which we refer to as tools). Different customers respond to different approaches, and finding the right fit can have a large impact on your success. As we all know, simply being present on any platform isn’t enough; only the most creative messages cut through the noise. After laying the framework with the plan and the tools, the day-in, day-out endeavor of developing creative messaging for your audience is what will really make or break your results.

    Can any type of business utilize your marketing strategy?

    Absolutely. Even industries that have traditionally been more resistant to change are coming around to see the future of marketing. There isn’t a business out there that wouldn’t benefit from thinking about their plan, tools, and creative.

    Why is it important for a business to start their marketing strategy by first building a plan?

    One of the biggest problems with small businesses today is a lack of focus. Small companies often have big dreams, and they have a vision of how their product or service will help everyone in the world. In practice, this means spreading thin resources of staff time and money over way too many different types of people. The result: a marketing plan that speaks to lots of people, but doesn’t really resonate with any of them. Getting your plan down on paper helps you get clarity on who is -- and, more importantly, who isn’t -- in your target market.

    What components are required to build an effective marketing plan?

    A marketing plan can be as simple or complicated as you want. At its core, every plan needs two major components: a smart goal and an action plan. A marketing plan can be as simple as, “My goal is to sell 300 copies of 'Shout in the Right Direction' during the month of July by leveraging media publicity.” Alternatively, it can be a 20-page book launch strategy that outlines a detailed go-to-market strategy, target media outlets, and promotional partners. Whatever the length, a good plan should set a clear direction for the execution without leaving major factors up in the air.

    How do you know you are on the right track with your marketing plan?

    I advocate that companies apply a formal “strategic planning cycle” to govern their marketing. The cycle consists of Audit --> Plan --> Implement --> Measure --> Repeat.

    In short, companies should do the following: 1) gather any relevant information that will inform their plan; 2) set the strategic direction, action plan, and goals for the plan; 3) implement the plan; 4) measure the criteria set out in the plan; and 5) use the information gathered from the cycle to audit and plan again.

    Using this cycle creates a balance between having a clear enough direction to get results while still being flexible enough to change course if necessary.

    How often does a business need to update their marketing plan? Do they tweak it as they go along?

    There are many approaches to revising the plan. My favorite approach is to have different versions of your plan meant to govern strategy for different amounts of time. In my own company, for example, we have “Campaign Plans” that cover specific initiatives and action plans over 30-90 days, “Marketing Plans” that coordinate campaigns and messaging over 6-12 months, and “Business Plans” that set major company vision, direction, and values over 1-3 years. In today’s hyper-speed business environment, plans become out of date so quickly that any plan must be flexible enough to respond to changing market conditions.

    With all the social media tools out there, how does a business figure out which social media tools will work best for them?

    Think of each social network like its own country. Each has a different population of people, a different language, different history, and different customs. In this way, asking this question is a bit like asking, “What country should I live in?” If you think the culture of a social network you’re interested in would help you spread the word about your brand, give it a try!

    Small-business owners wear a lot of hats. What suggestions do you have for the business owner who says they don’t have the time to manage these different social media channels?

    Finding time for social is a huge challenge for small-business owners. The most powerful suggestion I have for time-crunched small-business owners is to face the harsh reality that social media isn’t free; you pay for it in time. The largest source of frustration around social media isn’t just that it takes time, but business owners honestly expect that they can spend 30 minutes a month with it and their sales will explode. In this light, the first step is to get out of the social media denial trap. Either put the time on your calendar to really give a social strategy the resources it needs to succeed, or at least be able to admit to yourself as an owner that social isn’t a current strategic focus. You can’t have it both ways.

    How can small businesses measure the effectiveness of their social media strategy without spending a lot of money?

    Easy: Talk to your accountant. One of the largest fallacies about tracking the effectiveness of social media is that it’s all about impressions, likes, traffic, retweets, and comments. While these things are certainly important, they’re useless unless you are getting weekly updates from your accountant so you can analyze your profit and loss statement. Once you get a handle on how much your baseline for sales fluctuates from week to week, then (and only then) can you ever hope to understand how that baseline is influenced by social media.

    Should every company look into starting a blog? If so, what type of messaging should they focus on in their blog?

    I love blogging. It’s a powerful strategy for communicating with customers, it’s great for SEO, and it can create a great experience for shoppers if done right.

    That being said, no tool is so sacred that it has a guaranteed place in every strategy. If your customers don’t read blogs, don’t blog. If everyone in your company hates to blog, don’t blog (or hire someone who likes it).

    How do  you promote your company’s social media channels and blog?

    I am a big fan of promoting digital channels in real life. It’s my contention that the most powerful advocates your brand will have on the Web are people you know in real life. The people you know in real life are also much more likely to find you online than strangers. In this way, cross-promotion is key; figure out ways to talk about your social channels and blog in regular customer conversations to bring them into your community. A common complaint I get about social media is, “My social media isn’t working; I’m only reaching people that I already know.” What this mindset misses is that leveraging your close network is the first step to reaching new people.

    How can business owners continue to keep the messages they produce across their social media channels creative and fresh?

    Try to step outside of your businessperson and marketer roles, and step into the role of an artist. Perform whatever weird artsy routines you have to get inspired to make something creative, without worrying if it’s “on strategy.” When you learn to let go and get in touch with your inner creator, great work comes of it.

    What should you avoid doing with your marketing strategy when you are trying to be original and stand out from other businesses?

    I’ve often found that companies are over-sensitive to negative criticism. At the first sign of a complaint, management can get worried and direct a social team to reign in a strategy that may really have been original. I’m not saying to ignore all feedback, but only to have confidence that not everyone will love everything you do, especially if it’s original. Learn to tell the difference between legitimate criticism that your strategy is off-target from the criticism of someone jealous of your success or worried about an emerging change in their industry.

    What benefits will a business start to see if they apply your marketing strategy?

    Sometimes, success can be detrimental. In marketing, a small business can succeed in securing a major new customer that ends up bankrupting the company. Or, they can land an interview on a prestigious television show whose viewership would never buy from them.

    Having a documented marketing strategy like the one we outline in "Shout in the Right Direction" helps your company not only achieve success, but makes sure your definition of success is aligned with larger objectives.


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