Bad News-to-Good News: Income-Tax Hike in Illinois Presents PR Opportunity for Businesses

Yesterday, the Illinois legislature approved an income-tax increase for individuals and corporations.

What do you suppose that has to do with life insurance salesmen, sports marketers, a wealth advisory consultant and restaurateurs?

At minimum, two things:

1. All are affected by it.

2. All can–and should–parlay our lawmakers’ lazy and gutless (yeah, I’m steamed) decision into news that turns the spotlight on their business and their industry expertise.

An op-ed piece,a news release, a pitch about the impact of the change on their field–all are fair game as responses to the governmental money grab.

I mention those four business categories because over the past three days, I’ve met with prospective clients in each of them. To each, I’ve sung this same tune.

It’s one way to turn the legislature’s lemon into lemonade. There’s no law (at least not yet) against parlaying really bad news into good profits that flow from raising an organization’s profile in the media, social media and via any other platform.

Search Engine Optimiziation, that holy grail of online attention-getting, flows more abundantly when your content is current and relevant. In another word: news.

So what are you doing right now to ride the coattails of the state’s income-tax grab and offer up actual newsworthy material to the media? The clock is ticking, and the media spotlight usually shines most brightly on those who make the first move.

Godin Offers Take On Newspapers’ Future

Evidence of the decline of newspapers–as we now know them, anyway–is all around us, both locally and nationally.

Pioneer Press, the chain of weekly newspapers that has been around for more than a century, just shut down a dozen of its papers throughout the Chicago region. Last week, three Pioneer editors I have been in regular touch with the past two years were among 10 top editors who received pink slips.

Amid that dour news, I recently came across “When newspapers are gone, what will you miss?” a blog post featuring some refreshing insights from marketing maven Seth Godin.

One point he makes about journalism, and which I wholeheartedly agree with: “Punchline: if we really care about the investigation and the analysis, we’ll pay for it one way or another.”

Still very much in flux: just what that business model will look like.

Doors Open, Narrow On Healthcare PR

Healthcare is integral to our lives, and over the past few years it’s developed into a significant portion of Inside Edge PR business, with more than a dozen health-and-wellness clients in my A to Z experience.

This afternoon, I had the intriguing, immaculately timed experience of fielding a call from one healthcare provider (who had spoken with me about six months ago) seeking help with marketing and PR strategy, even as another provider–a hot prospect only a few weeks ago–notified me via e-mail that the regretted to report they were cutting back on marketing/PR support.

One door opens wider, another door goes from wide open to ajar.

(I never view doors as being entirely closed, unless I simply would not want to work with a given individual or organization. Um, Emperor Blagojevich, that includes you.)

Blog Discipline Breeds PR Benefits

Six months ago, I would advise clients to consider starting a blog. You can show your expertise, I would explain, give your target audience something new to check out, and so forth.

I don’t think anybody heeded my suggestion. Seemed like so much busy work, I’m sure.

At the time, I was “too busy” to get one started myself. My own business didn’t have a blog, so, naturally, my counsel was half-hearted. And when you get right down to it, my recommendation was so much hypocrisy.

Then, in late May, my fantastically creative and talented web designer, Sherri Lasko, blew my cover. She built a gem of a website for Inside Edge: Public Relations & Media Services. On the home page, a link in the upper left corner boldly declared: “Read Matt’s PR Blog.”

Now I was cornered–in that spot I would have to offer something other than “Matt’s sterling PR musings coming soon!”

Today, having surpassed 100 Inside Edge PR blog posts, and more than 100 other blog posts for other clients (both publicly, such as I Do, Doggone It! and as a “ghost” blogger), my half-hearted tone has given way to wholehearted exhortation.

I urge my clients–and anyone else who asks–to join the blogosphere. Not for its own sake, but for the structure it creates for your overall communications strategy (you do have a strategy, don’t you?).

In the process of blog-letyzing (blog prosletyzing), I walk people through some of my own posts, not because I’m so great, but because it allows me to show them how much this blog has developed in that time–and how much more it’s bound to go as I continually refine it.

For one thing, I know how to create helpful links such as this one for Oak Park’s Shop The Village program, one of my current projects.

For another thing, to help attract and retain interest, I now have embedded videos, photographs and other images frequently popping up in this space. (Thanks for telling me candidly that the site was drab, Bridgett.)

The blog also allows an individual to communicate the depth and breadth of his or her organization’s distinctive place in the world. Oh, and it can attract traffic with certain key words, such as Barack Obama, Matt Damon, the Boston Red Sox and Kermit the Frog.

If you’re successful to any degree, you are bound to have so much happening all the time that it’s easy to have significant accomplishments and other newsworthy fodder slip through the cracks.

“I’ll get back to that some time,” you might say. Before you know it, you’ve said that dozens, even hundreds of times, and there’s little chance you’re going to have the time to circle back and adequately chronicle that newsy nugget.

Then, when it comes time to identify story ideas, you stare at a blank piece of paper and wonder where to begin.

If nothing else, a blog helps enforce a regular discipline of noting significant developments in your organization. Through that process, story ideas gush forth naturally.

I’ve seen it happen time and again, most recently the other day with one of my “ghost” blog clients. Because my blogging is behind-the-scenes, I can only offer more detail if you ask me about it 1-on-1.

Now how’s that for a marketing hook?

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Listen Up! Follow Studs Terkel’s Example

In September, I was invited to speak to a gathering of the Illinois Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.

As an association member was preparing my name tag, he asked how I should be described. Since I was going to be addressing the group, the logical answer might have seemed to be “speaker.”

But, really, my career has been weighted much more heavily on the receiving end—more than anything else, I’ve been a professional listener.

So I asked that “Listener” go on my tag, and the association member obliged.

This comes to mind this morning as I read about Studs Terkel, and his remarkable legacy of drawing out stories from a wide spectrum of individuals.

Studs, who passed away this week at 96 years old, set an example that we should all strive to emulate, whether it’s capturing stories as I do with my service known as Your Front Page or simply paying respectful attention to anyone and everyone, even if our self-absorbed and preoccupied inclination is to think they probably don’t have much of interest to share.

When I speak, I rarely learn a thing—beyond the fact that I’m reminded I ought to do it more succinctly. But when I listen, I rarely come away without picking up some helpful food for thought.

Listening–truly listening–is at the heart of “PAVE The Way to Powerful Communication,” one of the services on the training front that I have developed in recent years. Here’s the PAVE foundation:

Practice active silence–be a sincere audience
Ask engaging questions–find out what makes people tick
Value all people–everyone has a story to share
Expand your comfort zone–you may be surprised by what you learn

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