Category Archives: Company blogs

IBM InterConnect

Zero to 60: A social media case study for industry

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

Rinnnnnng! “We’re registered for the big IBM conference at Las Vegas in six weeks and we don’t have a social profile,” said Blaine McGillivray with some urgency.  “Can you help us, Sharon?”

Blaine is Business Development Manager for Technology Concepts Group ( headquartered at Illinois. The IT firm specializes in computerized maintenance, facilities management, and Maximo for industry. Their new solution, Predictive Insights, is all about the “cognitive era”. That means complex mathematical models for analyzing data that help plant operators detect and prevent faults and outages before they occur.

Blaine organized a conference call with President Mark Rogers and Managing Partner Robert Januzik to help me understand their business challenge. “I didn’t really know where to go with it (social media)”, said Mark in debrief.  “I also hadn’t realized the time involved.”

An audit of TCG’s social footprint revealed accounts for LinkedIn and Twitter and a static website —functioning much like a brochure.  No blog.  I’ve seen similar medium-sized companies that want to catch up with digital marketing; nobody wants to risk getting left behind today. TCG was a solid enterprise in business for 16 years and the principals were respected armed forces veterans.

The important detail was that TCG had finished integrating Predictive Insights with Maximo for computerized maintenance and case management systems. Think big industry—chemical plants, oil gas refineries, even car manufacturers. The new service was being launched at IBM’s conference expected to draw 21,000 delegates with 200 breakout sessions, 13 keynotes and 3 general sessions. Seven TCG personnel were making the trip to host their booth and Blaine planned to present a session on Predictive Insights.

The special event meant a serious investment for TCG.  They had six weeks to create a brand presence and promote the session.

It’s not a great idea to launch a marketing strategy in zero to 60 for any company, let alone one with little or no profile.  The better idea is to establish brand presence over time and take advantage of special event opportunities along the way.

By the way, just having a social media presence—such as a LinkedIn account—isn’t actually a social media strategy. It’s a good idea to define a plan, and more importantly, execute that plan daily with your customers in mind as well as prospects and other interested parties.

So, the plan for TCG looked like this:

  1. Determine best platforms for speed-to- market;
  2. Discover relevant influencers and build relationships;
  3. Fill the sales funnel with potential prospects and existing customers;
  4. Acquire and create content to post on platforms;
  5. Capture names of prospects at the event to follow up after the show.

Here’s how we did it.

1. Best platforms for TCG: This was easy enough. The LinkedIn/Twitter combo provides business with the best customer intelligence available today. We needed to quickly build up lists for Mark, Robert, and Blaine, though—especially on Twitter which had no brand image or followers. We corrected that by immediately taking professional photos and creating a slick banner with a relevant message for Twitter. The bigger challenge: where and how do you find prospects?

2. Relevant influencers: IBM global marketers were brilliant. They identified important technical bloggers and provided introductions to the people that TCG needed to meet. We still needed to make the case for support, though. Influential media reps also were researched and contacted. All were followed on Twitter and LinkedIn and interviews arranged where possible.

3. Filling the funnel: There was no time to manually build a database for prospects, so we chose to automate. Of course, there are hundreds of platforms, maybe thousands, which promise the world in social media. The key is to know which software-as-a-service to engage and how to apply it for the mission. We chose Socedo. (This is not a paid commercial.)

Socedo is an automated system that matched our custom criteria in a search for prospects inside Twitter. Once we approved a contact, Socedo also searched for them on Linkedin and engaged with them automatically on both social networks. We estimated finding 200 prospects per day and we had 20 days left to build up and engage with those followers.

4. Acquire and create content. TCG did not have a blog and they had not created content on a regular basis. The content bank was virtually empty. However, Blaine did have the power point he created for the IBM session which led to the publication of his first blog. Of course, the social media challenge is to find followers who believe you’re worth their time. Fresh content is key.

The good news was that IBM did have many relevant blogs, and IBM gave us permission to re-purpose for TCG. We did not need permission but it was the respectful way to go.

A lineup of blogs, articles, infographics and videos was queued up using SocialOomph and we published all day long. People noticed and followed. They’re still following three weeks after the event including Veteran Radio.

5. Capture names at the event for follow up. TCG was clever here. They created a fish bowl to capture names of interested persons in their service. Not the regular iphone draw but a free Data Analysis valued at $2,000. The complementary proof-of-concept shows how a maintenance plant can avoid catastrophe by spotting the problem in advance; qualified prospects put in their business cards.

For another occasion, TCG could take advantage of a strategy I like from Instant Customer’s Crowd Catcher method. It works this way:

  • Identify serious prospects at an event;
  • Create urgency for prospects to sign up for services;
  • Automate the client’s payment process;
  • Build a mobile site for prospects;
  • Create customizable pricing packages to offer prospects;
  • Automatically re-bill customers and makes payments to a PayPal account.

What happened for the seven TCG people who attended the event? “There was not enough time to handle the line-up of visitors to their booth,” said Mark.

And, yes, there was positive ROI with respect to the TCG social media campaign and the IBM show.  “Absolutely,” replied Mark Rogers. “Especially the combination of LinkedIn and Twitter.” He was surprised by the “amount of followers we got so quickly.” He also was impressed with the willingness of people to talk about their needs.

There’s more. Mark and his team are in the middle of quoting on four proposals for multi-national clients who asked not to be named for purposes of publicity.

A successful social media campaign often fits best with an integrated approach to marketing which likely accounts for finding the multi-national prospects. Mark Rogers and his team with Technology Concepts Group showed impressive leadership and collaboration in meeting their objectives for the conference.

They risked going Zero to 60—and won’t be left behind. Look for TCG at the front.


Need help with modern marketing? Contact me through LinkedIn or by email: You can also pick up more ideas from my website:

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.

Don’t get left behind: Modernize your marketing in 2015

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

Still not convinced that social enterprise adds to your bottom line? You’re not alone.

“Only 52% of companies say that executives are informed, engaged, and aligned with their company’s social strategy,” reports the Altimeter Group on the state of social business. The path to social enterprise is being limited by a dearth of executive buy-in, says the research authority.

Too bad. CEOs might take social enterprise more seriously if they knew that modern marketers deliver on average 20% more revenue and 60% higher profit growth. McKinsey and Company-named in the top 10 of Fortune magazine’s World’s Best Companies for Leaders says leaders must champion social change if it’s ever going to happen for an organization.

Can you afford to be beaten to the bottom line by your competitors? 

HubSpot hands out these stats: 72% of salespeople who use social media outperform their colleagues who aren’t using it. That includes your competitors.

Here’s more evidence from these experts.

Melonie Dodaro: Over 55% of profiles on LinkedIn are incomplete. Translation: lost business. Optimize your online presence for both the company and for sales reps, says Dodaro.

I agree. Only a third of the contacts in my own list on LinkedIn have been completed properly. Very difficult to enjoy the fruits of social selling if the seeds have blown away.

Jesse Noyse, Kapost (pictured above): Marketers need to practice accountability and answer these questions:

  • Who creates content and what role will they play?
  • How will we prioritize topics?
  • What resources do we have to create content?
  • What resources will we need to add?
  • How do we get content out of the door?
  • What can we do to ensure our content gets seen externally and internally?
  • How do we measure return on investment?

Nick Johnson, Incite Marketing and Communications:Incite recently polled their network of big brand marketers on The Future of Content. Only 21% of respondents felt they were even close to approaching audience saturation. There’s still a lot of room to grow.

Nataly Kelly, MarketingProfs: Take some training. This may include social media boot camps to get your leadership team on the same song page.

Here’s one from my client files: In the case of Affordable Storage Sherwood Park, Sharon Romank and staff thought self storage was too boring for a newsletter topic.

That theory was disproved soon enough with open rates reaching 55%. The industry average for products and services: 16.4%.

How did we do it? Affordable agreed to revisit their vision and mission statements…get clear on customer personas for a tighter writing style…deliver relevant copy for their customers.

It’s time business leaders get onside with social selling. Yet, marketers also must be prepared to demonstrate results.


Need help with modern marketing? Contact me through LinkedIn or by email: You can also pick up more ideas from my website:

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.


Kyle Wong and Influencer Marketing

The influential world of blogging and influencer marketing

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

We know now that creating content, especially blogs, tops the list of every how-to strategy for marketing online.

You’ve got a few choices: You can publish your own blog, infographic, video or podcast, to name a few methods. Or you can distribute content acquired from other sources.

Another option is to find people with influence to help share your story through the clout they’ve built up across the different platforms.

We call this influence marketing. It’s the practice of working with prominent people online to spread the word about your products and services through social media.

I keep reflecting on how traditional publishers previously owned the influencer market. No more. Today, an assembly of bloggers can do the same thing—maybe better.

Here’s how Kraft foods recently handled a promotion for Christmas. Kraft cherry-picked 180 bloggers with verified fans and readers who fit the right customer profile. Each influencer wrote an original recipe that featured a Kraft ingredient and each recipe drove readers to a redeemable coupon at Target.

The national brand spent $43,000 to generate nearly 760,000 blog post views from around 180 recipes. Kraft engaged a snappy new platform called TapInfluence and the campaign was less expensive than traditional advertising.

Small and medium-sized business can do the same thing with sweat equity on a smaller scale by building their own lists of bloggers and developing relationships with them.

Influencers help with everything from increasing sales to public education campaigns, event promotions, fundraising, and new product introductions.

Yet, where do you even begin to find influencers?

Start within your own networks and move out from there. Build a database to keep track of these elements:

  • Name of influencer
  • Preferred network
  • Audience size
  • Age group
  • Engagement: Clicks, comments, shares, likes, retweets, pins, re-pins
  • Advertisers represented
  • Notes from conversations to remember what you heard them last say

Of course, there are hundreds of directories for over 250 million bloggers on the planet. When you run out of names from your personal circles of influence, try expanding your search of these directories:

Be prepared to give ideas about your audience to prospective influencers, as well:

  1. Topics important to your audience
  2. Background information for your clients who are considering making a purchase
  3. Answers to questions that your customers have not  thought to ask
  4. Online sources that customers research for information on similar products and services

What flummoxed me, though, was a way to rank bloggers with whom to develop relationships. Below is  what Kyle Wong, founder and CEO of pictured above, figured out. I love it.

 Influence = Audience reach (#of followers) x Brand Affinity (expertise and credibility) x Strength of Relationship with Followers.

Here’s 8 more points to remember:

  1. Don’t confuse volume of contacts with influence.
  2. Set objectives: Know what you want to achieve and make sure that you reach your targets.
  3. Think long term. Invest your time, attention and interest in the other person. Be careful not to be seen as only making contact when you want something from an influencer.
  4. Spot opportunities. Are you able to introduce the blogger to people within your network? Do you see potential partnerships or sponsorships to involve the blogger?
  5. Don’t forget your “everyday” customers and brand advocates. More than celebrities in your niche, this type of influencer/follower can boost small no-name companies to higher profiles.
  6. Mention the blogger on your own website or blog.
  7. Link to them – both hyperlink and other social media channels. Follow them on Twitter and retweet their best tweets. Suggest involving them in other more interactive ways – e.g. interviews or video
  8. Remember that bloggers are legally required to disclose if they are being compensated much in the way that traditional media must identify advertorials as paid messages.

In addition, when a blogger writes about your story and receives compensation, it is deemed a “sponsored post”. This means any hyperlink must be classified as ‘no-follow’ links which means they are not counted by search engines when calculating page rank.

Establishing presence in the digital world can seem overwhelming. Publishing a blog and identifying 10 influential bloggers to form relationships is a good place to start.


Need help with modern marketing? Contact me through LinkedIn or by email: You can also pick up more ideas from my website:

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.


Chris Anderson and The Long Tail

Pitching your story to bloggers and journalists: Both just want respect

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

You have a story about your new pet-tracking device, your mission to Africa, your latest software that saves time on social media. People need to hear about your amazing idea.

Who you gonna tell?

Certain bloggers like to say how easy it was to get coverage in traditional media. Grab some quotes, hire a photographer for professional photos, compose a media release and send it out through the wires. Newspaper and magazine editors would run the copy carte blanche and you’d have your story told.

Huh? That never happened on my watch during the 20 years I published a business magazine. Nor for my late husband, a long-time newspaper man and magazine entrepreneur.

On the other hand, we hear journalists complain that bloggers don’t subscribe to the same scrutiny of their facts, verify quotes, or back up statements with credible sources. Journalists typically work under a few layers of editorial filters before publication of their copy compared to the blogger who retains absolute control of their content.

I find that both types of correspondent want the same thing: respect for well-researched, unbiased commentary. Neither wants to be bought off. It’s called earned media and it means you might get your story covered by appreciating a writer’s skill and knowledge of a relevant topic.

In my previous life as a magazine publisher, we also turned down blatant gifts in exchange for coverage. It was even more stringent at the major media outlets. Yet, the provision of videos, books, pictures, and event invites are accepted in order to do the job. Today, bloggers typically accept early access to private betas for products, discount codes, or competitions to make available to their audience.

The key difference today for reaching out to journalist or blogger is technology and the culture of how that’s done.

Blogger outreach looks for either long-tail or A-lister. The A-lister approach will get you more attention for your initial post if you happen to grab their attention. The long tail, by the way, was coined in 2004 by Chris Anderson, former editor-in-chief at Wired Magazine, and pictured above. The theory of The Long Tail is that our economy moved away from mainstream products to a huge number of niche products or niches in the tail. You benefit from Google algorithms when a blogger writes on a long-tail topic that boosts your SEO rankings.

Both the blogger and the journalist are important for your story. Copyblogger offers these guidelines to which I’ve added my own comments for you to prepare a social media release.

Optimize headlines

There are three types of readers that you can optimize for:

  1. Regular readers
  2. Search engines
  3. Socially driven sites

Let’s look at each category.

Writing headlines for regular readers

Writing headlines for readers requires the same skill from journalists and online writers. It’s the ability to capture readers’ attention by using imaginative and clever captions. Boring or misleading headlines lose readers in every medium.

You also want to make your title as short as possible because readers don’t have a lot of patience and you have mere seconds to get their attention.

Writing captions for search engines

What’s new is that puns and plays on words have gone by the wayside. We used to have more fun writing headlines but search engines rule here. Search engines also like compelling words to gain click through—especially since Google’s algorithms have become more responsive to get the most clicks. Keep these guidelines in mind for writing good post titles as well as subsections:

  1. Title lengths should average between 60 and 80 characters;
  2. Use keywords in your title but keep it captivating;
  3. If possible, start with key words for readers who scan for those words.

Subtitles have always been used because it’s easer for readers to consume all the text. They’re even more important in the digital world because subheads are indexed by a search engine.

Diagonal reading, skimming, and scanning  

CopyBlogger described the diagonal reader as someone “who gives the content a first pass by reading an article passively—just like one would browse a magazine, look at photographs, or watch television.”

New? Not so much– city columnists for daily newspapers and, well, for all traditional media have used these tactics forever.  Many people consider skimming and scanning search techniques rather than reading strategies. As readers, we consume about 240 words per minute or skim and scan about 900 words per minute by reading these 5 sections:

  1. The title or headline of an article;
  2. The subtitles;
  3. Any bold, underlined, quoted, or otherwise highlighted text;
  4. Pictures, graphs, charts, or images of any nature;
  5. A summary of the article.

What font type should you use?

We experimented with fonts all the time at the magazine. When websites first emerged with regularity in the early 90s, all the hipsters moved to the sans serif font. My editor liked to keep text in a serif to help with ease of reading. She had studied font styles forever and she was right. The “story” or main body should be in serif fonts such as Times New Roman, while titles, subtitles, and captions can more easily adapt to a font like Arial. Easier to read. (In the case of this blog, I’ve reversed the format because this WP doesn’t seem to allow me a choice.)

 How about font size?

I made a mistake with early automated email campaigns and blogs. We were accustomed to using a 10 to 12 point font in print but I received complaints from online readers. In general, 12-point font is a good size but I’ve moved to 14-point and also give the reader an ability to increase the size of page text.

The technical reason for this is because different operating systems display text at different resolution so no matter what size you choose, it will be difficult to enforce so that everyone sees the text in the same way. The common sense reason is that people’s eyes need as much relief as possible when reading the computer all day long. Our eyes get tired –and, I suspect, eyesight will be deteriorating at a faster rate than previous generations.

A 12-step program to creating a social media release

Here’s a list of to-dos when preparing your next social media release.

  1. Write a headline with 60 to 80 characters.
  2. Use a keyword in the headline.
  3. Sign up and publish royalty-free stock images that enhance your story.
  4. Use keywords for your lead paragraph but aim to write naturally as possible.
  5. Use bullet points to convey a list of facts.
  6. Attribute statements of fact to credible sources. Add links to any supporting information.
  7. Obtain approved quotes from CEOs, customers, and experts.
  8. Provide the URL of your media release.
  9. Supply embed code. Preferable hosted on your site with a branded video player.
  10. Offer whitepapers, charts, and graphics for the reader who wants more.
  11. Provide contact information with website, social signature, and telephone.
  12. Share this buttons make it easier to share the content.


Need help with modern marketing? Contact me through LinkedIn or by email: You can also pick up more ideas from my website:

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.


Jay Abraham

Email is your endgame in business– every time

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

Last week’s blog confirmed that email isn’t going away anytime soon and blogs top the list of social selling tactics.

The findings arose from Michael Stelzner’s Social Media Examiner when they surveyed 2800 marketers on how social media grows and promotes business. It’s vital to know when asking yourself, “Where do I start?”

This blog looks at your endgame: the email list.

Yes, social media is sexy today. Everywhere you turn, there are offers to sell you the latest shiny, new tool. Except, it’s easy to get caught up in the million-dollar promises without knowing the foundation of an effective marketing strategy. It’s like the small business owner I met last week who wanted to host a client appreciation night without knowing her clients other than their names, their vague buying habits, and that they had been her customers for over 15 years. She wanted a social media campaign–yet, to what end?

It’s important to know the facts on email:  By 2018, there will be 2.8 billion email users, up from 2.5 billion this year. This number compares to:

  • LinkedIn: 300 million
  • Facebook: 1.23 billion
  • Twitter: 271 million
  • YouTube: 1 billion
  • People send an average of 121 emails each day
  • Business sends 108 billion emails annually

Remember Jay Abraham? He’s the guy that best-selling authors Tony Robbins, Stephen Covey, and Brian Tracy quote for his marketing genius. The business visionary is known for his strategies in direct response marketing from the 1970s that apply today to email marketing. I started using his counsel during my fundraising days in the 1980s which meant learning about the power of lifetime clients in three ways:

  • increasing the number of donors
  • growing the size of the donation
  • leveraging the frequency of contribution

The strategy applied to my businesses, too. We started with a well-designed list every time. The challenge we had growing the house list in those days was that we didn’t have great funnels from which to keep filling the pipeline. Our only sources were lists we bought, rented or traded from other like-minded organizations.

So, a Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook following is good because the networking contributes to the email list where your lifelong clients live. The other reason for keeping an email list clean is when/if a network dies out like Myspace. E-mail will always be there and you won’t lose the list. That’s what’s so powerful about email.

By the way, when is it safe to buy lists? “NEVER buy an email list,” says the Email Experience Council in the U.S.  Lists that are available for purchase are full of dead addresses that ISPs use to identify spammers. “Sending to a bought list is a sure-fire way to get blacklisted by ISPs.” However, the Council doesn’t have a problem renting lists from reputable vendor. I say, “Don’t do it,” to be safe here, too.

Yet, according to a new report from Folio sponsored by Lyris, many publishers are still struggling with the basics of email marketing. The survey of 175 publishing professionals revealed the following pain points:

  • List growth (55%)
  • Dynamic content/personalization (42%)
  • List maintenance (41%)
  • Mobile optimization (33%)
  • Analytics (33%)
  • Segmentation (30%)
  • Content automation (29%).

Need good ideas to stay focused on your endgame? Here are 7 for you.

1. Start with clean-list-building practices. New anti-spam legislation reminds us to build lists with people who have expressed an interest in hearing about your product or service. When you have consent or the proper permission to send an email to someone, success rates and deliverability go way up. You want the sender to recognize you when you send them an email.

Build email sign-up opportunities into your website. Consider using a pop-up form to collect new subscribers and leverage loyal subscribers by including “send to a friend” or “refer to a colleague” options in outbound messaging.

2. Keep lists current. Clean your list regularly by sending a campaign at least every three months. Believe me, you don’t want to risk getting blacklisted or blocked. I’ve seen it take as long as nine months before the search engines allow a company back in business online. Not worth the risk.

3. Figure out your data fields. This is worth repeating: It’s always best to start with good habits when you’re building a list; otherwise, there’s much pain involved in cleaning it up. The Email Experience Council says those companies that keep their lists clean generate 7  times the number of inquiries and 4 times  the number of leads.

Try to clean up multiple titles for the same person. To create a solid foundation for effective email marketing, consider standardizing the title data by using the fields of “Function” and “Role” rather than highly variable fields like “Job Title.”

4. Segment your audience and define your personas. Segmenting is all about understanding your different customer groups. Separate the groups based on job function, buying habits, online preferences, and geography. Identifying your personas gives you an edge in crafting a blog, for example, that speaks comfortably to that specific group.

5. Create lots of content… as long as it’s relevant. Relevant emails drive 18 times more revenue than general e-blasts, according to Jupiter Research. Keep content simple with a good balance of text and images. Spammers don’t usually “waste” time doing so, whereas some marketers want to dazzle with too many images. Emails with JavaScript and attachments also send a red flag.

6. Welcoming email. An Experian study found that welcome emails have 4 times the open rate and 5 times the click rate of traditional newsletters.  A welcome email establishes trust and helps you establish a relationship with your customer.

7. Establish your online brand. Your logo, brand images, and positioning statements can be designed for each platform. Social networks differ slightly which means your artwork should be changed and sized to suit each audience.

8. Track performance over time. Gaining a window into your campaign’s open rates and click-through rates will help with tracking growth and success over time. This data helps you to get insights into what content and subject lines are successful and how to improve your approach

Email is your endgame. We’ll look at how you can save time with email automation next time.


Need help with modern marketing? Co8ntact me through LinkedIn or by email: You can also pick up more ideas from my website:

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.


8 steps +1 more to navigating the media maze  

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

Most leaders of commerce and the community want media coverage for their organizations. They understand the power of journalistic exposure for their mission and recognize that space in traditional media is at a premium.  Invariably, these influencers also want reporting only under these conditions:

  • If it’s positive
  • If the message is controlled
  • If they look good

A veteran broadcaster who, as journalists are fond of saying, moved to the “dark side” of public affairs published a new book this summer on his perspective from both sides of the microphone.

The Honest Spin Doctor is a 93-page account by Grant Ainsley for people who want to pitch the media on covering their story. That’s his photo above this blog. It’s also for those who want to avoid deeper scrutiny by journalists and find themselves in a news maelstrom. Either way, he says it’s possible for CEOs, politicians, and spokespeople to be honest in their relationships with reporters.

What’s captivating is Ainsley’s recall of names and details throughout his career. He’s also candid about his fear of the unknown, especially when Ainsley decides to move out of the broadcast booth and into the world of corporate communications.

The award-winning journalist uses breezy story-telling to deliver his lessons. Yet, don’t underestimate the modest approach. Ainsley describes several real-world examples of how miscalculations by poorly prepared spokespeople went terribly wrong. Anyone remember former chairman of BP Tony Hayward and the blown-out well of Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico? Or Lululemon Athletica Founder Chip Wilson and the stupid comments he made about women’s thighs?

Edmontonian Grant Ainsley started his radio life in 1977 as a disc jockey at CKSA Lloydminster before moving that same year for a job in the newsroom at CFQC Saskatoon. He returned to Edmonton in ’78 for news posts at CHQT followed by 96 K-Lite as news and public affairs director for 10 years. The guy paid his dues.

The move in 1992 by the CRTC to allow radio stations to cut back on the spoken word prompted Ainsley to change his profession. He joined the City of Edmonton’s public works department in communications before taking on The Alberta Home Builder’s Association as CEO for 12 years.

The Internet was just starting to take hold in business life in those years and much change was afoot in the world of media.

This book comes at a time when employees also want to see their leaders become more vocal in sharing their perspectives about the future. They want their chief to alert them to what’s coming down the pike so they can prepare themselves, as well. Increasingly, employees want to know more about the values espoused by their executives and understand who they are as people and what really drives their thinking.

These precepts make a leader today and applying Ainsley’s ideas for getting along with the media make good sense, too.

Here’s some of his notions that stood out for me. But you can get this book for yourself at to find more.

1. Build a long trap-line

This is the foundation for any solid media plan—heck, any marketing plan. Ainsley encourages readers to build a database with these details:

  • Names of reporters and outlets
  • E-mail addresses for reporters as well as assignment editors in print, radio, and television
  • Contact details for relevant bloggers
  • Contact information for weekly newspapers
  • The B list of names for people who are not members of the media but who are relevant to the story.

2.  The media release is king

  • Develop an announcement in the way a reporter might tackle the story. Find out the W5: who, what, where, when and why. And how.
  • Learn the position of a reporter by following their by-lines or Twitter feed
  • Keep the media release to one page
  • Include a quote from a spokesperson

I would add that media names be organized into separate tiers, based on their social authority and influence.

There are many social tools to help you find influencers, including Followerwonk, Klout, Topsy,, and Group High.

3. Timing is everything

Ainsley likes Monday morning announcements at 11 am because reporters generally are thirsty for news at the start of the week. He also likes to schedule television news conferences at 11.30 am.

He doesn’t talk that much about the print media, so I recommend becoming aware of daily and weekly newspaper deadlines as well as magazine closing dates. Reporters and opinion columnists also have different writing styles and cut-off-dates.

4. Supply a variety of content formats

Develop a complete media kit with these contents:

  • Media release
  • Fact sheet
  • DVD with a memory stick
  • High resolution photo of key players

5. Embrace social media

There’s every opportunity today for organizers to cover their own special events, says Ainsley. If a reporter or assignment editor won’t respond, organizers can try doing it themselves by building up social media contact lists to receive messages and postings. Campaigns centres also can be set up during the event to distribute live content.

Yet, the latest social media industry report from Social Media Examiner tells us that a big concern for organizers in 2014 is figuring out how to find their online target audiences—journalists and reporters, in this case. How to connect also remains high on the list of questions.  More attention is required here.

6. Develop a communications policy

I like this one, a lot, and Ainsley includes a sample policy in his book. He recommends that company spokespeople be identified in advance, reveals how go-to people might conduct themselves, and explains the rules for non-spokespeople. A safe way to get started? Take them all for training.

7. Develop a social media policy

There is no escaping the increasing momentum that social media has on business every year. The same industry report from Social Media Examiner tell us that 92% of business indicates social media is important for their business, up from 86% in 2013.

Here, again, Ainsley addresses salient points that will keep organizations in front of any potential for a media crisis. His chapter 3 title says it well: “Companies need to deal with social media, or a lot of things will start crawling out.”

Ainsley gives his readers a sample policy in the book and suggests that companies explain what employees can and cannot say in social media when talking about the company.

He also recommends that someone be assigned to check to see if employees are following policies from time to time.  Don’t have a policy? Don’t count on the courts to see it your way if the company is slammed.

8. Grant’s 4 steps to a great interview

Readers will gain tremendous insights by scouring The Honest Spin Doctor and adapting ideas for their place of business. Here’s just a few tips in summary from a clear, crisp read:

  • Learn everything possible about the subject and the announcement
  • Develop key messages
  • Practice until every possible question and answer turns easily inside the head
  • Executive with confidence

9. Follow-ups are crucial, but don’t stalk

I’m adding this final point on follow ups with the media using email. Top influencers may not acknowledge every mention or tweet in social media but followers must respond when they do.

When making contact via email, be clear how the email address was obtained (if it’s not readily available to everyone) and also remind the person of the social media relationship. If the influencer replies, great. If not, do not keep sending emails. Continue the outreach via social media instead.

I liked this book.  If you want to navigate the media maze, you will, too.


Need help with your strategic content? Contact me through LinkedIn or by email: You can also pick up more ideas from my website:

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.


PR interviews

Event promotions: New vs old ways

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

You have a big event planned seven months down the road. The inspiration for hosting the occasion is genius, hundreds of people are expected, and you have confidence the media will cover it like a blanket.

Oh, really?

Working with assignment editors, journalists, and bloggers today is considerably different compared to just a few years ago. These changes have escaped the attention of some traditional organizers and it’s heart-breaking when a good cause loses out on valuable coverage, especially in the social sphere.

Back in the day, a plan may have included a media conference to announce an event, phone calls to pitch stories to favoured reporters or columnists, and public service announcements (PSAs) to catch free time available on radio or TV.

I’ve been fortunate to see how media works from both sides of the fence: first, as a PR hack before joining my late husband–a hard newsman–to start up a magazine that covered the business community for  21 years. I discovered that publishing decisions were difficult to make because so many requests for coverage were valid. It’s even worse, today. Available space has been cut back further at the big dailies unless there’s cash attached while TV stations—often run from major hubs thousands of miles away—don’t appreciate local priorities.

Here’s how a campaign usually rolled out back in the day.

  1. Create a list of reporters to pitch stories in print, radio, and television with street address and phone number. Usually ignored the assignments editors and producers who assigned stories to reporters.
  2. Prepare a one-page advance media release for distribution about one month before the event. The pros attached photos and bios of key people associated with the event with hopes of scoring advance coverage.
  3. Place  -30- at the end of a release to convey they were in the know.
  4. Send out 25-word PSAs about 60 days in advance with hopes the radio stations would run them during air time not purchased by paying advertisers. The pros knew stations were governed by law to dedicate PSA time for non-profits.
  5. Host a media conference six weeks before the event, so media outlets had equal opportunity to hear and write about the announcement at the same time. Considered only fair by organizers; reporters didn’t care.
  6. Schedule a promotional lead-up event to announce the real event. See if any media would come out to write an advance for the story. Reporters usually knew it was a non-story and didn’t show, so the guests got all the free food and beer.
  7. Call the reporters to see if they had any interest in attending the real event because it was considered to be irresistible. Reporters preferred hearing stories about the birth of two-headed calves on farms.
  8. Hand deliver news releases to local media and couriered news releases to national media in hopes that media would cover their event 3,000 miles away. Paid big courier bill at the end of the month.
  9. Deliver cute gifts or food to on-air personalities on the day of the event with hopes that broadcasters might say something nice about their event, even score an interview.  Better food sometimes worked.
  10. Post a PR guard at the door to the event with prepared background materials for reporters, in case they had more than two inches of space to fill in print or air time on late, late news.

Compare the old ways to these new ways of getting out your story—including to the media.

  1.  Understand who you are speaking to and figure out the relevance.
  2. Think like a reporter and answer the important questions: who, what, when, where and why. Help the writers by connecting the dots for them; they often don’t have time to research the topic enough to see the angle.
  3. Formal is out. Be relaxed and genuine in your conversations; people call that being authentic today. This style helps differentiate you from distribution houses using a template email to blast hundreds of reporters.
  4.  Remember that most people read emails on mobile devices with smaller screens. Avoid attachments, including news releases. Reporters rarely open them.
  5.  Before you ask for something, ask and answer questions posed by the reporter or blogger on social media; retweet and share their content, and then finally share a unique spin on your own story. If you can distill your message down to an elevator pitch with 140 characters, you might have the heart of a good story.
  6.  Like all of us, journalists’ ears perk up around a well-known-name or if you’ve done something remarkable. If you can’t spark their interest immediately, this is where you spend time building a relationship with the journalists you’re trying to reach through social media.
  7.  Become your own publisher. Build up the special event’s database for an email marketing campaign to reach those who really care about the organization and its issue. Send them content such as your blog, short video series, podcast.
  8.  Build up the event organizations’ own fan bases on Twitter, Facebook and relevant networks. Do this several months in advance to allow for traction.
  9.  Follow the scribes in their respective social networks to determine their preferred medium for communication, the topics they relish writing about, and how they develop their story angles.
  10. Create a list of journalists, reporters and bloggers in all media with addresses for email, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube. Calculate their social footprint meaning how many and what type of followers they have.
  11. In the case of a PR pitch, your audience is the reporter and her or his readers. Craft the message so that it matters to the particular writer and the topics they cover.
  12.  Have you got publishers on your list? This group of people differs from journalists as they are responsible for revenue streams. Think how the publisher might build a special edition with relevant advertisers around your proposed theme. They will become fans.
  13.  Did you secure a story, interview or media mention? Share it on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. If it makes sense, share it on Pinterest and Instagram, too. The inherent nature of social makes it easy to multiply the effects of great publicity. Make sure to @message the reporter’s handle or username when sharing on social. A recent survey from Vocus, a leading cloud-based PR software, found that sharing their work was the number one reason journalists are using social media.
  14.  Sure, it’s more work, but make each pitch a separate email and customize it to speak specifically to each journalist. Make them feel special.


Need help with your strategic content? Contact me through LinkedIn or by email: You can also pick up more ideas from my website:

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.

Kim Garst and Ian Cleary

Build a Profitable Blog

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

You’ve written 52 blogs, so far. You sat down every Sunday to faithfully compose your best thoughts that illustrate the advantages of your whatsit.

Does anybody care? How do you even rank among the 101.7 million blogs posted by this year or the 44.6 million posted by WordPress?  Are any influential people sharing your content?

These are the real-world questions that most scribes ask when it comes to carrying on business in the digital world. Interesting for me because these were the same types of questions that writers asked me about when writing for my print magazine.

The big difference? There’s a lot more people asking the same questions.

The answer is yes—if certain steps are taken. U.S.-based Kim Garst and Ian Cleary of Ireland recently hosted a webinar to tell us how. It’s worth listening to Kim’s been named by Forbes among the top 20 bloggers in the world and top 50 social media influencers in the world. Ian writes for VentureBeat with 6 million unique monthly users, The Huffington Post, and Social Media Examiner. He guest authors on the topic of social media tools.

Why do we labour over our blogs? Well, because traditional advertising is too expensive say the social media purists. They do have a point. My advertising rates were priced to publish a monthly edition for 21 years while regular advertising in the dailies, radio or television could be formidable for all but those with healthy budgets. Small business could barely afford advertising space and knew that face-to-face networking was their best form of marketing.

Ian also emphasized that every new piece of content helps Google to index pages. Bingo. That is a very important message because content enables search engine crawlers to find your business online.  A crawler is a program that visits Web sites to read pages and other information in order to create entries for an index. It’s how your website gets placed at the top of a Google search without paying for advertising.

Finally, Ian says that writing a blog contributes to the overall development of a business. It’s more than writing for the sake of driving traffic. I can vouch for that, too, from the traditional side of publishing. Most business writers filed their column as part of a marketing plan to build their brand. We had ongoing pitches from business people who wanted to get published but we could only bring on the best of the best; space was at a premium.

Bloggers don’t have to deal with space.

Where do these two social superstars make their money? At speaking events, delivering training courses, consulting, and building affiliate partnerships. Their blogs brand them as much-sought after experts. Affiliate marketers, by the way, pay a commission on sales when their partners refer a product or service obtained through their website, email campaign or webinar. I learned about affiliate marketing from Todd Farmer who’s heavily involved with the Affiliate Summit in New York City, August 10-12, 2014 and at Salt Lake City, September 30th. (Note: this blog is not written by an Affiliate Partner.)

Now, on to 4 building blocks that Kim and Ian described for a profitable blog.

Make a list and research your top competitors

  • Research their marketing online but don’t forget to learn about their offline activities, as well;
  • Discover the type of content they write about;
  • Investigate if there’s an area that nobody else has focused on in your business space;
  • Determine if your content can be delivered in a different way. For example, has anybody done a podcast to stand out;

Publish regularly

  • Produce quality content with posts that are better than your competitors;
  • Answer the questions asked by your customers;
  • Think about detailed posts greater than 1,000 words; this post is about 1002;
  • Know your key words;
  • Include imagery and infographics in your posts.

3. Promote your content

  • Automate the sharing of your content. My own preference is for Mike Koenig’s Instant Customer but there’s Buffer,, and Swayy to consider, as well;
  • Share to communities such as Tribrr,, and Twitter.  Kim shares her evergreen (long shelf life) blog on Twitter and her powerful connection with 266 thousand followers;
  • Use a repetitive sharing strategy. This means that you can post the same content on Twitter, for example, at several times during the same day.

Online sharing of content beats traditional publishing any day. Bloggers have so many more opportunities to expand their reach through direct and indirect ways.

My collaborators use Traffic Geyser to distribute videos to over 50 video sites on cients’ behalf.

Direct methods also allow you to connect with influencers, support other people’s blogs, tweet and retweet, and meet your peers face-to-face at conferences. You might even arrange to meet your contacts after engaging online.

“There are way more lurkers on social media than engagers,” notes Kim Garst.  “But just because they are not engaging with you does not mean they are ignoring your content; you still are valuable to them.” Amen, sister. We saw this all the time at the magazine. Readers may not have communicated directly with a writer but, we knew they regularly followed the columnist because of the details they talked about months, sometimes, years later.

In either case, you are able to attract potential customers to a sales funnel ranging from free content to  high-ticket services or products. Free products might include ebooks, white papers, and trial offers. Interest in these free items lead to low-ticket items that include video and audio training while mid-level items are detailed training courses, webinar series, and group trainings. High ticket? Think Done For You Services.

Content is the core of your business model. And a blog is absolutely essential to build a sales funnel that generates traffic, gets visitors to take action, and converts visitors to making a sale.

Bottom line? People buy from those they know like and trust.


Need help with your strategic content? Contact me through LinkedIn or by email: You can also pick up more ideas from my website:

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.


Business blog for your business

Find content for your blog–Find more customers

By Sharon A.M. MacLean

I analyzed websites for 38 business organizations this week; only 3 had blogs. My regret for these companies is knowing they are leaving business on the table.

Here’s the most common reply to my question about whether the executives or their staff might consider publishing a blog for their business. “No—there isn’t any time. I also have no idea what to blog about.”

“Oh, by the way,” they continue, “Can you help me find more clients online?”

First, your blog is an asset that introduces you as a thought leader. It’s the same guideline we used at the magazine I published: Resist talking about your own business in favor of teaching your audience about the industry you’re in. This approach helps define your reputation as someone trustworthy in your community.

The next step evolved alongside the digital world. You become something more than a business blogger, you are an online publisher.  As publishers, we created relevant content, determined how to shape the stories, and we defined advertising opportunities that aligned with the content.

Business blogging also helps with Search Engine Optimization which means the more blogs you publish, the more indexed pages you create for search engines. Finally, a blog gives you real estate to generate leads. It’s where you might ask followers to attend a seminar or to download a free guide that you have—the first step in the buying process.

Hubspot which has a reputation for creating some of the best marketing content available online offers these insights:

  • Companies that blog have 55% more website visitors;
  • B2C companies that blog get 88% more leads/month than those who don’t;
  • B2B companies that blog get 67% more leads/month than those who don’t.

What about finding topics to blog about? It’s a frequently heard challenge. You can start by thinking about the most popular questions that customers ask. They want to know about industry trends, comparative prices of products or services in your industry, and what’s in it for them. Read benefits.

Here’s 3 more tips.

 Repackage: Start with something simple. Look around for existing content. I clearly remember my early days with Easter Seals. They were convinced there was no existing material to share—until we dug around their old filing cabinets and came up with an entire history of the organization that had never been captured. It offered an opportunity to showcase the inner workings of the non-profit. Re-packaging can do the same for your business.

What about those hidden jewels in your organization? Hand them a pad of paper, and ask them to write down those questions that customers ask all the time. Those hidden jewels lead to rich content.

Guest posts. Not everyone wants to write a regular blog. Yet, some might be delighted to write from time-to-time. Pitch them the benefits around guest blogging that starts with exposure outside their normal readership and potential inbound links that can help them rank better in search engines.

Curate content. This approach will help you shape a content mix, so you needn’t be responsible for generating original content by yourself. Most people are going to be really flattered if you want to share their content. Ask for permission before you curate their work and make sure you credit the author. Add links for everyone’s benefits.

 Mike Koenig’s 10 x 10 x 4 formula. Mike is the founder of Instant Customer responsible for creating an automated email marketing system that I use to help business with their online marketing. Here’s the formula.     

  1. Write down the top 10 frequently asked questions about your product or service.
  2. Write down the top 10 questions a potential buyer should be asking you about your product or service. These are the important things that differentiate you from your competitors and tap in to the experience, skills and knowledge that you’ve acquired over your career.
  3.  Record 20 short Q&A videos asking and answering each of the questions you wrote in steps 1 and 2. Each Q&A video should be 30 seconds to 2   minutes long.
  4.  Record 4 short mini videos

At the end of each video, you tell people where to go to get the entire 20-video series which “…answers the most important questions you should ask before…” making a purchasing decision.

Enter your name and email to get all 20 videos. Put this on your video lead capture       page. It’s your chance to connect with the visitor and explain your offer and why  they should sign up.

As your own publisher, you will do all of these things for your company to ensure that the content you create is valuable to prospective customers and is delivered in a way that can find customers for your business.

Blog for your business.



Need help with your strategic content? Contact me through LinkedIn or by email: You can also pick up more ideas from my website:

Life-long communications strategist Sharon MacLean owned and published a traditional print magazine over 21 years for business people. She now applies her enhanced knowledge in digital marketing to the needs of her clients and believes in the value of combining the best of both worlds.