» How to Create a PR Plan

Photo by Michael Stephens Photography

This article was written by Education Expert, Meghan Ely, OFD Consulting

Being the wise wedding professional that you are, you know you need a PR plan. You realize that great press equals great clients and an increase in your standing among your peers in the industry. It’s just that making a plan seems so hard.

Putting off the PR plan you could create today until tomorrow may seem like it’s saving you time and effort at the moment. In the long run, though, it really just pushes off attaining your dreams further into the future. You deserve better than that and you know it. Instead of procrastinating, start with these steps to get your PR plan underway today.

Take stock

Begin by assessing your business. What do your clients love about you? To whom do you appeal now, and to whom would you like to in the future? Who is your ideal client? How do people find you? If you could reach the ones who have never heard of you, what is the first thing you would want them to know? Before you can launch a PR campaign, you need to answer these questions, refine your message and pinpoint your desired audience.

Make a wish list

Next, dive deep into the internet and social media and create a wish list of the outlets you plan to target. It’s not enough to just list the ones you enjoy reading or visiting. Make sure you identify the publishers that reach your ideal customers – using the demographic information you compiled.

Maximize efficiency through organization

Even if it isn’t your strong suit, staying organized has become much easier with advances in technology. These leaps forward currently take the form of online apps and tools to help keep you on top of your game. I personally love Wufoo to collect couple’s wedding day information, Basecamp as project management software to keep us moving along with our daily to do’s and Boomerang, which sends reminders to me to follow up with emails I’ve sent that have not received replies.

Promote your results

Once you are successful at publishing a real wedding or contributing your expertise to an industry article, you’ll want to promote your success. First, send a thank you note to the editor or publisher to solidify your relationship for the future. Then, get the word out on social media. If you have your own blog, craft a post about the piece and include a link to the full piece. By promoting the piece, you’ll be magnifying the spotlight on your business and helping create valuable Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for your website and your publisher’s as well.

Ultimately, avoiding creating a plan can only hurt your business, not help it. Make a point of ensuring your future success by creating a PR plan and beginning to check off related tasks today!

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.

» Ways to Make Your Website Accessible for More Clients

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Expert, Kathryn Hamm.

The first and easiest part of being more inclusive in your digital marketing is to diversify representation within your images and text. As I’ve written previously, this includes written and visual representation of “brides and grooms” or “engaged couples;” of same-sex couples; of various races and ethnicities, religious rituals and physical abilities, shapes and sizes. These are simple cues that say “I see you” to prospective clients who might not feel included in mainstream wedding media.

Consistency is key

Though this may be enough to broaden your appeal to more clients, I advise wedding professionals to seek more information to understand the nuance of need beneath a first impression. It’s important to recognize that when a client feels “seen,” they are more likely to make an inquiry, but also they are more likely to hire you if you can deliver a truly inclusive experience from beginning to end.

Consider the case of a Caucasian stylist who features African-American brides on her website, but does not have a wide range of foundations and complementary hues for darker skin tones or an understanding of styles that are trending amongst black brides. Or the photographer who books a same-sex couple but applies a heteronormative (one bride, one groom) approach to the poses of two grooms or two brides or offers a referral to a caterer who is outspoken against same-sex marriage. When broadening your service offering, extra homework, preparation and consistency goes a long way.

Consider your website accessibility for all clients

Though your website may offer that “first impression” opportunity for some clients, it can also result in couples (and/or their attendants and guests) who have disabilities leaving your website quickly due to accessibility issues.

Below are a few simple tips to enhance your website to be more inclusive and accessible for clients with disabilities. Remember: these considerations may be important for the engaged person who is doing the planning, but might also be important for engaging the collaborative assistance of a parent or best man or best woman.

  1. Image accessibility
    Make sure that your key images and actionable buttons are large enough to be seen by someone with limited eyesight and that your ‘alt tags’ and ‘title tags’ clearly describe the content in an image so that a screen reader can interpret that visual information in a spoken form for those who are blind or dyslexic. It’s likely that many of you are already tending to your ‘alt tags’ for SEO (and if not you should be!) so this additional consideration increases the value of your business investment.
  2. Text accessibility
    Consider the flexibility of your written content to make sure that the information you are presenting comes across impactfully if a client is using a screen magnification tool to enlarge the text or a screen reader to interpret the text. It can also be helpful to make sure that your links are underlined or otherwise clearly differentiated from your normal text so that those who are color blind can easily find important links on your site.
  3. Video accessibility
    As you publish video content of your work or expertise on your website and in social media feeds, make sure to offer a clear description about the main point of your content, but also consider adding subtitles or investing in a sign language interpreter to provide a translation for those who are deaf.
  4. Inclusive representation
    Beyond including images of brides, grooms and guests with disabilities in your marketing images, take the time to find a local ASL interpreter to include in your referral list and/or professional network. If you aren’t otherwise required by ADA compliance, take a take a test tour of your office, event space or venue in a wheelchair to understand where access may be an issue. Or consider having a large print or screen-reader-friendly version of your contract so that a client with a visual impairment or dyslexia can more easily understand all of the terms related to the booking.

These small adjustments can be made during your next website update or as an improvement to your next blog, social media or video post. And, beyond making a meaningful difference for many brides and grooms with disabilities, engaged couples who are looking out for their guests with disabilities will also appreciate that you are ready, willing and able to serve them, too.

Did you know? Apple products have a wide range of accessibility tools built in to its iOS. If you have an iPad or iPhone, explore the features on your own device to see how those with vision, hearing or physical disabilities might be accessing your digital presence without even realizing it. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility.

kathryn hammThis post was written by Kathryn Hamm WeddingWire Education Expert, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist. Kathryn is also co-author of the groundbreaking book, The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography. Follow her on Twitter @madebykathryn.

» How to Streamline Your PR in 2018

This article was written by Education Expert, Meghan Ely, OFD Consulting

During this time of the year, most wedding professionals are enjoying the beginning of a slower season when event work eases up and the business of running a business takes priority. When you are knee-deep in busy season, it’s so easy to get excited about PR and all of the exposure you know comes with it, but it can easily fall to the backburner when one of a million more pressing issues crops up.

The downtime of the slower season is a great time to streamline your PR for the coming year and make sure it becomes part of your week-to-week workflow. Don’t miss out on opportunities to promote your business through targeted pitches to prime publishers by simply putting the time in now.

The following steps are time-tested ways to streamline your PR and get ready for the coming year:

Implement block scheduling

Block scheduling is a method of time management in which you evaluate your priority tasks and pre-schedule the amount of time you are going to devote to each one and how often (i.e. on daily, weekly or monthly basis).  I recommend committing to at least one hour per week to engage in PR-related activities, whether that means assembling a media list, creating pitches or submitting proposals for speaking engagements. Set aside the time you plan to invest in PR and during that time focus exclusively on it. Don’t get distracted by social media, your phone, email, your children or even your cat. Make your PR time power time.

Use HARO

HARO (helpareporter.com) is the go-to site for matching your amazing stories and expertise with press looking for something to report about. Commit 10 minutes every business day to scanning HARO and acting on opportunities that have potential.

Preview upcoming weddings and make predictions

Look ahead at the weddings you have in the works. Which ones have publishing potential or meet editorial requests? Start gathering what you would need if you decided to submit them now. Coordinate with your photographer, get client permission, obtain and process the backstory information from your couple and their vendors. Do the tedious tasks that normally stand in the way of completing important projects while you still have the time and are focused on the benefits.

Explore ways to make your life easier

Sounds like a pretty great step, right? Think about your pain points and then ask yourself if there are any apps, programs or changes you can make that will alleviate them. Some may take a small investment, or you may need to learn to use them, but if they perform necessary tasks and save you time that you can use to address something that really needs you, they are invaluable.

The slow season is your best opportunity to put in place procedures and systems you need to make you a superhero of PR all year long. Follow these simple steps and focus on the desired outcome. Your efforts now will most certainly yield PR rock star-level results in the not-too-distant future.

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.

» Why Price Questions Shouldn’t Worry You

Photo by Riverland Studios

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP.

As we enter a new year, and get into the heart of engagement season, I want to remind you that price questions are buying signals. If you know that, and you live it, then I could make this the shortest article I’ve ever written, but let me fill in the details for the rest of you.

By the time you have someone asking you what you’d charge for your services for their wedding, or event, they’ve already done a lot of filtering. Most of your competitors will never hear from this same couple, or customer. It’s very likely that they know a little, or more, about you, from your website, WeddingWire storefront, reviews and more. You only got the inquiry because they like what they’ve seen and heard so far.

Don’t blow it!

Since you’ve made it to their short-list of companies they think can do what they want, and produce the results that they want, don’t ruin your chances with them by taking the lead for granted, or worse, assuming they can’t afford you just because they’ve asked about price. Don’t you ask about price when you’re the customer? Does it mean you can’t afford it because you’ve asked about price? Of course not. It’s just one of many pieces of information you need to make a decision. The thing is, when you’re shopping for something you know, you ask about price after you find out whether it fits your technical specs.

For example, if you need a new camera, you’ll ask about resolution, features, compatibility with your lenses, etc., and then, once you’ve checked off all of your technical needs, you ask about price. If it doesn’t fit your technical needs, then price doesn’t matter. The same applies if you need a new vehicle for your business. Price will only matter after you determine that it meets your technical needs. It doesn’t mean you can’t afford that truck, it just means you have needs that are more important that price.

They don’t know, what they don’t know

The challenge for your customers is that they don’t know how to articulate their needs. They’ve likely never shopped for your product or service before, so they’re not equipped with how to shop. Or, they’ve been to your website, read your online storefront, checked out your reviews, seen your photos and videos, and they already think that you’re a good fit. So, the only questions that they have left are: Are you available? and How much do you charge?

When they ask about price…

  • It may not mean they’re looking for your lowest package/offering
  • It may not  mean they’re price shopping (only comparing on price)
  • It may not mean they can’t afford your prices

Don’t judge a book by its cover

If you treat them as if they can’t afford you, or that they’re looking for your lowest price, you’re likely to lose some legitimate prospects. How many sales have you made, for more than your lowest package/offering, to people who first asked about price? The answer is probably: a lot. We all have. Everyone needs to know the price, eventually. Some just don’t know what else to ask, so they start with the one thing they understand… money! So, instead of dreading getting the “How much does it cost…?” question, celebrate it. Relish in the fact that most of your competitors aren’t getting asked that, or anything, by this same customer. They’re not in the game, because they don’t know there’s a game going on. But you do, and you’ve just been told to suit-up, and get in the game.

The change starts with you

They’re not going to change the way they inquire with you. I’ve been in this industry for a long time, and couples have always asked about price, earlier than you, the professionals, want to hear it. I’d rather have that discussion early, than not have a chance at all. Learn how to have the same conversation you’d have in person or on the phone, via email, messenger, LiveChat or text. Whatever the technology, it’s still a real conversation. Don’t avoid their question, you’ll turn them off. Don’t try to change from a digital conversation, to a phone/in-person one, too soon. You’ll turn them off. If you reply to their inquiries about price, and they don’t reply to you, that doesn’t mean they can’t afford you. It could be the way you’re replying. I see it all the time (and it’s the subject of my next book).

The short answer is that if you reply to “How much do you charge?” with “Let’s have a phone call or schedule a meeting”, and then you don’t hear back… stop doing that! I’ve spoken about this on WeddingWire webinars, and written about it in articles, but my favorite way to answer this is to quote them a price range, so they, and you, can see if you should continue the discussion (that is, assuming you don’t have a range on your site and storefront, in which case price shouldn’t be an issue when they reach out).

So, the next time you get an email, or message through WeddingWire, that asks about price, put a smile on your face, because you’re communicating with a BUYER! It’s a mindset change that will serve you well.

WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.

» How to Prep for 2018 Wedding Submissions

Photo by Walking Eagle Photography

This article was written by Education Expert, Meghan Ely, OFD Consulting

With the end of the year upon us, it’s a great time to sit down and start mapping out your public relations efforts for 2018. For event professionals, real wedding submissions should be a big part of your strategy. It’s an effective way to get your brand in front of the audiences you’re seeking, and helps to establish you as an influencer in the industry.

Don’t know where to start? Let’s take a look at some of my top tips to follow for submitting.

Get permission

Before you do anything else, you want to make sure that you have not only the photographer’s permission but the client as well. The easiest way to do this is by including it in their contract, but we also recommend talking to them about it beforehand so you know they are on board from the beginning.

Do your homework

This may come as a surprise, but not every blog is right for every wedding. When deciding where to send a submission, sit down and do some research on which blogs are going to be the

right fit. For example, it wouldn’t make sense to send a black tie luxury wedding to a blog that heavily features rustic backyard celebrations. Be sure that you can find complementary events that are recent (within the last year) so you know what the editor is looking for.

It’s all about the details

When selecting images you’re planning to include in the submission, you want to think about it with the editor’s point of view in mind. Remember that they are trying to inspire their readers with trends and fresh ideas, so they will generally give preference to those who include lots of details. You may have adored the couple and want to see their faces all over the feature, but that isn’t what’s going to catch an editor’s eye.

Follow the rules

The biggest mistake you can make when submitting is not following the guidelines for each publication. There is no exact formula to follow, each outlet is distinct and will have different requirements. From image sizing to number of photos to sharing programs, no two are exactly the same. Be sure that you are checking the directions each time you submit a wedding to ensure that you haven’t missed anything.

Develop the story

While the photos will tell part of the story, it’s the couple themselves that editor’s want to hear about. The detail photos are important, but they want to know why the couple selected them, and what personal touches they included. For us, we have a questionnaire that is sent out to couples asking them details about their wedding like inspiration, DIY projects and how they met/got engaged. The couple will love getting involved in the process, and the editor will appreciate all of the detail you have included in the submission.

Include the team

No event is made great by just one person. It takes a team of vendors to bring everything together and make it a success. It’s important that when submitting a wedding you give credit where credit is due by including everyone that was involved. If the wedding gets published, they will appreciate the recognition, and will likely promote it themselves, increasing exposure for your business in turn.

With these tips in mind, you’re sure to kick your 2018 PR plan off with a bang!

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.

» How to Leverage the Royal Engagement for Your Business

Photo by Kensington Royal via Instagram

This article was written by Education Expert, Meghan Ely, OFD Consulting

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the UK’s Prince Harry is marrying American actress, Meghan Markle in May 2018. That’s right friends: it’s another royal wedding!

If you’re anything like me, your initial reaction was probably to pull out your commemorative china, don a fascinator and toast the engagement with a cup of your best Earl Grey. Or, if you are just a little bit less obsessed, you at least had a moment of recognition that the media coverage of all things bespoke is guaranteed to be constant and overwhelming through May and beyond. Either way, as a wedding professional it’s time to celebrate because this is a major opportunity to leverage your expertise in return for some valuable publicity – even if you don’t know the first thing about making a proper fruit cake.

The fact is that from now until May, media outlets will be hungry for stories, either directly related to or inspired by the engagement. Now is the time to get your name out there and take full advantage of this gift. Kate and Will married in OFD’s second year, and I was able to turn that into national TV coverage! Good Morning America actually sent a team to film my royal wedding viewing party – one of the Crown Jewels (pardon the pun) of my own early publicity. It was, and still is, all about timing, experience and enthusiasm.

So, what can you do to get your piece of the royal publicity pie?

  • Reach out to your local media
    If you’re already seeing coverage of the royal wedding locally, even if it’s just the engagement announcement, hunt down the writers on the beat and email them now. Introduce yourself and establish your wedding expertise, along with your willingness to chime in.
  • Leverage content on your own website and social media
    One of the biggest challenges people have with blogging is coming up with content, so take advantage of the global attention and create an ongoing blog theme related to it. Include your observations, predictions and commentary.
  • Sign up for HARO
    If you haven’t done so already- keep an eye out for wedding related inquiries, which are bound to increase as the fervor builds.
  • Plan an inspiration shoot
    If you don’t feel comfortable putting yourself out there as an expert, go ahead and at least consider your own fun shoot inspired by the royal wedding. Dare to be different, but make sure it complements themes and elements predicted for the upcoming nuptials (remember that editors need to be able to connect the dots). The wedding is in May, so start submitting by March, at the latest.
  • Have fun!
    Host a local viewing party and invite all of your wedding friends. It’s a great way to ramp up the wedding season and make deeper connections.

    There is no reason to fear royal wedding madness – this is a great time to be in our industry. Prepare for an adventure, because this will definitely be one of your most entertaining wedding seasons yet.

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.

» Do You Want the Sale, or Not?

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP.

While speaking at a conference in Mexico, I overheard some wedding professionals talking, and one said:“If you don’t want to do the wedding, just give them a really high price.” I jumped into the conversation, and I said “If you don’t want to do the wedding, don’t do the wedding!” Giving them a high price doesn’t change the reasons you didn’t want to do it. Maybe it was really far away. Maybe it would be so time-consuming, that it would take away from your other clients. Or, maybe they’re just not nice people and you didn’t connect with them. If you give them a high price, and they accept it, those reasons didn’t go away. You’ll just likely end up regretting taking it, while you toil away on a wedding you didn’t want to do. The money is not going to make up for that.

I was doing an event in Ireland recently, and I asked the attendees to let me know if any of them got a new lead, during the event. A DJ, who had come over from the UK for the event, told me that he just got a new inquiry through his website. I asked him to read it to us. He didn’t sound very excited while reading it, and I asked him why. She was 2½ – hours away from him, in an area where he doesn’t usually get inquiries. He had just won a prestigious award in the UK, and figured that she had seen that, and that’s why she reached out (just conjecture on his part, of course).

Your attitude will come through

I asked how he was going to reply, and he said “I don’t really care if I get it, or not, being 2½ – hours away.” I asked him “Do you want the sale, or not?” He said he could go either way. I asked him again “Do you want the sale, or not?” He said “I’d only do it for my full fee.” I told him that he hadn’t even gotten to that point, yet. However, if he wasn’t interested, then tell her he’s not available. If he is interested, then let’s answer this together. His attitude when writing the reply is very important. If you’ve seen me present on this topic, read my books, or heard a webinar or read my articles here, you know that tone and energy comes through in written conversations.

So, he replied to her, and she replied back. He gave her a price range. She indicated that the top of the range was too high for her, and asked if he had something for less. He asked for a 5- minute phone call the following morning, which they had, and he booked her for his full fee (the bottom of the range he had given her). He was happy, and so was she. Had he written his original response, it’s possible she would have seen that he was blasé about getting the sale, and she’d find someone who was as excited as she.

Don’t rush the process, just because you’re busy

When I do sales training, I like to look at the actual digital conversations of my clients, businesses just like yours. Very often I see conversations that try to rush the process, either by asking too many questions at once, sending lots of attachments, answering questions they haven’t asked yet, and more. When I ask why they’re including so much information, the reason is often because they’re so busy with other tasks, they don’t feel they have the time to have a few, or a lot of back and forth, short conversations. Sound familiar? I’ll bet it does. What do you want, when you’re the customer?

I get it, I really do. However, when you’re the customer, and you email a business about something you need, what do you want? Don’t you want to have a conversation with a real person? A real conversation, not a data dump of information. Not lots of PDFs, or even one PDF, especially if you can’t easily read it on your phone. Don’t you want to know that someone is taking an interest in solving your problem, or getting you to the end result that you want? Of course, you do, and so do I. It’s not their problem that you’re busy. Yes, we like to do business with the popular companies, there’s a certain reassurance. However, I’d rather do business with someone who takes the time to have a conversation with me, than someone who copies and pastes the same information to me, that they do for everyone else. We all like to think that we’re unique.

Can you afford to lose one sale?

How full is your calendar? Can you afford to lose one sale? What would that cost you? It’s probably already happened. It happens to all of us, sometimes it’s our fault, sometimes it’s not. Some of the reasons are beyond our control. If they book someone who’s half your price, they didn’t see the value in hiring you. It’s going to happen. If they book someone who was referred by a friend or relative, oh well. But if they book someone else, for the same, or higher price than you, because you didn’t show them the personal attention that they wanted (and deserved), from their very first contact with you, that’s on you. If you don’t need another sale, more power to you. But that attitude can come back to bite you in the long run. So, do you want the sale, or don’t you? If you do, then treat them the way you’d want to be treated!

WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.

» A Fresh Look at the Legal Landscape for LGBTQ Couples

Photo by Hitched Photo

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Expert, Kathryn Hamm.

With the advent of marriage equality in June of 2015, the need for my “legal landscape” updates came to an almost complete stop. Gone was the need to help wedding professionals understand the nuances around the kinds of choices that same-sex couples were making when planning the weddings based on where they lived and where their unions would be legally recognized.

As 2017 comes to a close, however, there are a few important legal landscape updates to keep in mind. Highlights include: the recent same-sex marriage postal poll in Australia; the addition of legal marriage in non-U.S. locations like Finland, Malta and Germany; and the forthcoming Supreme Court hearing on December 5, 2017, Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

Is Marriage Legal in Australia Or Not?

Australia has been engaged in a debate about same-sex marriage that has captured the attention of interested parties far beyond its shores. Its neighbor, New Zealand, recognized the opportunity for destination weddings and legal elopements when it recognized marriage in 2013. At last, the Aussies have begun to catch up and, in keeping with its political process, conducted a postal survey to gauge the interest of the general population. The results of that survey, after a high-profile and contentious months-long round of campaigning by those in favor of and against same-sex marriage, revealed that a majority (61%) of Australians favor same-sex marriage.

The vote-by-poll, however, is non-binding, and it is now up to the Prime Minister, Malcom Turnbull, and the Parliament to convert the majority opinion into law. He says he intends “to make their wish the law of the land by Christmas.” Presuming that this does occur as promised, wedding professionals and the hospitality industry expect to see business expand as same-sex couples, including this couple of 50 years, look to get hitched in their home country in 2018.

Germany, Finland and Malta Celebrate Marriage Equality

In 2001, the Netherlands was the first to recognize same-sex marriage, and, since then, 19 additional countries have followed suit, including Germany, Finland and Malta in 2017. Our global WeddingWire family offers inclusive resources for same-sex couples regardless of legal recognition, but proudly celebrates marriage equality with same-sex couples in most of the countries WeddingWire currently serves, including Spain (2005), Canada (2005), Argentina (2010), Colombia (2016), Brazil (2013), France (2013), and Uruguay (2013); and those jurisdictions in the United Kingdom, Mexico, and Italy where same-sex marriage is recognized.

Masterpiece Cakeshop & The Question of Service Refusal

Though the Supreme Court may have settled the question of marriage equality on June 26, 2015, it did not create a right for LGBTQ individuals and couples to be free from discrimination in other areas of their lives.  While many states have statutes that prohibit discrimination in housing, education, employment or public accommodations (hotels, restaurants, etc.) on the basis of sexual orientation, many others don’t.  An attack on one of these state statutes is being carried out in the context of the simmering debate about whether or not wedding professionals should be compelled to serve same-sex couples if they oppose same-sex marriage.

Enter the case of Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which will be heard by the Supreme Court of the United States on December 5. Richard Wolf of USA Today wrote of the long odds of the “tight-knit fraternity” of “same-sex marriage foes” in this hearing as they attempt to argue successfully that they have the right to refuse to serve same-sex couples seeking products and services for their weddings. Experts point out that the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act  is very clear that businesses cannot discriminate against a person based on sexual orientation.   And, “at issue,” says the Center for American Progress, “is whether the First Amendment’s free speech and free exercise (of religion) clauses permit a business that is open to the public to refuse service to groups of people, in violation of laws prohibiting discrimination.”  It’s worth noting that arguments regarding free exercise of religion are not new, but the free speech argument represents a new approach.  Taken to its extreme, it means many businesses who claim that their work is “expressive,” including many in the wedding industry like photographers, would not be subject to anti-discrimination laws.

Beyond the consideration of this question in a court of law (the highest court in the land, no less) is its consideration in the court of public and industry opinion. Here, there is clear evidence that a majority of Americans (60%) do not think that wedding businesses should be allowed to refuse to serve same-sex couples, including an even higher majority in the segment of wedding professionals (64%). The question, asked differently in 2016 by WeddingWire, found that the vast majority (89%) of wedding professionals said that they are ready, willing and able to serve same-sex couples.

It is not surprising, then, that WeddingWire would decide to sign on to the HRC-led amicus brief, which argues that wedding businesses must be open to all. Said Timothy Chi, CEO of WeddingWire, “I wanted to clearly communicate WeddingWire’s position and underscore, in no uncertain terms, what we stand for as a company. WeddingWire opposes discrimination of any type. Love is love, and we support the right that all couples have to marry. Our company has a long history of supporting equal rights, equal opportunity, and equal treatment, with dignity and respect that is uncompromised. As such, WeddingWire supports the arguments of the respondents, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and Charlie Davis and David Mullins.”  WeddingWire has also expressed its support for the Equality Act, a national law that would extend the protections under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to sexual orientation and gender identity.

Regardless of what the Supreme Court decides to offer as legal guidance to address the unfinished business of the 2015 Obergefell decision, engaged couples and wedding professionals will still have to lead the way in resolving this conversation.

And I believe it’s possible for love, compassion, and market forces to shape the resolution beyond the guidance the law offers us, and to pave the way for same-sex couples to enjoy both the freedom to marry and the freedom to be served.

kathryn hammThis post was written by Kathryn Hamm WeddingWire Education Expert, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist. Kathryn is also co-author of the groundbreaking book, The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography. Follow her on Twitter @madebykathryn.

» Who’s in Your Network?

Photo by Austin Stuart Photography

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP.

I just got back from presenting at a local wedding association meeting. This association opened the workshop to non-members, as a gesture to help educate the industry (and I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt to try to drum up a few new members). As is the case at all meetings like this, many of the people who attended already knew each other. Many already get together, outside the meetings, either socially, or to network.

Is that a clique, or a network?

There’s a fine line between a clique and a network, but it’s often hard to see the difference from the outside. For me, the difference is whether the group is open to new members. When I say group, I don’t necessarily mean a formal association. At workshops and conferences, wedding and event professionals tend to cluster in groups. I’m sure a psychologist would tell us that this is natural, human behavior. Are those groups cliques? They can often feel impenetrable, because the body language of the group feels exclusive, as opposed to inclusive. Outsiders often don’t try to join the group, assuming, in advance, that they’re not welcome. Sometimes that’s the case, sometimes it’s not.

Who’s in your five?

Do you remember the cell phone ads, “Who’s in your five?” In this case, your ‘five’ is your inner-circle (which can certainly be more than five people). Who are the industry connections with whom you socialize? It’s been said that we do business with people we know, like and trust (credit to Bob Burg, no relation). When a couple asks for a referral to another service, or when you’re booked and want to refer a colleague, why do you refer those particular businesses? Is it just because they’re the best at what they do? Or, is it because they’re good at what they do, and you saw them recently, either at a wedding, or at a networking event, or over coffee on a Tuesday?

How can you expand your network?

First, remember that you weren’t always on the inside. Too often I see wedding professionals complaining about the new company in their market, whether they’re a lower-price, or a direct competitor. Weren’t we all the new guy (or gal) at one time? Weren’t our prices lower than many, if not most competitors, when we were new to the business? For many of us, the answer to those questions is yes. Rather than shun these newbies, why not welcome them into the fold? Wouldn’t it have been nice if you were welcomed that way when you were new? Or, maybe you were.

A rising tide raises all ships

Welcoming the new businesses, and helping them do things the right way, helps everyone. We all know that it only takes one person in your market and category, who has bad customer service, or who takes advantage of a customer, to make us all look bad. I would rather compete with someone who’s doing things well, is honest and well-respected. It makes me keep myself sharp, and keep my game up.

You can teach an old dog…

Another reason to widen your network with newcomers, is that they often have new ideas that can help you. Those of us who’ve been at our craft for a while can sometimes get set in our ways. Have you ever been caught off-guard by a newcomer who’s taking market share with their new approach? Baby-boomers and Gen Xers can learn from millennials and vice versa. You may like your way, but it’s not the only way. Regardless of age, none of us can learn anything new, if we’re not open to the possibilities. So, the next time you find yourself in a group, and you see someone you don’t know, try introducing yourself and inviting them in. You may make a great business connection, or even a new friend. Who’s in your five?

alan bergWeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.

» How Effective Are Your Email Responses?

Photo by Gawne Design Photography

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve shared some quick actionable ways to tune-up your Storefront and website for engagement season, and now it’s time to give your digital communications some love with these tips from Education Guru Alan Berg. Newly engaged couples will be reaching out soon – so keep these tips in mind to create powerful connections with potential clients.

Don’t rush to change the format

One of the biggest mistakes that wedding professionals can make right out of the gate is responding to an inquiry from a potential client in a format that is different than how they reached out. It’s likely that they were given the opportunity to contact you in multiple ways, and then they chose what worked best for them. According to WedInsights, 48% of couples express frustration when their vendor does not reciprocate their preferred communication type! So start with their preferred method, then once you have a back and forth going, you can ask them for a phone call, appointment, or another method that is necessary.

Respond quickly

70% of couples say vendor responsiveness is one of the top qualities they consider. It makes sense right? Most couples expect to hear from you within 24 hours, but they actually want that response right now! They are obviously in the frame of mind when they reach out, so ideally you want to catch them in that same state. The first vendor to respond will grab the couple’s attention and have an edge up on the competition.

Fit the first reply on a smartphone screen

When responding to a couple’s first inquiry, make sure that your response fits nicely on a smartphone screen. You should never assume that the couple will read your response on a computer and you don’t want to lose them in a reply. So make it easy for them. Email yourself one of your standard replies and open it on your smartphone. If it all fits, great! If it doesn’t, shorten it until it does. Also, make sure that the information is easily digestible by breaking into short paragraphs.

End the reply with one question

If you want to keep the conversation going, you must ask a question. Periods stop the conversation, but question marks open up a dialogue. Make the question something very simple and easy to answer. You don’t want them to have to think too hard or long to give a sufficient answer. Some examples are: “What other questions can I answer for you?”, “Are you planning on having your ceremony here as well?”, “Have you seen us at another wedding?” etc.

Don’t send attachments

Attachments are almost impossible to open and read on phones, even if they are beautiful. If it wasn’t formatted for phones, then we don’t suggest attaching it to emails. Instead you can put that information on a hidden page on your website. Then link to that page in your reply.

Auto replies should provide value

When was the last time you received a “Thank you for your message, someone will get back to you as soon as possible” and thought, “Oh great someone is going to get back to me!”? Probably never. That’s because you already knew, or assumed, that someone would get back to you. If you are using auto replies, make sure that you include information that couldn’t be gathered otherwise to add value to the inquirer’s experience with you.

Create a bank of testimonials

One of the greatest ways to show off your value is by letting a past client do it for you. Anytime someone says something nice about you or your business, copy it and save it. Whether it’s in person, through email, WeddingWire, Facebook, Instagram – anywhere, add it to a document with their name, city and state. Then highlight or bolden the statement that you want to highlight. When replying to an inquiry, find a relevant testimonial and include it!

» WeddingWire Networking Night Dallas

This week, local wedding professionals gathered at Tower Club for WeddingWire Networking Night Dallas!

Wedding professionals had the opportunity to enjoy an elegant event space complete with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Dallas skyline while networking over light fare including roasted lechon, elotes and adult root beer floats! Guests met other local vendors across all service categories as well as members of the WeddingWire team. Plus, they learned local-industry statistics and insights on working with millennial couples in the wedding industry, presented by WeddingWire’s Regional Manager of Customer Success, Katey McBurney!

Thank you to all the wonderful pros who joined us! We’re excited to share highlights from the event including the educational presentation, our latest issue of WedInsights, and photos from the lovely evening below. For additional photos from the evening, check out our gallery!

We would like to say a special thank you to the amazing event partners who helped make the evening possible:

Finally, we’re excited to announce the winner of our WeddingWire Prize Pack give away – congrats to Heather of Donnie Brown Weddings and Events!

 

» To Discount or Not to Discount?

Photo by Tracy Shoopman Photography

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP.

An often contentious topic among wedding professionals is discounting. Both sides of the debate dig in, deeply, when this question is posed on social media or in forums. Now, as engagement season begins, is the time to dive into this subject, starting with the difference between discounting and negotiating.

Discounting versus negotiating

For me, discounting is fine when it has structure and rules. Meaning everyone who buys the same products or services for equivalent dates will pay the same price and the rules are applied equally to everyone. For instance, if you have three packages and your higher packages, which contain more services, also have the highest discounts, that’s great. If everyone who buys that package pays the same price, then the rules are being applied equally.

On the other hand, negotiating means that two couples who buy the same products or services may pay different prices. Each customer’s ability to negotiate will determine their final price. The challenge with negotiating in today’s digitally connected world is that people can, and will, talk about their discount. If you can’t easily explain to one customer why they paid more than another customer for the same products and services – for instance, an in-season date versus an off-season date – then you’re negotiating, not discounting.

Discounting and negotiating can be part of a pricing strategy, negotiating is just less structured. There are times when I’ll negotiate to get the sale, but it’s the exception, not the rule. I recommend to my consulting clients to offer added value over a discount in price, as it helps to keep integrity in their basic pricing structure. If you’ve ever thrown in an extra product or service to get the sale, you’ve negotiated. Some companies do it on every sale. If you give the same or similar added value services every time, you’re really discounting, not negotiating. If the proportionate value of the added products or services changes with every customer, you’re negotiating.

Which is right for you?

There’s no one answer that’s right for every business. Personally, I prefer discounting over negotiating, as it’s easier to explain to your employees and your customers. I understand that it may not work for all businesses. In my business, as a speaker, sales trainer and consultant, there is no standard price list. Each event and client involves a different set of circumstances (travel, preparation, residual business, etc.). However, when it comes to my physical products (books, CDs, etc.), discounts make sense. For example, when I have a booth at a trade show or event, I’ll have my books and CDs, and usually offer an event discount. Many times I’ll be asked for an even lower price, and I’ll thank them and say that the listed prices are already discounted. Then I’ll ask if they want to pay with cash or credit. Asking for a discount is a buying signal, so always ask them for the sale when they ask for a discount.

Don’t fight the power

One of the keys to having pricing power is when the customer wants you, specifically you, to do their wedding or event. You’re not available anywhere else, at any price. If they don’t perceive any difference between you and another company with a lower price, the lower price will win. If they can tell the difference and want you to be their planner, or caterer, or officiant, they have to pay your price.

Get something of value in return

If you’re going to discount or negotiate, try to get something of value in return. If you only lower your price, you’re giving away profit. The products and services will cost you the same, but you’re getting paid less for them. Whether it’s getting a bigger deposit, being paid in full now, taking away services, or a higher guaranteed minimum guest count, make them a partner. If you’re the only one giving, they’ll keep taking. When they want to stop giving, they’ll stop asking.

They’ll be back

Many customers will shop around and find a lower price, which isn’t hard to do these days. If they do find a lower price and they still come back to you, they’re signaling that they can tell a difference, whether in your products or services or in the way you’ve provided a better customer experience – or both. That’s an indication that you have pricing power.

They may ask you to match the lower price, but you shouldn’t have to in order to get the sale. If they felt the other company would provide just as good products or services and customer experience, they wouldn’t have come back to you. The fact that they’re coming back shows that they like you better. Always thank them for coming back. After all, if price was the most important factor, you’d be out of the running.

Price doesn’t determine outcome

Sure, sometimes the lower price will win. A line I often use is “If price is the most important factor when choosing your (photographer, band, dress, speaker, etc.) then I’m probably not the best choice for your event.” Change the discussion from pricing to outcomes. There are many wedding and event professionals who don’t charge enough, whether by choice or out of fear.

Do I have to offer a discount to get the sale?

Whether you decide to offer a discount or not is a personal decision and part of your personal brand. There are many very successful businesses that offer discounts. Sometimes it’s due to competitive pressures, and sometimes it’s to encourage a higher sale. Packages are a great way to display discounts and encourage a higher average sale.

What’s the right answer for your business?

I’d have to know a lot more details to answer that. But when discounting becomes the reason that couples book you instead of them wanting only you to do their wedding or event, you risk diluting your brand. When they’re choosing you mostly on price, it’s easy for someone else to come along and undercut your price. So, discount or negotiate, it’s up to you – but be careful not to get caught up selling the discount, instead of selling your brand.

alan bergWeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.