» Winter Reading List for Wedding Pros

WeddingWire Education Expert

Meghan Ely

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding marketing and wedding pr firm OFD Consulting. As a highly sought-after speaker in the wedding industry, she is the exclusive Wedding PR Education Expert for WeddingWire as well as the national Communications and Marketing Director for WIPA

As the peak season winds down and you find more time on your hands, it’s important to make sure you’re carving in time for personal and business development. There is no better way to do this than to get your reading on! With that in mind, grab a mug of your favorite warm drink, pull up a blanket and get cozy with this reading list for wedding pros as the weather gets colder.

Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi

winter-reading-listThis is my go-to book and I recommend it to virtually anyone who asks for reading suggestions. In fact, I actually gave it away at this year’s WeddingWire World! During my first few months of starting OFD, I made sure to take the time to meet some of my favorite entrepreneurs. In the process, my dear friend Nina, who owns Classic Party Rentals of Virginia (one of my favorite people ever!), told me to buy it. Seeing as I do everything she tells me, I bought it and devoured it within days.

It’s a great book on the power of relationships with the notion that “your network is your net worth.” The wedding industry may continue to change, but by all means, relationships will always be at the forefront so this is imperative. If you’re going to read only one book on this list, let it be this one!

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Do you have a new idea that you’re dying to explore? Is there something you really want to get off the ground? Well, the off-season is the perfect time to map out your plan, but don’t do anything until you read this first. This book dives into the world of testing an idea and it has proven invaluable to me as I’ve contemplated the next steps of my business. This is a great read for anyone considering a pivot in their company!

Zombie Loyalists: Using Great Service to Create Rabid Fans by Peter Shankman

I’ll be honest – I’ve been a longtime fan of Peter Shankman ever since I discovered HARO. He is a customer service expert and this book is perfect for those looking to focus on developing client experience. In the wedding industry, one of the top ways that couples find their vendors is through friend referrals, so this is an incredible read to help you build a loyal fan base among your customers.

Nice Guys Finish First by Doug Sandler

We are so lucky to have Doug Sandler in the wedding industry and this book speaks to the power of kindness in the business. It’s chockful of great anecdotes from Doug’s career and truly showcases how to put systems into place to ensure the emphasis is placed on business relationships.

Get ready for a page-turning off-season! These books are both enjoyable and educational at the same time, so order your first book and get going on your off-season efforts.

» Wedding PR: Developing Your Speaking Platform

WeddingWire Education Expert

Meghan Ely

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding marketing and wedding pr firm OFD Consulting. As a highly sought-after speaker in the wedding industry, she is the exclusive Wedding PR Education Expert for WeddingWire as well as the national Communications and Marketing Director for WIPA

If you’re looking to expand your public relations efforts, professional speaking can be the perfect solution to increasing brand recognition and solidifying yourself as an industry leader. Oftentimes, people get excited and jump headfirst into pitching themselves; however, this can be a mistake if you haven’t put together a strategy ahead of time.

One major piece of your speaking strategy is your platform – it is essential to creating and fine-tuning your topics ahead of the actual pitching process. Ideally, your speaking platform will consist of three or four topics that you are comfortable speaking for at least 45 minutes, but even up to one and a half hours.

meghan-blog-imageSo, what topics should you cover? Good question.

First and foremost, dig deep and ask yourself what subjects you’re equally passionate about and well versed in. If you were standing in a room full of industry peers, would you be comfortable answering everything and anything about your chosen topic? Sit down and map out every topic you can think of, but don’t be too broad. Nobody wants to hear something just about wedding planning – you have to get specific with it. Expect to have a pretty overwhelming list (you do know a lot!), but don’t worry because you’ll be narrowing it down later.

Then, it’s time for research! Look at the places that you want to pitch, whether it’s a local workshop, national conference, association meeting or retreat. Review the speakers who are already booked and what kinds of topics they are covering. Your goal is to offer subject matters that are complementary to what is already there but still offer a unique perspective.

Once you’ve narrowed your topics down to the three or four best options, it’s time to put together your three main components for pitching – a catchy title, a brief description and three or four strong takeaways. Your title should be interesting without being two cutesy, with the description explaining what your speech is all about. Keep it simple at about 75 words or less. As for the takeaways, they should include actionable items that attendees will learn and walk away from your presentation with. Don’t be too anxious about expanding too much in your pitch – you’ll have much more space in your presentation to dive in deep!

As always, test the waters when pitching. If you’re finding that you’re not getting responses, it may be time to pivot your subjects. Topics are meant to evolve. For example, if you’re focusing on technology or social media, you should expect that your content would evolve quite a bit.

Create a marketing piece, like a one-pager, that really showcases you and your topics. As you’re submitting and waiting to hear back, it never hurts to take those topics and write guest articles or blog posts about them. Making efforts to project one’s self as an industry expert can be the difference in a winning pitch!

» How to Take Home More Industry Awards

A key way to expand your business and stand out from the competition is through winning industry awards. Whether you’re a new business or a seasoned pro, earning both recent and frequent accolades, collecting stand-out client reviews, and sharing your best work is a pivotal part of your business success.

In our latest infographic, get insights from Education Expert Meghan Ely of OFD Consulting with these six helpful tips to earn more industry awards!

earn-industry-awards

For more information, watch the full webinar! All past webinars are available within your WeddingWire account under the Education tab for Premium members to view on-demand at any time.

» Go for the Gold: How to Take Home More Industry Awards

september-premium-webinar-awardsWebinar recap!

An easy way to expand your business and stand out from the competition is through winning industry awards. Whether you’re a new business or a seasoned pro, earning accolades, collecting client reviews, and showcasing your hard work is a pivotal part of your success.

In this month’s webinar for Premium members, WeddingWire Education Expert and Owner of OFD Consulting, Meghan Ely, shared her tips for how to submit for and win more prestigious awards that build your credibility in the wedding industry.

Here are a few steps to earning more industry awards:

  • When deciding which awards to apply for, first take a close look at your business goals. Ask yourself how earning the award would help you meet these goals and then pick your top choices to actively pursue.
  • Once you decide to submit, always read and then reread the guidelines. It’s easy to overlook an element that could make or break your entry, or notice it too late in the process, simply by not paying enough attention to detail.
  • Create a plan for your submission before jumping in. Once you carefully review the guidelines and submission details, draft an outline of what you need to do and strategically plan your approach before you start writing.
  • Use facts and figures to stand out and impress the judges. By bringing your work to life with stats and examples, you can showcase the difference your business has made, and why you deserve to earn the award through a compelling story.
  • Share images that help support your story where applicable. However, it’s important to get approvals you may need from photographers to use their images. Also, make sure you do not rely on the images alone to tell your story.
  • Ask a friend to review and proofread your entry. A second set of eyes is key to making sure your story makes sense to an outside point of view, and that you are not overlooking and grammatical mistakes that could be easily avoided.
  • If you win — spread the news! Share your win on social media, and showcase your expertise by adding your award to all your marketing materials on and offline. This will impress clients and industry colleagues alike, and help you stand out in a competitive industry.

To learn more great tips from Meghan, watch the full webinar now!

Did you know that you can view all past webinars any time in your WeddingWire account? Watch recorded webinars at your convenience on a variety of topics to support your business growth from SEO to social media to sales and beyond.

» The Modern Media Pitch

WeddingWire Education Expert

Meghan Ely

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding marketing and wedding pr firm OFD Consulting. As a highly sought-after speaker in the wedding industry, she is the exclusive Wedding PR Education Expert for WeddingWire as well as the national Communications and Marketing Director for WIPA. To learn how OFD Consulting can assist you, as well as more about our new wedding PR kits, please visit us today.

Gone are the days when media pitches are strictly limited to blasting out the same press release to your email list of reporters. Many people are missing out on opportunities to get their name out there, simply because they think that a pitch has to be about their company and they may not always have news to share.

Sure, there is plenty of company news that is worth the pitch – anything that is timely, relevant and interesting is generally well received. However, there are plenty of other ways to get press without forcing not-so-newsworthy news into editors’ inboxes.

The Modern Media PitchCreate an effective media list

First and foremost, you’ll need to determine the best media outlets that fit your brand and your niche. Of those outlets, it’s important to find the right contacts and gather their info. This may be a bit of a task upfront, as it could require some good old-fashioned Google searching and social media stalking, but it’s well worth having the right contacts on file. There are also a number of programs to introduce you to new contacts, like HARO, SourceBottle and Babbler. Once you have your list, keep them organized in a spreadsheet that is easily accessible and simple to use.

Developing the pitch

A pitch is simply a story idea, so put your thinking cap on and get creative. In our office, we have a weekly meeting to review what’s in the news regarding weddings to get an idea of what’s buzzing around. From there, we look at each major news story and how we can turn it into a softer story angle and develop pitches out of those ideas. We’re also lucky enough to have a recent bride on our team, so if you have a newlywed, don’t be afraid to dig into their experience! You can also keep an eye out on your own weddings to see if there are any stories brewing that would make for a good pitch.

Sending out the pitch

Once you know who you’re pitching and what you’re pitching, it’s time to write it up. Always address the contact by their first name when possible and be professional throughout the email. Keep it short and simple, while still getting to the point you want to cover – editors are notoriously slammed with deadlines, pitches and other work, so you want to get your message across without taking up too much of their time. Offer yourself as a resource for further questions and thank them for their consideration.

Don’t fret if your pitch isn’t picked up. You’ve made a valuable media connection, which is worth its weight in gold in the PR world. Now, on to your next pitch…

» Partnership Marketing: Building Your Business from Your Wedding Buddies

WeddingWire Education Expert

Meghan Ely

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding marketing and wedding pr firm OFD Consulting. As a highly sought-after speaker in the wedding industry, she is the exclusive Wedding PR Education Expert for WeddingWire as well as the national Communications and Marketing Director for WIPA. To learn how OFD Consulting can assist you, as well as more about our new wedding PR kits, please visit us today.

Whether you’re a seasoned business in your area or are new to the scene, marketing is something that should be in the forefront of your business operations. The tricky part is that a business’ marketing approaches are constantly changing and evolving; from PR and social media to more traditional advertising methods, the options are endless.

When considering your own methods, don’t discount your relationships with the businesses around you. Leveraging relationships with your creative partners is a great way to introduce your business into their network. Below we’ve got some tips on creating and maintaining your vendor-to-vendor relationships.

Partnership Marketing: Building Your Business from Your Wedding BuddiesEstablishing a Relationship

It may take some effort to find the right people to work with. If no one comes to mind when thinking of whom you’d want to work with, then it’s time to consider networking. Attend events at your local associations, meet people, exchange cards, and most importantly, follow up.

Make sure that you are the easiest person to work with, whether it’s at an event or setting up a meeting with them (no Saturday appointments in June!). Market yourself as part of their team and be an all-around resource of information to solidify your place as an essential part of the process.

Maintaining a Relationship

Don’t let all of your efforts be for nothing – set up a system to maintain your relationships. Make sure you are staying in touch with them regularly to keep yourself on their minds (think birthday cards and holiday cards). Include them in your real wedding submissions. If you worked with a vendor and the wedding gets published, be sure to give them a shout out in any promotions.

Continue reading

» Wedding PR: How to Craft an Award-Winning Submission

WeddingWire Education Expert

Meghan Ely

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding marketing and wedding pr firm OFD Consulting. As a highly sought-after speaker in the wedding industry, she is the exclusive Wedding PR Education Expert for WeddingWire as well as the national Communications and Marketing Director for WIPA. To learn how OFD Consulting can assist you, as well as more about our new wedding PR kits, please visit us today.

Whether you realize it or not, awards should play a prominent role in your wedding PR campaign. They not only provide brand recognition, but they also speak to your expertise and act as a source of outside credibility. Winning a few quality awards can grow your revenue, in addition to boosting morale in the office.

Wedding PR: How to Craft an Award-Winning Submission“That’s great. But where do I apply?”

The number one key to a successful award application is to only submit to those that fit your business. Sending applications out to any and all awards you can find is a waste of time, as well as damaging to your integrity. Remember – every story is different, so don’t assume that you’re a fit for every award that your competitor has. Stick to the ones that your company truly qualifies for and put all of your effort into it.

Aim high, but be realistic as well. While you certainly may deserve some of the top-tier awards, you’ll need to work on building your brand recognition before you reach that point. Start out by applying to local and regional awards before going for the larger national ones – this way, you can start developing your award-winning portfolio.

“Then what?”

Once you’ve narrowed your focus down to one or a few awards, be sure to read and reread the guidelines. One mistake may cost you the win, so do your due diligence and know what is required for a completed submission. Give yourself enough time to complete the application and submit it prior to the deadline.

Map out your approach prior to writing – the last thing you want is to fill out an application online and lose it from faulty Internet or one wrong click. When writing up the copy, it’s best to use your own voice to make everything flow together into a coherent story. This means that you need to “speak” with the judges – stay away from jargon, acronyms, and other terms that may confuse them. Don’t assume that they know everything, so connect the dots and make it easier for them to understand. Using facts and figures, as well as images, are great ways to support your story.

Continue reading

» Wedding PR: What’s a Company Philosophy and Why Does It Matter?

WeddingWire Education Expert

Meghan Ely

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding marketing and wedding pr firm OFD Consulting. As a highly sought-after speaker in the wedding industry, she is the exclusive Wedding PR Education Expert for WeddingWire as well as the national Communications and Marketing Director for WIPA. To learn how OFD Consulting can assist you, as well as more about our new wedding PR kits, please visit us today.

There are a number of considerations when starting your wedding PR process, from research to branding to organization. However, there’s one piece of the puzzle that will guide you along the way – your philosophy.

Wedding PR: What’s a Company Philosophy and Why Does It Matter?“Isn’t that for big corporate companies?”

While large organizations wear their philosophies on their sleeve, it’s just as important for small businesses to have tenets that keep them on the right track. A company philosophy explains the mission statement – how do you plan to achieve it and why is it relevant?

Philosophy goes hand-in-hand with branding – it’s what makes your brand come to life. Not only does it motivate you to achieve success, but it points you in the right direction. When developing your philosophy, remember that it’ll follow you every day, so it must fall in line with your personal values.

“Although we’re always working to grow our philosophy, we hold a few tenets close to our hearts: perfect fit, responsibility, handmade craftsmanship, and exceptional value,” shares Araceli Vizcaino-S, Community Manager of Azazie. “This guides every decision in the business- including how we grow our press portfolio. When you see us in the news, you’ll find that we often incorporate our tenets into our commentary in an effort to better educate readers.”

On that note, it’s important to establish a philosophy that is simple and realistic. It has to be actionable, so limit it to three or four tenets that are most important to you. Once in place, allow it to lead you in major decisions – from hiring to partnerships to press submissions.

Continue reading

» Top Tips to Reduce Stress – From the Experts!

Top Tips to Reduce Stress – From the Experts!Our #WeDoSomethingBlue campaign aims to help couples reduce wedding planning stress during the busy season, but what about our pros? Don’t you need a break? After all, you’re not just planning one wedding – you’re planning them all for your clients!

Whether you’re putting together personalized song lists, carefully-selected bouquets, or managing all the day-of details for your clients, the busy season is a stressful time for wedding and event pros. We asked some of our WeddingWire Education Experts to weigh in with their tried-and-true tips to reduce stress during this crazy time.

Plan ahead and take a break

“We all look forward to busy season and then, when it’s upon us, we can’t seem to catch our breath. The key to reducing your stress is to get organized before the craziness starts, and then stay ahead. When you get behind in your day to day tasks, you’re like a hamster on the wheel, and you can’t seem to get off. Proper advance planning, and leaving room in your timelines for the unexpected things that pop up helps break the cycle.

Remember to take a break every so often. Working non-stop is a sure path to burnout. Give your creative mind a break, take a walk, walk the dog, or whatever works for you, but get away from it. You’ll recharge your creativity by removing yourself from what you’re doing. Thomas Edison is famous for taking power naps on his desk. His wife brought a bed into his office, but he still napped on his desk. My secret… I have a recliner in my office, and if there’s a gap in my schedule, I enjoy a power nap. Whether it’s a 15-minute power nap, or as long as an hour (time-permitting), afterwards, I feel recharged and ready to keep going.”

Alan Berg, Certified Speaking Professional®

Write it all out and get away

“When you’re going crazy during wedding season, commit to yourself that you’ll do two things: complete a nightly and a weekly brain dump, and schedule some occasional breaks. For the brain dump, just spend a few minutes each evening writing out every random to-do item you can think of – you can then sort them and add the important stuff to your calendar. Repeating this exercise in more detail once a week, and taking time to map out your goals and priorities for the days ahead, will keep you from stressing about forgotten tasks and missed opportunities. Be sure, also, to schedule yourself at least a couple of days every month to do absolutely nothing but to rest and recharge. Even if you aren’t going anywhere, just having that time blocked off as sacred can make all the difference in the world in your mood and energy levels. Combining a little organization and a little relaxation can keep you going all season long.” Continue reading

» Wedding PR: Crafting Your Personal Brand

WeddingWire Education Expert

Meghan Ely

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding marketing and wedding pr firm OFD Consulting. As a highly sought-after speaker in the wedding industry, she is the exclusive Wedding PR Education Expert for WeddingWire as well as the national Communications and Marketing Director for WIPA. To learn how OFD Consulting can assist you, as well as more about our new wedding PR kits, please visit us today.

While you may be familiar with big brand names (think Apple and Nike), ask yourself what you’re doing to build your own brand. That’s right – a personal brand captures your personality and tells people you are an expert in a certain area.

Wedding PR: Crafting Your Personal BrandThe stronger your personal brand is, the more you’ll be respected as an industry leader, which certainly has a direct impact on a business if you’re an entrepreneur. That being said, you don’t need to own your own business to build a personal brand – all you need is a good idea of who you are and where your values lie.

First Things First

Before anything, you’ll have to ask yourself a few questions to really get an idea of how you want to portray your brand. What kind of adjectives would you use to describe yourself? How do you want to project yourself to other people? What are some of the things that you view as most important in your life?

Keep in mind that the answers to these questions will define the parameters for your branding, so it’s best to give them a lot of thought rather than to skim over it.

Know Your People

Ask yourself: Whom are you trying to reach? What are you trying to share with them? Understanding your target audience is the key to crafting a brand that will draw in the right kind of people.

Plan It Out

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” The only way to ensure that your personal brand not only fits your personality but is also targeted to your ideal audience is to plan, plan, plan. After you’ve determined whom you’re trying to reach, figure out what channels you’re going to use to get in front of them. For example, if you’re trying to reach female millennials, Instagram and Pinterest are great places to start.

Continue reading

» Wedding PR: Let’s Change the Conversation about Networking

WeddingWire Education Expert

Meghan Ely

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding marketing and wedding pr firm OFD Consulting. As a highly sought-after speaker in the wedding industry, she is the exclusive Wedding PR Education Expert for WeddingWire as well as the national Communications and Marketing Director for WIPA. To learn how OFD Consulting can assist you, as well as more about our new wedding PR kits, please visit us today.

My life in the wedding industry began with three martinis at an industry networking group when I was fresh out of college. It gave me just enough confidence (liquid courage?) to run as a write-in candidate for the inaugural PR chair of the local wedding association. Much to my surprise, I won that evening and it was the catalyst that led to everything else – increased sales for my employer, wonderful friendships, new job opportunities, and even the chance to manage that same association when I first opened the doors to OFD.

Wedding PR: Let’s Change the Conversation about NetworkingSo as you can imagine, I’m a big proponent of networking. In fact, if there were some sort of wedding industry networking fan club, I would be the president of it. Or, at the very least, the PR chair.

Here’s the thing about networking: it wears on you after awhile. And I get it – you start to really get tired of the elevator pitches and the constant card exchanging.  So today I’m here to ask you to rethink networking and instead, consider a new approach. At this year’s WeddingWire World, I shared the top networking notions you need to throw out the window and today, I’m asking you to consider the same.

So how do we change the conversation about networking?

Stop telling yourself that networking is supposed to be fun.
You have goals for your wedding business (and if you don’t, stop reading this immediately and get to work on those!) and there are things you should be doing to help you achieve those goals. Statistically speaking, vendor referrals is one of the leading ways that couples find out about you so more than likely, networking is a necessary component to your promotional strategies.

But for some reason, we assume that we network because it’s fun. I don’t blame you – event people throw great events. But if the only reason you’re going is to kick back with your friends and joke about the endless trend of mason jars, you’re not going to see a solid ROI for your time. Instead, select your networking events because they’re the key to getting you closer to your business goals.

Continue reading

» Wedding PR: Communicating Change

WeddingWire Education Expert

Meghan Ely

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding marketing and wedding pr firm OFD Consulting. As a highly sought-after speaker in the wedding industry, she is the exclusive Wedding PR Education Expert for WeddingWire as well as the national Communications and Marketing Director for WIPA. To learn how OFD Consulting can assist you, as well as more about our new wedding PR kits, please visit us today.

If January is the time to shake things up with your PR and marketing, then February is the time to focus on execution.

	Wedding PR: Communicating ChangeLast month, my friend and fellow WeddingWire Education Expert Kathryn Hamm challenged the bridal bias in the wedding industry and it made me really think about change and how overwhelming it can be for the wedding pro juggling a million tasks at once.

Fresh off of my own re-brand, I can’t help but feel pangs of empathy when discussing the challenge with clients and colleagues eager to make a change in their own business – whether it be their name, brand or a combination of the two.

The good news? If you take it step-by-step and bring in the right team, the return on your efforts can be considerable. Sow how does one get started?

First, do your due diligence. You’ll want to familiarize yourself with all the to do’s that come with making a change, especially if you’ve decided on a new company name. The US Small Business Administration does a great job outlining the steps here.

Next, assemble your team. If making a name change, then you’ll want to connect with legal and financial counsel quickly. The right branding company can help guide you on your overall look – from your logo and marketing materials to your online presence.

In the midst of the above, you’ll also want to really start thinking about the message you’d like to craft and disseminate about your company’s changes. Ask yourself – why are you making this move and what would you like others to know about you as a result?

When communicating the change, you’ll want to think carefully about your target audience and the best channels for reaching them.  In addition to your prospective clients, you’ll need to consider your current and past clients (remember – the latter are still in a position to refer you!), colleagues you work with regularly and the media.

Continue reading