That Solo Life: Co-hosted by Karen Swim, founder of Words for Hire, LLC and owner of Solo PR Pro and Michelle Kane, founder of VoiceMatters, LLC, we keep it real and talk about the topics that affect solo business owners in PR and Marketing and beyond. Learn more about Solo PR Pro: www.SoloPRPro.com
Monday Mar 27, 2023
Getting Real About Disruption
Monday Mar 27, 2023
Monday Mar 27, 2023
Disruption feels like the normal state of life these days. From developments in the financial sector to feeling like AI has come crashing in, it’s a lot. But a time of disruption doesn’t have to be a negative experience. In today’s episode, we talk about how PR pros can navigate these times to our benefit and strengthen our success.
Michelle Kane (00:01):
Thank you for joining us for this episode of That Solo Life, the podcast for PR pros and marketers who work for themselves, people like me, Michelle Kane, with VoiceMatters and my ever-steady co-host Karen Swim of Solo PR Pro. Hi Karen, how are you today?
Karen Swim (00:18):
Hey, Michelle. I'm doing good. How are you?
Michelle Kane (00:21):
Good. Hey, we're just riding the waves of life, hanging on to our boogie boards with dear life,
Karen Swim (00:27):
Yes, we are.
Michelle Kane (00:30):
Oh my goodness. Especially with this season. I think this episode will drop sometime in March and you know, we're coming off of all sorts of disruption in the financial world, but we're going to talk about mainly disruption in public relations, how the practice is changing, how we can go along with that, how we can be ready, how we can prepare. How, if we need to, retool our businesses and how to stay successful, to stay the successful awesome pros that we are.
Karen Swim (01:10):
You know, it's funny, I attended this fantastic webinar this week, and one of the panelists in talking about it was all on artificial intelligence. But it's a different aspect of it. It was really interesting and, and I did gain some insights. However, the panelist in talking about artificial intelligence made the statement and he said, well, you know, the public relations industry is very slow to change. And excuse me, it really bugs me because yeah, as PR practitioners, we often say that about some client industries. There are some client industries that are so slow to adopt, to change. And, I don't want to name those because this is not a time of shaming, but when he said that, it bothered me because there is a lot of truth in that. But it should not be true. It should not be true of us.
So, to be thought of as an industry that is very slow to change to me says that we wait and, and we do, we're cautious. And you always hear people say, you know, the foundation of public relations has not changed. And that's true. At the core and the heart of what we do, it has not changed. But certainly the environment around us has changed. The tools have changed, the methodologies should change. There are so many things that are different. And as this particular, as this panel, I don't know if it was the same panelist, but as they pointed out, they said, we are at a moment with artificial intelligence, much like we were with the internet, and I'm old enough to remember the birth of the internet and to remember how it was rapid innovation and how things like happened.
So it was all about the internet. It was like this new shiny thing, and it wasn't a fad, it wasn't a trend. It stuck, but there was a lot of rapid in innovation in a short period of time. We're seeing that same thing happen, happen in artificial intelligence. So, not to veer off into that topic, because we've discussed that, and we'll continue to update you, but there is disruption. And one of my greatest fears for our people, our tribe, which is public relations practitioners, is that we sit on the sidelines and we wait it out. We wait to see if something's really going to stick. And we're not responding to things like big social media changes. We're waiting out platforms. We're not jumping in and figuring out because things are not going to wait. TikTok is a perfect example. Love it, hate it. Want to be on it, feel like you can't be on it because it's all young people, or because you don't dance or sing.
Michelle Kane (04:25):
Karen Swim (04:25):
It has taken hold of our publics period. And our publics could care less what the government is saying about TikTok.
Michelle Kane (04:34):
Right. That's true. They really don't.
Karen Swim (04:35):
That's true. They do not care that China may be spying on them. They are using this platform. Yeah.
Michelle Kane (04:42):
Karen Swim (04:42):
So some brands have jumped on the platform and they're making it work. News channels are figuring out how to make it work. But we are by and large sitting on the sidelines not making it work because we are not too sure about it, and we don't feel like it, you know, we get it, we know about it, but we're not seizing it and shaping it for our narratives.
Michelle Kane (05:11):
Yeah, you bring up a really good point of how we need to be checking ourselves, right? Because yes, you can drive yourself crazy running after every new shiny. However, if you see something taking hold like TikTok or some kind of innovative way to do your work, don't just wait until, I don't know, the “Guys! Download this PDF Guide!” hits your inbox, start playing around with it, check it out for yourself, see what it can do for you. See what it might do for your client. Because I think there is that, certainly that side to our business and our practice of, you know, we are always trying to stay ahead of the narrative and staying ahead of what could come next. So I think that's a way that we do our job, but I think we need to bring that into the how we do our job for ourselves. It's, we owe that to ourselves, to our clients to really step out into that and think, huh. Okay. I need to really wrap my arms around that.
Karen Swim (06:27):
And let's be real about the shakeup that really is impacting our industry. We see a media landscape that is incredibly chaotic, gone are the days where reporters have a single beat, they don't. They cover four to five subjects, they file eight to 11 stories a day. And there's fewer of them. And there's rapid turnover and change. We see journalists change jobs, like Imelda Marcos changed shoes,
In some industries it still holds true. Like real estate comes to mind. There are still real estate reporters, but beats are shrinking. And again, in response to the economic outlook, media doesn't make money in the same way anymore. There is change. And so that is a disruption to us when we talk about things like TikTok and the social media channels. It's not just that these tools exist, but it's that it's upended what we think of as thought leaders and experts, because everyone has the opportunity to be an expert.
Michelle Kane (08:06):
Karen Swim (08:07):
Everybody can do it. They've democratized having an opinion about things. And so for us, that disruption means two things. It means that you have to be innovative in pitching your own thought leaders. You have to think outside of the box. You have to figure a way to rise above the noise. But it also means that you have to watch out even more closely for misinformation and disinformation, because people can say anything. And if they have enough people following them that believe them, then that false information becomes truth in the minds of many.
Michelle Kane (08:44):
Yeah. And you know, think of it this way. Every company is a media company. And that was never more clear than with the onset of social media. Every company now has a platform to broadcast their message in a variety of ways. And when you're talking about shrinking beats and a shrinking media, add to that the fact that people are being inundated with information from all these people and trying to discern what is worthwhile, what isn't, what is true, what isn't. And if anything, that makes our job even more challenging to cut through all of that noise and to put forth the information that we're handling on behalf of our clients.
Karen Swim (09:31):
I mean, and let's not ignore the elephant in the room. AI.
Michelle Kane (09:36):
Karen Swim (09:37):
AI is absolutely disrupting public relations. And we can raise our fist and we can wave at it, and we could be mad about it, and we could say it's not as good as a human being. And, it is not, artificial intelligence is not really intelligent as someone said this week. It's not, it doesn't have a brain, it doesn't think, however, it is going to absolutely replace some of the things that we hold near and dear. And you know, again, we urge people to test out these tools. Yeah. Play around with them, learn how you could use them in your work because it is disrupting us. I mean, so us being upset about things and talking about how we don't like them or how they're not as effective is not…
Michelle Kane (10:28):
Karen Swim (10:29):
…the strategy that we want to use, what we want to use is we want to become knowledgeable and be able to guide our clients in how they can use them and the things that they should be aware of.
For example, we've all heard now that there's this AI voice scam. That's something that you need to be looking out for. That AI has the ability to go to YouTube, to go to the social media channels and pull your voice and create fast clips. Right? Now they're being used in scams targeting the elderly. But let's talk about what that could really mean for your clients. Does it mean that somebody can take something and have one of your CEOs saying things that they really didn't say? So we have to be on guard for that. And again, I think that we should be leading this effort, not only of how we use AI and how we use it to do our work more efficiently and optimize what we're doing, but we should also be leading advocacy for ethical practices.
We need our voices to be heard. We should be writing about these topics. We should be speaking about these topics. We should be working within our industry groups to make sure that we're holding these companies accountable for privacy. That we are educating our publics about how to vet these things. I mean, there was that AI portrait generator that everybody was using. And I never touched it because they had, you were giving them essentially rights to your image and Michelle and I know intimately because we had an AI expert on our show Yeah. Many months ago before Chat GPT blew up that talked about these problematic areas of AI. So no way am I giving anyone rights to my image, rights to my voice. But we need to understand that and we need to not, and I saw so many people doing this. Oh, it was like the most popular thing. And I'm like, what are you doing?
Michelle Kane (12:48):
Yeah. Because I mean, it was enticing because you thought, Ooh, that looks really cool. Yeah.
But wait, stop. And let's hope that as if you're hearing usyou don't think, “oh my gosh, oh my gosh, I'm behind.” No, just stop and consider this is an opportunity to be of service. This is what we do. I tell my clients, “I'm your little black cloud in a dress,
Karen Swim (14:04):
Another disruption that I don't think that we, and I I've been saying this for years, we cannot afford to ignore that. Companies want to understand what they're getting for PR. So for years, people in the industry have pushed back against it. Even with the Barcelona Principles, even with measurement, even with all of these things that have happened, we have by and large said, well, we can't guarantee anything. And we can't, we're not in the sales department, but you kind of are. And let's be 100% real and say that the younger generation is going to run circles around seasoned practitioners because they don't care about those lines. They don't care about anything. And so you have people out here that are doing digital marketing and dabbling in your area and calling themselves PR pros. They're doing things faster, they're doing things different.
But companies want to understand if they're making an investment in PR, what is that getting them? And they have every right to ask that question. And we are now in this tumultuous economic environment where that question is going to come up more and more and more. And so we have to get really comfortable with understanding how to demonstrate our ROI because let's be real, we do deliver ROI, this is not just art. It's not art. And we absolutely can show metrics that show the value that we bring to an organization and we can tie it to dollar amounts. We can show that. But you have to learn how to do that. And if you're not comfortable in that area, we are urging you get comfortable. There's so many courses out there. We have things in the vault in the Solo PR Pro premium vault that address this topic.
Katie Payne is always a good source on measurement. Read, look at the things that we've offered you, dig deeper into the resources, ask questions, ask in the group, let's talk about this. If you want us to do more training tutorials, we can even have experts on our podcast and we can do webinars on this topic to help you get comfortable. But you are going to need to answer this. And I will tell you that in every single client win this year, we have tied, we've drawn a line from what we do to how it matters in your organization. Every single client win.
Michelle Kane (16:53):
And you know, it all starts with - what are your goals? Well, they should be measurable goals. You're not just walking into an agreement with a client of, “oh, we're just going to, you know…” I'll slip on my AbFab hat, “We're going to ‘PR’ everything.”
Karen Swim (17:07):
Michelle Kane (17:08):
No, yeah. You're using tactics. You have specific goals you want to achieve. So just tie your measurement back to that. It sounds so scary. And even as I'm talking about it, I'm thinking, hmm, but it really, it's not that bad. It's not, but it's important. It's very important to do.
Karen Swim (17:26):
I'm telling you, I was one, because I came up a different side of PR. And so initially I would remember getting twitchy, like, you want me to do what? You want me to commit to what?
Michelle Kane (17:45):
Karen Swim (17:47):
But I am very comfortable and I still like learn. I have made this my mission to always be learning and always learn how to communicate value even better, because it matters. And to be honest with you, because I am that consumer, I want to understand what I'm getting from my spend. I am thoughtful about how I spend money. And so if somebody comes to me wanting to offer a service, I want to know what that means. Like, it can't just be shiny pretty, I mean, sometimes it can, like if I'm paying for shiny pretty, then show me how shiny pretty is. But when you're making an investment like this, you want to know that it's going to make a difference in your business. And so, please stop falling back on the company line because the industry is shifting beneath your feet. And we don't want you to fall into the hole. We want you to find yourself on solid ground on the other side.
Michelle Kane (18:46):
Right. And PR pros, you're a bunch of smarties, you know, you're savvy and, and you've got this. It's just taking the time to really stop, look around, maybe reframe how you do some things. And always be learning. And it's the fun part of what we do. We get to learn all the time, which is kind of cool. But, well, we hope we've inspired you today and please dig into some of those resources. And until next time, oh, actually, before I sign off, share this around and subscribe.
Karen Swim (19:25):
Michelle Kane (19:26):
Thanks for listening to That Solo Life.
Monday Mar 20, 2023
How to Pivot Your Blockbuster to Smaller Screens - Episode 191
Monday Mar 20, 2023
Monday Mar 20, 2023
The Oscar season that just wrapped had us thinking about blockbusters and how the entertainment industry has had to adapt to find their audiences.
PR pros are faced with this challenge, too. From the effectiveness of big, in-person events to finding out where our target audiences are spending their time these days, we also have to be ready to pivot and try new tactics. It can be frustrating but also exciting. We talk about all of it in today’s episode of That Solo Life.
Michelle Kane (00:17):
Thank you for joining us for another episode of That Solo Life, the podcast for PR pros and marketers who work for themselves, people like me, Michelle Kane of VoiceMatters, and my wonderful co-host, Karen Swim of Solo PR Pro. Hi Karen, how are you?
Karen Swim, APR (00:33):
I am doing really great, Michelle. How are you?
Michelle Kane (00:36):
Very good, very good. Well, and I think today's episode is going to be fun, especially having recently come off Oscar season thinking about big screen blockbusters. So we won't, we won't get too deep into predictions or anything like that cause that's not what we're going to talk about. But we're going to talk about, you know, how to pivot things from blockbuster to the small screen. I think over the course of the past few years, we've had to pivot a lot with the things that we do with clients or even as pros. And so we're going to chat on that a little bit today.
Karen Swim, APR (01:10):
Yeah, I love the theme. I mean, so when we were talking about this, this topic today, it made me think of pre-pandemic there was always the big blockbuster movie season where the studios released their signature movie and everybody flocked to see it and they lined up and it was an event, it was a thing, it was the signature thing and it was big and it was bold and they took risk and big stars and all of the things. And then the pandemic hit and our habits all shifted and audiences split and splintered and they're everywhere. And some people wait for things to come to streaming and studios have to figure out how to deliver the entertainment experience in a whole new way. And now we've lost a lot of people to in-person movies, people don't go to the movie theater anymore.
And so the strategies have had to evolve. And it really made me think of PR people who had these big bold blockbuster plans that they relied on. And not just in terms of in-person events, but just in our whole way that we approach targeting our audiences and everything has shifted. We've lost a lot of in-person engagement. We have a lot of fatigue with even things like webinars and digital events. Social media has splintered like crazy. There's not one platform for any one audience and good luck trying to find Gen Z and where they are because who knows? I mean,
Michelle Kane (03:15):
Well, and it's, yeah. It's like someone shook the snow globe. And I think also it's that people at least appear to be more segmented with where they're spending time, but also with what they're giving their attention. And I can't even make an equivalence of value of if your program or event or initiative is so valuable that people will flock to it. No, it could be the greatest, most valuable thing in the world. And the person who is not going to show up, it could change their lives. That still is not a guarantee that they will show up. And it's not, sometimes it's intentional, sometimes it's a judgment call of, okay, well I only have this many hours in a month to give to this segment in my life. And then even if you plan to attend something or, you know, engage with something, life happens and, and you just can't, you know, how many, how many times have any of our days just spun off beyond what we thought it was going to be? And, and it just changes. And you know, speaking to even in-person events, I had two conversations just this morning with two separate segments. One is a trade organization, one is a representative from a local little league. Both of us are trying to put on in-person events if it's a fundraiser or just something educational and signups are dismal. And on both fronts we're considering okay, do we pivot to a different way or or are we going to pull the plug on on this event because people just are telling us what they want by their non-response.
Karen Swim, APR (04:59):
Yeah. And I think even beyond me in person, I think now we really have to think about the, so you know, if you use the movie analogy, it's no longer just about the movie in theaters, it's about the longer tail. So it's about streaming and other things that you're going to pull through from that. And I think that we need to adopt our approaches to fit that mentality. So it's really thinking more long tail. There are events that are going to be for things that are fixed in time. Like a funding, a funding announcement may not have a long tail with just the funding itself. And so that is something time-based that you have to have a plan around. And that plan is really for that period of time when that funding is going to be relevant. But there's lots of other things that we can do with our strategies to think about the longer tail opportunities, even when it's something that's fixed in time.
So, you know, like with fundraisers, I know that we've had one of our Solo PR Pros that helped us put together a member deliverable on how she pivoted the fundraising during the pandemic and had a success story. So, you have to think about, okay, beyond this event, beyond this thing that really has a timeframe, what else can we do with this? How can we repurpose this? How can we make this accessible beyond this day, this time, this period to people? So does that mean offering something that is on demand later? Does that mean taking the assets and recreating them and using them for something different? But we really do, we have to have our eyes on the horizon. It's one of the reasons that our team loves data campaigns because they really do have a long tail and you get a lot of value from that data for months and months and months and months and months.
I mean, we have clients where we get coverage every single month for an entire year, and by the time that year is up, we're still getting coverage, but now we have new data. So, I do think we have to think differently. We can no longer think about the short sprint campaign and just the short sprint campaign. I mean, we should work in shorter sprints because things are moving too quickly. I know we all used to plan a year out or six months out and now we all pretty much run in quarterly sprints because it doesn't make sense to plan longer than that. So while you're planning in shorter sprints, you still have to be thinking about how that is going to go beyond that. And let's face it, if you do media relations, be prepared for the long haul.
Michelle Kane (07:55):
Right. Right. Because, even though, yes, it may be, unless it's incredibly timely, attached to a date, it may be current, but you don't know what's in the reporter's pipeline. You don't know what else they have going on. And it may just not be, you know, we all know this, it may not be the right time and you might get a surprise in six months. Oh, hey, I want to cover this now. Okay, that's great.
Karen Swim, APR (08:24):
I mean, I’ve had radio silence and we are thoughtfully reaching out, we're thoughtfully following up and then seven months later they finally cover something and you're like, this is why you have to be persistent. Respectful but persistent and nobody said anything. And it's like, thank you reporter, so love you right now. And I mean, it's so Yeah. The long view, I think, is the way that we all have to think and that is different for a lot of us and a lot of people that haven't had to do that. And it doesn't mean that you haven't always been strategic, it's just that there's this evolution and I mean, capturing audiences, that's another area that's so segmented, you know? I even think about how we had our social media strategies baked into our overall communications plan and we thought we knew our platforms and now people were bouncing and they're bouncing all over the place. They are. It's, you know, Twitter is, oh, who knows what Twitter's doing.
Michelle Kane (09:42):
Karen Swim, APR (09:42):
I don't have Twitter as part of my communication strategy, but you know, even LinkedIn it's changing and LinkedIn has gotten so noisy and so crowded that now LinkedIn is even trying to clean up their algorithm and what gets served up in your feed. So you may have been seeing these messages popping up asking you “was the content that you just saw useful,” you know, they have a little poll. It's not a personal attack people, it really is LinkedIn working on their algorithm from week to week. People may go to Instagram and then they're like sick of that and then they bounce over to TikTok and it's like sick of that. And some people are over on BeReal because they're tired of all of it. I mean it's so, it's hard.
Michelle Kane (10:24):
There's no tried and true.
Karen Swim, APR (10:26):
No, there isn't. I mean yeah. Newspapers, you know, local news, like all of the stuff that back in the day were anchor points. It's just not true anymore.
Michelle Kane (10:37):
Right. It's rare to find the town square that encompasses everyone. We've lost that and that's a whole other topic for another day because it's not healthy, it's not healthy for a society to not have at least one town square. You know, we see those experiences come up from time to time. But it does all come back to really needing to focus on all of the touch points.
Karen Swim, APR (11:04):
Michelle Kane (11:05):
Because even on the content side, on the integrated marketing side, you talk to clients who are are all in for say Facebook, still, in 2023, and you think not everyone's there. So no, we have to do other things and be consistent and you're going to feel so repetitive, you're going to be so annoyed with yourself because all you're seeing is your own messaging. Well, let it go.
Karen Swim, APR (11:27):
Michelle Kane (12:32):
Karen Swim, APR (12:33):
Yeah. And the opportunities are here for those of us that are willing to be creative, that are willing to look at things a little bit differently that are willing to continue to learn because companies still need that. I read an article, I think it was in the PRNews newsletter and it was talking about how in-housing is rising again. And this wasn't specifically directed towards PR agencies, but it's a good thing to keep in mind that big, big companies are looking at bringing all of this in-house and controlling it and they feel like there are things that they can do better. They feel like sometimes they have the company narrative down and that they understand the nuances and can tell the story better, but they still need agencies or outside help to bring in the things that they don't do well. And so as we have this push and pull again of do we do everything in house? Do we hire outside people? One of the ways that you can differentiate yourself is making sure that you're continuing to grow, continuing to be creative, continuing to learn and be willing to learn, and learning to, again, think beyond the short term value and really think longer term. Like how can I stretch this out? How can I ring every single drop of ROI out of my efforts?
Michelle Kane (14:03):
Right, right. And keeping in mind too, this is all part of our job for our clients of being a guide. Whether that's specifically in your scope of work or not, you are the subject matter expert. We all are. And it's on us to know what's out there, to know what the opportunities are and to identify what would be a good fit that would work or that's worth trying because how many times have we started something and you have to adapt along the way because you think, oh wait, here's an opportunity, let's try this this way.
Karen Swim, APR (14:40):
Yeah. And I mean if you think about the entertainment industry, think about it in this way, even though we have so many ways to access content, there are still hits, there are still shows that break out from a smaller screen. There are recording artists who have a hit record that everybody's singing and knows the lyrics to. So it's not a hopeless time at all. And entertainment is a fun way to look at and make some analogies to our job, but there's still opportunity to not only win that award but make some money off the popcorn too.
Michelle Kane (15:25):
Yeah. I mean it's funny, I was just reading an interview with Jenna Ortega who plays Wednesday in the Netflix hit Wednesday and just her speaking about her input about the character and how that made some changes and especially her fun little dance at the one formal that just took off and went viral. That came out of, because she felt it was necessary for her to choreograph that herself and be quirky as opposed to have someone choreograph it for her. And I think it was initially supposed to be a flash mob and I'm so glad she stood her ground because that would've been the most non-Wednesday thing to happen to have a sun-shiny flash mob
Karen Swim, APR (16:08):
Exactly. Yeah. No one, I mean, clients think that, yeah. Clients are like, we want this to and we cannot always predict that. But I think, and I haven't seen that show by the way, it's a hit. I haven't seen it, but it didn't affect its effectiveness and I loved the Addams family growing up, but I think it just, again, it's inspiring to know that trusting your gut and developing things that maybe don't follow the same old script. That don't follow the playbook. It really is okay. Yesterday there was this great podcast on AI and automation and it was geared towards podcasters. But the woman who was the speaker was Molly Ruland and she has a podcast media company and she said something that I think was really interesting. She said that they call pilot episodes, pilot episodes, but when she used AI to seek the questions that people were asking, no one calls it a pilot. They all call it an intro.
Michelle Kane (17:20):
Karen Swim, APR (17:21):
That little tidbit was really interesting to really think about. And as a communicator, those are the threads that we want to pull. We want to make sure that we're tapping into the pulse of our audience and that we're serving up the things that they actually want. Because sometimes we can put on our blinders too and think, ah, this is amazing, but it's not what other people want to hear, read, see. Yeah. And it's not in the language that they're speaking. So even though we have our language, and we might call it this, you may need to call it someone else, something else. Because that's what people relate to. I know for us, we have a client that deals in the independent workforce and has for years, and they do not use the word freelance, but we use the word freelance in our pitching because as much as people like Solo PR Pros hate that word, this is how people talk about us.
So you could fight against it and you know, you could say, but freelance is accepted. People know what that means and it's freelance. So
Michelle Kane (18:59):
Karen Swim, APR (19:26):
Michelle Kane (19:27):
You know, just tell me what to do. Or even the way businesses can present themselves and say, oh well my model is really this. And I'm like, they don't care. They just want what you have. They don't, they don't care what it's called necessarily.
Karen Swim, APR (19:40):
Totally agree. Because at the end of the day, popcorn is popcorn. You have your own brand of popcorn. You don't need to come up with a whole new name for popcorn, just call it popcorn. Because that's what people know and you sell the differentiation. Why is your popcorn better? So, right. I agree
Michelle Kane (19:59):
Karen Swim, APR (20:08):
Oh, good show.
Michelle Kane (20:10):
And hey binge us!
Karen Swim, APR (20:13):
I have a bunch of episodes banked. Because I'm that girl. Sometimes I have them banked for my leisure time. So lovely. Don't forget that about your audiences too. Just because they didn’t respond to content immediately does not mean that they're not interested. Have a way for them to be able to store stuff away. Or access it when they're ready for it.
Michelle Kane (20:37):
Yeah, that's very true. Well, we hope you binge on That Solo Life. On occasion. We try to keep these episodes as short as a commute or a daily walk. So please do subscribe, share it around to your friends and colleagues. And until next time, thanks for listening to That Solo Life.
Monday Mar 13, 2023
How PR Pros Can Rock That Proposal
Monday Mar 13, 2023
Monday Mar 13, 2023
The proposal. That key to landing new business for public relations professional and the tool that we love to overthink and get just right. Solo PR Pros often work alone and wonder if the proposal has the right elements. Is it comprehensive enough to win business? Does the proposal have the right look and feel. Today, we talk about how you can rock that proposal without wearing yourself out.
Michelle Kane (00:01):
Thank you for joining us for this episode of That Solo Life, the podcast for PR pros and marketers who work for themselves, people like me, Michelle Kane, with VoiceMatters, and my wonderful co-host, Karen Swim of Solo PR Pro. Hi, Karen. It's another week, another episode.
Karen Swim, APR (00:16):
Hey, Michelle. How are you doing today?
Michelle Kane (00:18):
I'm doing well, thanks. Yeah, I can't complain. Can't complain. I know in recent weeks we've talked about business development and making sure that that remains a healthy part of our company. Duh. Of course,
Karen Swim, APR (00:42):
Michelle Kane (00:43):
You know, those things we love, we love to overthink or underthink or get just right. So we're going to talk about how to rock that proposal to make sure you lock in all of your new business.
Karen Swim, APR (00:54):
Yeah. I actually, I don't hate proposals. I really don't. And I, over the years, I've really refined my process. So I think the first way to rock your proposal is to ensure that you have enough information to actually write one. I never write a proposal - there are rare instances, rare - I never write a proposal unless I've had a conversation, because there are times that you talk with someone and through that conversation you then decide you don't want to submit a proposal, you don't want to put anything in writing. So I'm saving this time by having a conversation where I'm pre-qualifying that customer first. If after a conversation, you know, and during that conversation, I'm not looking at it as like, I'm desperate for business
Michelle Kane (02:24):
Yeah, that's, that's very true.
Karen Swim, APR (02:26):
Step one is have the information that you need before you ever put one single thing on paper.
Michelle Kane (02:32):
Yeah. And an important component of that is, I know this has happened to me, and it's not to say it's not a judgment of good or bad, but sometimes you'll speak with organizations and the conversation will determine that they don't quite yet know what they want or need. And that can take a couple of roads - then let's talk about a proposal to do an audit and make some plans or, and I had this come up recently with an organization, oh, we need this help blah, blah. I'm like, okay, well what exactly do you expect from us? Well we, we just need help. I'm like, okay, I, yeah. I can't propose based on that
Karen Swim, APR (03:45):
Michelle Kane (03:46):
Ah, don't, you know, I'm like, ah, no, no,
Karen Swim, APR (03:53):
I completely agree. And this is a time that you also on your vetting call, because there's so many people when they talk about proposals, they start right in the middle and they're writing it and, you know, somebody will approach you and say, Hey, we're looking for proposals. Then say, that's great. I'd love to, you know, set up a quick call to get a better understanding of your needs. Writing a proposal. And this is, you know, RFPs sometimes, this is how that happens as well. I do not do RFPs with the exception if we're invited, it's a small number of firms and I have some personal connection. So it means that I either know the firm, the company that's inviting us to participate and we can have a phone call prior to submitting an R F P, or I've been referred by someone, a trusted source, and I still, with every RF p like to have a phone call before we put anything on paper.
Yeah, don't be afraid to ask for budget ranges if they don't know, throw ranges out. And usually I'll go high. Just say like, well, the reason that I'm asking is not to pin you down to a number, but to understand how to, to craft the scope of work. We don't want to propose, you know, let's say a $30,000 a month program if that's not in your range. I have always gotten a number, I've always gotten a number by being honest, because that is one of what we're all trying to do. So don't be afraid to throw a number out and to explain why you're asking. Because again, we think of the proposal as a tool to get the business. The proposal really should be a recap and a validation of what you've already agreed to and discussed. So by the time we get off of this first call or second call, if there's more than one, we already know that we want to move forward in business together. We know what the scope of work is, we know what the budget range is. We know you know, how our agency approaches the, the work. And so that proposal is really just validating everything that we've already talked about. Right. And, and so the next step really should be, yes, let's move to contract. Sometimes it doesn't happen that fast, but again, you want to treat your time preciously and not be just spitting out proposals to people without having these conversations and without having the information that you need.
Michelle Kane (06:23):
Right. Right. Because over time you'll realize what a drain that is of your energy and also of your time. And, and even within a scope, you want to start to set those boundaries to protect against scope creep. You know, what does this specifically include? I know I will base it on, this is what the scope includes. If you wish to have us do X, you know, if things grow we'll need to discuss that and how it affects budget, that kind of thing. And overall people will be reasonable. They may say, oh, you know, I only have this much budget. Okay, well we can still accomplish this for you. Yeah. So, it doesn't have to be an all or nothing. You'll resent it. And it also sets the expectation or establishes the expectation with the prospect that yeah, this costs this much. So if you really want this is what it's going to take.
Karen Swim, APR (07:31):
And I, you know, so let's move into, okay, you've done all this, you've done your pre-qualification, you've gotten your information, and now you're sitting down to write a proposal. What should actually go into that proposal? One of the things that you want to make sure that you do is that you take very good notes. I use Otter AI for note taking by the way, so that I can fully lock in and listen. But you want to reflect back what they told you was important. So yeah, again, this is why you're uncovering this information. If they told you that they have a new product rollout coming in Q3, and, and this is like the biggest, you know, product enhancement or the biggest launch that they've done, you want to include that into how you're approaching the work. And you want to talk about how you're going to handle this in the proposal.
It needs to be about the customer and very little about you. And the about you part should come at the end. You want to lean into, okay, here's what I heard. Here's what we discussed for, depending on the customer and their approach. Like some, you know, some customers really don't want a big proposal, they just want a memo that is quick and dirty. Like, here's what we can do and here's the that we can do it for. It doesn't even need to have an about your company or any of that other stuff. It can be just like a one or two page quick menu, here are the services that we're going to offer based on our, you know, broad outline. Here are a couple of budget options, let's go. But for bigger budgets, you often are going to have to do a little more work. Right. And that's okay.
You can have your template. You know, sometimes we have a design template that we use that we had somebody do for us that we use over and over and we just customize it. So for bigger budgets, you're going to want to give them some insight, not only in the services that you're going to offer, but your approach. What's your methodology on how you do the work? Because that's important. How will you measure success? I am finding that measurement is one of the most important things that you can put into a proposal these days because people want to understand that they're not just giving you this big chunk of money every month and saying have at it that you're going to have some way to quantify what you're doing, what's working and what's not working, and don't be afraid to address how you will adjust and pivot if you see that a pro a pro program is not working as you projected it to work.
That's, you know, be a grownup about this. You want to be transparent. So definitely share how you work, what's your methodology, how do you approach this thing and give them some insight into how you think. So for example, when we do really, you know, big proposals and, and they're not big in terms of the length of pages, we will include some creative ideas like hey, you told us this. Here's some things that we would do with that. You told us that you're going to this show. Here's what we would do with that. And we come up with creative ideas and we put those in the proposal. We do not do those for every single client. We don't do those on projects. So again, your proposal is shouldn't look the same for every single thing that you are going after. You want to tailor it to that client's style.
You want to tailor the elements to what you heard on those discovery calls or call and make it really about them and speak in their language. So if it's a manufacturing client, you don't want to talk to them about a bunch of stuff that is not in their wheelhouse. You want to make it plain, and this is all marketing your proposal is, you know, yeah. A it's marketing. So it's marketing piece their language. You want to put in things that matter to them. You want to talk about their business, how you'll approach it. Because the goal is to show them that you listened on that call, show them that this is thoughtful, that you were thoughtful in, in the elements that you're providing. That this is not some plug and play. Like I just took this proposal, stuck your name on it and here have at it here the budgets show them that you really did put some work into this. Yeah. Doesn't mean that it has to take you, you know, 20 hours to do this, but you really do want to show that you're thoughtful.
Michelle Kane (12:03):
Yeah. Absolutely. And a lot of times when you're speaking with a client, it may be outside what they say their goals are, but you may hear some things that need to be addressed so, include that too. And it doesn't have to be massive. It's just like, okay, so I heard you say this. And we recommend solving for that pain point or you know, reaching that goal by introducing this into your, into your marketing or pr you know, whatever you're writing this for. Because that also shows that you're already to a certain extent invested in their success and their wellbeing and that you're looking out for them. And it's all those little subtleties that, not that you're trying to pull the one over on them, but you know, it's all those little subtleties that really will hopefully put you at the top of the pile because they know, oh, this person isn't just doing an exchange of, you know, input.
Karen Swim, APR (13:11):
I totally agree. Sorry, we just had a little internet hiccup. But I also would say that because I know sometimes we're like, okay, what do you put in your proposals? How do they look? I would say the look is the last thing that you worry about. It's really the content that you really need to focus in on. A couple of other little things that you can put in there, I would start with an acknowledgement of the previous conversation and a couple of lines about what you heard and something about their business. It's really nice on the call if you can ask them, even if you know, hopefully you do research before your calls, even if you've discovered who their competitors are and what their strengths are. You want to ask them and say, who would you say are your biggest competitors?
Let them tell you who's important to them because then you can take that information and you know, as you're doing the proposal, you can take a quick look at, okay, where are these competitors showing up in the media? What are the themes that they're talking about? Do they have any thought leadership? You can identify those gaps and then that's something that you can actually put into the proposal. Yeah. You can say, Hey, you know, your competitors, you know, have a lot of news about their financials, but they are not doing any thought leadership. That's an opportunity for you to build a thought leadership campaign. So that's just, you know, a quick example. Yeah. you also you know, I always think that you want to obviously include the budget and you want to be specific in what that budget cover. So what's the scope of work for that budget? It's a good time to call out things that may be extras that are not included. Right. So obviously, you know, like wire management fees or you know, wire distribution fees are not covered. So you should just say, you know, we'll right. Press releases, we'll manage the distribution, but the cost of the wire service is direct build or Yeah. Will, you know, bill it back to you.
Michelle Kane (15:12):
And any other team members depending how you run your business. You know, if you're the type of business that you like to take all the billing and then you pay your third party people or in some instances do you want things to be direct pay or even with social media management that I do, you know, you set them up in the business account and make sure that the ads are built to their credit card. That way you're not on the hook for that stuff.
Karen Swim, APR (15:38):
That's a big one. If you're doing any type of ad buys, then you do want to make that stuff direct pay. It's just cleaner and easier. Yeah. I've done it both ways, but it's nicer for them to just put it on their corporate credit card and then I manage it. Yeah. in terms of team members, I don't know how other people work, but I run an agency. We always include the team structure in our proposal. Who's going to be on your team? And who are those people's roles on the team? We want people to know I never I pay all of my people, period. The client just leaves us as a team. We send them one bill because you know, our philosophy is keep it simple, keep it clean, keep it easy for the client. I pay people, I pay people.
And, so you need to make sure that you have a cushion for that. If you're going that route, we'll talk about that on a separate call, but make sure that you detail who's doing the work. Because we're a senior only agency. We always make sure that clients understand that we are not just the face of the business, that we're doing the actual work because it's one of our selling points is that we don't have to ramp up. We're not a learning agency, we're not a teaching agency. We are quick, efficient and we know what we were doing and our team has a certain amount of experience and we, that's a selling point for us. So if you are working on a team disclose those team members and what they will be doing as part of their account, I think clients really appreciate when you, if you do work in a team and you say your team will be, because again, it's all of those little attentions to being thoughtful and showing them that this is something that you put together for them and not for just any old client and you're just plug and play.
Michelle Kane (17:32):
Right. Right. And your saying plug and play just brings to mind. And I know those who suggest this, they mean, well, I'm sure you've seen it, you know, people saying, oh, here's your proposal, you know, worksheet, you just pop the stuff in. I'm like, well that might work for your industry, but it doesn't really work for ours where we do have to tailor things. It's, it's not just, you know, you'll get 10 of these and five of those and this is the date or however that might work. Yeah. It doesn't work for, so please don't beat yourself up if, if you get frustrated like I did in the past of well why can't I make that work? What's wrong with me? Nothing. No. It's just not the way our industry works. We need to be Yeah. You know, we need to customize our proposals to a certain extent.
Karen Swim, APR (18:24):
Yeah. I, and, and so when I say plug and play, I Oh
Michelle Kane (18:28):
Yeah. I didn't mean to Yeah.
Karen Swim, APR (18:30):
People just wipe out the name and everything is always the same. Yeah. You definitely want to have phrases that you use, like language that you use, like your bio that's not going to change a whole lot. And so you want to be able to pop up your bio in your team member's bios in, you know, image that you may use. You want to have those at the get go. You want to have a template that you really do use. That makes life a lot easier. Yeah. But I would also say don't be afraid to be creative. I can remember for one client rather than a written proposal, we did a video. Oh, cool. We put together this video and yes, we won the account and yes, years later we go on that account because again, you're tailoring things to the personality of the organization and you know, in this, it's like, here's somebody that really appreciates like wild creativity. Like just do things that are not standard. So we did something very different for that particular client. And we take that approach with all of our clients. We, again, we try to really, and, and you should all be doing this too, you know, again, if it's the quick and dirty person that just wants that memo, do a memo. Don't, don't put in a whole lot of extra that's not going to be meaningful to them. If it's somebody that on your call just, you know, they honed in and they're like, how do you measure that? What's the ROI? You want to make sure that that's front and center on your proposal. So, you know, the, the order of things could vary and what you include could vary slightly with each client because you're matching it to the customer.
Michelle Kane (20:12):
Yeah. And, I love how you, you just took that and ran with it and, and I think all of those things, again, they help communicate to the client that, hey, we get you, it's early days, but we get you and that's going to help, you know, that's going to carry us both far if we work together. And I think that's important.
Karen Swim, APR (20:33):
Absolutely. Absolutely. So, you know, if you are looking at your proposal and saying, I'm not sure I'm doing this right. And, and this happens to everybody and I, you know, we know your secret is out solo PR pros because this happens with all communication professionals. We are always questioning if we're doing this right or if we're good enough. And so
And that's Proposify. For the cost of that tool, you will make that 10 times over if you win even one client using Proposify. It's amazing. And if you're somebody like me that, you know, sometimes I do like, I'm kind of a not conventional in the way that I do my work. And so sometimes I'm just in a mood and I just want to j step up or change it up propose I lets you do that because you can apply different looks in different films and you can do different elements and you know, I have crazy ideas that I'll throw into the proposal. Like, ah, I don't want to do the same old, same old that
Michelle Kane (22:44):
Karen Swim, APR (22:44):
I want to say like, I don't know, it's really cheap though, to be honest with you. You pay an annual cost and again, if you win one client, you've already paid for the doc on thing. And so I love those tools that immediately show you an ROI.
Michelle Kane (23:00):
Yeah, yeah. And it can help you get inspired too because how often do we stare at a blank page, even when we're writing something, you just can't get started, you know, so maybe you'll start in the middle. Well, that's okay. That's okay. Because sometimes that's the hardest part, right? Getting your scope and your details in place and then you can bop around and make sure your terms and what you're about and all that. But Proposify, I have used it in the past too. It's terrific. It does give you a little bit of that verification too. Oh yeah. I am including the right parts. Okay.
Karen Swim, APR (23:35):
Yes. That is such a good point. If you're sitting there and going, did I miss something? Right, because I, you know, I do realize that some our solos really do work as a solo. It's just them. And so for you if you're not a member of our group, you don't have that water cooler to go can somebody look at this? Can I see one of your proposals? Am I doing this right? Yeah, yeah,
Michelle Kane (24:00):
Yeah. No, it's so true. So true. So once again, we hope this has been valuable time for you. We know we always enjoy getting on here and talking shop. And please do subscribe if you've found this valuable and please share it around if you think it could help someone else that you know. And until next time, thanks for listening to That Solo Life.
Monday Mar 06, 2023
In Celebration of Women - Episode 189
Monday Mar 06, 2023
Monday Mar 06, 2023
March is Women’s History Month and this year’s theme is Celebrating Women Who Tell Our Stories. That definitely hits the mark for PR pros. We’ve come a long way and yet there is so much more work to do as we strive for equity in this life.
Monday Feb 27, 2023
Monday Feb 27, 2023
Do you know who you are? As a Solo PR Pro, as a business. What are your strengths? How often do you talk about, and promote those strengths to your business community? A key way to protect your business through turbulent times is to ensure you’re taking the time to continue developing your own brand. Don’t be shy about how great you are, solos. Get inspired by today’s episode.
Monday Feb 20, 2023
PR People, Stop Doing the Most - Episode 187
Monday Feb 20, 2023
Monday Feb 20, 2023
Go, go, go! How’s that going for you? As PR pros, it’s in our nature to press forward and do all the things. But what is it doing to us? Today’s episode was inspired by an article in Inc.com by Kelly Main: I Unknowingly Traded Time Management for Time Minimalism. Now I Get More Done by Doing Less. Give it a read, listen to this episode, and let us know what you think.
Monday Feb 13, 2023
Work Smarter with AI - Episode 186
Monday Feb 13, 2023
Monday Feb 13, 2023
ChatGPT, deep fake videos – AI is here. In today’s episode, we talk about how we can embrace this technology to enhance and expand our work as PR pros.
Here is a link to our previous episode: The Battle Against Misinformation with Axel Ebermann - Episode 160
Monday Feb 06, 2023
Purpose and Positive Change - Episode 185
Monday Feb 06, 2023
Monday Feb 06, 2023
It’s no secret that there is a lot of negativity in the world – all around us. As PR pros, we need to help our clients navigate through this time. We talk ways to do this – including PRSA’s initiative, Voices4Everyone.
Monday Jan 30, 2023
New Year, New Clients: Business Development for 2023 - Episode 184
Monday Jan 30, 2023
Monday Jan 30, 2023
It’s a new year and what better time to take a fresh look at your business development. In today’s episode we discuss the opportunities we solos have and how to make the most of them.
Monday Jan 23, 2023
Succession Planning for Your Stuff -Episode 183
Monday Jan 23, 2023
Monday Jan 23, 2023
It’s not a pleasant topic but as business owners we need to make sure we’re planning for the inevitable – death. Do you have plans in place for what happens to your business and your digital assets? In today’s episode, we talk about the importance of getting started, no matter your age.