Joining up the dots

BrandingBranding is important – and it is a combination of what your company ‘looks like’, what you say (your message) and what you do.   Your logo, presentation, marketing material and customer interaction all need to be consistent.

The style all needs to match so, if you’ve got funky colours in your logo and branding, but your language and service are on the formal side you’ll find customers don’t feel comfortable.  If you use a conservative font, but offer a refreshing new approach, people will struggle to reconcile the different ‘messages’ they’re getting.

A good designer will help you to develop your visual brand, colours and style, but you need to be conscious of all the other elements:

  • The words on your website
  • The style and approach of your marketing material
  • The kind of material you blog about
  • How you and your team address clients and potential clients by email
  • The approach you choose when you interact with people by phone and face-to-face

In an ideal world this means that you need to think about all this when you’re developing your brand, but, for most companies, the brand evolves as the company develops, but that doesn’t mean that it automatically creates consistency.

If you’re looking at revamping your brand remember that designers tend to see things visually and may not necessarily look at the words that go with the brand or at the way your team operate.  It’s worth looking around until you find a designer who looks at the whole organisation before developing your brand.  It’s also a good idea to talk to your clients about how they see you, what words would they use to describe the kind of service your deliver?

Your brand is your company saying ‘this is who we are’ so it needs to be an accurate reflection of how you operate, not just something visually attractive.

Writing a winner

Getting an award, whether locally, regionally or nationally, is a great boost for your business. Sometimes you are nominated by other people, but often companies can simply enter themselves. This means that the written application is a document that you really need to get right.

One of the most successful award winners I’ve met put the secret into a simple formula for success “Just answer the questions!” This may seem obvious, but, having helped a few people with their award presentations it’s surprising how many people ramble way off the topic of the question when writing the responses to the qualifying questions.

This is not a time to go ‘political’ and answer the question you’d like to have been asked, you really need to focus on what the judges are looking for. If they don’t see it in your responses, you won’t even make the short list.

The easy way to retain focus is to start with a list. Look at the question and write a list of all the things that relate to the question. When you’ve included everything you can think of organise the list into a logical order. This might be chronological or it might be in order of achievement or link things together that are related in some way.

Now you have a structure start with an introductory statement, write around each group of subheadings and then finish with a closing statement.

Don’t be afraid to use subheadings or bullet points as they both help the judges to get your message easily. When you’ve finished, put it aside for a day or two and then go back and read it objectively. Does it ramble? Is it easy to understand? Is it focused and full of relevant information? Are there words, sentences, even paragraphs that could be cut out or cut down? Be ruthless!

If you use this approach to every question you’ll be much more focused and your application will be sharp and polished. The judges will get the information they want without having to make a lot of effort – and you have a fighting chance of getting through to the next stage.
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The structure of an effective press release

Having a story is only half the battle (although probably a big ‘half’), the next step is delivering something that an editor will notice. There are a number of things that help to get your press release read and published.

One – a good headline. This needs to be engaging, interesting and generate enough curiosity for the reader to make them want to read more.
Two – a strong first paragraph that sets the scene and keeps the reader interested enough to want to read more. It’s not good practice to put your company name in the first line or headline, it can turn people off as they immediately classify the article as ‘advertising’.
Three – statistics and data that validate your story.
Four – quotes from relevant people, especially experts or known names, but your managing director or a key member of your team will do if they have something interesting or, better still, controversial to say.
Five – a point at the end so your story comes to a clean end rather than petering out weakly.

These are my tips to give you a better chance of your press release being considered for publication.

  • Head the press release up with ‘Press release’ and ‘for immediate release’ (or, if your story cannot be published until a certain date, ‘for release on [date])’
  • Ensure that each page carries your contact information (name and phone number) at the foot of the page so the editor can get hold of you if necessary.
  • Don’t put your contact information (web address, company phone number, email) into the press release itself, put these at the end for information.
  • Don’t try and sell your products or services; that will get your piece ‘spiked’ (deleted in todays terminology).
  • Stick to no more than two pages of A4, preferably one if you can get your story down to something short and focused. If the editor is really interested he or she will ring you for more information.
  • If more than one page, write ‘mf’ (meaning ‘more follows’) at the foot of the first page and ‘ends’ after the final paragraph and before the information for the editor. This ensures that the editor knows there is another page if someone prints it out and the pages get separated.
  • If you are attaching a photo or other visual put a caption in under the editor’s notes. Ensure you identify everyone in photographs by position.
  • If you are hoping to be published in a particular publication it’s a good move to read some previous copies and ensure your item is in keeping with their style.

    Develop your own press list that includes details of local and national publications you want to be in and also professional journals and relevant magazines that might be interested. Invest some time in finding out who the right contacts are and find out what they are looking for and you’ve got a much better chance of getting noticed.

    Be persistent – regular good quality press releases will, eventually, get published.
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    You can also find us on +44 (0) 1245 473296 or on Skype ‘lesleywriter’

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