You live or die by your database: 10 ways to grow your list

Businesses live and die by their database and how it is used to communicate with and serve customers. Your database is a lifeline. And your list is like a marriage. Any day you’re not feeding and growing your list is a day you’re losing it.

The key is to have a mindset of service and value. Companies need to serve the people on their list and spend time answering this key question: how can I grow their capabilities and connections? The value component is what they give away – knowledge, sometimes for love and sometimes for money.


Growing your list should be among your top objectives. You list is a “digital asset”. You own it. Basically all other marketing efforts should serve to drive the growth of your list.

So what are some ways to grow your list?

  1. Social media: Ensure all social media leads to content, and that content should lead to the list. Whenever you share a blog post on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter for example, that blog post should be posted in a place that prompts an email sign up.
  2. Pop-ups: I was never a huge fan of pop-ups until I witnessed how they could grow a list. They key is to have a pop-up what allows you to set criteria such as a time delay for the person visiting the site and for them to be recognized so they are only served a pop-up once a month for example for repeat visitors.
  3. LinkedIn lead to something free: Perhaps give away a summary sheet or a report and have those that link be prompted for a newsletter sign up in exchange. This can be done on any social platform, but in my experience, LinkedIn is the most successful in terms of quantified people interested since you can select groups who might be specifically interested.
  4. Compelling blog posts: You can’t beat good writing and good content. It leads to people wanting more and subsequently subscribing.
  5. Cross promotion: If you know others in the online community who might have a list that compliments in terms of offerings and target market, you could consider cross promoting each other.
  6. Simply ask: This one is obvious, but often ignored. Simply asking current subscribers to share your newsletter on social platforms or to forward to friends with the suggesting that they subscribe is a simple and easy way to expand your list. The power of referral is very strong.
  7. Twitter: I started scheduling a few tweets amongst my other material where I simply suggest that you can “get my best stuff weekly” by signing up, then including a link. It amazes me the people that come in this way!
  8. Run a contest: The contest could be on Facebook where you post a link to an informative article and then have people enter to win a copy of your e-book with even more material.
  9. Event sign ups: I always offer people who attend my seminars the opportunity to sign up for my newsletter. The key is to make sure they opt in and you don’t just collect business cards and add them yourself. You need to be compliant with regulations on how you build your list. Permission based and double opt in is the law.
  10. Referral: Every several months I send out a personal request to a handful of business contacts asking them for 3-4 referrals each that might also enjoy receiving this type of information. It’s a personable piece of communication, and it genuinely works. They are always quality contacts, and often turn into clients down the road.

I’m sure there are other clever ways to grow your list that you may be using. Why not share them here?


10 Reasons Why #DeadraccoonTO Became a National News Story in One Day

On July 9 a raccoon died in Toronto. By July 10 it was national and international news, which begs the question – why? And more importantly, if you’re in marketing – how?



Although it’s unlikely, for those that missed the story, a report of a dead raccoon was called into Toronto City Animal Services the morning of July 9th, and despite a timely initial response, the raccoon was not taken away for over 14 hours. In the ensuing hours a growing vigil spontaneously sprung up around the raccoon, as news of its untimely demise and neglect by city authorities went viral online and in the media. You can read all the details and see the Twitter visuals on

Why did this story go viral?

  1. Strong visual. It was a toss up between poor taste and touching to see a dead raccoon up close with vigil items such as a framed photo, a rose and a condolence card later added. The key was visuals being added as the story unfolded, including a video of his final departure with a city worker. Everyone has a camera and video at their disposal these days on their mobile, so the fact that visuals told the story in a play-by-play fashion by random citizen reporters further added to the appeal.
  1. Discredit of authority. If there’s one universal appeal, it’s critique of those in authority, especially when they mess up, as became evident as the day unfolded and the raccoon remained unclaimed. Whenever the little guy can take revenge on the big guy, or someone with authority, the story will gain traction. In this case it was city workers. But it could just as easily be a business, an individual or an organization.
  1. The story got a #hashtag. Within a couple hours, as the story gained momentum, someone applied the hashtag #DeadraccoonTO. From that point on everyone on Twitter who was talking about it used the tag, which made it easier to “channel” the content and see how interest was building. It also allowed others to immediately tune into the channel of conversation and understand the whole story from a multitude of reports and perspectives.
  1. It tapped human psychology. There were a number of elements at play, but most prominent was “Statistical numbing” which helps explain why a single victim moves us more emotionally than many. It’s why we care about one child in a war zone with a survival story more then reports of 100s killed. Urban raccoons are not something we normally care about as a perceived menace. But given a single one in distress, it took on an emotional angle. You could also argue that anthropomorphism was at play, where human characteristics are applied to things no human. The vigil that grew resembled a roadside human death, complete with a framed photo of a raccoon, a rose, a condolence card and a candle.
  1. It got the attention of powerful Twitter users. Key to a story going viral online is the impact of key influencers. In this case several users with large numbers of online followers took to the story. Prominent was Toronto City Councillor Norm Kelly.
  1. Media monitor online media for stories. Both online and traditional print and broadcast media monitor online for stories to cover. Twitter is heavily used by reporters to find breaking news. Because they are in the business of gaining readers, listeners, viewers or followers, they need to know when something is “hot.” Twitter is their tool to find stories and detect if they are growing. Online feeds traditional media, and traditional media such as print and TV or radio broadcast, in turn feeds online again. It becomes a vicious circle of momentum building. That cycle largely explains why the morning of July 10 local and national news sources where talking about the raccoon, and why you likely saw it on some social media platform within the day.
  1. The use of humour. You might wonder where the humour is in a dead raccoon, but they found it. It was suggested online by someone on Twitter, that in solidarity for the lost raccoon and his forging urban counterparts, those citizens of Toronto leave their garbage can lids open for one night. Someone also posted on Twitter an image of Stephen Harper in parliament, with head bowed, obviously out of context, suggesting that the government of Canada was going to hold a national day or mourning.
  1. Media craves the bizarre. Starved of Rob Ford antics, the citizens of Toronto obviously needed new fodder. Enter the raccoon. The reality is that in the face of other important hard news such as ISIS terror or the plight of Greece in the EU, bizarre news sells. Call it human nature to want to hear about weird stuff. Perhaps its escapism from reality, but media knows that odd things make great headlines, and great headlines gain a following.
  1. The use of celebrity. Tagging a celebrity is usually good for gaining traction, since their followers, usually in the hundreds of thousands, will chime in. In this case, someone tagged a Drake photo, suggesting he was concerned for the raccoon. Momentum continued to build.
  1. The power of storytelling. It’s human nature to love a story. This one unfolded throughout the day. It had classic story composition: A villain, a hero, a tragedy or challenge, a climax and resolution. Along the way various characters added themselves to flush out the rich details. It was a story told live and developing, but the plot was built out by contributions of all who added online details to help tell it and spread the word. Never under estimate the power of storytelling for universal appeal, especially if you allow others to participate in how it unfolds.

Who would have thought a little raccoon that died could gain so much attention. The story certainly is an insightful example of how things go viral.

Triple threat media: Earned, pushed & paid

Media for our marketing efforts really fall into 3 buckets. I call them your triple threat if you get the combo right. The 3 buckets are: earned, pushed and paid.



  1. Earned media: We don’t pay for this media and we have little actual execution control over it, but we can certainly influence how it is attained. Earned media can come in the form of an article being printed about you, a TV or radio broadcast featuring your business, or in the online world, that article appearing on a website, blog or featured in video or audio form on someone’s site or podcast. The key is, the material is actually produced and hosted by someone else other than you or your business. Earned media can also come in the form of earning the right to have a submitted article that you wrote published on a news site, blog, or in actual print. Here, while you produced the content, it was still published, hosted and distributed by someone other then you or your business. Earning the right to have someone distribute in some way your stuff means you were worthy on some level. Your business was deemed successful; you were doing good, or what you submitted to be published was in some way of interest to the distributing media’s audience. That’s how we get earned media on our side. Earned media is awesome and authentic, but it is also the most labour intensive.
  1. Pushed media: Pushed is all the media that you personally “push” out there. It could include the anchored content from your blog, enewsletter, podcasts, website, infographics, whitepapers, videos or tips sheets. Pushed media is also content that you push and broadcast through social media channels – be it photos, comments, article or video links etc. While social media by its nature should provoke two-way engagement, the first act of engagement is to put content out through channels to reach a defined target, in order to have the basis of engagement. Pushed media feels like the new frontier with endless channels and a seemingly hungry audience. It can be like sipping from a fire hose at times. Pushed media is totally within your control, but you need to either curate content or create it, and the effectiveness is dependent on the reach and how well targeted your social media footprint is. The space is also getting more crowded making it increasingly difficult to stand out.
  1. Paid media: Paid media is that stuff, you guessed it, that you pay for. I classify paid media in both digital and traditional form to include paid placement of ads in print, broadcast, outdoor and direct for example, as well as paid targeting and boosting of online digital content such as paying to boost Facebook posts to a targeted audience, or paying for Google ad words. Paid media is within your control and can be either hyper targeted, or offer a mass broad reach like no other media option. Paid media has fallen a little out of favour with some folks currently enamored with push and earned media, but it’s clout should not be under estimated.

The honest truth is, while earned media may appear the holy grail, a solid combination of earned, pushed and paid is really what drives broad reaching awareness to a defined target audience. The reason for that is, the components of pushed and paid allow us to highly select an audience, ensure large numbers of exposures, and to a certain extent ensure multiple repeat exposures, that generally result in elevated awareness or whatever the defined goal of the campaign originally was. I’ll go one step further and suggest, not unlike when rock climbing, that at least 2 points of contact are needed to maintain balance, and 3 to be moving forward. The same applies to your media buckets. If you only have one, you will literally be just holding on. You need at least 2 of earned, pushed and paid, to achieve balance, but adding the third could really propel things forward.

3 tips for getting your articles published

Nothing screams you’ve got authority and are an expert quite like being published. And these days the options are far greater then before; traditional publishing and self-publishing of books, feature columns, op-ed pieces and one off editorial contributions. Distribution has expanded from traditional print newspapers and magazines and their online counterparts, to new digital only news platforms such as the Huffington Post, Buzzfeed (Canadian edition just launched this week) and local news sources such as which are gaining traction. Add to that well-read blogs, and there’s no shortage of publishing options.

So how do you get ink?

1. Pitching the idea: You can pitch media on an article idea, but in my experience having written for BIV, Strategy, Marketing Magazine, the Toronto Star, Cottage Magazine and Zoomer, a pitch accompanied by a solid draft or even tightly edited piece has always been what got me in the door. Knowing the audience demographics of the publication and reader interests in critical. Also knowing typical article lengths, topics covered in the past, and writing style is helpful. If an editor wants 700 words, don’t give them 750 because you can’t edit it any shorter. They will, and guaranteed they’ll chop something you wouldn’t have!

Pitch based on the geographic area of the people who will benefit from your message and find it relevant. Also keep in mind seasonal factors and lead up times, especially if it’s a magazine. For example a lifestyle piece I did for Zoomer Magazine about mother/daughter hockey passion ran in October, but was written and pitched back in March.

Think strategically about your email subject line when sending a pitch. Editors are writers and email subject lines are like headlines to them. As they scan their inbox, be sure to give them something that will grab their attention. Clever can be good, but don’t over complicate things.

2. The content: The who, what, where, when and why of the story is important if you are writing a pitch. But pay particular attention to the “why now” piece. Connecting your article to something timely is key to getting an editors attention. For example, my blog piece about disruption and flipping the airline model to charging for carry on and making the first checked bag free tapped into a current hot topic of frustrated flyers dealing with carry on restrictions and the approaching heavy summer travel season. It proposed a simple innovative solution. It also tapped into the growing use of social media as a feedback tool and the need for corporations to manage their brand through active engagement of consumer complaints. After the piece garnered considerable discussion the last couple weeks online and off, I blasted off a pitch to the Huffington Post last week to see if I could get pick up. Today, June 18, that piece appeared in their business section!














Be original and different. If you’re giving tips, make sure it’s not something that could just be Googled. Tap your expertise. Give the publication something they couldn’t otherwise get access to. General, generic vanilla won’t work. But sometimes being the contrarian can work – see above. Countering conventional viewpoints and backing up your argument can make for a solid piece.

3. Contacting media: While tagging media on Twitter can certainly get their attention and cut through the clutter, in my experience this is best if there is a pre-existing relationship. Otherwise email is a solid place to start. These days it’s pretty easy to scope out contacts online for the editorial desk and feature editors. Use the method of contact they list – some will list emails, some Twitter handles only. Do follow up. Just because you don’t hear back right away doesn’t mean they might not be interested. Their in boxes get jammed, but most diligently comb emails for content. It’s their job to find gems, and yours might be what they’re looking for. Don’t call them by phone unless they’ve contacted you already for a story. And know their deadlines if you are trying to reach them. Texting a reporters cell directly is likely one of the best ways to get an immediate response if they know you. But this should really be reserved for breaking news events where you are looking to be quoted, or helping them with a story, not trying to get your own piece published!

All these points apply to being a guest blogger as well. I’d suggest picking 3 or 4 well written and leading blogs in your area of interest. Follow them for a couple months and get a sense of content and readership through the comments. Make valuable (but not spammy promotional) comments to contribute to the conversation. Then consider contacting the blog host about guest posting in the future. I’d also recommend having a solid portfolio of written work on your own blog, so your content and style can be reviewed easily. The synergy of cross posting and guest blogging can be great, especially if the two blog audiences are well aligned and both parties have something to benefit from the relationship.

And what do you do when you score the big one and get ink? Be sure to share it on your digital platforms, put it out on social media, and in particular if it’s a publication with reputation such as the New York Times or Huffington Post, be sure to add the bi-line to your bio, and their logo to your promotional materials. Getting ink is about gaining recognition as an expert. Put it to good use.


Influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is the next big thing. Select businesses have already figured this out, but the vast majority is yet to put it on their radar.

We’ve all got our “go to” guy or gal. That expert, the one you immediately think of when you need an area of expertise. We also all have certain people we follow, perhaps see as mentors, or just those that we have a tremendous amount of respect for. Influencers cross all age boundaries. An influencer could be an IT guru, a respected business leader, an amazing chef, a great writer or musician, a “dope skateboarder” (my son’s term not mine!), a fashion goddess, or someone who has a great music playlist. Influencers are highly respected and garner clout in their circles. (Incidentally “dope” means good in teenager1) Influencers are tapped in. They have tribes that follow them.


Influencers help take content to the next level. They lend credibility, and they help amplify reach and awareness, which in turn helps ensure the target audience, will consume the content.

Why are influencers so powerful? They have a pre-established audience that is receptive to their recommendations.

  1. Their followers trust them.
  2. They are a person, not a business or a brand, which makes them more personable and willingly received.
  3. Their voice cuts through the clutter of information overload, to their followers.

To get influencers onboard is to have their entire tribe working for you. And that’s pretty powerful stuff.

Consider this research into the power of influencers:

  • Offers shared by trusted advocates convert at a 3-10 times higher rate than offers sent by brands.
  • Customers referred by other customers have a 37% higher retention rate.
  • Brand advocates are 70% more likely to be seen as a good source of information by people around them.

So how do you harness the power of an influencer?

  1. Identify the primary goal of your marketing strategy. Are you building brand awareness? Wanting to achieve more engagement? Do you need to generate more leads? Or perhaps you’re more focused on retention and loyalty. Depending on your goal, some influencers might be more powerful in some areas then in others. Be clear on what you’re trying to achieve.
  1. Indentify influencer types. Influencers might be current customers, industry experts, bloggers, members of the media, business partners, or internal team members. It’s important to consider the types first, then move on to individuals. That will keep you focused.
  1. Within those types, select specific individuals. Consider their capacity to reach others through writing, speaking or broadcasting in some way. Consider their involvement in public or private groups, online and off. Look at their level of expertise in the chosen area. Consider their social media footprint, in particular on platforms and in channels where your target market spends the most time. Your initial list of influencers doesn’t have to be large to be powerful, but you do want to grow it over time.
  1. Create great content worth sharing. Stuff that’s authentic and not overly promotional. Something that keeps the trust between the influencer and their followers. Think one-to-one-to-many when creating content. Your content will not be blasted out to the masses. It will be shared to that one person first, who will then choose (or not) to share it with their many. Framed from this perspective it’s about them, not about you. Give them something that will make them look smart, funny, insightful or connected to an inner circle in some way.
  1. Nurture the relationship. Always acknowledge and thank those that share your content. Help them out in other ways. There doesn’t always have to be a personal pay off.

Many times influencers are already within your scope of contact, but further outreach is always good. How do you find them? Read blogs in your area of interest and see who publishes good content and who makes intelligent comments and contributions on other blogs. Follow folks on Twitter who tweet within a channel (or #hashtag) of interest, are employed in the industry of focus, or who keep popping up as active with something valuable to contribute. Comb LinkedIn for contacts. See who is active on Facebook or Instagram in your area of interest. Read industry publications for who is being written about and who is contributing. Old fashioned network, and get to know who the players are. Even pick up the phone! (How novel – yes you can still talk on those things)

So there you have it. Get out there and harness the power of that green goldfish leading the others. And get the influencers tribe swimming in your direction!



The airline industry: ripe for disruptive thinking?

A CBC news posting about Air Canada’s plans to police more stringently carry on bag sizes over the coming busy summer air travel months caught my eye this week. Anyone who travels regularly will relay increased frustration with the time delays and sometimes comical attempts to stuff big bags into the overhead carry on space in an attempt to avoid the fee airlines now charge for checked bags. I posted the article on Facebook with a simple suggestion that they should flip the model; charge a fee for the carry on and make the first bag checked free. I noted it would rid the airlines of the crazy delays caused by the inevitable need to check some bags at the gate, plus the practice would essentially allow business travelers, largely the traditional carry on crowd, to pay for the service of keeping their bag in sight so it doesn’t get lost, have a quick exit from the airport, and the overall ability to keep flights running on time. I’m willing to bet that the masses would once again flock to the cargo hold with their ballooning bags if it was a cost savings.

The problem would be solved.


My posting received significant likes and subsequent engagement on numerous occasions throughout the week speaking with colleagues. Challenging the industry, now global default convention, would allow Air Canada to stand out as an innovator. As it stands they will most certainly beg a backlash as customers who are turned around at security by the bag police, hit social media in an angry state. Doesn’t anyone at the airline understand the power of the wired consumer these days? And more importantly the role that customers service now plays in marketing?

I can almost predict the Twitter hashtags now: #stuffitAirCanada #AirCanada #GetStuffed or #IgotStuffed. I suspect it could gain the same traction as #IgotRouged or #AirCanada #rouged following the airlines switch of some pleasure traveler flights to smaller leg room Air Canada Rouge discount flights, which caught some pre-booked business travelers off guard. Got a clever suggestion? Post it here! Let’s start a hashtag movement. You know it’s going to happen…

Sometimes it’s advisable to step back from industry practices and do things differently. Samoa Air challenged convention by charging passengers for air travel based on their weight. Yes, you read that correctly! Admittedly they had a monopoly on the market, and could take such drastic measures to solve a flight weight issue problem in their small aircraft being used. I’m not sure this would be a popular solution in the US, given the general propensity to tip the scale generously, but boy would it ever garner a following of the skinny travelers! Just think, an airline you could actually use the armrest on. The mind boggles… Read more about the Samoa Air example here. Not only did the Samoa Air example disrupt the conventional model, they gained a tremendous marketing opportunity because it allowed the company to stand out and get onside with the customer – OK, the skinny ones I guess!

Meanwhile, Delta is trying to speed up boarding times by pre-loading carry on bags above passengers seats on some flights. The idea has attracted the attention of the Australian press. Link here to read more. Basically they are hinging a bet that they can be more efficient then customers at loading bags, and can deal with the need to check oversize bags on the spot without delaying flights. If executed well, it could also introduce an element of old fashioned air travel class to the experience of being transported in a large sardine can in the sky.  Given the article quotes a cost of $40 for every minute the aircraft sits idle at the gate, this move, if it sped things up, could save the airline a lot of money over the course of a year. It might also solve that pesky problem of that guy seated at the back of the plane dumping his bag in your overhead up front as he passes through.

At the root of all of these examples is the need to solve a problem creatively and cost effectively. Sometimes the best way to do that is to challenge convention and disrupt your industry!


You live or die by your database

You live or die by your database. Someone way smarter then me once said this, and it has stuck with me over the years. We all know that making connections count. It’s how business gets done. The bigger your circle of connections, generally the bigger your circle of influence, and by default the bigger your potential circle of sales and success.

In business nothing happens until someone buys something. And it’s that list that is often at the heart of the connection that eventually leads to the sale.

But lists have fallen a little out of favour. Tarnished by online and telemarketers buying contact info expressly to push product to unsuspecting prospects with little or no relationship, we’ve all seen the result of these actions: overflowing in mailboxes, and phones that ring during dinner. In Canada, Can Spam legislation scared many marketers last July 1st with mandatory opt in and crazy stiff fines. Many marketers, without well documented email lists, saw their email database decimated as they begged for opt ins – kind of like asking if you’d like TV with or without commercials; do nothing to get it commercial free, take action if you want commercials. No wonder it became a great opportunity to pear down the crap coming in, to only receive what was truly of value. Based on my research most people willingly accept 6-10 newsletters, of which a core 3-4 are truly valued. The balance get looked at occasionally, and the others that somehow started showing up despite never having opted in, likely lurk in that in box suffering from opt out neglect and downright busyness. In the US the double opt in requirement also hung many lists out to dry.

Is it any wonder many businesses have given up on their list?

And yet, the list is where opportunity exists. The list is what generates sales. That list and your database is what your business will live and die by. In my mind, the list is a two-part mindset or service and value.

listsService: You should exist to serve the people on your list. If you are obsessed with finding ways to grow their capabilities and connections, you have the right mindset. Frankly that’s why I’m obsessed with creating new content of service weekly for readers and not missing deadlines with my e-newsletter and blog.

Value: You should create value frequently for those on your list. Sometimes that value is in exchange for love (they share the content online, tell you how much they value what you do) and sometimes that value is in exchange for money (they might buy a book, a course, hire you to consult or speak)

If you are not going to subscribe to the mindset of service and value, using your list to sell will fail.

Building out interesting and useful media (such as blogs, podcasts, ebooks, videos, white papers, research, help sheets, and enewsletters) that lead to a list is the key to earning more customers. Your media will drive the model.

I’ve referred to it as your media “anchors” and “outposts” in past posts. Anchors are where that original content is created and outposts are the social media tools to broadcast and engage around the content. Once someone has engaged with the content, the key is to get them into the list funnel – I’m a strong believer in the enewsletter for this purpose. Once you have earned the permission to have them ask to be on your list, it is a one on one personal relationship. It should be treasured. It’s then like a relationship, you need to engage, interact, and continue to bring new and fresh things to the table.

The regular newsletter is where you may eventually earn the right to sell. But only if you nurture the relationship and continue to offer value. The model is actually pretty simple: Media drives subscribers, and subscribers are part of a community that will eventually lead to the opportunity to sell.

Does it happen overnight? Not a chance. It’s a slow and steady stream. I’ve been doing a  newsletter for close to two years, every week, delivered the same time each week. I’ve never missed a deadline. It is what drives my business.

Do you have a list/database? Are you currently doing an enewsletter? Do you use the service and value mindset? I’d love to hear about what’s working, or what’s not.



5 Public relations tips to get more INK and AIR

Getting ink and getting air is the ultimate goal in the “earned media” game of public relations and publicity. Whether it be print media such as newspapers and magazines, or broadcast media such as radio or TV, getting noticed, talked or written about in traditional media can go a long way in forging greater awareness of your business, brand or ideas.

Press_old_fashionedIn an era where it seems we are all fighting to be heard above the noise within social media, it is easy to dismiss the simple and massive reach of more traditional media methods. All successful print and broadcast channels these days are also amplifying that content via digital means online, which means you actually achieve even further clout should you get coverage. And, once that coverage is online, it is there for you to further broadcast it through your own channels. The magic of course being that it is third party endorsement, and you can attach your success to the media’s brand. Not bad when that media might be CBC, NBC, the Globe and Mail or the New York Times! But it could just as easily be local media such as your community newspaper or local radio station, that might have tremendous clout with your existing and potential customers.

Achieving media coverage is a pretty compelling value proposition and certainly one worth devoting some effort towards. So here are five tips to make the task simpler and increase the likelihood of success.

  1. Know a reporters expertise. Reporters are inundated with press releases and pitches daily. If it’s not related to their area of coverage, they will hit delete. Ideally you are familiar with a reporters beat and have read or heard their stuff. Over the long term this will also gain you a respectful relationship with them, so that when you do send them something well targeted, they are more likely to respond. If you’re always shouting to everyone, nobody will listen. If you selectively speak to some when it’s genuinely important, they will listen.
  1. Make the reporter look good and help them serve their audience. Your real job in writing the pitch is to make that reporter look good to their boss. The best way to do that is to help the reporter serve his/her audience. The reporter lives and dies by how they serve their audience. The media outlet is also in the rating and social sharing game. They are obsessed with going viral. They want a story that readers or viewers will share online. The bottom line here is: it’s about them, not about you. If you can frame your pitch from that perspective, you will be ahead of 95% of the pitches sitting in reporters email boxes right now.
  1. Send media a story they are hungry for. What is in the news right now that is hot? (NDP winning in Alberta? Tanker traffic and spills? Foreign ownership and real estate prices?) These are local Vancouver examples, but you should frame it from the geographic area where you are and where you want to achieve coverage. What are some trends of interest? Is there a celebration day that is relevant for timely coverage? (Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, International Women’s Day forexample). Lists are hot. Browse the headlines of Buzzfeed or the Huffington Post and you’ll see lots of lists – The 5 things you need to know… How to get a promotion in 3 easy steps…) Lists are good because they are finite, organized, have a takeaway and are shareable. They’re also idea for a population conditioned to receive information in bite size nuggets, which is increasingly the case in our time-starved society. How to and personal memoir success stories are also popular. We can attribute that phenomena to the Opera effect, being conditioned to crave success, or overcoming obstacles stories. The key here is to look at the publication or station you would like to target and see what would fit with their editorial style and reader or viewer interest. This of course requires you to do some homework, but it is that work which will help you stand out from others.
  1. You absolutely, positively need a compelling subject line. I’m talking email subject line here, but it could also be a catchy headline on Twitter if you were tagging or personal messaging a reporter on Twitter. Make the subject line clever, but simple. Shorter is better, and if you’re not sure how it will display on mobile (which is where it is most likely to be previewed or deleted), send yourself a test to your mobile device. These days your subject line needs to be mobile friendly. You want that headline to display fully and grab the reporter to click and read more. Frankly it doesn’t matter what is in the email if the recipient never makes it past the headline. Do your research, and model the existing style for the particular media you are targeting with your pitch. Check what kind of headlines they write. Get creative and draft yours in a similar light. Just remember while clever is good, don’t over complicate it.
  1. Keep the pitch short, simple and tight. If your communication is written poorly or is unclear, a reporter won’t have time for you. Make sure you tell the reporter what is in it for them and their audience first right at the very beginning. Essentially respond to questions such as, why is this relevant, and why now? Try to make a human and emotional connection. Put a short bio and contact information at the end. The reporter will read the headline, if it captures their interest, they will skim the text. Keep all of this relatively short, and again, remember the context of mobile viewing. Send yourself a test copy. Did it grab you? How long did it take to skim the copy? Sometimes an image within the body of the email (no attachments!) can tell the story quickly and hit an emotional hot button. If you’ve got an image that tells the story in fewer words, by all means use it, but be sure to size it right for the email so it loads quickly and displays properly. Again, send yourself a test first to your mobile device.

Of course these points are just about how to get the reporters attention. There is a lot more to consider if you score coverage, especially if interviewed. Practice thinking and talking in sound bites, since your interview will likely be edited.

The bottom line here is this: getting media coverage is free, but it requires a lot of work, and frankly you have to earn it. But that’s what makes it so valuable. It’s certainly worth the time to pursue, especially for small businesses and entrepreneurs.

There are many great resources out there to help you with this (including a great marketing consultant that writes this fabulous marketing blog!) If you’d like to tap into fresh content and ideas about PR, is also a good place to start. They also have a great newsletter you can sign up to receive free tips.


Are you ready for mobile search friendly site rankings?

On April 21st Google brought into play potentially sweeping changes that could affect your business, and search engine optimization in particular. The most notable change is the plan to favourably rank sites that are mobile responsive.

This is huge folks.

Apple Silver iPhone 6 Plus showing the home screen with iOS 8.We have seen over the last couple year’s steady growth in the use of mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets. According to Business Insider, currently about 60% of all web searches are performed from a mobile device. While it depends on the industry and user, I have seen other estimates of this figure at 50%. Suffice it to say, we have now reached a time when more then half of all search happens from mobile devices. And we can expect that to continue to grow. We’re now solidly in the age of the mobile internet. Users want real time, real results, time and location specific. And they want it immediately. So in response, since Google essentially owns search, and has a vested interest in users having a seamless experience, they will now make their search algorithms favour sites that are mobile viewing friendly. That means sites that detect what type of device is visiting and configure displayed material for the viewing screen size, will rank higher in search. If your site is not responsive, you may see your search ranking suffer. Not sure if your site is mobile friendly? Check here at see with this free Google tool.

This is pretty significant if you want to maintain your rankings.

But having a favourable mobile display is just the beginning of the coming sweeping changes…

Google has always been about relevancy. Content has always proven king. But that is also changing. While content is extremely important, user experience is just as important. That seems to be the message with the shift to favouring mobile friendly.

And now Google is upping the ante yet again – beyond just quality content.Google search in the future will favour those that have demonstrated that they have an audience. Yes, having an audience that is talking about your content will matter.

It now seems you will need to go beyond quality, and demonstrate a relevance with your particular target audience.

In the end, these changes are good for search, and they will be good for business, at least the legitimate ones, who now will truly earn the ranking they deserve. What’s the real message in all this? Produce quality content that is relevant to your target audience, content that gets talked about, and delivered in a mobile friendly manner.

Really, there’s no trickery about it. That just sounds like good marketing!









Social media: Are all animals created equal, or are some more equal than others?

For anyone who read George Orwell’s 1949 book Animal Farm, you’ll likely recall this telling quote:

“All animals are created equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

This politically fueled satire featured animals organizing their farm and occupants not unlike a state and its people. The eventual downfall of the system rife with alliances and greed pointedly was Orwell’s comment on a distaste of socialist dictatorship society.

Animal_FarmBut viewed from a different context, this quote has a modern day meaning when applied to social media. While there are many platforms out there, and many of us tend to treat them as all deserving our attention in the competition for eyeballs and engagement, some platforms are indeed more deserving then others.

A frequently occurring conversation in business circles is how busy people have become, and how hard it is to keep up with all the emails and social media. Add to that an uncertainty about the effectiveness of that time spent on social, and it becomes a murky place to navigate.

I believe seeing all options and social media platforms as equal largely fuels this frustration. Indeed as Orwell noted, some are in fact more equal then others. But which ones are “more equal” and thus deserving of your time, really depends on your business, your audience and your objectives.

So here are some 2015 statistics courtesy of Pew Research about some of the major social media platforms.


  • 71% of online adults use Facebook. Of those:
  • Women: 77%
  • Men: 66%
  • 18-29: 87%
  • 30-49: 73%
  • 50-64: 63%
  • 65+ 56%

Of relevance here is the broad cross population coverage of the platform, and particularly 18-49 with the highest concentration in the 18-29 year old bracket. While Google + has tried to break into this market, Facebook remains the dominant player for a broad based audience channel. It’s part of the reason they have been successful monetizing sponsored posts and getting companies to pay to boost their content. They have a huge repository of personal information and profiling, and for the time being, the cost to boost posts is relatively inexpensive if done well. It is however the 2015 equivalent to being a display ad in a paper people are reading, it’s just that you get to select who will see your ad buried in their news feed. For smaller companies or individuals perhaps using a personal account rather then a business page, the non-monetized options are actually not bad – if you post publically, have solid followers, and have enough clout to have your content rise in search.


  • 26% of online adults use Instagram. Of those:
  • Women: 29%
  • Men: 22%
  • 18-29: 53%
  • 30-49: 25%
  • 50-64: 11%
  • 65+ 6%

Of relevance is the fact that it is not as broadly used as Facebook, but the heavy use by 18-29 group is relevant if that correlates well with your target market. It is also very visual and conversational, so if your content is visually oriented towards a younger audience and you want to build community this is a good one. Of frustration for business use is the limited ability to link to other stuff except through your home identity, so the key seems to be to change that URL when you have something relevant to link to (such as a blog post or offer) and refer to it in the post.


  • 23% of online adults use Twitter. Of those:
  • Women: 21%
  • Men: 24%
  • 18-29: 37%
  • 30-49: 25%
  • 50-64: 12%
  • 65+ 10%

Of relevance is the profile of the 25-37% who do use it, as well as the heavier use by younger populations. Those that do use Twitter regularly are generally highly engaged in a topic or area of interest. Twitter is also heavily used by media to monitor stories and get tips on content. The nature of the medium in being able to follow and tag, can give easier access to journalists then email is some cases. Twitter is also becoming much more visual with the sharing of images and video. The bottom line is, Twitter will never have the broad uptake of Facebook, but it has strategic uses for growing the audience for your content and for getting media attention.


  • 28% of online adults use LinkedIn. Of those:
  • Women: 27%
  • Men: 28%
  • 18-29: 23%
  • 30-49: 31%
  • 50-64: 30%
  • 65+ 21%

Of relevance is the broad use across age groups, the profile of who is using it being business oriented, the type of content shared also being business oriented. The 30-64 group has the highest use frequency. This makes it an excellent platform for B2B sharing and networking as well as personal brand building.


  • 28% of online adults use Pinterest. Of those:
  • Women: 42%
  • Men: 13%
  • 18-29: 34%
  • 30-49: 28%
  • 50-64: 27%
  • 65+ 17%

Of relevance is the high percentage of women who are engaged on the platform, in particular younger women 18-29 but the platform has solid uptake by women 30-64 as well. This platform is highly visual, so if you have a lot of visual content and women are your audience, this could be a good one to focus on.

My suggestion for those who find themselves time starved is to pick one or two to focus on with effort. Pick those that make the most sense for your business and audience. Only add others when time and effort allow, or put them in “maintenance mode.” Additionally using a platform such as Hootsuite, which is a dashboard that integrates all your social media and allows you to monitor and schedule posts, can make management easier. You then have a one stop shop to check once a day, or to set things up for the week and get back to work.

Really it comes down to good time management and having a strategic focus. In the end, while it may appear that all social media platforms are equal and deserving of your time, in fact some platforms are more equal then others!