Posted on December 5, 2014
Filed Under (Advice, Marketing, Networking) by jennifer

Help me please!I have been writing for print and online publications for over 20 years, and I am always on the lookout for great sources for my articles. I also spent several years (more) doing pubic relations (PR) on both the agency side and for a variety of businesses and have an excellent track record of getting my clients cited by reporters. So I am intimately familiar with what it takes to get a reporter’s (or writer’s) attention.

Yet I am constantly amazed — and annoyed — by how many PR people, especially in the modern digital age, when finding out the names of reporters, the areas they cover, and what they are working on, has never been easier, waste my time.


11 Ways to Piss Off a Reporter (and ensure she will never quote your clients)

1. Don’t bother to Google the reporter, to find out what she writes about — or actually read any of her articles (even though they are easy to find and plentiful).

2. Add the reporter to your email list without her permission and bombard her with emails and press releases that have nothing to do with the beat(s) she covers.

3. Do not follow the reporter on Twitter. (Because if you did, you would know what she was working on.)

4. Do not look for her queries on Help a Reporter. 

5. Repeatedly email the reporter to ask what she is working on. (See above.)

6. Ask the reporter to ping you whenever she is working on an article — even though chances are you will be working with different clients or at a different agency six months from now (or less).

7. Pitch her ideas that have nothing to do with her beat(s). (See above.)

8. Send replies to her Help a Reporter queries that have nothing to do with her query — and/or clearly demonstrate that you, the PR person, have not taken the time (less than 5 minutes) to read any of the reporter’s articles.

9. Send an angry or whiny email to the reporter questioning why she didn’t quote your client in her article.

10. Do not thank the reporter for including your client in one of her articles.

11. Do not promote the article on social media. (FYI: Many, probably most, writers these days get paid based on the number of page views their articles get. So we really appreciate when sources and PR folks publicize articles on social media and put links to the article on their websites.)

Also, be sure to read “How to Pitch to a Reporter (and Get Good Press for Your Business or Client).”

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Posted on February 22, 2014
Filed Under (General Business, Marketing, Networking) by jennifer

crowdsourcing-cartoonAh, the wisdom of the crowd. It can help companies (by attracting new customers) — and it can also hurt them (those pesky negative reviews on sites like Yelp). So how can your small business harness the power of the crowd for good? Dozens of business owners and marketing experts offered the following top seven suggestions for how to effectively use crowdsourcing — to both attract new customers and keep existing customers coming back.

1. Use the crowd to expand your graphic and web design pool/options.

2. Crowdsource your marketing/advertising photography.

3. Crowdsource new product development.

4. Tap the crowd to speed up application development.

5. Use crowdsourcing to test products (for bugs, functionality or simply crowd appeal).

6. Use crowdsourcing to foster innovation + build community.

7. Consider crowdsourcing as a form of customer outreach.

For a complete explanation of each tip and resources, read my article “7 Ways Crowdsouring Can Boost Your Brand and Customer Loyalty.”

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More ecommerce businesses are using the crowd (i.e., their customers, Facebook fans and/or employees) to help them develop new products and build brand loyalty — and the strategy seems to be working, at least for some online businesses. But is crowdsourcing a viable marketing and/or product development strategy for every small business? And how do you successfully harness the power of the crowd? I spoke to ecommerce businesses OfficeDrop,, and Minted, all of whom had experimented with crowdsourcing, to find out.

Their advice? First and foremost, before you do any kind of crowdsourcing, you need to consider your audience [e.g., age, gender, how likely they are to use or participate in social media] and make the determination whether it’s going to help or hurt, said’s Chief Dog Spoiler, Kent Krueger.

For example, don’t just go out and randomly use Twitter or Facebook, cautioned Healy Jones, the head of marketing at OfficeDrop, because you can get a bunch of 22-year-old people who’ve never used your product before. Get people who are your target demographic, the people who will potentially be using your product.

It’s also wise to limit the number of choices you make available to consumers. There is this issue of paradox of choice, where if you show somebody a thousand items … that it might be too daunting, said Minted founder Mariam Naficy. And you risk overwhelming or alienating the very people you are trying to attract.

To find out more great tips, as well as how and when to use the wisdom of the crowd, please read my article titled “Crowdsourcing as a Small Business Marketing Strategy,” which is featured on, a terrific publication for and about small businesses.

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My latest article for Small Business Computing (which also got picked up by Ecommerce Guide) is titled “Marketing Strategy: Why Logo and Web Design Matter.” And, in my humble opinion, it is must reading for any small (or really any) business owner thinking about rebranding or just starting out.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the experts:

I won’t go so far to say that having a good or bad logo will make or break the success of your business, said Candy Phelps, the owner of iCandy Graphics and Printing, but it will definitely increase your success if you have a great logo and branding identity. If you have a cheap-looking, generic website and a cheap-looking logo, you’re sending a message to your customers that you may be cheap about other areas of your business, like your products and services.

Put another way, think of your website as your top salesperson or your first point of contact with prospective customers.

You wouldn’t hire, or keep, a salesperson that went out to meet customers in ripped jeans and a t-shirt, without showering, would you? asked Brad Leszczynski, the chief creative officer at 8fold. So why would you have an awful looking website and a badly designed logo? If a customer perceives your business — based on your logo and your website — to be sloppy, what are they going to think about the product or service you are offering?

Think about the last time you went to buy a product or service and were faced with multiple online choices. Did you gravitate to the website that looks like it was designed at the dawn of the Internet age — crammed with text, with multiple colors, fonts and images and hard-to-use navigation?

Or did you shop at the well-designed, easy-to-navigate site with the memorable name and eye-catching logo and color/design scheme?

If you are like most people, nine out of 10 times, price being relatively equal (or even unequal), you chose the business with the attractively designed website with a clear branding message. And your customers are doing the same thing.

To learn more, including what two successful small business owners had to say about how having an eye-catching logo and a well-designed website helped them attract more visitors and increase sales, click on this link to my article. And be sure to check out my upcoming article on crowd sourcing as an effective and inexpensive way to get a great logo or design help, which will be published on Small Business Computing in mid-August

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Posted on November 3, 2009
Filed Under (Advice, Networking, Social Media) by jennifer

The difference between social media sites, sites such as Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn, and non-social media or Internet sites is that Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn allow — and encourage — users to start and actively engage in meaningful conversations. Yet too many people — even many so-called “social media experts” — are using these social media sites in anti-social ways.

Instead of participating in conversations — that is, commenting on people’s Facebook or blog posts or replying to comments left on their posts; replying to or retweeting people’s tweets on Twitter; or sharing their connections and recommendations on LinkedIn — these people see Facebook, and Twitter, and LinkedIn mainly (or purely) as ways to promote themselves and/or their business. In other words, instead of treating social media as the two-way street or superhighway it was intended to be, to facilitate or drive conversations (and relationships, both personal and professional), these anti-social networkers see sites like Twitter and LinkedIn, even Facebook, as a one-way path to their door.

But the purpose and beauty of social media, at least from a business perspective, is that it is a simple, inexpensive, yet incredibly powerful way to connect with existing and prospective customers (even partners, vendors, and suppliers), to engage them in conversation, find out their preferences and what they like and don’t like about your business, and build a relationship with them.

As survey after customer survey has shown, consumers like to buy from people — businesses — they feel they know and can trust. But if you are not holding up your side of the conversation, if you are unwilling or unable to engage with or respond to your customers on sites like Twitter and Facebook, even LinkedIn, even though you have a presence there, you are doing both your customers and your business a disservice.

Hey, social media is not for everyone, or for every business. And there is nothing wrong with deciding not to jump on the social media bandwagon, especially if you are uncomfortable sharing information or taking part in online conversations. But if you/your business has made a commitment to social media, that is, has a presence on Facebook and/or Twitter and/or LinkedIn, and you hope to benefit from it, don’t be a wallflower — or anti-social. Join the conversation. Respond to comments (both good and bad). And be sure to comment on other people’s posts or comments — and share the ones you think your network or customers might enjoy or benefit from.

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As I have learned from years of writing about small businesses and entrepreneurs, being successful more often than not has less to do with how good you (or your products and/or services) are and everything to do with how good you are at marketing your business (and your products and services).

True, being good at what you do is important to being successful, but if no one knows about you or your company or your products or services, it doesn’t matter. You will eventually fail.

The good news: Marketing your business has never been easier or cheaper.

And following are seven easy-to-do marketing strategies that are both highly effective and inexpensive.

* Use social social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter* and blogs. (To learn more about how to use social networking to successfully market you business, read this.)

* Comment on other people’s sites/blogs, providing helpful and/or expert advice about specific topics, including links to useful articles (and your own site, if appropriate).

* Become a source on Help a Reporter Out (HARO), a fantastic site and resource that links small (and larger) business owners (like you) to thousands of journalists/reporters (like me).

* Interact with your customers (both existing ones and potential ones) on both your website (or blog) and on sites they frequent, offering them incentives (such as discounts or free or low-cost shipping) to buy your products and/or services and make sure to promptly respond to all questions and queries.

* Don’t forget about “old-fashioned” networking, that is getting in front of (face time with) people who could be helpful to or interested in your business or products or services.

* Attend industry and Chamber of Commerce events. If you can’t afford or don’t want to get a booth, just attend as a visitor — and be sure to bring a stack of business cards, a big smile, free samples of your product (if possible), and a kick-ass 30-second elevator pitch.

* Enlist friends, family members, and former colleagues to be your goodwill ambassadors and spread the word about your business, products, and services. As an added incentive, offer them a discount or something inexpensive (to you) yet of value (to them) for bringing in new leads and customers.

Having an attractive, user-friendly website, which both customers and search engines can easily find, is also critical — and freshening up your website needn’t cost thousands of dollars. (Click here for information about inexpensive yet highly effective web design and site facelifts.)

For more great tips on how to market your business effectively yet inexpensively online and off, check out these four articles:

5 Easy Ways to Market Yourself Online

Social Network Marketing Meets Small Business

How to Market Yourself Online

10 Low-Cost Ways to Market Your Business

I also recommend the following websites, which are aimed specifically at entrepreneurs and small business owners and provide excellent advice, tools, and tips about marketing your business and many other important small business-related subjects:

Small Business Computing

E-Commerce Guide

Jason Baer’s Convince&Convert

The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur’s blog, which has a good section on marketing called Marketing Like Mad


Have your own great small business marketing tip or resource? Leave me a comment.

*You can follow me on Twitter at

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Posted on February 16, 2009
Filed Under (Advice, Ecommerce, General, Networking) by jennifer

Turning away work — saying no to a project or firing a client — is never easy, especially in tough economic times like these when many small businesses are struggling to stay afloat. But sometimes it is necessary, for both your business and your sanity.

If you do not have the people power, time, or resources to fulfill an order or properly execute a project, do not agree to take it on. As tempting as it is to say “I’ll just figure it out” or pray things will go your way, remember it is always much better to under promise and over deliver than the other way around — and ultimately more profitable, too. (For a great example, read “The Man Who Said No to Wal-Mart” from Fast Company.)

Similarly, if a client is giving you more grief than revenue, it may be time to end that relationship — or at the very least have a conversation with that client about what is acceptable behavior and what isn’t. Or you may want to charge that client more to keep doing business.

True story: I once worked with a husband-and-wife design team who referred to difficult clients as “pee-ers,” as in these clients would (figuratively, of course) pee all over the couples’ designs, although they kept hiring them. The couple didn’t want to outright fire these difficult clients, but they felt they needed to do something. Their solution:  they started quoting “pee-ers” (i.e., high maintenance clients) a higher hourly or project rate, figuring it would either scare the client away, which was fine with the couple, or they would be more fairly compensated for having to deal with these difficult clients.

Similarly, if a client changes the terms of your contract or asks you to provide additional work without additional compensation (something which seems to be occurring more and more), it is perfectly acceptable, even necessary, to renegotiate the terms of the contract (i.e., ask for more money) — or to say no, especially if doing the extra work affects your bottom line or prevents you from doing other work. Remember, you are in business to make a profit.  No profit, no business.

By the way, just because a client is rude to you does not mean it is okay to be rude back. Just remember the golden rule (which is not “she who has the gold rules”) and always be polite and professional when dealing with existing and prospective clients — and clear and upfront, from the beginning of each assignment or project, about how you work and what your expectations and fees are. Many businesses explain their business philosophy and how they do business on the “About Us” or “Terms and Conditions” page of their website, as well as in their contracts, which I think is an excellent idea.

For more on this topic, check out “When, Why, and How to Fire That Customer” from BusinessWeek, as well as this shorter piece “On Firing a Customer.”

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Posted on January 27, 2009
Filed Under (General, Networking) by jennifer

Ah, Valentine’s Day, a time of hearts and flowers, chocolate and jewelry and opportunity. Even if your  business isn’t in the business of selling chocolate or jewelry or flowers, if you aren’t capitalizing on Valentine’s Day, you could find your heart broken and your e-commerce site or website abandoned.

Fortunately, thanks to the Internet and email, there are more ways than ever to play Cupid — and get customers to fall in love with your site, products, or services all over again or for the first time. All it takes is a little time and creativity.

In need of some Valentine’s Day inspiration and/or tips? Check out my article, “E-Commerce Marketing Tips for Valentine’s Day” on There you’ll find out how ThinkGeek had a record-breaking Valentine’s Day last year thanks to some help from YouTube; how CCBerries friended Facebook; how Chicago Chocolate Tours is using co-marketing to drive traffic to its site and tours; and may other great ideas, from coupons to contests.

Have a Valentine’s Day e-marketing tip or strategy you’d like to share? Leave me a comment. (Note: Only legitimate, non-pornographic suggestions and links, please. All inappropriate comments will be deleted and/or blocked.)

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According to new research from Guidance, an e-commerce solution provider based in California, people like the websites they regularly visit to provide them with some sort of social interaction, whether it’s customer testimonials, consumer-generated content like product reviews, live chat, or a message board where they can chat or compare notes with fellow visitors/consumers. And social commerce isn’t just good for online shoppers/web surfers, it’s good for business, especially now when market share and distinguishing yourself from the competition is more important than ever.

Over the past few years, larger e-tailers have realized that adding social features to their e-commerce sites, à la the Amazon model, is a good thing — and that not doing so could actually hurt them, and sales. However, smaller e-tailers have been more hesitant to do so, typically because of the perceived cost and uncertainty regarding the return on their investment. But according to research conducted by Guidance (and others) “every business can benefit from having at least some social commerce, or social activities, on their website,” said Guidance CEO Jason Meugniot. And they are often more inexpensive and easier to implement than you think.

To find out how you can easily and inexpensively make your site more social/sociable, check out my new article, “Social Commerce Strategies for Small Online Businesses,” and larger ones too, which was published on, a great resource for all things e-commerce related.

And if you have any additional tips or advice re social commerce, or need some help finding someone to help you make your site more social, leave me a comment or send me an email.

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Posted on January 14, 2009
Filed Under (Advice, General, Networking) by jennifer

Don’t think it matters if you wear a suit or nice outfit to a business meeting, networking event, conference, or trade show? Maybe if you’re Steve Jobs it doesn’t. But for the rest of us, how you present yourself, from your attitude to your attire, makes a huge impression on how others — especially those you are trying to impress and/or get business or money from, such as clients, business prospects, lenders, and investors — see and treat you.

While I have long known the power of a suit and dressing for success (a habit instilled in me at an early age by my mother — thanks Mom!), after I had my daughter and started working from home, especially during the cold winter months, I didn’t always follow this important business rule. And I have no doubt it has cost me important business connections and possibly work.

Not that I attended meetings or networking events looking like a bum. I just didn’t dress the part of the confident business owner, often preferring to go the casual-but-chic route.

But as I found out (again) yesterday, after attending my first Entrepreneurial Woman’s Network luncheon, how you dress and present yourself speaks volumes about you. And in this case, my new black power suit got me a meeting — and necessitated my refilling my business card case as soon as I got back to my home office.

Coincidence? I think not. How do I know this? Because one month ago I attended a similar networking lunch but decided last minute to go the casual-but-chic route (Ralph Lauren jeans, a nice top, expensive cowboy boots) instead of wearing a suit or a dress, figuring “it was just lunch.”

Boy, was I wrong.

No sooner had I stepped out of the elevator and into the conference room than I felt immediately felt out of place. Only one other woman, a photographer, showed up casually dressed. And her friend, a business coach, who had come dressed for success, looked and treated me as though I was in the wrong place.

Fast forward to yesterday, and my new black power suit. I swear just wearing that thing made me feel more confident. And I guess it showed. For no sooner than I had removed my coat in the cloakroom did that very same business coach from the last networking meeting walk in and look right at me. “Jane!” I cheerfully addressed her. “So nice to see you.”

The look on Jane’s face spoke volumes — and she immediately made note of my suit and the fact that when we last met I was “wearing jeans.” Ouch. (Though true.) After exchanging some chit-chat, I confidently strolled into the dining room, made small talk with an EWN member, with whom I exchanged business cards, then took a seat at a table, where I proceeded to tell the other women present about myself and my business, which elicited a half-dozen (or more) requests for my card and, at the end of a lunch, a request for a meeting.

Luck? Maybe. But after my website upgrade, that suit (and another one just like it in midnight blue) may be the best investment I’ve made this month, and possibly this quarter. And you can bet I won’t be showing up to any business events or meetings in jeans (no matter how nice) any time soon.

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