Author Archives: Dina

About Dina

Dina loves all things media and knows how to handle a crisis. She would like to be known as the Windy City’s Official PR Guru but the patent is still pending. When it comes to getting the word out, no one is more driven (or dapper).

Email marketing habits to kick to the curb

email marketing If your day is anything like mine, you send a lot of emails. A. Lot. You hope for swift responses and perfect messaging every time, but that’s not a realistic result. To prevent getting discouraged or stuck in a rut, I read up on email efficiency and best practices periodically to update my routine. Here are some of my favorite email marketing “don’ts” that help maintain solid open and response rates.

Don’t send without permission. Always get permission before adding anyone to your marketing mailing list. If your company is like The Simons Group, you’re proud of the work you do and want to share it with the world. But we never send out our newsletter or announcements without a contact’s permission. This common courtesy shows that you respect your audience – and even increases your open rates! So, before you sign up everyone you met at your last networking event for the company newsletter, be sure they are just as excited as you are to receive it.

Don’t go for the hard sell. Readers may opt-out of emails if you bombard them with sales pitches. Instead, send an email with industry tips, thought leadership advice or case studies. If you send information that can help them or get them to think in a new way, they are more likely to continue following along.

Don’t abuse your contact list. Sending emails every day can be too much. Studies show that sending marketing emails one to four times a month can be very successful. Keep in mind that your contacts may be overwhelmed with the number of emails they receive from other companies or internal issues, so you don’t want to add to the chaos. Reach out sparingly and your audience will look forward to your next email.

What are some of your favorite email marketing “don’ts”? Let us know in the comments.


How to network like a pro

networking tipsShould I keep circling? Whom should I speak with first? Is there anyone I actually know here? If these questions sound familiar, you’ve come to the right place.

Networking events of any size can be intimidating, but they don’t have to be. Here are a few tools to help your next event go smoothly.

Do your research. Try to find out who will be at the event ahead of time and brainstorm how your services could meet their needs. Use that information to create a short list of people to look for at the event, as well as a few questions or ideas to show them that you’re interested in what they do. Don’t worry about getting business cards from each and every participant, just focus on meeting those that you can help most. Even large events will seem intimate when you have a predetermined list of potential connections.

Nail your introduction. The way you start a conversation sets the tone for the entire interaction, so try to move away from the standard resume recitation. Luckily, you can use a few simple tricks to create a great greeting. One way is to bond over a shared fact, such as what you hope to learn from an event or what excites you most about a particular industry. You could also try bonding over a common personal experience, like travel or volunteer work. Or, why not mix things up and discuss something more fun like your recent move to a new city or a hobby?

Come prepared to listen. A good networker really hears his audience and makes people feel comfortable to open up about their goals and needs. Being engaged in the conversation will help you remember details, but jotting down a few important notes helps if you have trouble ­– just do it discretely so it doesn’t feel like you’re conducting an interview. When you follow up, you can include the small details that were mentioned at the event, whether it was something about the person’s upcoming vacation or business needs, and that gesture will go a long way.

What are some of your tips for networking? Let us know!

How to get the most out of your follow-up email

email follow-upsI’ve found myself making a lot of calls recently and that means making sure to follow up with my contacts if I don’t hear back from them, need more information or want to thank them for their time. Follow-up emails have become my lifeline and I simply couldn’t function without being able to rely on their effectiveness. No matter whom you’re trying to reach, a well-executed email could get you a response faster. Here are a few tips to help you with your next check-in.

4 keys to crafting follow-up emails

Start with a straightforward subject line. The most effective subjects are specific, direct and don’t use verbiage that may fall into spam filters. Avoid words like “remove,” “sample,” “form” and “help.” Instead, reference something specific such as the project you both are working on or something about who you are. For example, “Quick question from Public Relations Specialist at The Simons Group,” reminds the contact who I am, where I’m from and why I’m reaching out to him.

Provide context. Be sure to reference what your previous interaction was and why you are reaching out so that your contact isn’t left scratching his head. Say, “I left a voicemail, but wanted to make sure you have my contact information,” if you’re following up after one call. Or, “It was great chatting about XYZ with you on Tuesday,” if you were able to connect. No one wants to rack his brain to remember where you left off, so take the initiative and provide a quick reminder.

Be clear about your objective. Are you emailing your contact to set up another meeting? Do you need to have call that includes another member of your team? Do you want to thank your contact and make a recommendation for the future? Make sure your message is clear and concise so that it’s easy for your contact to understand what to include in a response.

Mind your timing. In many cases, after you’ve left a voicemail, it’s perfectly acceptable to send a follow-up email right away. Sometimes, it’s easier to reach someone through email than by phone, so an immediate email follow-up makes it more convenient for the parties involved. In other cases, such as following up after a meeting or conversation, it’s better to wait a day or two before reaching out. The exceptions to this, of course, are if you’re thanking someone for his time or providing information the contact requested during your meeting.

How do you follow up with your contacts? Let us know in the comments below.

Breakthrough tips for your public relations

breakthrough in tough times

In any industry, there are days when everything goes your way and days when it seems a bit tougher to reach your goals. When those tough days hit, it’s good to have a few tricks up your sleeves to make sure public relations initiatives stay on track. Here are a few of the latest industry tips.

Publicize your company’s good deeds. Does your workforce give back to the community? Is your team supporting charitable causes? Don’t be shy about letting people know the wonderful things your organization does for others. It may seem like you’re just tooting your own horn, but good deeds resonate with the public – and people will commend you for them. Plus, your outreach efforts might be newsworthy enough to get picked up by local media!

Keep track of the news and current events. This gives you insight into what people are talking about, concerned about and what the future landscape of your industry looks like. Keep an eye on top magazines, journals or social media accounts that touch upon your mission or brand. However, when pitching, don’t integrate your brand into the top stories of the day. Yes, your brand is important but it may not make sense to integrate your pitch with the presidential primaries.

Be courteous with follow-ups. Sometimes we’re so inundated with emails and voicemails that it’s not possible to get back to everyone right away. Whether it’s journalists, business contacts or colleagues, no response doesn’t mean they’re not interested. Don’t get discouraged! If you have done your research and know you’re trying to reach the right person with your inquiry, be sure to check in again a few days later. It’s important to respect your contacts’ time, however, so limit yourself to two or three follow-ups.

What public relations tricks do you recommend? Let us know in the comments!

How to speak like a presidential candidate

microphone-2-1620440The election process is in full swing, and mastering public speaking is crucial for these candidates. Whether they’re on stage at a debate or giving a stump speech, what they say and how they say it are both important to winning over the American public. Are they being forthcoming? Are they confident and standing strong?

Presidential candidates aren’t the only ones who have to polish their presentation chops. From pitching a prospect to giving a talk at a trade show, speaking in public is an important business skill to hone.

At The Simons Group, we know a thing or two about effective public speaking. Here are a few more pointers for engaging with your listeners.

Give your audience a game plan. Lay out your talking points in a clear order at the beginning of your speech. That way, your audience can follow along and knows what to expect.

Get excited. Add passion and feeling to whatever you are covering. If people see that you care, they will care, too. Instead of remaining serious throughout the entire presentation, find a few places to add enthusiasm or even laughter.

Recap your points. Summarizing your points at the end will reinforce your overall message to your audience. This also helps to keep you focused and direct when wrapping up the presentation.

What are some of your go-to presentation strategies? Let us know in the comments!

The top 2 crisis management must-haves

tool-box-2-1206823In the last few months, one of my go-to lunch spots, Chipotle, has been in some hot water with the public because of health scares. The stock took a hit, people stayed away from the restaurants, and now the well-known chain is planning to discuss new policies with its stores. Without a doubt, they will be brainstorming how to restore the brand’s image, as well as health and safety across its stores.

This got me thinking. When your company lands in hot water, what tools will help you handle the situation successfully? Any business can be hit with a crisis, big or small, but preparing before a problem hits can mean the difference between a minor hiccup and a full-blown meltdown. Here’s what you need in your crisis management toolkit.

  • Your A team. Identify your representation ahead of a crisis. There should only be a select few that you choose to speak on your behalf. These contacts should be well-versed in your business, mission, goals and values. This way, if or when a crisis emerges, your team will be ready to act.
  • Your messaging. Have a few messages already written up for various scenarios that will help tide you over in a moment of crisis. You can’t write up an entire plan until a crisis occurs, since you have to customize the details to each scenario. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to have statements in place that you can use to communicate with your audience and the public until you develop a full plan of action.

Has your company ever dealt with a crisis? Let us know in the comments.

Trends to watch for in 2016

happy-new-year-1184956At the end of each year, there are a few things that are always certain. I need to buy lots of presents for family and friends, and I start to hear about trends for the year ahead. I will spare you the details of my latest bargain find and jump right into upcoming trends in marketing. Here’s what to watch for in 2016.

  • Back to basics. A trend that’s on its way out is an emphasis on shock and awe to get the audience’s attention. People today are looking for something a bit more comforting and trustworthy. In fact, people are responding more to content that reminds them of a simpler time in their lives and brings them back to yesteryear. Focusing on long-term relationships, commitment and partnership in your marketing is a good way to build that trust with your audience.
  • A picture (or a video, or a graph…) is worth 1,000 words. Research shows that content marketing that contains at least one visual element is much more appealing to audiences today. Be sure to add a video, a graph or even a photo to your content to really get people engaged!
  • Content matters. In this digital age, content is king. Now more than ever, the copywriting and message will be what grab and hold the reader’s attention. Rather than pushy sales pieces, companies are interested in educational content that helps them do their jobs better. Content creators are highly sought after to construct the right message and frame the story in a tantalizing way.

At The Simons Group, we see how these trends are evolving, and we are ready for 2016. Are you? Let us know about your upcoming communications plans in the comments below.

Don’t break these 3 PR commandments

check-list-1150080Sometimes when I am networking or speaking to someone for the first time, they’re a little unsure about what the term “public relations” means. What does a successful PR campaign look like?

My PR efforts vary from client to client – sometimes I’m securing speaking engagements at industry events, while other times I’m pitching a press release to a newspaper. No matter what I’m working on, though, I follow a few main industry rules that are unlikely to change. Consider these to be your PR commandments. 

Read more…

In PR and in business, trust is key

handshake-1239869One of the most crucial components of public relations is building trust. From communicating with a client to promoting your company to the public, trust is key to getting your message heard. So how do you establish that kind of foundation? Here are a few tips to help you build trust with your audience.

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Public speaking is a form of PR

microphone-1412455The 2016 presidential race is alive and well, and it’s the talk of the town. What are the candidates doing? What are the scandals? More importantly, what are they saying and how are they conducting themselves during interviews and debates?

Public speaking is not easy, but it is necessary at times and a critical skill to master. While you may not be making a presidential bid anytime soon, here are a few tips for those times when you find yourself center stage, whether you’re speaking at a conference, giving a press interview or leading your annual meeting.

  • Don’t hide behind papers and note cards. People want to see that you are present and confident in what you have to say. Also, if you never you look up and strictly read from your notes, the audience may lose interest and miss what you have to say. Remember to look up as much as possible and engage the group by making eye contact.
  • Connect with your audience. If you do this well, the attendees will not only have a lot of information to take away from the meeting but will also feel like they’ve established a relationship with you. A simple way to put your audience at ease is to incorporate a joke or short story. You can also ask the crowd a question to help get them involved. These are all great ways to lighten the mood while keeping the focus onstage.
  • Use your allotted space. When preparing for a presentation, practice walking around a little bit while imagining yourself speaking to the crowd. When it’s time for your speech, you will appear to be at ease and confident as you move past the podium.

What are your tips for public speaking? Let us know in the comments below.