» The 4 Rules of Wedding PR During Busy Season

Photo by Tracy Shoopman Photography

The truth is, if you wait until off-season to look at your business’s PR strategy and start promoting, you’re doing your business a huge disservice. While the busy season workload takes up the bulk of your time, your PR strategy shouldn’t take a back seat. WeddingWire Education Expert and owner of OFD Consulting, Meghan Ely, gave us four rules for mastering PR during busy season with only a small time commitment each day.

Keep momentum going

It’s not a rule, but rather a guideline to help you follow the rules. Keeping up momentum is crucial if you want to maximize your time and PR strategy efficiently. Meghan says she sees it all too often: wedding professionals drop their PR strategy for busy season and pick it back up in November when the season ends. However, come November, you are going to be sitting on a pile of work that will make you more stressed than you thought handling it during the season would!

Instead of dealing with the mountain of PR work you’ve accumulated throughout the season, tackle the opportunities as they come in. Not only will this keep you sane in the long run, but it will also help eliminate competition. By neglecting your PR strategy until November, you subsequently end up competing with every other wedding professional who followed the same ‘strategy’. Suddenly, come November, the PR branch of the wedding industry is crowded with everyone playing catch-up. Ultimately, there is a lot less “noise” to compete with during busy season, and it’s in your favor to never lose momentum.

Rule 1: Stick to the low-hanging fruit

During busy season, you want to do things that will increase your brand awareness and showcase your portfolio… and this doesn’t have to be hard or take copious amounts of time! RealWeds submissions are one of those easy-to-do tasks that can have a tremendous effect on publicizing your brand. RealWeds are a great option to focus on because you already have a steady stream of content coming in from all of the weddings that you do— why not utilize that to its fullest potential?

Typically, photographers, venues, event designers, planners and florists are the ones submitting the majority of RealWeds content, however, if you don’t fall into one of these vendor categories, you aren’t excluded from submitting! Be sure to reach out to the other vendors who worked on the wedding to see if you can do a “group” submission, or have permission granted to use their photos (if they were the photographer) or photos of their work (if they are a vendor whose work is featured in pictures of your work) in your submission.

Rule 2: Stay organized

Many people neglect RealWeds submissions during busy season because they can take a lot of time to submit, however, they shouldn’t so long as you cover your bases and stay organized. Working RealWeds submissions into your client contracts is a great way to speed things up, as this way, you aren’t chasing after couples once they are married to get their permission.

Additionally, this opens up the conversation with the couple to find out what other vendors they are working with. Getting other vendor information as early as possible is going to help you track down other vendor’s whose permission you might also need in order to submit before the submission crunch. Meghan recommends connecting with the photographer and planner 30-60 days before the wedding to ensure that you can submit.

Rule 3: Create a workflow

Meghan’s best tip for managing your PR strategy during busy season? Embrace apps and programs to manage your work! Programs like Dropbox that can manage files and to-do list apps, like Basecamp, can help keep you organized and create a workflow. Another tip? Utilize block scheduling! Time might be limited during busy season, but if you schedule a fair amount of it each week to work exclusively on PR, there is no excuse for not working on it.

Rule 4: Be realistic

The last rule? You have to be realistic! If you can’t dedicate three hours a week to your PR strategy, then setting the goal to send in 10 RealWeds submissions, pitch multiple media outlets and maintain your press relationships, isn’t realistic. By setting realistic goals, you will be motivated to keep pushing forward and won’t beat yourself up about not reaching them.

You should always be asking yourself these three questions to determine if you are being realistic with your goals:

  • What got accomplished? What didn’t?
  • How can I adjust my organization/workflow?
  • Was it worth the effort?

…But not so fast!

Now that you have the rules about how to best manage your PR during busy season, don’t dive in. Building a strong PR strategy that will endure even the craziest of busy season ups-and-downs takes a considerable amount of time to plan. Before you begin, take a good look at your website, your galleries and your social feeds. What is the point of directing people to your site or branding outlets when they are not where you want them to be? Take a close look at what you are working with, evaluate where you want to go, make any adjustments that you need to to get there, and then dive in.

It can be hard managing your PR strategy during busy season. However, so long as you follow these rules and are prepared to charge into the season with a strong PR strategy in place, you should be set to see the benefits of it. Keep momentum going, set realistic goals, and dedicate the time you need to implement good plans, and there should be no doubt that your PR strategy will be a success this season. Good luck!

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Build Your Reputation by Earning Publicity (Even During Busy Season!)” with Meghan Ely, WeddingWire Education Expert and owner of wedding PR firm OFD Consulting. You can view the webinar recording through your account.

» Recovering from a Social Media Crisis

education expert

 

 

Social media is as much a blessing as it can be a curse. While it allows us to gain widespread exposure in ways that were never possible before, it also forces our businesses onto a public stage where we may not always want to appear. Before a social media crisis derails your wedding business, make sure you develop an effective strategy for recovery.

desk workBe Prepared

One of the most effective ways to combat bad press or a crisis situation is to plan ahead for every possible scenario. Begin by listing all of the things you and your team can anticipate going wrong: bad customer feedback, unusual poor performance, weather-related cancellations, or even a competitor badmouthing your services to undermine your reputation. I know it’s hard to think of these things. It’s uncomfortable to anticipate the worst, but so necessary if you’re going to survive.

Ask trusted colleagues to give you ideas of additional scenarios you might not have considered and how they would handle them. The more you flesh out what can go wrong, the better prepared you can be if something actually happens.

Next, outline how you would respond to each crisis. Keep the scenarios and possible responses in a file that you can pull if you’re ever faced with a similar situation. You’ll have to tweak your approach, but you’ll have a bank of great ideas to draw from when you need them most.

React Calmly

When you do respond, especially to negative customer feedback or competitor badmouthing, try to do it as professionally as possible. This will require that you divorce yourself from some extremely natural emotions, but it never pays to react in the heat of the moment. Taking the high road will ultimately reflect positively on you with the people who matter.

If you’re not sure you can separate the situation from your feelings, ask a trusted team member or colleague to read anything you put in writing before you send or publish it. This should include emails and replies to online reviews – things that never really go away, so you want to look good.

Many situations are best handled in-person or via a phone call to the concerned party. Consider reaching out before becoming embroiled in a social media battle. You may be able to avoid additional public debate by going directly to the source. Continue reading

» 4 Ways to Nail Networking: Turning Connections into Powerful Partnerships

This certainly won’t come as a surprise but bears repeating- networking is necessary for growing your business! Building a strong network creates a solid foundation for your company to expand and bring in more business, so if you haven’t been creating opportunities to meet new people, it’s time to reevaluate your schedule and make it a priority.

With that in mind, being strategic about your networking is the best way to ensure that you’re getting to know the right people and making the best impression possible. Here are some of my best practices for putting your best foot forward:

Choose events that fit your brand

There are many wedding and event industry associations that help bring professionals together, but they are each unique in their own ways. Do some research into the organizations around your area to see which best suits your brand and your values. If you find that the selection is limited in your market, consider starting your own group. Grab a few of your like-minded peers and start meeting regularly, then promote your meetings to other professionals in the area. Chances are they’ve been looking for the same opportunity as well!

Prepare as much as possible

Before attending a networking event, do your homework and find out who else is attending. Note anybody that you’d like to meet, so you can keep your focus while mingling. While you’re at it, research the venue and the sponsors of the event so you can get an idea of who is responsible (and who to thank at the end of the night!). Pick out an outfit that makes you feel confident and double check that your business cards are ready to go.

Continue reading

» Easy Peasy PR Tips for Small Business Pros

 

 

Being a small business owner comes with a lot of ups, downs and everything in between. It can sometimes feel like you are forever performing a balancing act of appointments, events, and paperwork- the list of responsibilities goes on and on.

Carving out time for things like public relations is important, but can sometimes end up towards the bottom of a never-ending to-do list. The good news is that there are tons of easy tips and tricks to help you grow your company’s PR profile that won’t compete with your busy schedule. Here are some great ways to get your name out there, regardless of how busy you are.

Embrace Real Wedding Submissions

Investing time into real wedding submissions is one of the best first steps you can take as a wedding pro. Getting your work in front of engaged couples on wedding blogs and magazines can have a huge impact on your business. However, in the last several years, it has become an increasingly competitive PR method and the submission pool is overflowing with weddings.

To catch the editor’s attention, follow these guidelines:

  • Do your research: Take some time to create a ‘wish list’ of where you want to be featured and take a look at the kinds of weddings they are showcasing. You want to match your work with the media outlets that feature complementary content so that your entry is competitive.
  • Follow the rules: Surprisingly, a lot of people who submit to wedding blogs don’t look at the guidelines on the website before sending in their submission. To stand out, be sure you are following the rules to the letter.
  • It’s all about the details: Nearly every wedding blog is looking for fresh details to highlight (think unique cakes, centerpieces, flowers, stationery and the like), so be sure to include them with each submission.
  • Tell a story: Images are the focal point of any wedding submission, but if the editor has the couple’s story to go along with those photos, you are more likely to grab their attention. Ask couples what inspired them, their engagement story, favorite wedding day moments, and anything else that makes their big day stand out.  

Use Free/Low Cost Tools

As business owners, the word ‘streamlining’ has a very important place in our vocabulary. Having easy-to-use tools in your back pocket can make a world of difference when it comes to managing your time.

Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Talkwalker Alerts: If you’ve got a feature coming out but don’t have time to keep checking the site to see if it’s live, Talkwalker Alerts is a must-have. It will notify you via email when your feature has been posted so you can get to promoting.
  • Wufoo: If you like to get insight from clients, Wufoo is the perfect tool for you. It is an easy-to-use questionnaire builder that provides you with a link to send out once finalized. Once the form has been completed by the recipient, you will receive an email with their answers to know it has been submitted.
  • HARO: Short for Help a Reporter Out, HARO has been an integral part of my own business for years. Scouring the internet looking for press opportunities can be a full-time job, and this tool brings writers and editors on the hunt for expert commentary directly to your inbox.   

Offer Yourself as a Resource

Introduce yourself to your local mainstream outlets as a resource. Find out who writes about wedding content in local mainstream magazines and outlets, and make sure to find the best person to reach out to (hint: run a search on the word ‘wedding’ and see what comes up). Send an email to introduce yourself and let them know your area of expertise, as well as the best way to reach you for future articles. 
With these tips in your arsenal, it’s time to take out that to-do list and move your public relations efforts up a few pegs- trust me, you won’t regret it!   

Exclusive Wedding PR Education Expert for WeddingWire Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR agency OFD Consulting. She also leads the newly launched OFD Collective, a membership based community of wedding professionals seeking PR education and publicity opportunities for their business.

» Niche PR: How to Become the “Go-To” Expert in your Arena

Webinar recap!Niche, Webinar, PR, Marketing, Weddings, Expert, Education

In the often-saturated wedding market, a niche will help you stand out and cut back on competition. Defining a niche allows you to specialize in an area that suits your talents and personality, gives focus to your marketing, and helps you attract your ideal clients.

During this webinar for Premium members, Education Expert Meghan Ely shared the steps to identifying your niche, promoting your expertise to your target audience, and implementing PR strategies to grow your business.

Here are some of the webinar highlights:

  • Showcase your niche in your content. Your website content, social media strategy, and any other owned channels should clearly reflect your niche. In addition to your bio, portfolio, and client testimonials, add a press page and blog to your website to highlight your expertise and demonstrate your capabilities.
  • Introduce yourself as an expert to the media. Consider what media your ideal client is consuming and target those outlets. Start by sending a friendly email to introduce yourself as an expert and a resource in your niche field — and be sure to include a few brief story ideas, too.
  • Pitch yourself for guest writing and speaking opportunities. Review your topics and research opportunities; focus on those that will reach your target audience. Hone your messaging and send a concise, friendly pitch with a few examples of your work. When it comes to speaking engagements, start small, evolve your topics overtime, and never stop practicing.
  • Pursue real wedding submissions. Research opportunities, guidelines, and editorial calendars to determine the best fit and strategy for your business. Be sure to follow the rules of exclusivity and prioritize the opportunities that will reach your ideal audience.

For more tips and additional details about these recommendations, watch the full webinar! Don’t forget that past webinars are available within Premium member accounts to view anytime.

» Hiring an Intern: What You Need to Know

If you’re in a place where you are in need of a little extra help, but don’t quite have the resources or budget to hire a publicity firm, it might be the right time to bring in a PR intern. Eager college students and recent graduates can bring new perspective and fresh ideas that can really benefit your business and make your daily life a lot more manageable.

With that, let’s take a look at what tips you need to know:   

First and foremost, before sending anything out, educate yourself and make sure you are up-to-date on the laws and regulations associated with hiring a paid or unpaid intern.

 

How to Find One

When you are ready to promote your search for an intern, there are several ways you can go about it. Make sure you are diversifying your methods, and not relying on just one avenue. Word-of-mouth is an underestimated but very effective way to find new people. In fact, some of my best interns have come from friends in the industry referring people they knew. Post the job details on all of your social media accounts, as well as your blog if you have one – be sure that you’re including a link to the full job description and details.

Getting in touch with the local colleges and universities that have PR, marketing, communications, or hospitality programs is another great way to connect with potential applicants. Ask how they promote internships and see if you can get posted on their job boards, social media, etc. You could even take it one step further by connecting with professors in those programs and getting them to spread the word.

Communicating the Job

The description of the internship should be very clear about what the internship will entail—you want the responsibilities to be well-defined. The last thing you want is to have a disappointed intern who, for example, didn’t realize they would be doing admin work at an event planning company. Every company has different needs, but a basic description could look something like this:

Specific duties of the intern vary each year depending on new issues and marketing objectives, but could include: writing marketing pieces; social media management (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Blogging); assisting with activities during events; appointment confirmations; involvement in promotions and research and providing staff support.

Make sure the description matches your brand and gets everyone excited. If you want the best, you’ll be competing with all sorts of other job opportunities.

 

The Interview Process

Once you’ve got a solid pool of applicants, you’ll want to bring them in for a formal interview. Personally, I like the meeting to be in person, but if the position is remote or current schedules won’t permit, Skype is a good alternative. Begin by explaining what the company is, how the need for an intern came to be, and a little bit more depth into the responsibilities of the position. During the ‘questions’ portion of the interview, stay away from yes or no questions. This is your chance to get to know them, their experience, how prepared they came for the interview, and really get a feel for how well they would fit. Some questions to consider might be:

  • Tell us about your interest in the position. What drew you to our company?
  • Tell us about what kind of experience you have in relation to the position
  • Where do you see yourself after graduating/or in the next five years?

Once you’ve selected your candidate (hooray!), be sure to do an orientation (i.e. an everything-you-need-to-know meeting). At our company, we break the orientation day into different training sessions that start with the basics and works its way into the more complicated aspects of the position. Be sure you remain open minded while they are learning; for some, this may be their first ‘on-the-job’ experience and you are a resource for them while they learn.
With these tips in your pocket, hiring a stellar intern should be just around the corner!

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