Making Your Biz Media Savvy

Interesting article from Porfolio.com – by Romy Ribitzky

Making Your Biz Media Savvy

The Tastee Sup Shop didn’t mount a full-scale PR campaign advocating itself as the quintessential presidential stump stop before President Obama visited Wednesday to talk about small businesses. The Edison, New Jersey, restaurant doesn’t have a fancy website. And it gets by without a Twitter account.

But the amount of media attention the shop got because of the presidential visit—not to mention the future folklore allure it stands to gain—show that small businesses don’t necessarily need to have big pockets to get the media’s attention. A news hook, a celebrity visit, or a killer product launch can all help to get buzz swirling among sometimes fickle and jaded reporters.

So what’s the best course for a small business that’s trying to get out a branding message or news of a product launch so its customer base knows what’s going on?

Trying to hold a media event involves multiple moving parts, and making sure that they come together properly can be tricky, says Marsha Friedman, CEO of EMSI Public Relations, a national PR firm based in Clearwater, Florida.

“Getting a television crew to your event requires some finesse, and the format of the pitch is different than that of a press release,” she says. “A media alert is the appropriate tool which gives a TV producer or assignment-desk editor all the information they need to decide on whether the event you’re holding is of interest to them.”

When it comes to the pitch, concise and to the point is the way to go, media experts say. Since the media tends to ask the same major questions, structure the pitch to answer the following: Who, what, why, when, where, and visuals, Friedman recommends.

But even before writing a single word, do your homework. A quick Internet search can help businesses identify local (and national) reporters who cover their beat, product type, branding element, or business interest. Knowing who to send alerts to takes the pitch from a blind send to a targeted campaign that is more likely to yield results since you’re connecting reporters, editors, and producers—who have to find fresh material every day—with subject matter already of inherent interest to them.

Once you’ve identified the initial core audience, focus on the basics:

  • Who: This may sound like a no-brainer, but make sure to include your company’s name as well as the names and titles of any people who’ll be in attendance.
  • What and Why: Make sure to let editors and producers know why you’re holding a presser and what the announcement is.
  • When and Where: The worst thing about putting time and effort into creating a media opportunity is doing all that work and having no one show up. Let outlets know exactly what date and time—as well as the address—of your event. Include your expected duration, a set of directions to the venue, and a link to Google Maps, Mapquest, or mapping site of your choice.
  • Visuals: If television is your medium, make sure the crew has something exciting to shoot. Demos, graphs and charts trump talking heads any day and have a higher chance of catching the media’s attention.

Have the basics covered? Now it’s time to follow up. Editors and producers can get hundreds of emails in a given day. After you send the email, find an artful way to touch base with them that’s assertive but not overly invasive, experts say. There’s a fine line between being informative and being annoying.

If the team’s interest is piqued, find out who to keep in touch with and keep them informed of any last-minute changes and confirmations up until—and following—the event. Don’t forget to call or email on the actual day of your happening, just to make sure nothing else has come up in the meanwhile.

If holding a media circus—big or small—is not in the budget, fear not. Other avenues, such as radio or being booked as a guest commentator, analyst, or expert either on a local or national show, can go a long way toward gaining the public’s trust.

Working with a PR team can help focus your message and take the responsibility of following the news minute to minute to identify opportunities out of your already-overloaded hands. But if hiring a public relations firm is too expensive, consider doing it yourself. After all, no one knows a brand better than the person heading the company. And these days, thanks to social media, reaching out to a target audience is easier than ever, and often all it costs is time.

“With access tools like HARO [Help a Reporter Out], that bring the media opportunities to you, being reactive is easy and cheap,” says Margo Schneider, vice president at Ketchum, a full-service global public relations firm based in New York.

The same search and pitch tips still apply here. Find out where your audience is communicating, drop in and listen to the conversation, and jump in where it makes sense, social-media and PR experts say. It’s important not to bombard your Twitter, Facebook, and other social-media platforms just with information about your brand. Rather, find out where people are already talking about a similar product or need and give them information of value.

“Your audience is actively seeking you, or your product, through online research. Make sure you’re active in their arena so you can be found,” says Katherine O’Hara, vice president of New Jersey-based S3, an advertising, media, and public relations firm. “Blogging creates HTML-based text that is tapped by search engines and smiled upon given its constant refreshing of content.”

Building up respect and the reputation of a trusted brand will get companies noticed, especially when reporters are looking for good sources. Sure, it may take more time out of your busy day, but if you don’t have the public relations team or political machine on the scale that the president does, taking a few hours a day to interact with your customers and the media people who follow your brand can result in a booking. Once you connect with a journalist, “make the most of this opportunity by asking the reporter to link to your blog or mention your Twitter handle,” suggests O’Hara. And while most outlets don’t pay a guest-appearance fee, the publicity that comes out of being tagged an expert can be priceless.

Another way to get noticed is by sharing insightful information with the community. “Build case studies of how you’ve tackled challenges all small businesses are facing (e.g., surviving the recession) or unique challenges you’ve tackled or tools you’ve employed with breakthrough results,” says Marie Wiltz, senior media specialist with Ketchum. Executives can take that a step further by writing byline pieces on leadership, management, and/or the issues that small businesses are facing, adds Wiltz.

To be even more relevant, “be ready to divulge real business challenges—cash-flow issues, mistakes you’ve made, and how you’ve dealt with them—these are the things the small-business media are looking to share with their readers who want key learnings,” says Schneider.

Finally, get in front of the crowd as much as possible. Speaking engagements are still one of the best ways to get yourself out there, O’Hara says. “It places you in front of a captive audience while positioning you as an expert. Make sure to promote such engagements on your website, blog, and fan page. Even if people aren’t able to attend, it adds weight to your credentials.”

Great News for SDVOSBs – Obama Administration Comes Through

Great news on the SDVOSB status. We caught this article that just came out before the holiday and wanted to share it with everyone.  R/S, PrepFire

Obama Administration makes it easier to award vets sole-source contracts

FAR amendment would more closely mirror language of Veterans Benefits Act

By Matthew Weigelt
Jul 02, 2010
WashingtonTechnology.com

The Obama administration today finalized acquisition rules to clarify that a contracting officer can award a sole-source contract to a service-disabled, veteran-owned small business (SDVOSB), even if there is more than one company that can perform the work.  The contracting officer can make the sole-source award to that SDVOSB, as long as the officer expects to receive no bids from another SDVOSB, according to the amendment to the Federal Acquisition Regulation. The new rule was published in today’s Federal Register.
The rule, which goes into effect Aug. 2, only applies to SDVOSBs.

The Civilian Agency Acquisition Council and the Defense Acquisition Regulations Council have determined the FAR should be revised to more closely mirror the Veterans Benefits Act of 2003 and lessen the possibility of misinterpretation. They first proposed the rule in May 2009. The changes are based on a 2007 Government Accountability Office protest decision. A small-business owner who is a service-disabled veteran objected to the Air Force’s decision to award a small-business set-aside contract instead of a sole-source award to a small business owned by a service-disabled veteran. The Air Force chose the set-aside because one other firm owned by a service-disabled veteran could have performed the contract’s work. However, the protester countered that the company didn’t respond to the solicitation.

See Original Article – http://fcw.com/articles/2009/05/19/clarify-far-sole-source-language.aspx

Who Were We Fighting For?

The Veteran Benefits Act of 2003, authored by Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey was meant as a benefit for service disabled veterans who gave up so much for their country, recognizing and rewarding these vets by mandating that 3% of federal procurement contracts be awarded to service disabled veteran owned small businesses.

This program has been, to say the least, falling far short of its goals. As of 2008, just 1.5 percent of all federal contracts went to SDVOSB’s, and among those, fraudulent awardees have been making the news as they flagrantly lie about being service disabled vets, yet reap the rewards on the backs of those service men and women meant to get these awards.
So, not only is the program being disregarded, or only given lip service by federal agencies (except for the VA) but is fraud ridden by greedy businesses because of a lack of true oversight of the program to verify their eligibility.

Education of our government representatives has to be a first step in changing our fight to root out fraud, and make these agencies meet the targeted goals called for in the Veteran Benefits Act. A good start might be to mandate 3% of an agencies budget be denied them when they fall short of their statutory goal. One way to create a groundswell of action is by calling, tweeting, facebooking, and yes, even old fashioned talking to our government representatives to make them aware of the needed reform.

Education of the public is needed also; use your contacts, use social media, call your friends, write your editors, and let’s get the ball rolling.

Presidential Task Force on Service-Disabled Veteran Owned Business-Analysis

This is a great article from Hardy Stone and can be found at http://www.veteranstoday.com/2010/06/16/presidential-task-force-on-service-disabled-veteran-owned-business-analysis/

Ten years after President Clinton signed PL 106-50 (The Veterans Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development Act of 1999), President Obama issued an Executive Order on April 26 to establish an interagency Task Force (TF) to ‘study’ and assist federal agencies to comply with that ten-year-old law.

PL 106-50 started the ball slowly rolling, establishing a ‘mandate’ that all federal agencies must award 3% of their contracting budget to SDVOSB. Less than a year later, it was apparent that very, very few federal agencies were observing the law of the land. The VA, however, has consistently awarded above the 3% minimum. In FY 2008, the VA awarded 11.76% of its contracts to SDVOSB.

But with other federal agencies, this law has been a total joke. Congress preens to the American people that it‘supports’ our troops—but yet that support is run through the political wash cycle. But Congress sure supports our troops….all the way to the ballot box.

Agency-by-agency 2008 scorecard: http://tinyurl.com/26fthq5

Didn’t President G.W. Bush establish “The Military Reservist and Veteran Small Business Reauthorization and Opportunity Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-186)?” http://tinyurl.com/29l2ry6

Was it enacted on February 14th, 2008? Was it all smoke? Was it a total non-starter?

The aims of President Obama’s TF include:

1. improving capital access and capacity of small business concerns owned and controlled by veterans and service-disabled veterans through loans, surety bonding, and franchising; This is not the problem. Everybody need financing, bonding and franchise assistance. We need opportunities.

ensuring achievement of the pre-established Federal contracting goals for small business concerns owned and controlled by veterans and service-disabled veterans through expanded mentor-protégé assistance and matching such small business concerns with contracting opportunities;

This is the crux of the problem. But read the fine print: “ensuring achievement of the pre-established federal contracting goals… through expanded mentor-protégé assistance and matching such small business concerns with contracting opportunities…”

What? Excuse me? This language reads as if SDVOSB’s need counseling, as if the federal agencies have been waiting for SDVOSB to get their act together…

No…you don’t understand, Mr. President. The agencies need counseling not SDVOSB. How about ordering all Executive Branch agencies to take a crash course in obeying the law?

Increasing the integrity of certifications of status as a small business concern owned and controlled by a veteran or service-disabled veteran;

Bingo on this. In a GAO November 2009 report, 100% of the companies GAO sampled were ineligible for contracts set-aside for SDVOSB. They falsified because they could…self certification encourages bogus businesses to claim SDVOSB status. The American people should be outraged. But they’re not. Not because they don’t care…they just don’t know.

The VA has no budget to increase staff for certification and verification. And VA has absolutely no enforcement authority except for ‘debarring’ bogus companies from doing business with the VA;

Reducing paperwork and administrative burdens on veterans in accessing business development and entrepreneurship opportunities;

Great…no one likes red tape. Now get these administrative employees reassigned to the certification backlog. Increasing and improving training and counseling services provided to small business concerns owned and controlled by veterans;

blah, blah, blah. More government-spin…

Making other improvements relating to the support for veterans business development by the Federal Government.

For all intents and purposes, this is the same voice we heard from the 2008 TF. And let’s put SBA in charge again! Afterall, in FY 2008, SBA awarded a pathetic .85 % of the mandated 3%. And what an enforcement agency they truly are…they only pursue bogus companies if a protest is filed.

What about putting VA in charge, their 2008 numbers are 11.76% of contract funding to SDVOSB.

The VA should be the Department running the show and providing ‘mentor-protégé’ programs to other government agencies. Training programs for federal contracting officers and procurement directors—so they can obey the law.

Partial solution: Make the Department/agency heads accountable. Develop in their performance evaluations a measure of meeting that 3%. Agency Directors would then delegate this evaluation criteria to the Chief Procurement Officers—the Procurement Heads can then put pressure on contracting officers, who really are the ones who can get it done. This ain’t gonna happen.

However, we have do have members of Congress watching this time around (see featured interview with Congressman Nye). Maybe they will make accountability of the Departments a real reality. SDVOSB’s can always hope…we’ve been hoping for ten years…maybe this time, maybe, just maybe. ~~

Memorial Day

IN THE SPIRIT OF MEMORIAL DAY, PAUSE AND REMEMBER WHY THIS DAY WAS SET ASIDE.

Our American Veteran heroes suffered for our freedom, living with disabilities that will always haunt them. Others made the ultimate sacrifice, never returning home. Take some moments this weekend to think of them.

“Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measure the tides and hurricanes he will encounter. The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events.” Sir Winston Churchill

Semper Fi,
PrepFire

National Small Business Week

Every year since 1963, the President of the United States has proclaimed National Small Business Week to recognize the contributions of small business to our economic well being.

With this Sunday’s start to National Small Business Week, it is an appropriate time to speak out about how important small businesses really are to the American economy.

For example, firms with less than 500 employees drive the economy by providing jobs for over half of the nation’s workforce.  They create between 60-80 percent of new jobs in the country.  Not only that, but small businesses are high innovators, providing many of the new and creative ideas that spur growth.   Employees of small businesses often have a genuine stake in the productive process, giving them more sense of ownership than in a large company.  It is easier to get to the top people in the company, often the owner, when you have questions or problems, or talk to the same representative who knows you and your situation, as opposed to large corporations, with few personal client relationships.  Small businesses can react more quickly to client demands as well, creating a competitive advantage as well as a trust advantage.

In researching the SBA statistics, I was surprised to find that very little has been quantified since 2002 (after the last census data was culled) so with the massive downturn in the economy, trying to quote from that data is outdated at best.  We will have to wait to accurately account for small business numbers until the 2010 census is complete, but based on historical data we can again reiterate that small businesses are indeed major contributors to the strengths of the U.S. economy.

In closing, if you are forming a SDVOSB, try to be an innovator, set you and your company apart from the others.  Every time we turn around we run into another SDVOSB that is starting out and trying to do everything under the sun instead of specializing in an area.  You will see them out there, they claim they can do Information Technology, Mow Grass, Security Guards, Paint Buildings, etc. and they rarely win any contracts.  In our experience, the SDVOSBs that succeed have a niche.

The White House has Moved to the Cloud – Have You? It’s Time to Plug In.

Even though the buzz over cloud computing has reached a fever pitch in the commercial sector over the last 18 months, federal agencies are only now starting to take real notice. With the announcement last week that the flagship White House website, www.Recovery.gov moved its operations into EC2, I am hopeful that the debate of the last 18 months will morph into words into actions.

Although the rhetoric surrounding cloud computing is often hijacked by different people using different terms, the bottom line is that true cloud computing is analogous to electricity. When you plug in your refrigerator, toaster, air conditioner, or computer into your wall socket, you know that you are consuming electricity and that you are going to receive a bill from the electric company for the energy you use. Everyone can understand that on a hot DC summer day, if you put the thermostat down to 60 degrees that it is going to cost you money. It’s simple math.

Now, when it comes to the power of cloud computing it can be scary for the federal government to comprehend. It is hard for IT managers to understand how easy it is to just “plug in” to computer power (infrastructure as a service), or application power (software as a service).

Let’s look at Recovery.gov to better understand.  The White House’s move of Recovery.gov to Amazon allows them to “plug in” to server resources and as they get more traffic (power), they will get a bigger bill. No one has to worry about services or scaling. They just have to realize that the more traffic they get, the more they are moving that thermostat to a lower degree on a summer day.

But some savvy federal agencies are ahead of the curve on this one.  Several agencies are starting to pay about $50 per user per year to access Google applications that include email, calendar, and documents. Why is this important?  Well simplicity is one. If you want to have more people using the Google Apps then all you need to do is plug them in and pay $50.

This type of thinking is now a way of life in Silicon Valley, but in DC, everyone wants to know where the electricity is going, the status of the power lines, how the power plants work, and whether or not they need to build their own. While the government needs to pay closer attention to these questions for some applications, it can rest assured that when it plugs into the cloud they are going to increase productivity and reduce costs.

Now that’s some simple math the government can and should get behind.

If you have any questions or comments, I will be speaking about ways you can  “plug into the cloud” at the Gov 2.0 Conference on Thursday, May 27th at the Washington Convention Center. I hope to see you there!

Thanks,

Erik Arnold

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