Archive for August, 2016

Thoughts on Mentoring – Getting and Giving

Sunday, August 28th, 2016

I’ve been doing mentoring for a few years now, both with organisations like Local Enterprise Offices as well as private events now and then, when I have time. I think going to a mentor/advisor and being a mentor/advisor is a good idea.

Sadly a lot of charlatans have ruined the idea of business coaching so you now have someone with no qualifications that’s just a liar pretending they have a clue about business. The percentage of con artists in “business coaching” is as high as “social media gurus” that work in digital. The advice these people give is plain dangerous. Just another version of the celeb “nutritionists” that can fix autism with some grape seeds.

Getting good advice can help a hell of a lot. We take advice and pay a good price for personal trainers, we take advice from running coaches, from dieticians, counsellors, we should do the same for aspects of our business too.

I do find value with business coaches but they need to be real business coaches. I did a course at the end of 2015 and start of 2016 funded by Management Works. It was run by Actioncoach Ireland. I got training and advice from someone that was properly trained in understanding businesses and knowing what works for a business. They also had years of working with businesses so had a rich tapestry of experience in this.

Most business fundamentals will greatly help a business when done right but most businesses are too busy being businesses to reexamine the fundamentals and get them right. Coaches can quickly see how your business works and communicate simply what you need to do. These people are worth every penny.

Advice for choosing a mentor, advisor, coach

Some thoughts on choosing a mentor/advisor/coach.

  • Pick a person that will push back against you and tell you (politely or not) that your idea is crap but will go on to say how to change it to make it better. The worst person you can have is a yes person.
  • Choose someone that has experience. Ask for proof. When I see startup advisors who are only on their first company and it’s barely 18 months old giving advice to startups, I want to smother them with their branded hoody. I’m not sure someone in business less than 2 years has any qualification to give you any advice and I wonder why they have time in their new company to be able to give advice.
  • Keep the sessions short. At the end of the session, have a to-do list. In between sessions, implement the to-do list. The standard length that orgs giving per session is 3 hours but after 90 minutes both parties become mentally exhausted.
  • Implement the God damned advice. I’ve found myself giving the same advice to people at mentoring sessions over the years. Same business, new writing pad, same stuff written down and never done.
  • A mentor cannot and should not be able to answer or suggest a fix to every problem you have, and you should have loads. Pick specialists. Get mentoring for just sales, mentoring for finance.
  • Know what you want to cover. I really get annoyed when I ask someone what they are looking for advice on and they go “I dunno”. The clock is ticking, I’m being paid anyway but me being paid to figure out what you need isn’t efficient.

Why you should mentor

I guess this is advice to people that aren’t already mentoring cos the fakesters would be the first to say they’re coaches and are already offering their services. Both giving training and mentoring has made me better at my own business. In a way there is a business advantage to doing mentoring and it’s not the fairly low standard rates you get from State bodies for it. It’s this: the more businesses you encounter, the better you are at understanding business more and understanding markets more. In the Digital Strategy courses I do, we spend time on defining customers – mentoring is a live version of this with companies coming to you and telling you how they work. You ask questions to figure them out even more. I find giving training sessions has me learning new things nearly every time because those on the course ask questions I’ve not encountered before and mentoring is the same.

Will I mentor you?

No. Like I won’t meet you for a coffee to chat about your business. My chunks of time are broken into half day sessions. Less than that and it’s not worth it.

PR Tips in 2016 – Press releases, templates, samples

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

1) It’s the 231st day of the year so I’m going to share some PR tips that have worked for me. Each one in a tweet.

2) Be aware of how media works in 2016. Journalists doing more stories for less money, less thanks and being stuck at desks

3) Inbox journalism is what it is for the majority of the media these days. Press releases via email, seen in email clients

4) Journalists do not have time for you to uhm and ah on the phone or via email and fail to get to the point quickly

5) Unless you have a preexisting GOOD relationship with a journalist you are not a priority item in their 10k strong email inbox

6) So what you need is to get your press release email opened and make it easy for the journalist to copy and paste it into a draft

7) A good press release therefore has a really good subject but more importantly, has an offer of content that interests journalists

8) Money, jobs, growth, data, a viable exclusive are all good offerings

9) Subject line: You live and die by the subject line though. 9 – 14 words is optimal to get attention

10) Subject line: If it’s a pitch I start with Pitch: if an intro then Intro: and then I treat the rest like a front page headline

11) Subject line: An example: “Pitch: Irish Company TechCorp announces record growth, doubling of workforce”

12) Body: I generally start with main points of the press release in bullet points:
Workforce Doubles
Rapid Growth in 12 months

13) Body: Anchor/Establish the PR: April 12th, Irish Company TechCorp has today announced growth results and 15 new jobs

14) Body: Then go into more detail but treat every word like an exhalation of air you’ll never get back. Short valuable paragraphs

15) Body: Quotes from employees not “the company” are important. Humans need to be in each media story, it creates affinity

16) Body: e.g. ‘Speaking on the jobs TechCorp CEO Damien Mulley said “We’re delighted to expand our amazing team” ‘

17) Body: I prefer a factual paragraph, paragraph with a quote, factual paragraph, then another paragraph with a quote. YMMV etc.

18) Body: Being prideful in the quotes is good, being arrogant is not. Don’t be a tosser at least in the press release.

19) Body: Overall in the quotes and the paragraphs be succinct. I write my PR like they’re self contained articles. Tell a story

20) Footer: Include contact details, email and phone. Include other facts/data or links to data. Always make it easy for a journalist

21) Spellcheck. Then spellcheck again. You are blind to any errors in the piece now so get a third party to look at it.

22) We didn’t cover press lists yet. Do you have one? A good, clean one? Mine is great but has taken years to collate and clean.

23) news@ newsdesk@ finance@ business@ are the generics. If sending to specialists only send if correct topic.

24) Photos: While most mailboxes can take large attachments now, you may be best off linking to dropbox/web copies of photos

25) Photos: High quality, well lit photos have a much higher of getting used. Ones with fun/action especially cos most are so dull

26) Whitelist your mailshots. By that I mean don’t use your work or GMail email as the mailservers will see you mass mailing.

27) There are various services out there for sending whitelisted emails. They’re cheap but guarantee delivery. Mailchimp etc.

28) Everything.

29) Timing is. Don’t send press releases on a Friday evening, Saturday or after 4pm on weekdays really. Know sectional deadlines.

30) A great press release can still not get coverage due to all kinds of reasons, an utterly crap press release will NEVER get used

31) I think that’s it for now.