» 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!

» Becoming an Entrepreneur in Someone Else’s Business

Pro to Pro Insights

Jennifer Taylor, Taylor'd Events GroupThis post was written by Jennifer Taylor. Jennifer Taylor is the owner of Taylor’d Events Group, a planning firm that specializes in celebrations of all kinds in the Pacific Northwest and Maui.

So you love the wedding industry, but aren’t so keen on the responsibilities that come with owning your business…

While it may seem like everyone in the industry is starting their own business, remember that it’s entirely acceptable if that’s not in your sights. Every professional has a different path and, just because you’re not into the idea of running the show, that’s not to say you can’t be a valuable asset in the industry. If anything, many small business owners need support so there’s certainly a place for you to put your skills to good use.

Becoming an Entrepreneur in Someone Else’s BusinessOn the other hand, some future entrepreneurs are simply not quite ready to launch their business, whether for financial or experiential reasons. Either way, finding a workplace in the industry will help you develop your local network and provide you with the experience to really make a name for yourself.

If you’re new to the industry, look for a company that will push you to grow as a professional and are eager to help with your career path. While searching for the very best fit, don’t limit yourself to a specialty. Even if you want to focus on event planning eventually, getting some experience with a catering company or at an event venue will provide you with some down-and-dirty experience that will help to expand your skill set.

Be prepared to hear from other entrepreneurs that you should start your own business or that “you’d be so good at it!” Even though you would be great at it, that doesn’t mean it’s the right venture for your career. There are many reasons to avoid starting your own business, so don’t let peer pressure make you feel like you’re missing out.

When you do find the right place to nurture your skills, be sure to settle all of the nitty-gritty before hitting the ground running. You’ll want to determine whether you’re a payroll employee or an independent contractor – this affects your taxes significantly, so be sure to understand your role. In addition, you’ll need to know how you’ll get paid – are you making a percentage of your clients’ billables or are you paid hourly?

Once everything is sorted out, it’s time to start hustling – and hard! Just because you’re not the business owner doesn’t mean you won’t play a big role in the company, so be prepared to do everything you can to push the business to its full potential. You are an equal part of the company’s successes and failures – keep that in mind!

As you learn the ropes, don’t be afraid to ask about other aspects of the business that you may not be involved in like writing a business plan or handling all of the expenditures – this will help you understand the owner’s decisions and give you an opportunity to be more helpful along the way. It’s really the best way to become a valued member of the team, so don’t shy away from immersing yourself into the company’s culture.

Sure, getting a job is important, but getting the right job is even more important – for you and the company alike. Find a place that values your skills and will help you boost your reputation within the industry. If the first or second places aren’t ideal, keep looking!

» How to be an Effective Entrepreneur: Tips for Growing Your Business

The following post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Andy Ebon. Andy is the Founder of Wedding University and The Wedding Marketing Blog, and is an International Public Speaker, Writer and Consultant based in Las Vegas. Andy travels across North America and beyond, presenting to Associations, Wedding Industry Conferences, Regional Gatherings, and Local Meetings.

Small businesses are fueled by an initial vision, enthusiasm, energy, and generous amounts of caffeine. But most businesses, no matter how well-planned, rarely follow a straight-line growth pattern. Businesses do not operate in a vacuum. They are affected by various external factors: New direct competition, indirect competition, changing policies and perspectives of referral sources, evolution of customer preferences, advances in technology and changes in marketing platforms.

Entrepreneur working in coffee shopFinding time to tweak your business and marketing goals requires blocking time, a planned agenda, and commitment to the exercise. An annual or twice-yearly refresh might involve business partners and/or key employees. If you are a sole owner, consider hiring a marketing/business coach/consultant to be both a facilitator and sounding board.

If hiring a facilitator or consultant isn’t in the budget, you can still take the time to evaluate your business goals to be a more effective entrepreneur on your own. Take the following steps to think about where your business is now and where you want it to go based on where you’ve been. These tips for growing your business should help you frame your thoughts!

Ask yourself:  What is your wedding customer profile today?

  1. What percentage of weddings in your area are local versus destination?
  2. Is there a profitability difference between local customers and destination wedding couples?
  3. Is there a distinct demographic profile for most clients?
    1. Is the profile random or does is result from target marketing?
    2. Do you want to focus your marketing to reinforce the existing profile, or do you want expand/contract the target audience?

Knowing your company’s strengths and tendencies can be fine-tuned into one or more specific target audiences suiting your company skills or profit motives.

Ask yourself: What is the state of your competition?

  1. Which businesses do you compete with on a regular basis?
    1. Is your business winning a reasonable proportion of the clients?
    2. If not, what do you see as your disadvantage/advantage over these competitors?
    3. In what elements of your marketing/sales process/customer service is your business superior or could use improvement?
  2. Are you often annoyed by the visibility of competitors on social media, local print coverage, trade associations, charitable activities, or awards competitions?
    1. What kind of marketing upgrade would accomplish comparable or superior visibility?
    2. Are there avenues your business excels in, but is not currently capitalizing on?

Don’t obsess about competition; just be aware of them, and how you measure up. Become friendly with businesses, like yours, in distant market areas, and discuss similar competitive challenges.

Continue reading

» SEO Success: Top Tips & What to Avoid

Building strong Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is very important for your business’ online exposure. To make the sometimes daunting topic of SEO easier to understand, we provide a variety of educational resources about this topic. Check our tips for how to establish a strong SEO presence in our Education Center and WeddingWireEDU blog, SEO basics and Pro tips in our Be an SEO Superstar webinar, an infographic that provides 6 steps for SEO Success, and finally, get started with our tool to create stronger SEO for your business in minutes with our WeddingWire Search Engine Optimizer.

We know that SEO can sometimes be hard to grasp, and that there is so much information available about SEO it may be difficult to know what you should, and should not, be doing for your business. This recent article from Entrepreneur provides valuable insights on SEO strategies that can hurt your business, so you can focus on what will help, provided in our resources listed above!

According to the article, find below 5 common SEO practices you should avoid:

  • Buying links from websites created to sell links: Oftentimes, if you invest your dollars into a site dedicated only to sales and buying website links, they will not share your links on relevant sites that would value your content and actually reach your target audiences. Google may even de-index your site through affiliation of these sites and services.
  • Publishing irrelevant content: When publishing content for your business on your website, Storefront, blog, social media and more, it is important that it is relevant for your audience! Write, share and provide content that is helpful and engaging for your clients, potential clients and industry. Google places a high value on the user experience and rewards your site for doing so. The more irrelevant content (and includes things such as pop up ads for unrelated items) will ultimately hurt your SEO over time.
  • Spam comments: No one likes spam, yet some business owners decide to pay services to spam sites around the internet with comments that include a link back to their website. These can often be posted on blogs or similar platforms, and provide a negative user experience for those who click. Overall, your brand can be damaged when customers or potential customers see those links associated with spammy, poorly written comments. Additionally, it is important to remember you are representing your business when you post or comment at any time, so be sure to be professional, insightful and covey your business in a positive light.
  • Overloading on anchor text links: An anchor text link is a specific keyword or phrase in the text on your site that is hyperlinking to a website URL (for example: if you are a photographer it could be “wedding photography”).  Be sure to select relevant and the most important links for your business, not just any link that may represent your business. Always opt for quality over quantity. We make this super easy and do the work for you with the Search Engine Optimizer tool!

Search Engine Optimization across top search networks is very important for your business, and we hope these tips and resources will help establish strong and reliable SEO!

» Boost Your Productivity!

Take advantage of the first hour of your workday, and boost your overall productivity by allowing yourself some time to get focused, organized and connected.

Fast Company evaluated what some of the most successful business leaders do with the first hour of their workdays, and compiled a list of suggestions that could get your day started out right, and impact your productivity.

Get your day started off right with these suggested productivity tips:

  • Don’t check your email the first hour of your workday—instead focus on getting settled, organized and checking in with your employees. This will enable you to be energized, relaxed and focused when you are ready to get started.
  • Take time to review your workload and center your day with a prioritized to do list. It is tempting to simply jump right into your work, especially when you have a lot to do, but your work will improve if you are able to focus and prioritize your tasks. If you have a variety of responsibilities, consider breaking your day up by tasks. For example, dedicate your morning to business operations, an hour in the afternoon to accounting, and your late afternoon to client work and meetings.
  • Do your big tasks first and avoid the distraction of small tasks. If you have a large contract looming over your head or a full event plan, get right to it first thing, and have more time later in the day for your smaller tasks.
  • Don’t take meetings or calls during your first hour. Give yourself time to get organized so you will be prepared and alert for your client meetings and staff updates.