Author Archives: Janine McKalister

About Janine McKalister

Janine is a full time communications tutor at an Australian international college. She commonly travels to Asia and provides consultancy services to C-Level executives at some of Asia's leading companies like Samsung and Lenovo.


Leveraging PR Momentum to Boost Your Business

Most small business owners have never been featured in the press; and getting that coveted spot in a newspaper, magazine, business journal, or expertise website will not materialize overnight. Publicity, though, can be attainable, and will reap rewards for any small business owner; provided that there is, of course, consistent effort.

It may have happened for some businesses, but for others it will normally take weeks or months before a single glimmer of hope of getting that media spot becomes visible. This also depends on some factors like how simple your story is to cover and how consistently you get in touch with the media.

I recently interviewed a business owner regarding his use of PR. He owns a clothing range which he started with just fifty dollars of capital. He was able to grow the business by selling seven thousand dollars’ worth of t-shirts a week; and within a few years, he was able to transform a small business into a multi-million dollar enterprise.

I asked him what were the secrets to his success. He mentioned that one of the secrets for his success was that he maximized the potential of free publicity.

It was unknown to him at the time, but his company had a great media catch: his business was unique. When it comes to business knowledge, he honestly said that he didn’t know much; but yet he was able establish a multi-million dollar clothing brand. Furthermore, he went against every known business model, but sales were still pouring in. His uniqueness made his business newsworthy, and that’s what made him appear as a guest at a very respected radio program.

It was right then that he discovered the biggest benefit that free publicity can give his business. Media people often look for their next story by paying attention to what’s headlining elsewhere. Hence, within a few days after the interview, he got an invite to guest on a television talk show to discuss his clothing brand in front of a very wide audience.

He then received hundreds of calls from retailers wanting to sell his products the very next day.

What he’d attained was a classic example of using public relations momentum and publicity as leverages  to build up business. The radio show took him from a very small audience, which opened the door to a television appearance that made his business known to millions of customers. The best part was that it cost him nothing.

If you want to be like him, you can build a similar PR strategy to gain you that momentum you can leverage for your business.

Persistence is Key

Like in any business endeavor, a PR campaign needs a dedicated  investment of time and effort, and not necessarily money.  This therefore means that, as a business owner, you must continuously develop new story angles to spark media interest. Regular follow-up on the media organizations you’d like to work with will also be advantageous.

Take ‘Baby Steps’

The media universe is such a broad place to start, and attempting to get in touch with all of the media elements can feel very overwhelming. You might want to start within your local market first. The reason behind this is that you’ve already establish some credibility in your local market.

Another tip is to focus on a certain niche like a business journal or a trade publication that covers your industry.

Define your Goals

Always make sure that your PR goals are written down where you can always see them. Define your goals and your expected outcome of each and take an action step each day that will lead you closer to  attaining that goal.

Always allot PR time into your Business Operations

Allot at least an hour a week to focus on public relations; even though it’s only about fifteen minutes a day. In those fifteen minutes you could’ve already sent an email of your media pitch out to five journalists, placed three follow-up phone calls, or researched on a new PR opportunity thru a new media outlet. Don’t make an excuse of not having enough time.


How to Make Events as Part of Your Public Relations Strategy

There are valuable opportunities for any business owner in attending, speaking at, and hosting events. Not only are they good exposure for your business, but they are also good practice for your PR skills.

Always Find time to Attend Industry Events

Attending events are great opportunities for any business owner to promote his or her business. Not only that, these events are also great opportunities to practice and further improve your public relations skills.

My own motto is that PR should encompass everything  you say, you do, and what you are; this also includes how you present yourself at these events. Always remember that the people you meet and talk to are potential business partners and probable customers; so the way you relate with them reflects on your professionalism as a person and as a business.

One thing to always take note of is that these events aren’t just card-collecting opportunities; but they are also excellent venues to build new business relationships. Pay full attention to a person you’re talking to, create a relationship, and learn about them and their business. Like any other form of public relations, it takes time and practice; but the connections you build through networking can support you in the long run.

Get a Speaking Engagement at an Event

Being able to share your opinions during events provide a great boost for you and your business’ profile and credibility.  When you’re starting out as a speaker, you may not be paid to speak at such events or conferences, but organizers can offer you other benefits like posting some articles in their newsletters and allowing you a short ‘plug-in’ time for your business at the end of your talk.

Hosting Events are Great Opportunities for Public Relations

Hosting an event, seminar, or workshop is also a great way to reach out to customers and potential business partners. For example a pet shop owner and a landscaper could run a free seminar together on “How to Utilize Garden Space for your Pets ,” and promote it to their targeted niche. It’s also a great way of getting pre-qualified people added on to your list of potential customers. Likewise, it can also be promoted in the local paper.

Moreover, you can also share your expertise and train other people to attend your workshop for a fee.  Just a tip though, don’t get stuck by paying non-refundable venue deposits only to not hit the targeted registration numbers in the end. What you can do instead is to ask those who pre-register to give suggestions on their preferred venues. Once you’re seeing a good showing when it comes to the numbers of registrants, then you can start booking venues in the suggested areas.

These seminars and events need not to be expensive either. They can also be facilitated online or even over the phone. This would also bring a great advantage to you and your attendees. Not only do you get to save up on costs, but you and the attendees can actually attend at the comfort of home, in pajamas.


Transforming Customer Service from Good to Exceptional

Time and time again, I’m sure you’ve heard of how living it has changed people, businesses, and industries. If you haven’t heard of it, then you need to go out there more and maybe experience it yourself. I’m talking about exceptional customer service.

In a recent business trip to Hong Kong, some colleagues and I went to a restaurant for dinner. Another colleague was running late and called up to ask for directions on how to get there from a certain landmark. The cab driver seemed to have missed the exact address and dropped him off a few blocks away.

Being in an unfamiliar place, we asked the restaurant manager to give him directions over the phone. Even with the directions, our colleague still can’t seem to find the location. After a few minutes, the restaurant manager borrowed the phone and went out of the restaurant to personally look for him and escort him to the place.

Now, that’s going the extra mile! I know exceptional customer service when I see it.

This experience got me thinking as to when the last time I provided exceptional service to a customer was. During my reflection, I gave myself a very honest answer. I always knew that I provided good customer service; and customers can attest to this. I just can’t remember the last time I provided  service that was exceptional. As a fellow business owner, I am now challenging you to ask yourself that same question.

Realistically speaking, it would be impossible to always go out-of-the-way for every customer at every moment of every day. It is possible, however, for you to plan ahead and offer exceptional customer service every now and then. Think of the difference it would make to yourself, your business, and your customers.

So, I am now challenging you to demonstrate exceptional customer service to one of your clients by following some guidelines below.

1. In terms of business relationships, think of a customer you’d like to build a stronger working relationship with.

2. On a customer service standpoint, think of ways on what you can do to add more value to the relationship. Make sure that it’s over and above what you or your business normally offer.

3. Plan ahead and go do it.

Think of the endless possibilities of doing this to each and every one of your customers can bring to your business.  Visualize how your business will benefit if you turn a neutral customer into a promoter, or a promoter to an advocate. How do you think would you and your customers feel? How would this impact you and your business? What would this change in the way you or your customers do business?

It might just be that exceptional customer service is the ‘difference that makes the difference’ to your customers.


Non-profit Sponsorships: When Donating Locally is better than the Bigger Cause

When small businesses open, local community groups, more often than not, look to them for donations. All of these non-profit organizations have worthwhile aims; but is there a way to choose which of these local community groups to provide sponsorship to?

To answer this question, if the local community provides the lot of your customers, then definitely, you should be associated with that group.

Here’s a short checklist of things to consider and questions to ask when deciding what organizations to support. The list is  going to make deciding for you much easier; and will also bring benefits to both parties.

  • Is it a local group? Supporting your local non-profit organizations is usually preferred rather than issuing donations to the umbrella group that handles them.
  • Will I make a difference? Remember that a two hundred dollar donation would mean more to a local women’s refuge rather than a local hospital. The donation to a local hospital would probably disappear into a million dollar profit and loss statement. On the other hand, a two hundred dollar donation to a local women’s shelter will go a long way as this can cover for food, shelter, and clothing for a person for a few days. Small amounts of time and money can make a bigger impact to smaller organizations rather than the big ones.
  • Can I include it in my business profile? Unfortunately, not everyone has the same views when it comes to what type of activities are done by the local groups in the community. Some people may have some prejudices about some group’s actions and cause. One thing to consider before putting a sponsorship of a local group as part of your business profile is to ask yourself if you would be proud for people to know that you’re sponsoring a certain cause.
  • Can I also give time and effort? Some organizations will benefit not from monetary donations, but from your time, skills, or products instead.

Categorise your Sponsorships

It would also be very helpful if you can split your local community sponsorship contributions into two categories: local and hyper-local.

Take a good look at your customer demographics and if a significant number of customers come from a certain geographic are, then you can consider supporting organizations within that community. You can group contributions under this as local.

Another situation is that when you have a few local futsal teams asking for your donations, then perhaps supporting the local futsal league would be the most beneficial. Contributions that fall under this category can be classified as hyper-local.

Be Practical

Another suggestion is that you put emotions aside first and treat sponsorships as business decisions. Personally, you can make any donation to your preferred organization anytime, but if your business will be involved, always make decisions based on the best interest of your business.

Be a Proud Contributor

There is no shame in letting everyone know that you’ve done the community some service. You can put up signs or include in your marketing materials that you’re a proud supporter of a certain community group. Furthermore, you can also put a link to their website on yours. And if you’re supporting an event, then make sure to get all the publicity and exposure that you can so that you can use this as leverage for your business.







The Bad Customer Service Numbers Game

If you’re too busy welcoming new clients through the front door, and haven’t even noticed that some existing ones are slipping out the back; then definitely exceptional customer service skills will help you overcome this obstacle.

During business planning workshops I facilitate, I’ve always asked business owners if ever they’re too busy entertaining new or potential customers that they forget to provide exceptional service to retain existing clients. Quite a lot of them say ‘yes;’ and most of these business owners are also unable to identify who their most profitable clients are right away.

A leaky bucket is the best example for this situation. Let’s take two small business owners in the same industry. Let’s say both of them attract ten percent of new clients every year; which is not bad,  considering the business climate and the saturation of their industry.

Business Owner A is able to maintain ninety five percent of his customers, while the other five percent leave because of different reasons. Business Owner B , on the other hand, retains ninety percent of her clients, while the ten percent is lost due to fallouts.

These are very impressive figures, I might say; but after fourteen years in the business, Business Owner A was able to double his business size while Business Owner B stayed the same.

This is where the metaphor of the leaky bucket comes in. Business Owner B suffers from a ‘leaky bucket.’ It means that too many customers are slipping through the holes at the bottom. Most of her customers’ reason for fallout was her company’s poor customer service. What’s worse is that Business Owner B doesn’t even know it!

Research shows that a typical business doesn’t get feedback from about ninety-six percent of their unhappy customers. When it comes to ‘word of mouth,’  every customer complaint will reach twenty six other people with the same concern. What’s more is that these twenty six people will tell an average of nine to ten people each about how bad a company’s customer service is. Thirteen percent will tell more than twenty people about their horrendous experience.

This is how the numbers look like for businesses whose customer turnovers are due to poor customer service skills. Though the numbers might initially look good, there is always a bigger effect in the long run. But, it’s not all about bad news; because for every resolved complaint, customers tell five people about the experience, on the average. This is usually positive feedback.

Another example is that ninety five percent of complainers engage to do business with the company again compared to customers who don’t complain. This number now goes to the ninety-five percent customer retention if the complaint was dealt with quickly and efficiently.

Keeping your clients happy through exceptional customer service will plug the holes in your leaky bucket. Keeping your bucket leak-free will, of course, result to a more successful and sustainable business.


Staying True to Your Resolutions

Making a resolution is not even half as hard in sticking to them. Sometimes, it won’t take a day to make a resolution, but takes a lifetime to see to its completion. You will have to choose what to make of your resolutions; either you want it to be just a mere wishful thinking or a deep commitment?

Your resolution won’t mean a thing if your words are not followed by actions. No matter how many times you say you will change and yet you did not make one move to realize it, then it is all good for nothing. Do not stay within the boundaries of fantasy, make things real, and make it happen. Do whatever it takes to follow your resolutions. Too many times, you must have resolved to lose weight time and again, and yet gain pounds every time because you just can’t keep yourself from delicious fatty foods. Or maybe you have resolved to augment your income this year and yet you can’t make yourself look for an extra job that will generate extra income. As you break your resolution each time, your frustration will grow that might eventually result to hopelessness. Do not let this happen, follow these simple steps in keeping yourself stay true to your resolutions:

  • Define your goal. Do not be vague. If you say you want to lose weight, then specify exactly how many pounds you need to shred in a specific amount of time. Say, “I will start losing weight now until I will lose 50 pounds in 8 months”. The more specific you are, the greater the probability that you will stick to your resolution because the goal becomes achievable.
  • Push yourself to the limit. Do not be cowed with the circumstances. The harder you push yourself, the most likely your commitment becomes stronger. If you exercised yesterday for 30 minutes, then make it 1 hour tomorrow. Do not worry, your internal system will adapt to whatever changes you employ, no matter how drastic.
  • Avoid making excuses. Don’t say you were not able to jog because it rained; well, jog around your house!
  • Believe that you are capable of staying true to your resolutions. Even if things seem insurmountable, your self-belief will matter in your quest of achieving your goal.

I have my own resolutions as well. Some are easy to achieve while others, I admit, are a constant struggle. I just keep reminding myself of these simple steps to help me get through. How about you, do you have your resolutions that you were able to complete? Share your ideas to us.


Achieving Your Dreams

Dreams will stay as dream unless you do something about it. You should have a proactive part in achieving your dreams and in bringing it to reality.

A man with no dreams is like a night without the moon. Dream is crucial; it is what makes us strive in life. If you do not dream, there is no point of trying to succeed. Your dreams are your reason why you try to become better. You can dream as great as you like. Dreams know no boundaries, it respects no limits. But what is a dream if it stays just a dream.

So for people like you who wants to alter his life for the better, make your dreams tangible. Turn it into a goal, of which you can aspire to bring it into being. It is good that you dream, but you cannot stay on dreaming for so long. You have to make careful plans of turning your dream into achievable goals and eventually crafting plans of finally achieving it.

When you dream you must also believe. There is no point of dreaming and yet deciding that it will just stay as it is because you feel like you are not capable of achieving it. Go out there, live your life, and achieve every single one of your dreams. It is just a matter of how powerfully you reinforce you thoughts. You need to keep your hopes up. You have to build up your faith as you tread along the way of achieving your goals. The longer the time you spend thinking about your dreams, the greater should be your confidence that you can make it into reality.

I and my husband have this dream of going to Nepal. It was really one of our most precious moments as we both crafted careful plans in getting there eventually. The anticipation was really great. And it took half a decade to see it to completion. We did not mind the wait; we just kept our dream alive and made it a part of our system. We talked about it, shared about it and dreamed of it. Along the way, as we try to achieve this dream, the dreams that we had are becoming a reality right in front of us, and that gave us all the more hope and confidence that we will see it through.

To keep your dreams alive, you could do the following:

  • Make your dream into a picture or a statement and then make it as a background of your computer
  • Read a lot of books that mentions anything about your goals
  • Share it to other people, talk about it whenever possible

If you have faith enough, if you strive enough, you will achieve your dreams. That’s for sure!


What Makes Exceptional, Exceptional? It’s all in the Attitude!

The goal of each business is to provide exceptional customer service; but do we really understand what  exceptional service really is?

There are two mindsets when it comes to how a certain business interacts with customers and the industry – one is a selling mindset and the other one is a service mindset. These two mindsets determine the personality of the business and how it is perceived not only by clients, but also by the entire industry.

The selling attitude is deeply rooted in the business’ goal of maintaining revenue and managing customer turnover. The sales mindset pretty much stems from every business’ direction of being profitable and sustainable. Moreover, adapting this mindset entails that every customer interaction should always start with a question of “What can I sell you today?” There’s nothing really wrong with adapting a selling mindset; but it all goes awry when the attitude itself becomes the only focal point of an organization. Getting sales as the only focus will lead the business on a downward spiral of short term solutions and short-lived results.

A service attitude, on the other hand, begins with the primal instinct of assisting others. With this type of mindset, there is an unquestionable interest in problem solving so that others can also achieve their goals and be successful. More importantly, having a customer service mindset dictates that the level of engagement demonstrates genuine commitment.

Below are some tips on how to demonstrate exceptional service to your customers.

  • Approach each new customer with questions like “How can I help” and “What challenges are you currently facing?” Showing unpretentious interest towards your customers, their businesses, and their challenges is a true demonstration of exceptional service.
  • Always remember to partner with your customers. Use partnering words like ‘we’ or ‘us’ in any communication. In whatever challenge the customers are facing, make them feel that you’re also in there, facing it with them.
  • Treat your customers’ businesses like it’s your own. A customer’s challenges are your challenges; and their success, your success. Always be ready to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty.
  • Put value add into your products of services.  Assure your customers that you can help them make a difference. If there are issues that you’re unsure of your ability to help, tell them honestly; but don’t forget to help them look for other ways and means to overcome those obstacles.
  • Champion your client’s goals. If you truly believe in your customer’s business, then you are a right match for each other. Having the same direction and championing each other’s cause provide a lot of motivating power and will generate results. If both your goals are contradicting, then there shouldn’t have been a partnership in the first place.
  • Sensible time management is also paramount. Always make sure to set clear project scopes,  job specifications, and time-keeping. Honor the value that your business brings to the relationship by making sure that you get what is appropriate for your efforts. Absolutely say ‘no’ to customers who won’t pay the set price for your services as they do not see what value you can provide their business.

Adapting a genuine customer service attitude allows you to exceed all expectations; without  having to follow any guidelines or rules in doing so.  It just shows how exceptional service is natural to your way of doing business. Taking time to listen, showing that you care, and demonstrating a willingness-to-help attitude will almost always win you faithful customers.

A selling mentality may well be good in achieving short term goals; but having a customer service  mindset most likely results to solid, long-term, and loyal partnerships; with tons of referrals to boot. Still, the decision is up to the business owner; you. If you want a big stream of customers of who you never hear from again, then focus on  a selling mentality. If you want customers who hang around for a long time, give you repeat work, and refers you to their own customers or colleagues, then we suggest putting focus on exceptional service.


Investing in PR to Give you that Desired ROI

Public relations has always been misconceived as a marketing strategy that doesn’t generate tangible returns on investment; but unknown to almost everyone, this is exactly the opposite. It is now time to debunk the myth that public relations is more of an expense rather than an investment.

Most business owners believe that PR is all about changing and influencing others’ opinions. Hence, a common misconception borne from this belief is that public relations will take a lot of time to measure because its main objective is change in behavior. This in turn, has brought about another myth: PR will take even longer to show tangible results.

As a business owner, it is always important to get a return of investment for the time and money you spend in marketing and promoting your business. In running your business, it is always necessary  to know how much return you will get given an X amount of marketing expenditures.

Any marketing strategy doesn’t guarantee a return every time it is employed; but PR has one of the highest returns of investment. Moreover, public relations, more often than not,  generates more revenue than advertising. There are also numerous studies that have directly related public relations and  tangible returns on investment. The case study below is such an example.

A recent study published by the Institute for Public Relations measured PR against other forms of marketing. In this instance, they used a case study of a beverage brand. Data showed that for each dollar spent on television advertising, a dollar and ten cents were returned thru sales. On the other hand, trade advertising delivered a return of twice as much as television advertising. Finally, public relations returned eight dollars for every dollar invested. Public relations has, by far, the best results compared to the other marketing strategies. As a matter of fact, this beverage company credits four percent of their sales to their public relations strategy. Initially, the numbers may not look that impressive; but think of this on a scale of tens of millions of dollars.

These studies are common, and their findings almost the same. We are hoping that these figures will encourage business owners like you to take another look at how public relations can be used to maximize your return of investment. Moreover, we hope that, as a business owner, you also get to consider PR when evaluating your next marketing campaigns.

Don’t forget that studies show that effective public relations is a form of marketing that can positively affect all other marketing strategies. When positive and catchy news breaks out about a business, every other marketing tactic has proven to be more effective; therefore creating a beneficial ripple effect across all marketing efforts.

It truly is great that PR has the best return of investment in terms of sales, but it will also be advisable to look into the other advantages that it can bring to your business. There is always that opportunity to make your story known. There is also that opportunity to establish yourself as a credible source to gain more customers. You can even find that getting a high-profile, publicized reputation will get you to charge higher among the competition, regardless of the business environment.


Attracting Publicity to Your Business

Success in attracting media attention is always dependent on a business owner’s ability to put themselves in the journalists’ and readers’ shoes. This recognition in publicity campaigns is something that businesses can leverage to get more customers and, ultimately, more sales; but how does one get securing publicity?

Being knowledgeable of The Industry’s Trends

If you can identify the main reasons that bring clients to your business, you can begin to create story angles that you can use to attract media attention.

As an example, if you had a sudden remarkable increase in sales, find out the reasons why. If you can pinpoint the reasons why there is sudden influx of customers, then you’ve found something newsworthy.

Potential customers might be seeking specific services or buying a particular type of product; as a business owner, find out why, and develop your material from there.

Innovations are Always Newsworthy

Innovative products or services are also newsworthy. If you have something new to introduce to the market, rather than letting the features and benefits go in one presentation, think of something that makes your innovation unique and create your news angle from there.

Remember to Appeal to your Niche

One example is a mobile dog grooming service that caters to show dogs. If this is your business, don’t simply advertise your service in the hope that it will stand out among the other dog grooming businesses. Instead, create a story about the certain pressures that dog-owners go through on a dog show.

Doing this will make you come across as an expert and readers in your targeted niche will make connections based on that. Taking on this perspective also allows you the chance to mention that a specialist like you can help alleviate this pressure from the dog-owners.

Involve yourself with Charitable Institutions

Being charitable is another news angle. The importance of engaging in charitable institutions is the authenticity of your involvement and commitment. You can approach your local paper to get some local coverage if you’ve donated. During the coverage itself, focus on providing stories about the charity and the work that they do; only mention the donation in passing.

Focus on Why your Product or Services Benefit Customers

Don’t focus on the features of your product or services. Instead, get publicity for customers who are doing something amazing with your product or service. Focus on why this product has helped them and not on how. You can also feature your customer’s achievements in an industry magazine, and always remember to keep the story focused on the customer. This will not only foster client relationships, but your product or service will also be shown in a way that will attract new customers.

Find and Leverage Existing Opportunities

The products and services that you offer aren’t necessarily unique. You might offer the same products and services as anyone in the industry; but this doesn’t mean that you can’t get media exposure. You can do some background research on the target audience and get in touch with media organizations and ask for upcoming features. You can also try placing products as a part of a wider feature or buyer’s guide.