Timeless Advice in Marketing & Public Relations

Regardless of your chosen career, there are times when well-intended counsel comes your way.  Here are two important pieces of advice that I learned early on as a salesperson and account executive in marketing and public relations.  After 27 years, in the business, they are just as valuable today as when I received them:

  • Prior to a new business meeting, research your client and his or her firm to have a good understanding of that company’s products/services.  If possible, develop a model of the firm’s customers so you can walk into the encounter with a rough idea of the marketing challenges and opportunities they face. Be prepared to discuss examples of how you’ve helped other companies in similar situations.
  • Once you have acquired a client and become familiar with their business, be proactive about making suggestions and presenting ideas.  Marketing professionals in most organizations are busy juggling multiple projects and balancing the demands of the people they report to, as well as product managers, sales staff and outside vendors.  That doesn’t leave a lot of time to think strategically about their business.  You can add value to your service by helping to facilitate that process and, ultimately, by helping to grow your customer’s business.

What is the best advice you got in your career, or what lessons do you try to impart to the people you mentor?  Please share them with us in the comments!

Tips to Help You Proofread Your Work

Proofreading, the action of editing your writing carefully to find any grammatical or spelling errors, is an important step for everyone to take—especially in public relations and writing.

As public relations and marketing professionals, we are tasked with using our knowledge about words and grammar to ensure that client press releases, brochures, newsletters, social media posts, website text and other content are free of errors and typos.

The way we create content has evolved throughout the years, and it’s made society hungry for information right away. Content is distributed much quicker these days via blogs, social media and websites. That increases the risk of simple, yet crucial mistakes that could impact your credibility as a business or professional. Just last month, the Texas Longhorns college football team released a media guide with a URL typo — Texas was misspelled— at the bottom of every page. Similarly, the Colorado Rockies baseball team misspelled the last name of one of its players on 15,000 promotional shirts, resulting in an apology on social media and the need to manufacture additional shirts for replacement.

Here are some tips to help you effectively proof your writing:

  1. Concentrate—The industry is quick-paced, and if you’re working on multiple projects at one time, chances are you’re going to lose focus and you won’t catch all of the mistakes in the copy you are editing. Read all of the content (including headlines, standard boiler plates, etc.) slowly and pay attention to grammar.
  2. Step away for a while—After spending hours writing content, you’re so familiar with it that even if there is a mistake, you won’t notice it because your mind tends to fill in the blanks. If you’re writing in the evening, go to bed and give the copy a fresh look in the morning. You’re more likely to find an error once you’ve had a chance to think about something else.
  3. Have someone else read it—If you’re on a tight deadline and don’t have time for a breather, ask a co-worker to proofread your content. Even if you do have time to go over your writing a few times, consider asking someone else to look it over. A fresh set of eyes might catch something you missed.
  4. Print it out—Nothing beats the classic “red pen” method. Printing out a hard copy of your work allows you to review it in a different format. Read it carefully and mark any mistakes in red or brightly-colored ink so that you don’t miss any corrections when you’re fixing them on the digital copy.

Do you have any proofreading tips? Share them with us in the comments!

Our Favorite Pittsburgh Things: Pittsburgh Summer Restaurant Week

Pittsburgh is always referred to as a melting pot of cultures, which is certainly reflected by the different types of restaurants participating in Pittsburgh Restaurant Week. Through Sunday, August 17, participating local restaurants are offering special menus to diners, including multi-course meals and specialty items priced from $20.14 to $35.14.

The purpose of Pittsburgh Restaurant Week is to celebrate Pittsburgh food and restaurants throughout the city. This summer’s Restaurant Week highlights fine dining, fresh harvest and outdoor seating. A list of participating restaurants and their specific deals can be found online at pittsburghrestaurantweek.com, and we encourage you to check out the options!

As you browse the menus of participating restaurants, you’ll discover that there is a variety of diverse cuisine selections from nationally recognized chefs – and from restaurants old and new to the city.

A few of the restaurants that have been serving Pittsburgh for years include the Grand Concourse and Morton’s, but restaurants such as Grit & Grace and Altius have been gaining positive reviews over recent months. NOLA on the Square in Market and Meat & Potatoes — both in downtown — are a couple of our lunch time favorites.

So take this opportunity to spend some time downtown. Make a reservation and enjoy! Let us know if you’ve found any new favorites.

Credit: Pittsburgh Restaurant Week

Credit: Pittsburgh Restaurant Week

5 Questions to Help You Write a Marketing Plan

Busy or growing companies often ask agencies like ours to help them write marketing plans.  While we’re usually eager to help, sometimes we can’t get started because a few basic questions stall the process right off the bat.

If you’re ready to engage an agency to help you draft a marketing plan, or if you’re planning to write one yourself, you can accelerate the process by working with your company management and sales team to tackle these five questions first:

  1. What is the value proposition for your product, service or company?  What makes you different?  What problems can you solve for customers or help them gain a competitive edge?
  1. Who is your ideal customer?  What is his/her job title or function, and who or what exerts the greatest influence on their buying decision?
  1. What is the best way to reach customers?  Which tools and tactics has your company used to successfully generate leads or sales in the past?
  1. What is the desired call to action for your prospect?
  1. What key metrics will help you measure the success of your plan?

These fundamental questions lead to many others, of course, but they can help narrow your focus or start a productive conversation within your organization.  Is there a question you would add to our list and, if so, how has the answer helped shape your marketing program?

Are You Using ‘That’ and ‘Which’ Correctly?

In everyday conversation, people use that and which interchangeably without giving the words much thought. However, when using them as relative pronouns to introduce adjective clauses, the choice of using that or which determines the meaning of a sentence. It’s another grammar rule that is more important in writing than it is in speech.

So, how do you know which word to use? Simply put, use that before a restrictive clause and which before a nonrestrictive clause. Easy enough, right?

That

Restrictive (or essential) clauses limit the meaning of the nouns they modify. They add important information, and leaving it out would change the sentence’s meaning.

Example: The bacon cheeseburgers that are topped with cheddar sell fast.

In this sentence, we specifically know the bacon cheeseburgers with cheddar sell fast. We don’t know anything about the burgers with a different cheese.

Which

Nonrestrictive (or nonessential) clauses simply provide additional information that can be left out of a sentence without changing its meaning.

Example: The bacon cheeseburgers, which are topped with cheddar, sell fast.

In this sentence, we can assume cheddar is on every bacon cheeseburger and they all sell fast.

Did you notice the commas in the nonrestrictive clause example and how they are absent in the restrictive clause example. The rule of thumb is to surround a nonrestrictive clause with commas. If the sentence ends in a nonrestrictive clause, set it off with a single comma. For example, “I ate a bacon cheeseburger for lunch, which was delicious.”

Would you like us to explore other grammar questions? Let us know in the comments.