Meet the Team: Stephanie Masood

I love fall – it’s the best time of year, in my opinion. While I love the beach, sitting outdoors, and everything else that summer brings, I still get the most excited for fall. Why is that? Let me tell you:Stephanie

  • First, fall means hockey is just around the corner. Hockey is one of my favorite things in the entire world, and I have been going to games since I was a baby. Fair warning however, I’m a Sabres fan – not a Penguins fan. At least it’s not the Flyers or the Capitols, right?
  • On the first day of fall I can usually pretend that my beloved football team, the Bills, may still have a shot at the playoffs. This, sadly, does not usually hold true come November.
  • The sights and smells of fall – is there anything more peaceful than watching the leaves turn colors while drinking a nice cup of coffee or hot chocolate?
  • Halloween! I might be all grown up but I still love dressing up in a costume and consuming far too many Reese’s cups.
  • The weather getting colder gives me a good excuse to stay inside with a good book – which is perfect timing since I’m almost done with the 5th Game of Thrones book!
  • Lastly, my birthday is in October so fall automatically gets a +1 on all the other seasons.

So, fingers crossed that the Pittsburgh weather cooperates with my wish for fall weather soon, and Lets Go Buffalo!

Tips for Writing Press Releases

Got News? Whether your company is launching a new product, promoting an event, or sharing other news, sending out a press release on the subject has long been one of the most effective ways to reach reporters and editors. While social media is changing the game, press releases are still an integral part of any successful PR campaign. As always, the hard part is capturing the attention of busy writers. Here are 10 tips to help you write better press releases:

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  1. Compelling subject line– Reporters and editors live in a non-stop world and receive hundreds of emails a day. Unfortunately, that means a lot of them go unread. If the subject line doesn’t capture interest, the email will get deleted no matter how groundbreaking the news is. Also, make sure the subject line/heading is written in the present tense so the news appears fresh and current, even if the content in the release already occurred. The past tense is old news.
  2. Lead paragraph – The lead paragraph is the most important and most read part of a press release. It should include all of the important details: the who, what, when, where, why, and how. All other supporting information is secondary and should be included in subsequent paragraphs.
  3. Write in third person – When writing a press release, imagine that you are telling the story about someone or something else. For example, “FaceSpace launched a new social media platform at an event last Thursday,” rather than “We launched…” Unless “I” or “we” is part of a quote, don’t even think about writing in first person.
  4. He said, she said – Speaking of quotes, they add a human element to a release. While you can include a quote from someone inside the company, avoid using canned quotes because they tend to sound corny and self-promoting. Instead, quote one of your happy customers or someone involved in an event.
  5. Keep it short and to the point – Press releases should be kept to one page, or about 400 words. Use simple, effective language that gets your point across. Avoid excessive adjectives, adverbs, and words from your word-of-the-day calendar. Fluff is awesome, if you’re talking about the marshmallow variety, but it shouldn’t be included in a press release.
  6. Link up – Just because your release should be concise, it doesn’t mean you can’t provide links to relevant pages on your company’s website or other resources as a way to provide more information. But, be careful and don’t overdo it. As a general rule of thumb, you can insert one link for every 150 words.
  7. Photos – People like seeing pictures and images. However, unless you are distributing the release through a wire service, I wouldn’t email a press release with an attachment. Think about it. Do you open emails from people you don’t know, let alone one with an attachment? Nope (or at least you shouldn’t). Emails with attachments also tend to be blocked by spam filters, meaning the release may not even reach an intended target. Instead, link to the image or include a note at the end of the release that says images are available upon request.
  8. 10 and 2 – No, I’m not talking about holding a steering wheel. When sending out a news release, it’s best to do so between 10 am and 2 pm. That way, you’re at the top of a recipient’s inbox after their morning cup(s) of coffee, but before they start rushing through the remaining items on their to-do list for the day. Also, unless it’s an urgent matter, it’s best to send out a release on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.
  9. Proofread – Yep, as soon as you click the mouse button, sending your release, you finally notice that typo. It’s happened to us all, but can be avoided by proofreading. Have you been staring at the same release for a while? Ask someone else to look it over. A fresh pair of eyes may spot something that you didn’t catch.
  10. Contact info – It seems simple enough, but remember to include contact information at the top of your release so that a writer can follow up if he or she has questions, would like to schedule an interview, or ask for photos.

 

(PS…don’t forget to proofread your work again.)

 

Meet the Team: Jay Mitchell

Hey there!  Thanks for checking out my portion of Yearick-Millea’s Meet the Team. Jay Mitchell’s my name – and here’s a little bit about some of the everyday things that make me “sit-up and take notice.”Jay_1

Let’s start with food – a chunk of me is Italian, so please serve me anything that’s accompanied by red sauce and pasta! Yum!

Next would be sports! No-one is a true Pittsburgher unless he/she can’t get enough of our black-and-gold heroes! In the seats – or in front of the television – I love to cheer ‘em on all year long!

Then I suppose that music rates a mention as a personal pastime. Depending upon the time-of-day and my mood, I enjoy the oldies, classis rock, jazz, show tunes – and even modern country!  Chuck Berry to Fleetwood Mac to Diana Krall to the Zac Brown Band. Whew!  Love the variety!  “She’s real fine, my 4-0-9” topped the charts for The Beach Boys in 1962, but my #1 “classic ride” happens to be an 1983 Pontiac Grand Prix T-Top – totally rebuilt – with its own nasty 354 cubic-inch power plant.  Me?  Grow up? Miss a car cruise?  Never!

Lastly, I hereby confess that it’s my lovely wife, Diana, who helps me to hold all of these lifestyle addictions in check.  After all, someone in the family has to “live in the real world!”  Kind of like what I do every day here at Yearick-Millea.

Marketing 101: Crisis Management

Marketing 101 is a series of blog posts in which we will explore a variety of different mediums, methods and strategies along with some basic ideas for making them work for you. We hope you’ll continue to check in with this series as we go and share your ideas and insights with us.
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No one wants to anticipate the “what-if,” but in the business world, crisis communication is an integral part of an overall public relations plan and strategy. A company’s reputation could be on the line, and how a company formulates a proactive response greatly impacts that reputation. In the unfortunate event of a crisis, a prompt and targeted plan of action is essential to diffusing the crisis, rather than trying to cover up the crisis or even worse, denying responsibility of the situation.

It’s important to have a plan in place that includes numerous types of scenarios, messaging and target audiences. The plan should be revisited regularly to make sure it is up to date, and staff should be fully aware of the plan (and trained). This is even more important now that social media has added a whole new dimension to the matter. So, when building a crisis communications plan for your company, consider the following response tips for all media – traditional, broadcast and social:

  • Be Prompt: How long it takes for a company to formulate a response is critical. By addressing any issues or complications quickly, even before a story breaks, a company is showing that they assume responsibility. One of the first things that a customer may do is to visit a company website or blog. Make facts of the situation readily available to your customers, particularly on the main page. Also, consider delegating responsibility to a staff member to monitor social media sites for customer questions and feedback.
  • Be Open and Compassionate: No matter the situation, a company should provide a clear and consistent message across all channels, articulating what happened and explaining what solution is in place. It’s best to be honest about all facts related to the situation so that a mutual trust can remain. Remaining visible to your audiences will strengthen the discussion and minimize speculation.
  • Be Flexible: The situation may not occur exactly as anticipated. While monitoring and measuring the opinions of your company’s targeted audiences, be able to adjust your crisis plans accordingly.

Is your company prepared for a potential crisis? Take some time before the end of 2013 to review your crisis communications plan. It can only benefit the long term future of your company.

Our Favorite Pittsburgh Things: The Pittsburgh Pirates

Cooler weather in Pittsburgh means a couple of things – Football season has begun and hockey (and the snow, yuck) are right around the corner. This year, however, the fall-like temps seem to be bringing something else with them.

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Renewed faith in our Pittsburgh Pirates.

For the last 20 years, Pittsburgh sports fans have shared the burden of a sub-.500 baseball team. But that all changed on Monday night when, for the first time since 1992, the Pirates secured win number 82 in Arlington, TX in a 1-0 shutout against the Texas Rangers.

While fall always brings some of our favorite things to the Steel City, this year it’s just a little bit more special. Since getting that elusive 82nd victory, the Pirates have gone on to snag wins 83, 84 and 85 in a four-game winning streak – They’ve secured a winning season and just nine more Ws put them into the playoffs. They arrived back at PNC Park last night to a standing ovation and an 11-game stretch on their home diamond. A fairy tale in the making.

So enjoy the chilly evenings on deck this weekend and, while you’re at it, throw on your Buccos hoodie and head down to the North Shore to catch some of the magic that the cooler weather has brought with it this year.

Let’s go Bucs!

Why Do You Need a PR Firm?

Here’s something that happens a little too often.  A client, prospect or business acquaintance will casually mention something good that is taking place in their organization.  When I ask what they’re doing to promote it, almost invariably, they’ll say “nothing,” or explain that they’re not sure it’s “newsworthy.”

That’s usually when I get a chance to answer the question in this blog’s headline.  Truth is, if you’re like most business owners or managers, you’re simply too focused on your day-to-day responsibilities to tell your customers, prospects, community and industry about all the great things your business is doing.  Besides, you’re pressed enough for time as it is already, right?

Public Relations

The right PR firm can help – not just to get coverage in the local paper or an industry trade magazine, although that’s part of it – but can actually help your business grow.  That means more than news releases and pitching story ideas to editors.  Sure, those tactics have their place, but with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Vine and other social media channels popping up all the time, there’s almost no end to the tools PR pros can use to position your products or organization with key influencers and successfully engage their interest.

Whether you have a new product or an established business – a big marketing budget or almost none at all – there’s a PR person or firm that is ready to make sure the right people know about it – consistently (because that’s important) – and in a way that fits your budget.  Check back soon for tips on how to find one.

Meet the Team: Lauren Dreisbach

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Some of you may know me as Lauren Annibale, but don’t worry, still the same person here! I got married this past June, so my name is now officially Lauren Dreisbach. I’m still getting used to seeing my new name in print! My husband, Alex, and I are currently enjoying the newlywed life and all of our free time without the numerous tasks associated with planning a wedding. It was a blast, but I’m excited to get back to some of my regular hobbies and activities. And, this upcoming fall season is a great time for one of my favorite things to do – running.

Most evenings, you can find me running on the Montour Trail.  The cooler temperatures lately have been perfect conditions! I was always a part of the track team in high school, but running distances is a rather new adventure for me. So, why have I found myself running so much? I run mainly because:

  • It’s peaceful, and for me, my time on the trail is the perfect time to relax and clear my mind.
  • The races are so much fun! It’s inspirational to see what other runners can accomplish, and at the same time, I’m able to set goals for myself in terms of distance and time.
  • It’s good exercise!
  • I won’t lie – finding new running gear is another excuse to go shopping!

I ran my third Pittsburgh Half-Marathon in May, and I’m looking forward to the annual Pittsburgh Great Race at the end of September. I guess I’ve caught the runner’s bug!

Marketing 101: Search Engine Optimization

Marketing 101 is a series of blog posts in which we will explore a variety of different marketing mediums, methods and strategies along with some basic ideas for making them work for you. We hope you’ll continue to check in with this series as we go and share your ideas and insights with us.

So you’ve developed a website filled with information on your product or service. Good job. Now what?

Like most people, you’ve probably searched for your product using a search engine. Did your website show up as one of the first results, or are you still clicking on “Next?”

SEO

Search engines such as Google, Yahoo!, and Bing use a variety of factors to determine where your website ranks in search results. While it may seem overwhelming to think about, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is not that scary. Here are four SEO strategies that you should work on with your website administrator or developer.

1.      Keywords: One of the easiest ways to get your website noticed is to use keywords that are relevant to your product or service. Once you determine what keywords to use, place them in each page on your website. Keywords should be used in page titles, headings, content and URLs. Most search engines use software programs called spiders to analyze webpages. These creepy crawlers pick up on the use of a keyword and rank the page accordingly. However, avoid littering a page with a keyword. Look at how many times I’ve written “keyword” in this paragraph. Annoying, right? The spiders may mark the page as spam, which would have a negative effect on the page’s ranking.

2.      Titles: Titles appear in the upper left-hand portion of your browser window. Look at this page, its title reads “Marketing 101: Search Engine Optimization.”  Each page on your website should have a different title that is descriptive of the content found on it. Be sure to use keywords in the title and keep them brief (less than 60 characters).

3.      Content: The rule of thumb is to keep text brief. Nothing is more intimidating and less appealing than staring at a wall of text—at least to me. Try breaking up text with photos and other images. Search engine crawlers are beginning to use media files as part of their algorithms. Nowadays, when you upload a video to a website, you can input keywords as “tags” that will help users discover your content and improve your page’s ranking.

4.      Inbound Links: Another important factor that improves your website’s ranking is how many other websites are linking to your site. When there are inbound links, the search engine sees your site as a go-to resource for information on a topic. Sources for these inbound links could include social media, blogs, articles, and press releases.

Whether you’re updating your existing website or developing a new one, make sure SEO is part of the planning process.