MARKETING TIPS FROM B L OCHMAN

B.L. Ochman is an award-winning marketing/communications professional who turned her talents to the Internet in 1996. Her current success as an Internet Marketer is based on a 20 year-long record of corporate marketing and public relations achievement.

Ochman is president of whatsnextonline.com, a full-service Internet marketing company that builds global traffic and sales for Internet businesses. She publishes the bi-weekly marketing tactics newsletter, What's Next Online, is a columnist for webreview.com, and is published regularly online in WebPromote Weekly, WebReference, InternetDay, and offline in The Strategist, the magazine of the counselors academy of the Public Relations Society of America and in PR Weekly, among others.

We're featuring three of Ochman's articles: The Web is not for Everyone, The Traditional Press Release is Dead!, and No More Boring Bios!


The Web Is Not For Everyone

There are millions of people world-wide connected to the Internet. But opening a web site doesn't mean you'll easily reach millions of customers any more than opening a store means customers automatically will flock to buy from you.

Begin with your reason for putting up a site. If all you plan to do is publish your existing brochures and other print materials online, don't bother to build a site. If you are not prepared to offer world-class, unbiased information and superb customer service, don't build a web site.

The web is not like print media. People don't begin at page one and read the pages in sequence. The web is a dynamic, interactive medium. People go online to find out what you can do for them and how you will do it. And, more often than not, they are at an advanced stage of the buying process when they start looking at sites offering a particular product or service. Something as small as a background color or a flashing image a person doesn't like can turn them off to your site forever. But nothing gets rid of prospects faster than blatant selling on a web site.

The web is all about information and customer service. The quality of your information and service is what will make or break your reputation online. If you run a car repair company, the web affords you the opportunity to prove your honesty by giving advice about how not to get ripped off by a mechanic. Tell people the first three things they must do if they ever are in an accident. List the questions they should ask before leaving their car with a facility. Explain their consumer rights. Give them lots of links to other online car information, including fair pricing for new cars, the web sites of all car manufacturers, car buying services that find the lowest prices and more.

You don't have to give away the store, but do need to offer your expertise to the online community. For example, there is no need to explain exactly how your special paint process works and what brand of materials you buy. However, if you write an article giving questions to ask before getting your car re-painted, explain the different processes available. If the painters at your company were asked to train the painters at Rolls Royce and Ferrari, include a sentence about that in the article, but don't make it the subject. Readers are smart enough to figure out that your company is the expert in this process. And if your customer service lives up to your ability to provide quality information, sales will follow.

Of course your site also should include information about your company:its history, services, policies, customer-focus and more. Those who are interested will examine this section carefully. But if the site is just about your company, with no information to add value to the site for the customer, he'll be gone before you can say click. And it's unlikely he'll ever come back.

Well, you say, if I'm going to give away all this information online, how am I going to make money? Request co-op advertising dollars from your major suppliers; ask your town's chamber of commerce, travel agents, towing service, etc., to take a banner ad on your site; charge other sites for links to your site. And give it time. Keep following these steps, consistently, over time, and you will get results.

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The Traditional Press Release is Dead

Our New Medium Needs A New Message

The Internet is the medium of instant communication, constant change, rocket speed. So why hasn't the message changed with the medium? Why is the format for electronic press releases the same as that of print?

What's next for online publicity?

A new format for a new medium.

This article pre-supposes that those writing press releases understand what constitutes news...that the content of releases are worthy of news coverage. In question here is how to transmit a message to fit the new medium.

Online, Time Is Everything

While the release on an 8 by 11 inch page can be scanned with a glance, the electronic form of the same release requires scrolling. Says BusinessWeek marketing reporter Ellen Neuborne, "I hate having to scroll past contact information and the obligatory company description just to get to the subject of the release. Who has time to do that all day?"

Companies spend anywhere from $150 to $1,000 to have news distribution services send out each electronic press release. The results? Their headlines are listed by time of transmission along with hundreds of others sent that day on Business Wire, http://www.bizwire.com PR News Wire http://www.prnewswire.com and other distribution services.

Clicking on a random sampling on Business Wire headlines shows releases with lead paragraphs containing 156 , 94, 83 and 97 words. The complete releases average about 350 words on three 8 inch wide, single-spaced screens.

Back in the pre-Web days, smart publicists knew that they had to format releases for radio stations differently than those for print. They were taught to format radio releases like 30-second scripts. And print or broadcast, releases were double-spaced for easy reading on a maximum of 1 pages.

Any experienced publicist pitching a story by phone knows there is only
a 30-second window of opportunity. That's how long you get to grab a journalist's attention. Once they are interested, they will ask lots of questions.

Don't information-overloaded editors trying to get the wade through releases on their computer monitors deserve the same consideration?

What new format will work?

What format would work better? Writing made-for-print press releases ignores the chief constraint of modern media reporter or editor- time.

How about the simple facts in 150 words or less? Who? What? Where? When? Why? Journalism's five "W's."

Or the short-sentence, three paragraph email pitch letter?

It's not easy to write tight. Mark Twain summed it up best when he said "If I had more time I would have written less." Writing is about re-writing. And re-writing. Writing well takes time.

Respect today's reality: take the time to write less and make it mean more.

Want to win coverage? Start by throwing out the tattered old print press release. Write like you have 10 seconds to make a point. Because online, you do.

Addendum: Why do thousands of online e-newsletters and e-zines use the valuable first screen of each issue's email with a lengthy greeting from the publisher instead of just saying what's in the issue?

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No More Boring Bios!

Most bios figure among the driest, dreariest and dull tomes ever written. Whether writing your own bio or doing one for someone else, you can add sparkle to your copy if you humanize your subject by asking open-ended questions.

Good writers want to tell something about what makes the person tick. The writer who found out that Rosey Grier does needlepoint to relax gave new dimension to the football star. Here are some questions you can ask to help give life to a bio.

  • Has your life had one big turning point?
  • What do you do for fun?
  • What goal would you go for if guaranteed not to fail?
  • Do you usually push yourself to the limit or are you laid back?
  • What message would you like to find in a fortune cookie?
  • What do people find out about you only after knowing you for a long time?
  • What do you do really well that might surprise people?
  • What part of your life has been the happiest?
  • What's most important in a friend? If you could be a kid again for just one day, how would you spend the time?
  • What gives you the biggest charge from life-the most satisfaction?
  • If you could make a wish for any person except you, who would get it, and what would you wish?

For example, let's say you are writing staff bios for a company web site. You might be interviewing an accountant and discover that he used to be a Broadway dancer. With his bio, you could include a photo of him dancing with a laptop computer in hand. Learning his past makes him more than just another dull accountant.

You gather this information not to use every word of it, but to seek out enough interesting, humanizing facts about the person to make a reader able to relate to him or her. It's hard for people to talk about themselves. Questions like these make it easier. And they'll help make your writing less stiff and formal and therefore more readable.



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