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SWOT Team: Fighting for the Right to Train

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Employment experts spread the gospel that if companies provide training and knowledge to employees, then employees return the favor through loyalty, growth and satisfaction. Managers believe, however, that when they hire employees, these workers should already know the job—and besides, when belts are tightened and companies look for cheap labor overseas, there is no room in the budget for training.

Yet, industries and fields change. Like doctors who must attend seminars on a regular basis to stay up to speed in their fields, why shouldn't marketers? What's the price of training as opposed to losing an employee and spending time and money to search for a replacement who may or may not be as good?

Often employees are disgruntled when attending company mandatory training, which is not the same as career-related training. With budgets slipping away, it's easy for training to be one of the first line items to go. What is the value of training? Has it lost its luster?

Got enough training dollars? Pose another dilemma to our readers. Is your marketing organization well balanced, or is it lacking resources? Are you cringing when dealing with a boss or colleague? Struggling with leadership or morale? Send smoke signals and provide details, and we will ask the 100,000 MarketingProfs Today readers what they would do. Write to us and pose your dilemma. You will receive a FREE copy of our book, A Marketer's Guide to e-Newsletter Publishing, just for dropping us a line with a new topic to explore.

This Week's Dilemma


How do you convince management to budget for training?

Our large teleco used to partially reimburse employees for college classes, but they cut back on those benefits to stay afloat and avoid layoffs. I'd rather keep my job than have training benefits.

The training benefits aren't the same as sending employees to professional training, conferences, and seminars; but our budget was slashed there, too. Despite these challenges, it has me thinking about training's role in business.

Outside of receiving training to learn your job when you first come on board, what is the value of training? How do you convince the powers there is a fundamental need to budget training for employees?

— Jim W., Product Manager

Previous Dilemma

We're turning into a media dinosaur.

I run a small nonprofit organization that produces seminars and workshops. We used to get reasonable media coverage of our events by submitting news releases, but the newspaper and radio contacts we have been using seem to be tightening up their policies, thereby making it more and more difficult to get a mention.

Furthermore, when the media was composed of many individual companies for different types of coverage (print, radio, TV), it was easy to stay in touch with specific contacts at certain companies. Mergers and acquisitions have consolidated many media companies into a slim few. Most of my contacts are no longer around, and I don't have a way to tap into these organizations. How can I better network or become affiliated with these media organizations? How can we break through these barriers and increase our exposure?

—Allison, PR Manager

Summary of Advice Received

Allison, do continue building relationships, which, as you know, are an important factor in every business, especially in public relations. It's hard work, but it pays to keep up with the new faces and get to know their needs.

The media is about audience, not about what your organization has to say. The audience may not care about the number of dollars a nonprofit organization has raised. Maybe, instead, change the focus to what the money will do: discover a new medicine, offer free medical services, build homes for low-income families, and so on.

Ford Kanzler, principal consultant at Marketing/PR Savvy, sends a reminder that PR pros have turnover and jobs changes as much as the media that's on the receiving end of the releases:

Musical chairs in the relationship game is normal. Expecting to “get a mention” is a fallacy as is nearly any “expectation.” If you're working with local and regional media outlets, in addition to connecting with reporters try engaging their managers, the editors who assign stories as well as those who write or produce them.

Creating new relationships with media people is never-ending. There may be fewer outlets in your market, so you'll have work a little harder to establish and maintain relationships with them. Read what they write and produce. Let them know you're reading or watching them. Give them ideas or tips without expectations of coverage. Be a friend and they'll become one.

Readers suggest four ways to stay alive and well in the media's eyes:

1. Target a specific audience.

2. Pull out the creativity card.

3. Take other routes.

4. Look into sponsorships.

1. Target a specific audience

Steve Nicholl, president of Zot Marketing, agrees there are fewer “owners” out there. Consolidation is making it a challenge for nonprofits, partly because deregulation has removed the must-dos for nonprofits, formerly a critical factor in broadcast license renewal. Steve believes that the most important change is core audience targeting:

Your organization has “core” participants... the 20% of your supporters who drive the engine. Match that “core” with the media outlet's target. Show them how what you offer and who they target “match.” Sell them on why it's good for them and show them how they can benefit. It may not seem like it, but the media is looking for things that match, especially if it gives them a leg up on their competition.

Ford Kanzler believes that broadcasting a news release is one of the worst things to do for publicity:

To reporters, it means you haven't got the time or inclination to work with them one-on-one and try to figure out what they want. They don't want canned info that all the other outlets are receiving at the same time. Journalism in the US is highly competitive. The news release is perhaps the most overused tactic in public relations. Don't expect them to pick up information delivered that way. Try customizing stories for specific outlets.

He also suggests providing the media access to people who have attended and benefited from events or seminars. Think about how these events have changed them. That's where the story is, not just promoting an event (all that's worth is an events-calendar item).

Jeff Crilley, Emmy Award-winning TV reporter, author of Free Publicity and publisher of jeffcrilley.com, encourages Allison to become a better student of the news:

Which reporters are covering what? Most nonprofits need to focus on “feature” reporters. If you read an uplifting story in the paper, take note of the reporter's name. Or if you're watching your local TV news and see a warm “feel good” story, make sure you write down the name of the reporter who covered it. I'd suggest you call the reporter on the phone. Pitch your story, and if the reporter likes it then send a news release. As the author of a tell-all book on how the news process REALLY works, I can tell you what's happening to most of your news releases. They get a one-second glance and end up in the trash. Pitch the reporter who “gets” your kind of stories, and your ability to finesse the press will skyrocket.

Lois Carter Fay, APR, founder and CEO of MarketingIdeaShop.com, echoes Jeff's thoughts and adds another dimension—electronic publications:

Pay attention to which reporters are covering your industry, and think creatively. Does the coverage have to be in the business pages? Or can you think of a way to get it in the lifestyle section? Get to know reporters and producers in many areas, several layers deep. That way, when someone moves on to another company, you will still have contacts in the media. Online publications and electronic newswire services are also becoming very important to a good PR campaign. Research the electronic publications that serve your market. Remember to include them in your release distribution.

From these responses, it sounds like it's time to put the generic press release to bed and start targeting stories to specific reporters. Then get creative!

2. Pull out the creativity card

Ford says, “More imagination, creativity, and persistence are required.” Think like a reporter, he adds, and pitch new or feature ideas instead of bombarding them with news releases:

What's key in addition to truly having a relationship with a reporter or editor—meaning they know you, trust you and consider you a credible source—is fitting what you have to say, your company's angle, with stories they feel are currently important. If the acquaintance exists, it's pretty easy to ask a reporter what they're working on or are planning. Suggesting a fresh look at a topic they haven't covered in six months or a year is another possibility.

Gina Warner of Strategic Solutions suggests creating a workshop to help nonprofits with their media relations:

You could ask representatives from some of these media companies to serve as panelists for these workshops. That way, you would be offering them the chance to share their expertise, while at the same time presenting and positioning your organization to them in a positive way.

Creative angles, especially for nonprofits, are a challenge. In his latest book on creativity, Free Prize Inside, Seth Godin suggests looking at things differently. For instance, make large things small and vice-versa. Mention a free prize offer. It doesn't have to be expensive, or maybe a local business can donate items to distribute.

3. Take other routes

If everybody's doing it, it's going to be tough to get in. Joan Stewart, publisher of publicityhound.com, is not surprised that Allison is not seeing results and encourages her to zag while everyone zigs. Joan suggests the following ways to do this:

  • Start developing new relationships with reporters, editors, radio talk show hosts, and TV assignment editors. Write or email each one and offer yourself as a source on your particular areas of expertise.

  • Share your problems and solutions. Since 9/11, it has been difficult for meeting planners to attract participants for workshops and seminars because corporate travel budgets have been cut and many people hate traveling because of tighter security precautions. What marketing tactics have you instituted to boost attendance? Share those with business reporters.

  • Make a contact with your local business journal. Many business journals have a special section each year that deals solely with meetings. Offer to write an article for that section. Or offer to speak to a reporter about writing one. Or share a list of tips on how to host a great seminar.

  • What trends are you seeing in the nonprofit sector? Is charitable giving down? Is it more difficult for nonprofits, particularly smaller ones, to compete against the giants? If so, what are you doing differently?

  • Use the op-ed pages for publicity. Write letters to the editor and opinion columns commenting on articles that already have been printed, controversial issues, issues your organization is lobbying for or against, and other timely topics.

Lois Carter Fay of MarketingIdeaShop.com also believes in taking a different approach by creating exciting events with keynote speakers or workshop leaders, people who are natural newsmakers. She provides questions and ideas for making this happen:

What can you do differently to create some excitement? Define your event: Who are your participants? What are the benefits for the participants AND the readers or listeners of the targeted media? Do you have a radio station sponsor, TV station sponsor, print media sponsor and online media sponsor for each event? You should! How can you get them to sign on to your event? What's in it for them? Why would their readers or listeners want to know about your events and workshops? If you can communicate this to the media, they will cover your event.

News releases just don't cut it today. What you need to do is create a powerful 30- or 60-second pitch that you can deliver by email, voice mail, and in person. Additionally, today's PR professional has to cast a wider net to get coverage for events, workshops and company news. It's no longer possible to develop just one level of contact at each publication. Watch the publications that serve your industry and community, listen to the TV and radio stations, and keep an eye on the local organizations, such as the Chamber of Commerce, that can be helpful to your promotion efforts.

Use PRWeb.com to distribute releases, too. It's free and they publish the links to your Web site contained within the release. Even if you don't get much coverage from it, you will improve your search engine ranking for your Web site.

Also, consider developing your own community calendar of events. Become the “place to find out what's happening” in your community. Post a calendar of events on your Web site, and send out a weekly or biweekly email newsletter that includes ALL of the business and event happenings in your community. Let all of the other nonprofits, business organizations, media, trainers and businesses know that you would like them to send you their events news. Pretty soon the media will come to you to find out what's happening!

Avoid or limit the “typical news release” or “this is what everyone else does when contacting the media” thinking. The creativity card can help with unique ideas. Once you've used up every ounce of creativity, sponsorships may be another way to get more coverage.

4. Look into sponsorships

A reader suggests looking into sponsorships. By doing this, not only does the nonprofit benefit but also the sponsor gets promotion at the nonprofit's events. In turn, the organization can gain contacts from the sponsor.

Continue to build and value relationships with the media and local businesses. Stay in touch with existing contacts, and when one leaves get to know her replacement. The replacement will appreciate having a new resource available to her.

Take a break and let us know what you need!

Whew, this was a tough challenge, and MarketingProfs readers came through again. Thank you! We would not be surprised to hear if your organization or clients often make it in the media.

On that next coffee or water break, the suggestion box is open for your thoughts on the new dilemma: What do I do about training? Or share your own frustrations for others to pitch in with a solution.


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Hank Stroll (Hank@InternetVIZ.com) is publisher at InternetVIZ, a custom publisher of 24 B2B e-newsletters reaching 490,000 business executives.

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