5 Female Entrepreneurs Share Startup Advice for Women

Starting a business is hard. Being a female business owner can be even harder. Pay gaps, gender bias, and sexual harassment are just a few of the unique challenges women in business might face. Pair that with high business failure rates plus challenges getting new business loans, and it’s easy to see why taking the risk might not feel worth it. But being a woman in a man’s world can actually make all the difference.

Women have a personal perspective into 51% of the world’s population that men don’t, which is invaluable to any female-targeted business. One of the biggest advantages women have is their network—we don’t just lean in, we lean on each other. And depending on industry and location, that network can be huge. 

Missouri and Alaska, for example, have the highest percentage of women-owned businesses, according to a new study by Seek Business Capital, which analyzed data from the US Census Bureau American Survey of Entrepreneurs to determine which US cities and industries have the most female entrepreneurs and which industries are most likely to have female entrepreneurs.

To make your time in business a little easier, we asked real women in business to share their best startup advice for women. If you have a network of influential businesswomen in your life, reach out and ask to hear their stories. If you don’t have that network, start building one now. 

1. Invest in Yourself

“Investing in professional growth will always deliver ROI,” said Robin Rucinsky, president of Thrive Advertising. “It’s hard to pull the trigger on investing in that copywriting class or that accounting course, but it’ll pay dividends. When first starting a business, it may be hard to budget for investing in yourself. However, your brain is your most valuable asset. Growing your mind is never a waste of money. A free way I’ve invested in continued education is using my library membership. I use a library app to check out business audiobooks. I love to learn and while getting to a physical class is hard, streaming an audiobook on my phone is easy.”

2. Ask for What You Want

“Although you’re entering a male-dominated industry, don’t be afraid, timid or shy to ask for what you want,” said Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation, which helps new businesses form an LLC or corporation. “One of the unfortunate realities of being an entrepreneur is that no matter what stage your business is in, it’s highly likely that you may need some extra capital to help out. This is, unfortunately, an area where we as women in business face bias. For example, in a fashion business, some male investors may need more convincing that your products are necessary. I’ve also heard stories from other women CEOs who were refused capital and couldn’t be taken seriously due to their gender.”

3. Don’t Fear Failure

“In a male-dominated world of business, it is often a challenge to learn to be confident and understand that failure is just part of a learning curve,” said Andrea Loubier, CEO of Mailbird, a tool that helps people manage multiple email accounts. “When the feeling of rejection is still fresh, I get out and hustle and begin networking as if my life depends on it. I also like to remember the other women fighting for the same goals, and especially the boundaries that we are knocking down for female entrepreneurs of the next generation. I know that I am equal with my male colleagues, despite the unique obstacles that I may face.”

4. Lean on Your Network

“Launching your own business can be intimidating at any point in your life, whether when you are straight out of school or more established and settled in life and looking for a change,” said Jen Lyon, founder of film production house Alphadu Productions. “You need to make the leap and open your own business and you’ll be surprised at how much support is available to you. Whether it is small business loans aimed specifically for women, social media chat groups that give advice and help out with frugal marketing ideas for those who are just starting out and your community…people get excited when others pursue their passion. Show that you are excited about your business and that becomes contagious.”

5. Stop and Smell the Roses

“Be excited! There are going to be a lot of challenges, nay-sayers, and long, hard days ahead, but remember to enjoy the experience of being an entrepreneur,” said Audra Hamlin, owner of The Gift Firm, a digital marketing firm that works with consumer product companies. “Stop every once in a while and just enjoy. Know who your go-to person is when you need a smile. This has been invaluable to me over the years.” 

The Bottom Line

Regardless of your industry or location, talking to real women who were once in your shoes—or still are—is the best way to learn hard lessons the easy way. If you’re in a metropolitan area, take advantage of networking opportunities by attending industry events, maintaining relationships with existing contacts, and even reaching out to women you admire to see if you can pick their brains over a cup of coffee. You’ll never get a “yes” if you don’t try.

Original posting of 5 Female Entrepreneurs Share Startup Advice for Women written by Seek Capital for Lendio.

4 (Mostly Free) Alternatives to Buying Holiday Gifts

4 (Mostly Free) Alternatives to Buying Holiday Gifts

Want to give someone something meaningful? Is money tight? You have options.

EVEN IF YOU FEEL economically secure over the holidays, you might find yourself window shopping and thinking, "Will this cheese wheel really convey how I feel about my mom?"

Sure, she loves cheese, but will she really remember this gift and be blown away? Well, maybe. Who doesn't love cheese? And there are all sorts of selections in this wheel, from Roquefort to Camembert.

Still, if you're wondering whether you should get something a bit more meaningful for a friend or family member, or you simply don't have the funds to get a pasta maker for your grandmother or a GoPro for your spouse, keep in mind that you don't have to spend much to make a powerful and positive impact over the holidays.

If you're looking for inexpensive, unique gift ideas for the holiday season, consider these.

Give the gift of ... letters. Audra Hamlin, a public relations consultant in Villa Park, Illinois, has had a lot of success in giving letters as gifts. About 20 years ago, she bought a scrapbook and asked her two younger siblings to contribute. They each wrote 10 letters to their mother, and each of the letters focused on a certain topic.

One of Hamlin's letters was about how her 16th birthday had been one of her favorite birthdays.

"My sister wrote one about how my mom always made her favorite dinner, chili, when she had a bad day," Hamlin says. "Basically, the point is to write about thoughts and memories you have that involve the person. Things they may not know you think about."

Make a list and check it twice as you financially prepare for the holiday season.

It was such a successful gift that her mother said that from then on, she didn't want gifts at holidays – just another letter from her kids. And then last year, for her mother's 60th birthday, Hamlin bought a glass box and emailed her mother's friends and family, asking them to each write a letter sharing a special memory.

"I placed all 60 letters in the box. Again … tears of joy," Hamlin says. And another time, Hamlin took 365 pieces of paper and had the kids and grandkids, who all live out of state, write a short note on each. Hamlin placed them in a large apothecary jar.

"This was a way for her to hear from one of us every day of the year," Hamlin says, adding that the notes were all simple with messages like, "Love you, mom," and "Have a good day, grandma."

Give the gift of ... rocks. This may not sound like your cup of tea, but it's worked out well for Nancy Dewar, who lives in Whitefish, Montana, and publishes "406 Bark," a regional magazine about animals. She says that one of her go-to gifts costs her nothing, and people love them.

"I find beautiful rocks at the beach or in the woods and write a note or a quote on them with a bold Sharpie pen. Each is personalized for the individual. Last Christmas, I gave each member of my family a rock that said what I loved most about them," Dewar says.

Of course, you have an advantage if you live somewhere with mountainous and beautiful terrain, as Dewar does. If you live in the cornfields of Illinois or Indiana, you might struggle a little more to find rocks worth giving away.

Give the gift of ... pictures. Photos of family or friends may be inexpensive but will probably be the first thing your loved ones grab if their home is being attacked by a fire or flood.

Pamela Danziger, a market researcher in Stevens, Pennsylvania, says that her daughter-in-law is a professional photographer (which, yes, is an advantage) who works for Olympus, the camera company.

"For the last three years, she has given us priceless books chronicling our twin grandsons' year for Christmas," Danziger says. "The first year's book was amazing, as she took pictures of the twins every day of their first year, so we had a day-by-day look at them growing and changing."

But the second year was also impressive – one photo of the twins, each week.

"The third year, she took pictures of the boys and placed them in an Alphabet spelling book, so they could learn their letters and key words while seeing themselves," Danziger says.

Obviously, Danziger's daughter-in-law spent a lot of time on these gifts – but hardly any money. Speaking of which ...

Putting a halt to endless gift exchanges with family and friends will save you time, money and stress.

Give the gift of ... time. You could, for instance, give parents coupons, offering your free services to babysit. Or clean a family member or friend's home.

Heather Frushour, a business consultant in Tucson, Arizona, says that one of the best gifts she ever received was when a friend and the friend's son cleaned all of her carpets and tile throughout the house. They owned a cleaning business on the side, and so that was a big advantage, having the equipment and expertise already. But they still had to take the time to do it.

The idea of cleaning carpets or somebody else's toilet probably isn't your idea of a good time, but that's the point. It isn't fun for anyone. So if you don't have the money to pay for a cleaning service and want to do something nice ...

"It made such a difference for us because I'm a single mom with four kids, with three of them being teenagers, and I work a good amount of the time," Frushour says. "I would have almost never had a chance to do this on my own. We had a beautiful house for the holidays, thanks to their thoughtful gift."

Or you could spend time doing something mindless but meaningful.

Dale Wolbrink, a public relations director for an aquarium in Mystic, Connecticut, says that her best friend once took her extensive CD collection and put all of it onto her iPod.

"This gave me access to my favorite music without having to spend what would have been a fortune to buy the music again or the investment in time it took to accomplish such a great feat," Wolbrink says, adding: "Not only do I appreciate the music every time I utilize my iPod, but it always reminds me of what she had done for me."


Original post of 4 (Mostly Free) Alternatives to Buying Holiday Gifts written by Geoff Williams for US News & World Report.

Public Relations for Small Business Owners: The Complete Guide 

Rieva Lesonsky

Public relations is the professional maintenance of your small business’s public image. Done well, public relations can build trust in your business, grow your brand, and drive sales. To effectively manage your small business public relations, you need to lay out a PR strategy, reach out to journalists and bloggers, and give effective interviews. You also need to leverage your good PR to generate more good PR by fostering strong relationships with journalists and marketing your PR successes.

One of the most important marketing strategies small business owners should employ is public relations, or PR. Public relations for small business owners encompasses a lot of things. To get a better understanding of what small business public relations is and how it can help grow your business, let’s start with an example:

K&J Heating and Cooling is a small HVAC business serving suburban Chicago that was started by lifelong friends Kip (K) and Jeff (J). Last year, the duo celebrated 20 years in business—and they wanted to drum up publicity for reaching this milestone. So they reached out to Audra Hamlin, a consultant at local PR agency The Gift Firm. She created a press release and sent it out to news organization in the area. The result? A local newspaper ran a feature on K&J Heating and Cooling, highlighting Kip and Jeff’s lifelong friendship and why they decided to go into business together.

“Thanks to that article, local residents will now remember K&J Heating and Cooling and what sets them apart from their competition,” Hamlin explains. “Small business owners don’t always have time to share what makes their business special and unique. But investing in PR is a great way to achieve this.”

The goal of public relations is to receive free media coverage for your business, which in turn defines your business’s brand and public image. When executed well, small business public relations can build consumer trust, establish your brand as an authority, and drive up your business’s visibility in search engine’s like Google. The best part is, it is often cheaper than regular small business marketing techniques.

Let’s learn a bit more about why small business owners should invest in public relations.

Why Your Business Needs Public Relations

PR is critical for any business, especially ones that rely on customer experience and trust. Here are some of the main reasons why your business needs to implement public relations into its marketing strategy:

1. Consumers Trust Editorial Content More than Ads

Public relations gets the word out that your business, product and/or service exists in a different way than ads do. Studies show consumers trust third-party editorial content, such as newspapers and magazines, more than any type of advertising. Not too surprising, right? It’s better when someone else sings your praises than when you do so yourself.

2. Builds Credibility

Do you have a new product or service that doesn’t have a lot of competition? Maybe your business is brand new and you do have lots of competition. Either way, you need to educate the public about what your product does, why it’s worthwhile and what differentiates you from the pack. Readers already have a relationship with their local media, so they’re more likely to pay attention when they hear this information from a familiar source.

3. Drive Sales

Good PR should help fill your marketing funnel in some way; the bottom line here is to drive sales. Not every press hit— blog mentions, newspaper articles, local TV and news shows, etc.—will result in people lining up at the cash register, but it should generate buzz that converts customers at some point in the future.

4. Help Blunt an Image Crisis.

You hope it never happens, but one negative customer service experience or social media post gone viral can ruin your business’s reputation. Taking immediate action via a well-planned PR crisis response strategy—which should include proper messaging and targeted outreach—can help you repair the damage. (See also: “The Do’s and Don’ts of Dealing with Negative Online Reviews”)

Notice that for all of these benefits to be relevant, it’s important for the endorsement or message to come from someone other than you. That’s not to say that press releases and statements don’t have their place—they do—but in many situations, it’s best to have someone else who believes in you to brag or defend your business.

Executing a Small Business Public Relations Strategy

Now that we understand the benefits of public relations for small business owners, it’s time to work on creating a public relations strategy for your small business. The first step is understanding if you can handle PR in-house or if you need to outsource your PR strategy.

In-House PR vs. Hiring an Agency

Realizing a PR strategy isn’t always an easy task—nor is it a simple one. It requires a specific set of skills that, as a small business owner, might not be within your wheelhouse. Even if they are, you likely don’t have the time to do it well.

PR people have writing skills, including the ability to think like journalists while writing attention-getting copy like marketers. They have people skills, such as the ability to schmooze the media without being blatant about it. They have the persistence to deal with rejection and to approach the press multiple times through multiple channels, including phone calls, emails and social media. Finally—and many would argue most importantly—they have access to connections developed through their years of experience.

How do you know when you need professional PR assistance and when to go it alone? As with anything else in business, it’s a matter of assessing your goals, resources, and budget.

Typically your goals will include some or all of the following:

  • Creating, promoting and maintaining a favorable reputation and image for your business.

  • Educating prospective customers about your business, products and/or services, particularly if what you sell is innovative or unusual.

  • Attracting new customers to your business.

  • Supporting and enhancing the rest of your marketing and advertising activities.

Suppose you have a new Italian restaurant. Your primary PR strategy goal is to attract new customers from the local area and to support your existing marketing and advertising activities. You decide you want to get mentioned in 5-10 local publications and/or blogs, including the ones where you’ve already placed advertisements. You can probably handle this yourself by researching your local media and reaching out to the journalists and bloggers personally.

On the other hand, if you’re launching a new wearable fitness technology that will be sold globally through an ecommerce website, your goals will likely also include establishing a reputation and educating customers about what your product does. In the crowded technology field, doing this right could mean pitching hundreds of tech and fitness bloggers, journalists, websites and print publications. You’ll almost definitely need professional help to build those relationships and secure quality coverage. Don’t underestimate how much time a PR campaign can take. Assess the time and staff you have available to devote to public relations. This involves:

  • Writing press releases.

  • Making lists of which media outlets you want to pitch.

  • Researching the right folks at those outlets and obtaining their contact information.

  • Sending out press releases.

  • Following up by email and/or phone.

  • Keeping track of responses (or lack thereof) and following up again.

  • Responding when a member of the media “bites” and providing them whatever they need—a product demo, interview, or even a TV appearance.

Is this something your regular employees have the bandwidth for without other parts of the business suffering? Ideally, your budget will fit your goals and resources, but what do you do if it doesn’t? If you want worldwide publicity but you’ve got a small-town budget, you need to make some compromises.

You might need to do it yourself at first, focusing your efforts on specific messaging or only the most important outlets, slowly expanding your reach until your business gains enough traction that you can afford to hire PR help. On the other hand, if you feel confident that you can produce results, then perhaps it makes sense to look at other areas of your budget that can be scaled back. Want to find out more about what’s involved in doing it yourself? PR Newswire is a good resource for learning PR basics and distributing releases. Their PR Toolkit offers press release templates and other tools to help small business owners.

Crisis Management

One area where you definitely need a pro on your side is crisis management. Every small business needs a plan it can put into effect immediately if something happens. Gini Dietrich, the founder and CEO of integrated marketing communications firm Arment Dietrich, which produces the Spin Sucks blog, and author of the book Spin Sucks, says your plan should include the five Ps:

  1. Predict what might go wrong,

  2. Position your brand in response.

  3. Prevent a crisis by proactively listening to what people are saying about your brand.

  4. Plan how you’ll respond immediately.

  5. Persevere until your reputation is remedied.

Even if you can’t afford to keep a PR firm or consultant on retainer, it’s a smart idea to have one help you create a crisis management plan, then develop relationships with several so you have a “shortlist” of firms or consultants you can call to spring into action in an emergency. (You need several for backup, because at the time you have an emergency, one company may not have the manpower to help you right away if you’re not a regular client on retainer.)

How to Generate PR Interest for Your Business

Since small business owners are often working with limited resources and staff, it takes some experimenting to figure out how to even generate interest in your business. Here are a few of our favorite tactics to test out:

Newsjacking

“Newsjacking” is what it sounds like: hijacking the news. This PR trick entails keeping an eye out for breaking news that might be relevant to your business, and then piggybacking on it to try and get your business into the story. When it’s done right, capitalizing on breaking news is great PR for small businesses—it can expand your reach and get you a lot of play while the story is relevant.

The key to successful newsjacking is getting the timing right—you have to pounce quickly. That starts with understanding the news cycle so that you can estimate how long a story will be relevant. The best time to newsjack is after the story has broken, during the time that journalists are scrambling for additional information and perspectives to inform their coverage.

This Refinery29 article is a great example of a small business PR strategy gone right. Clearly Cookies, a Dallas bakery, created their own news by latching onto the popular fidget spinner trend. This savvy business owner created a fidget spinner cookie, an interesting twist on the story that generated coverage in top publications like Eater, Vice, and Mashable.

In some cases, it might make sense to newsjack ahead of time. For example, if you know that a certain report is going to be released about your local economy or that a particular community event will generate news coverage, you might reach out to the reporters you think will cover those things a day or two ahead. That way, the reporter might use your quote or interview you for your perspective in time to make it into the article.

Have trouble keeping up with the news? No problem—set up a few Google alerts for key terms related to your industry, and updates will be emailed to you.

If you’re a bit late to the game, you can always reach out with a new angle or idea for how to cover the story. In your outreach, acknowledge that the reporter covered this news issue previously—but offer up a new or exciting angle, like the impact of a particular announcement or policy on small businesses, for example.

Keeping an eye on industry news is always a good idea for business owners, but tuning into how you might be able to capitalize on the news can also help you spread your message.

Gather Customer Stories

Every brand has a story. Telling that story is an opportunity to build awareness for your business. While each business’s story is different, there’s one easy and consistent way to tell your brand’s story: customer stories.

You can start by collecting stories from your customers about how your business has helped them, and how they’ve used your product or service. Once you get a sense of the interesting ways people are interacting with your business, see if it could be a good fit to offer up the story to local journalists! The best customer stories demonstrate your business’s positive impact on the community.

Tap Into Thought Leadership

As a local business owner, you’re already pretty tapped into what people care about in your industry. So why not use that knowledge to your advantage?

It’s helpful to think about what people in your industry are talking about or what they might want to know.

In one creative but simple example of thought leadership as a small business PR strategy, this Philly.com article interviewed Russell Carter, owner of Body Cycle Studio in Philadelphia, to discuss his favorite workout songs and create a playlist. The end result? More great press for the business.

Sharing industry knowledge is a great way to generate press coverage, across sectors. For example, this Rapid City Journal article interviews two employees of the Knecht Home Center about the basics of the lumber business. They shared lessons they learned in the industry over the years and built some awareness for their lumber company along the way.

Build Reporter Relationships

Local reporters cover the news items that matter most to their communities. They are interested in stories about new or expanded businesses that provide goods or services in their neighborhoods. Whether you own a restaurant or a hardware store, or anything in between, it’s worth reaching out to reporters at local publications to inform them of your expansion plans.

Need help figuring out which reporters cover your industry? Google News is a great tool, and with some creative searching, you can find articles similar to the ones you’d like to see written about your business. Those reporters—in addition to those covering small business and whatever industry you operate in—are the ones you should keep on your radar.

Industry news outlets might also be a good option for expansion or new business stories. For example, food publications like Eater and GrubStreetmight be interested in new restaurant openings—though they’d be a reach for most small businesses to secure coverage in.

It’s great to keep these reporters in mind to invite them to events, and keep them in the loop with any news about your business.

How to Capture the Attention of Journalists and Bloggers

Even the best PR strategy won’t succeed unless you know how to capture the attention of journalists and bloggers—and this is easier said than done.

Journalists, reporters, and bloggers are busier than ever these days and their inboxes are fuller than ever, receiving literally hundreds of pitches each week. If you’re still sending out the same-old, same-old press releases, they’re going to hit the “delete” button. So how do you take your small business publicity to the next level and get your announcements noticed?

It’s all about targeting and packaging.

Here are five rules to follow:

1. Know the Journalist’s “Beat”

We can’t emphasize this one enough—it’s crucial to know what a particular journalist writes about. Otherwise, you’ll end up sending pitches about your new pet products to a mommy blogger or asking a finance journalist to review your new tech tool. There are ways to learn more about the journalist so you target your small business publicity well. You can check out their bios on Twitter, Muck Rack, or on the author pages at the websites where they contribute. Google them to get an idea about their body of work. But there’s no better way to know what they’re interested in than actually reading their stuff.

2. Get to the Point

Journalists are just like you—they’re swamped and scanning through tons of emails a day to get their jobs done. Subject lines matter, and straightforwardness works best. If your subject line is cutesy or cryptic, your email may never get opened. Clearly state what you have to offer, whether it’s data, advice, interview availability, or a product for review. If what you’re offering is counterintuitive or surprising, that’s a great way to capture their attention.

3. Help Them Out

Journalists, and particularly bloggers, are under huge pressure to “feed the content beast” by churning out multiple blog posts, tweets, etc. a day. Make their jobs easier by including multiple suggestions for possible story angles.

4. Provide Backup

Give reporters the tools they need to research your story right away. Provide links to your survey results or other data, relevant articles written about your business, relevant articles you’ve written, and your website (which does have an “About” page, right?).

5. Be Responsive

Someone took your bait and a reporter wants to talk to you—now. Get back to the person immediately and provide whatever they need, be it additional data, a high-resolution photo, overnighting a book or product for review, or setting up an interview. Opportunities at small business publicity don’t last very long–if you travel frequently, are heading out on vacation or have another reason you won’t be able to respond immediately, put someone else at your business in charge of checking your email and phone messages and responding to media inquiries, stat.

How to Interview With a Reporter

So, your PR efforts finally paid off. A reporter is on the line wanting to talk to you. But now comes the most important part of the PR process.

You’ve got to give a great, memorable interview that makes you stand out; draws attention for the article, radio show or interview; and makes you a valuable resource that the reporter will turn to again and again. Here are some inside tips on interviewing with a reporter, and what to do and what not to do.

The Do’s of Interviewing With a Reporter

  1. DO be flexible. Maybe you own a gourmet food store and pitched a story about holiday gift ideas, but the reporter wants to talk to you about why artisanal foods are hot. Go with the flow! Be flexible about format, too. If you can’t fit a telephone interview or in-person meeting into your schedule, ask if the reporter can send you the questions by email instead. (Bonus: responding by email gives you time to really think through and fine-tune your answers.)

  2. DO be prepared. Ask if you can review some sample questions before interviewing with a reporter, but don’t count on them doing so. Brush up on industry trends and news so you can speak knowledgeably about current events. What anecdotes, examples, or stories can you share that will add interest to the article?

  3. DO respect the reporter’s time. How do you feel when you schedule a meeting with someone and they don’t show up, aren’t ready when you show up, or show up late? Treat others as you would like to be treated.

  4. DO provide extra information. If you have statistics, case studies, or other data that will help the reporter with their story, please share! Know someone else the reporter should talk to? Offer to put them in touch. If there’s some lead time before interviewing with a reporter, send the reporter links to any past interviews, articles you’ve written, or pieces about your business to give them background and save both of you some time.

  5. DO be yourself. According to Kate Ryan, managing director at Diffusion PR, the best thing a small business owner can do is remain calm and confident. “The best way to approach a conversation with a reporter is how you would approach any conversation with anyone – be a human,” Ryan says. “After all, you’re the expert on the topic you’ve been approached to speak about. If you can set the mental framework that an interview is just one more conversation, it becomes a much more enjoyable experience, rather than an intimidating one.”

  6. DO maximize the resulting web traffic. If the article, video, or podcast will run online, ask the reporter if they can include hyperlinks to your website or other landing pages you’d like people to visit.

The Don’ts of Interviewing With a Reporter

  1. DON’T cling to yes or no answers. Experienced reporters never ask questions you can answer with a yes or no, but you don’t know when you’ll end up talking to a new reporter or blogger, so be sure to flesh out your answers. Suppose you own a toy store and while interviewing with a reporter, you’re asked, “Is technology hurting the toy industry?” Say “Yes, and here’s how…”

  2. DON’T monopolize the interview. The other extreme of yes or no answers is the answer that goes on, and on, and on. Take a minute to gather your thoughts before you answer so you can word your response well. Aim for easily-digested, “sound byte” answers of 10 to 15 seconds.

  3. DON’T blatantly promote your business. Reporters don’t want their articles to sound like advertisements. Suppose your business helps entrepreneurs create online videos cheaply and easily. If you’re interviewing with a reporter about online video as a marketing tool, talk about current trends, how entrepreneurs can create memorable videos, and where they can host their videos. You can briefly mention something like, “For example, my company offers a service that does X…” but don’t make your own products and services the focus of what you say.

How to Make Publicity Last

Getting your first media placement is cause for celebration—but it is also just the beginning of your business PR campaign. To leverage PR to grow your business, you need to make it last, and ultimately have your media coverage foster future media coverage. Here’s how you do it:

1. Thank the Reporter

Always thank the reporter or blogger for featuring your business. Send an email, a Twitter DM, or even a handwritten thank you note. Remember, your goal is to lay the groundwork for a lasting relationship.

2. Post and/or Host

Ask the journalist if you can post or host the piece on your company’s website. Posting direct links to reputable sites can improve your website’s SEO. For an article, it would also be a good idea to create and save PDF versions and consider posting the PDFs instead of links to the original article. Hyperlinks can become obsolete eventually. For a video or audio podcast, you could embed it directly on your website. You could even edit it into shorter snippets for use on your website or other marketing materials; just be sure to credit the original source properly.

3. Spread the Word

Let everyone know about your 15 minutes of fame by mentioning and linking to the piece in your email newsletter and on social media. Depending on the level of the press mention, it might even be worth doing additional PR. For instance, if your local brewery got featured in a national news story on the craft brewing trend, you could release a press release to the local media—local papers often like to feature “local business makes good” types of stories.

4. Market Away

Incorporate media mentions into your marketing materials and your print or online media kit. For instance, you can create a section on your website that says “Press” and link to all your press mentions there. Your brochures, direct mail, flyers, signage, or even your product packaging could say, “As seen on Channel 7 News” or “Featured in USA Today.” Did your restaurant or product get a rave review from an industry expert? Use part of the review as a testimonial: “Best Pizza in New York”—Pizza Today Magazine. Just be sure to quote it accurately. With any luck (and a lot of hard work), you’ll soon have an impressive amount of media coverage to share when promoting your business.

5. Get Framed

If you have a brick-and-mortar location, be sure to get print articles or blog posts printed and framed to hang in your store, office, or restaurant. It’s old-fashioned, but it really works wonders to build your reputation.

6. Name Drop

Use your previous coverage to clinch more coverage. Publicity is like money: the more you have, the faster it multiplies. Journalists and bloggers like interviewing credible, media-savvy people. When they see that you’ve been featured elsewhere, it proves your business is newsworthy and you’re a good interview.

7. Go Back to the Well

Ever notice that the same sources often get quoted a lot by the same reporters or bloggers? That’s because they’ve worked to become valuable resources for those journalists. There’s no rule that says you can’t pitch the same person multiple times—in fact, just the opposite is true. Reminding the person of their initial interview with you will make them more likely to turn to you as a trusted source again and again.

Additional Small Business Public Relations Tips

Now that we understand the basics of public relations for small business owners, let’s provide you with some additional tips that will help you take your small business public relations to the next level. All of these tips are provided by experienced PR professionals or small business owners who have found success with their PRO strategies.

Audit Your Online Presence

“One of our first moves is to audit a client’s online presence: How is the branding? Website? What have they already done to set themselves apart? If you have a small budget and think you’re ready for PR, start by taking a good hard look at your current business: How do your customers hear about you? Why do you think you need PR? If you drove a journalist to your website now, would it tell the story you want? Does it make sense to an outsider? I often find that small businesses need to work with a brand expert before they’re ready to hire a PR pro.” — Brooke Brumfield, owner, Fior Partners

Use HARO (Help a Reporter Out)

“I’ve found HARO to be an excellent source of PR for my small business. Since starting to use HARO a few months ago, I’ve landed at least a couple of mentions every month, which has boosted my referral traffic and contributed to increased organic traffic. I monitor HARO emails two or three times a day, and I try to get my pitches in as soon as possible after the emails go out. Using HARO is just one part of a complete PR strategy, but I think it’s one that’s best left to the business owner rather than outsourced. Journalists want to hear from the owner directly and not a PR or SEO agent. For this reason, I recommend small business owners set aside some time every day or week when they can be available to send pitches, instead of relying on an agency or consultant to handle every aspect of PR.” — Chloe Brittain, owner, Opal Transcription Services

Try Guerilla Public Relations

Guerilla marketing tactics can work for public relations too. One of my first big hits was in The New York Times and I got in by simply mailing a lone promotional black Cheekd card in a plain black envelope to one of the main editors. A few weeks later, we were featured on the cover of the Style Section and coined as “the next generation of online dating.” This lead to customers in almost every state in America and requests from all over the world to get in on the action. We immediately set up an international shopping cart and soon hit 28 countries.” — Lori Cheek, founder, Cheekd

Engage in Your Community

“Community engagement is another method to maximize exposure while also doing something helpful and charitable. Whether it’s offering scholarships, funding an event or cause, or simply offering pro bono work for a charity, all of these can lead to tremendous goodwill in the community and can spread on social media and news channels for further brand awareness.” — Stewart Guss, Stewart J. Guss Attorney at Law

Mimic Successful PR Campaigns

“The idea of ‘studying the great ones to become greater’ is a valuable tip when it comes to PR. It’s worth it to pick the best businesses in your field in a local, national and global range, and see what they’ve been doing when it comes to PR. Search for the media mentions, their press releases, their annual reports, and more. Find out what and how they provide content to media outlets and influencers, and then see how you can replicate their successful strategies.” — Caio Bersot, content and social media manager, EnergyRates.ca

Leverage Your Business’s Data

“Data is a powerful tool that a brand can use to tell a story that may be of interest to a reporter that covers your space. Data typically can be used to shed light on customer behavior and how they interact with your business and the industry at large – but data by itself isn’t all that appealing with first glance. The key is to use the data to tell a story of relevance, and packaging it up in a clean and digestible format, such as an official report on a trending industry issue, for a reporter to understand that story, as well as yours.” — Kate Ryan, managing director, Diffusion PR

Public Relations for Small Business Owners: Putting It All Together

If you’re looking to get free media coverage, grow your brand, gain credibility, and increase sales, you need to invest in PR. Create a strategy, reach out to journalists, take interviews, and put a friendly face to your business. Remember that PR is an ongoing process: You should always be trying to drum up interest in your business. Using our guide to public relations for small business owners, we think you’ll have a lot more success doing so.

Editorial Note: Fundera exists to help you make better business decisions. That’s why we make sure our editorial integrity isn’t influenced by our own business. The opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations in this article are those of our editorial team alone. They haven’t been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of the companies mentioned above. Learn more about our editorial process and how we make money here.

Rieva Lesonsky

Contributor at Fundera

Rieva Lesonsky is a small business contributor for Fundera and CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company. She has spent 30+ years covering, consulting and speaking to small businesses owners and entrepreneurs.

The weird principles of giftonomics

The gap between how much you paid for a gift, and how much the recipient values it, is called the "deadweight loss." (Henrik Sorensen / Getty Images)

The holiday gift shopping season is in full frantic gear now, with millions of Americans seeking just the perfect present for everyone on their list. Or, if not the perfect gift, at least something passable. Or if not something passable, maybe this is the year to give ... money? A donation to plant a tree or feed a child somewhere?

Gift dread — wracking your brain for a great gift idea — is as traditional as Christmas mistletoe or Hanukkah dreidels. Sometimes inspiration delivers. Sometimes you get ... another sweater.

Economists who study the mismatch of Christmas gift exchanges coined a cold term for this: "deadweight loss." Here's what that means: You give your spouse a $100 bracelet. But she doesn't value it at that amount. She'd have preferred a necklace, or maybe a ring. So the gap between what you paid for the gift, and how much the recipient values it, is called the deadweight loss.

Should you buy a gift for a new flame?

Situation: You just started dating someone and don't want to appear miserly (by not getting a gift) or desperate (by giving a gift). Advice: “You can invite them for a holiday lunch, dinner or drinks. This way it is a date idea and gift wrapped up in one,” says Audra Hamlin, founder of The Gift Firm.

In 2009, University of Minnesota economics professor Joel Waldfogel estimated the economic waste of ill-chosen gifts: "Given the $65 billion in U.S. holiday spending per year, that means we get $13 billion less in satisfaction than we would receive if we spent that money the usual way — carefully, on ourselves," he wrote in Slate. "Americans celebrate the holidays with an orgy of value destruction." We pity whoever got Waldfogel as their Secret Santa.

PAID POSTWhat Is This?

By this reasoning, people should generally give cash or cash equivalents so that receivers know exactly how much the relationship is valued.

Here we tread into treacherous territory. Everyone knows the calculation that comes with a gift: How much should I spend? How much is enough to express my feelings for the recipient? Too much, and you feel foolish; too little and you risk rupturing a relationship.

But let's forget about dollars for a minute.

Think back to all the gifts that you remember. If you're like us, there aren't all that many. Not that you haven't had your share of sweaters, ties, toys, electronic gewgaws and — yes — socks. But the gifts that stick in memory aren't the most expensive, the most elaborate. Who hasn't framed a child's gift of artwork, for instance, to cherish? Wasn't that trip to swim with the beluga whales at the Shedd Aquarium a thrill, even years later? How about that battered pocket watch handed down from your grandfather's grandfather? Doesn't work? Doesn't matter.

We have friends who exchange few gifts because, they argue, they've got everything they need, and if they require something, they buy it themselves. That saves time and trouble at holiday times.

But it robs both potential giver and prospective receiver of the Eureka! moment when the perfect gift idea finally presents itself.

Warning: This doesn't always happen on cue before major holidays. It may not happen at all for several gift-giving occasions — birthdays, anniversaries — in a row. Your friends and family may or may not buy this explanation for a paucity of presents.

But here's the secret: One great gift, even once a year, overshadows a dozen uninspired presents. A study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology showed how people attach sentimental value to some gifts that outweighs the costs of the gifts and far outweighs the value of presents that they bought themselves during a holiday season. Researchers found that presents people bought for themselves quickly shed their power to bring happiness. That's called "hedonic adaptation." But many gifts did not. They held their value, often because of sentimental value.

The trick is to find those gifts that gather sentimental value.

From our experience, it helps to always be on the alert. Even if that birthday or special holiday is months away. Start thinking about it now. And remember: thought and effort doescount. A long investigative effort to track down a favorite childhood recipe for a cheese flaky from a long defunct bakery, for instance, may not have produced the recipe. But it did produce a detective tale of tasty tidbits — emails and phone calls and interviews — entertaining enough to earn the giver at least partial credit for ... trying.

Mercy — what gift that is.

Original post of The Weird Principals of Giftonomics written by By EDITORIAL BOARD for the Chicago Tribune.

A guide to gift-giving disasters

Many things can conjure a Scrooge-like attitude during the holidays. And perhaps no situations carry awkwardness more so than presents. Ah, gifts. Their potential for an ear-to-ear smile is equally matched by the dark dread of a disappointed face...

Holiday gift-giving is rife with potential disaster. Expert advice for meeting the challenge. TNS

Many things can conjure a Scrooge-like attitude during the holidays.

And perhaps no situations carry awkwardness more so than presents.

Ah, gifts. Their potential for an ear-to-ear smile is equally matched by the dark dread of a disappointed face. Or that awful moment when you realize you are in the middle of a gift-giving disaster.

We talked to several experts to find out how to best navigate these stomach-churning moments, whether it involves a blunder on your part, or someone else's.

Play it cool and practice your poker face. First, it's not uncomfortable unless you make it that way. Try to keep your composure.

"It's only awkward if you make it a big deal," said Stephanie L. Jones, a life coach who gave gifts for 500 consecutive days and recorded the experience on her blog, Giving Gal.

One of the most common gift-giving nightmares is when you're not actually exchanging gifts - or you thought you weren't.

For example, showing up to a dinner party empty-handed as the hostess places a thoughtful gift in your hands. Or realizing too late that you should have bought something for your in-laws, who bought something for you.

"This is always an uncomfortable situation," said Audra Hamlin, founder of The Gift Firm. "The best way to handle this is to be very grateful for the gift you receive from them."

For those moments when you're unsure whether gifting is on the agenda, a bottle of wine, plant or even homemade cookies are always good just-in-case options, Hamlin noted.

Resist the urge to lie, Part 1. If someone springs a gift on you that you weren't expecting, experts advise not to fib, saying, for example, that you sent something in the mail or left his gift at home.

Also resist the natural instinct to make excuses, said relationship expert April Masini.

"Those excuses turn into white lies and quickly become one giant cloud of awkward," Masini said.

And don't apologize, Hamlin added. "Once the event is over, you can always write a sincere thank you note or have a gift sent to them," Hamlin said.

Resist the urge to lie, Part 2. Likewise, you shouldn't lie when you receive a gift you hate - but do keep mum when you don't like a present.

"It's bad manners to say you hate a gift," Masini said.

Instead, use that newly mastered poker face to focus on the positive. For example, say someone got you a plunger. Think of something - without a hint of sarcasm, emphasizes Kathy Cheng, founder of gift-registry platform Thankful Registry - such as, "This is great, thank you. I've been thinking about getting one of these."

(However, if your partner gets you gifts you loathe year after year, Masini said, "It is appropriate to try and gently guide him toward what you do like.")

Regifting and those missing receipts: Among the most talked-about gift gaffes is regifting. Maybe you put a lot of thought into a pal's gift, and she gave you something that's an obvious regift.

"Regifting is only OK if you tell the other person about it," said Jung Lee, event planner and etiquette expert.

To avoid getting a regift this year, Lee suggested "a casual conversation with your regifter friend and other friends, saying you just read an article about this, and what do they think?"

And if you want to exchange a gift but see no receipt, there isn't a polite way to ask.

"Regardless of the reason - maybe it cannot be returned, or they really want you to keep it - just say thank you," Lee said.

Plan ahead. One potential pickle involves celebrating with a family that's not yours. Maybe a friend invited you to her clan's celebration, or you're joining a sibling's in-laws.

Don't be shy to inquire about the protocol, perhaps even checking with someone beyond your direct family or friend source. That includes money spent.

"Ask upfront if there is a dollar limit," Jones recommends. She also advises asking what types of gifts have been exchanged in the past.

If it's too late - you bought everybody a bottle of Champagne, they're teetotalers who exchange handmade potholders - keep your cool.

"Just trust that your hosts understand this is your first time at the rodeo and that next year you'll bring your own homemade potholders," Masini said.

Dating presents challenges too. Whether you started dating a significant other in February or November, navigating the present-buying can be tricky. Hamlin suggests making an event out of it - designate a holiday lunch or dinner as a date, which can double as a mutual gift.

Set ground rules. Even the youngest family members can cause an annual disaster: a sullen teenager with one-word answers around the tree or menorah, a toddler throwing a fit because he didn't get the toy he wanted.

"Set expectations upfront for your children as it relates to Santa and the gifts he delivers," Jones said. Plus, she noted, "It's a great opportunity to teach them that gifts are not the most important part of the season."

Finally, just let it go. Ultimately, sometimes awkward moments are inescapable - whether you're on the giving or receiving end.

"It's done, so just hug it out and smile," Cheng said. "Then have another drink."

The original posting of A Guide to gift-giving disasters written by Alison Bowen for the Chicago Tribune

Show Your Support For Breast Cancer Awareness Month With An Inspirational Gift Box

October 2015 is Breast Cancer Awareness month, so what better time to reinforce the love and support you have for family and friends suffering from the disease. Encouragement for those battling cancer comes in all shapes and forms, but coming up with the right gesture or gift idea for someone who is sick can be a daunting task. Remaining positive, strong and hopeful is the key to overcoming all forms of illness, including breast cancer, making the best gifts those that stimulate happy memories and motivation to continue the fight. 

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The most supportive and therefore effective gifts ideas that offer encouragement to our loved ones are those featuring a customized element and a personal touch. The Power. Peace. Pamper. gift box has been created specifically for the brave girls fighting breast cancer, but can be given for any battle against cancer. Focused on bringing peace and support with inspirational quotes, sayings and messages with a touch of beauty. 

During the month of October, The Gift Firm will donate one gift box to a Chicago area cancer treatment center for every ten gift boxes sold. We believe everyone should feel supported. 

All of our gift boxes are customizable and able to add a personal touch to make your friends and family feel extra special. 

 The 'Life's Cherished Moments' gift box is a present that truly lets people know how much they are loved and the difference they have made to the lives of those around them. The delicately and elegantly decorated box houses an assortment of 30 or more letters, each lovingly composed by friends and family and artistically printed onto high quality, handmade paper. As the name of the gift set suggests, the letters can be used to reminisce about cherished memories that were made and shared together. Remembering special moments is a wonderfully encouraging way to show someone they are loved and to support them through the hard times. 

 

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Thoughtful gift ideas such as the memory filled box are made better by the fact that they are not only enjoyed for a fleeting moment as they are being opened, but rather can be cherished and re-lived over and over again every time the heart-felt letters are read. The ornate box provides a beautiful and safe home for the letters, which can be kept forever and re-read whenever an extra boost of encouragement or hope is required. Sufferers of cancer inevitably find themselves on a rollercoaster of ups and downs, and when those downs occur, the personal letters filled with happy memories can make a huge difference to their state of mind and positivity. 

 

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 Another similar but alternative gift idea for moms, dads, partners, friends or any other loved one suffering from illness, is the 'A Year From Now' gift set. This beautifully thought out set include two blank sheets of fine, handcrafted paper with matching envelopes, encased within a stunning box. The paper provides the opportunity to write your hopes, dreams and wishes for the future, to be sealed within the envelopes and opened the following year. Two sheets of paper means they can be exchanged between loved ones or simply kept to remind the sufferer of their own feelings and wishes. Accompanying the decorative box is two tea lights to create intimate and peaceful lighting while writing or reading the letters, as well as a soft and comforting blanket. This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, why not show your loves one just how much they mean to you with a gift that will stay with them forever? 

Do You Remember When...?

Why Sharing Memories Has Become The Ultimate Gift Idea For Loved Ones

As the years go by, continuing to think up useful and meaningful gifts ideas that will be both enjoyed and appreciated by our loved ones becomes harder and harder. The act of picking out the perfect gift for someone you care about deeply should be something of joy and pleasure rather than a time of stress and anxiety caused by that desire to get it just right. Whether gifting for a Christmas, special birthday, or even after the passing of a loved one, there is one particularly sentimental present that is sure to be a success, and that is the gift of shared memories.

Sharing memories can be more than just casually reminiscing in conversation. In fact when combined with a beautifully decorated gift box and put into the written word, special memories can be kept, looked at and remembered forever more. Life's Cherished Memories Gift Box is an example of just that and offers a beautiful and thoughtful way of sharing those standout memories with your loved ones. Despite the boxes ornate and gorgeously decorated exterior, in the case of this creative gift idea, it is not what's on the outside, but those sacred memories stored on the inside that really count. 

 

Presents with a sentimental element to them are often considered to be excellent gifts for mom, or women in general, but in this case it is also an extremely popular and appreciated gift for men. The box is filled with cherished memories written by family and friends before being emailed in and printed on high quality gift paper. 'The Gift Firm' takes care of coordination with the different friends and family members and

can even provide prompts that will help to trigger the ideal memory to commit to paper.

On receiving their personal Life's Cherished Memories Gift Box, emotions often run somewhat higher than with the standard present. This is one of the few gift ideas that will truly be appreciated and remembered for life. Recipients are filled with joy at being reminded of so many happy moments from their life, and giving such an extraordinary gift that provokes such emotion is a rare and joyful privilege in itself. The best part of this gift for loved ones is that it can be enjoyed over and over again by simply opening the box and reading through those cherished letters kept safe within. 

 

As gift ideas go, this one is particularly versatile and is ideal for a range of occasions including Mother's Day, Father's Day, Anniversaries, Birthday's or Valentines Day but it could of course simply be a spur of the moment gift for Mom or Dad to show them just how important they are to you. The box contains 30 letters providing plenty of opportunities to get your most cherished memories down on paper. Reading through the letters one by one is an incredible experience and one that makes this item the ultimate, once in a lifetime gift that will be a pleasure to receive and a true, true pleasure to give. 

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