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How to use social media for your next PR campaign

Many small businesses are waking to the power social media for helping everything from lead generation and brand awareness to customer support and product research.

But did you also know that social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr can actually enhance your ability to connect with journalists and bloggers possibly interested in covering your business?

More and more media use social media to find story ideas to cover and sources for quotes to use in articles and other content they produce every day.

Finding and pitching journalists used to be the exclusive domain of PR agencies with subscriptions to pricey media lists and ‘rolodexes’ filled with best friends in the media. Nowadays, any small business armed with a good story idea and a targeted social media strategy can get the attention of just about any journalist anywhere – provided they pitch the right journalist with a timely story idea.

In order to improve your small business’ chances of getting great buzz in news outlets ranging from local newspapers to national magazines, keep some of these ideas in mind:

KISS: remember the KISS principle? When you reach out on social media, economize the use of your language as much as possible. In the case of Twitter, a popular micro-blogging platform used extensively by media professionals, you have to keep your pitch to 140 characters or fewer.

Research: use your search engine to discover what media outlets and which journalists, bloggers and producers are covering your industry and/or geographic market. If you derive 99% of our business from a 50-mile radius, then focus on media outlets in your immediate vicinity. Some journalists list their email and phone numbers but many more fly under the radar so the only way to reach out to them is through social media.

Make a list: create a hit-list of the media professionals you plan to target and note the date and social media platform used when pitching them. For example, say you email a journalist; you could follow up the email later the same day with a tweet saying you emailed a pitch about something of value and hope to hear back soon.

Protocol: journalists are very busy people and not observing some basic rules-of-the-game could land you in the doghouse. Be sure not to over pitch a reporter (more than 3-5 touches per campaign) or use what might be perceived as aggressive language. If you receive a rejection graciously then thank the journalist for his or her time. Your politeness will leave a good impression and make it easier to pitch your business in the future.

Follow-share-pitch: when attempting to win the attention of a busy journalist on social media it helps to do some stalking first. Read the posts a journalist makes, the articles he or she writes and share them liberally through your social media platforms – namely Twitter. If a journalist posts a lot on Tumblr, a microblogging platform owned by Yahoo, then following and commenting on posts is a great way to begin developing a “virtual relationship” that could make pitching him or her easier at a later time.

Facebook: before using Facebook to pitch your story idea, make sure a journalist actually has a public-facing professional account. Many TV news reporters have Facebook profiles to increase their reach and win followers. Many print and online journalists, however, tend to keep a strict separation of their personal and professional lives. You can always pitch a media outlet’s Facebook page but you may end up getting lost in the shuffle as editors and reporters typically aren’t tasked with monitoring the Facebook page.

Twitter: it bears mentioning that Twitter is the go-to social media platform for media research and outreach. Adhere to the “follow-share-pitch” guidance above and you can’t go wrong. When following journalists, don’t expect to be followed back as many have 1000s of followers just by virtue of their very public position. Use Twitter to get the initial attention of a journalist; if you get a bite, then ask if you can email more details.

Final note: using social media is a great way to augment a traditional approach to pitching a journalist, which involves email and phone calls.  Stay engaged with journalists on social media by becoming a resource to them – share different kinds of news of interest, not always your own. Over time, you will be a valued partner in their discovery and coverage of newsworthy topics, some of which could be about you!

Dave ManzerAbout Dave Manzer:  Dave Manzer founded an Austin tech startup PR firm for startups and emerging-growth businesses in 2009. Dave Manzer specializes in highly integrated PR & marketing strategies that help companies in technology, healthcare, consumer and professional services reach their goals in brand awareness and revenue growth. To contact Dave about the PR over Coffee blog, feel free to tweet him at @davemanzer or email him at dave(@)davemanzer.com.

Certificate of Liability Insurance – What is it and why do I need it?

If you own a small business, liability insurance protects you if there’s an accident or injury in your workplace or caused by one of your employees. A certificate of liability insurance (COI) also known as an ACORD certificate of liability insurance and serves as proof of your  insurance coverage.

Liability Insurance

Liability insurance also known as Commercial insurance protects you in the event you are sued for claims that come within the coverage of your liability insurance policy. There are three types of liability insurances and the type of insurance you choose depends on the details of your business.

  • General liability insurance also known as Commercial General Liability (CGL) protects your business from another person or business’s claims of bodily injury, associated medical costs and damage to property
  • Professional liability insurance, sometimes called errors and omissions insurance (E&O insurance) is coverage for another person’s claims against businesses that provide professional and personal services.
  • Business Owners Policy (BOP) is a combination of general liability and business property insurance.

What is e-insurance and how can it help with your small businessCertificate of liability insurance

A certificate of insurance is a one pager that provides policy details on your liability insurance coverage, verifying that you have the professional liability insurance, general liability insurance, or business owners policy you claim to have. The details it shares include the types and limits of coverage, the issuing insurance company, your  policy number, the named insured, and the policy’s effective dates

Why do I need a certificate of insurance?

Sometimes referred to as a certificate of liability insurance or accord certificate of liability insurance, it is often required in order to win contracts. This way, your potential client can know for sure whether you have small business liability insurance. Many companies and individuals that hire contractors need to know that they won’t be held liable for damages, injuries, or substandard work, and therefore require that you have insurance.

How is this certificate issued?

The certificate of insurance is issued along with your policy and should be one of the documents your receive when you purchase insurance for your business.

Why is my client asking to be added to my certificate of insurance?

Don’t be alarmed if the client also requests that they be added to your certificate as a certificate holder. This is a common request, and complying does not give them any legal rights under a certificate, because the certificate simply establishes that an insurance policy exists.

How quickly can I get a certificate of insurance?

If you need a certificate of insurance to fulfill a contract requirement or would just like to have a copy on file, contact your insurer. When you purchase small business insurance from Hiscox a certificate of insurance is included in the docs you receive upon purchasing your policy.

Related Reading: Why do marketing and media consultants need small business insurance

The not-so-magic bullet for SEO success

Small business owners know that getting website traffic can be a big benefit to their bottom lines.  If you operate an online-only and e-commerce business, it can mean the difference between success or failure. The key to this traffic is SEO, or search engine optimization. While this topic is complex, and mastering it often requires the resources of an SEO consultant, there are a few things any entrepreneur can do to help their website draw more relevant Internet traffic.What Small Business Owners Need to Know About SEO

  • Use Common Phrases with your keywords : The old tricks of keyword stuffing and link buying don’t work anymore. Google, and other Internet platforms, are on to the system gamers, which is a positive change that stops misleading sites from overpowering relevant ones. Small business owners should use common phrases and words associated with their keywords to be successful in SEO.  Brightedge has developed a tool that allows users to leverage Latent Semantic Index (LSI) which  provides semantically related topics associated with their keywords.

 

  • Write good content to leverage your customer network: A common phrase in the search engine optimization world is “if you write it, they (your target audience) will come”. Write blogs, articles, and service descriptions with information people can use and keep the sales pitches to an absolute minimum. Link to resources that will be helpful to the customer –preferably to sites with high authority in your industry. For example, a pet care provider can author a blog post about the dangers houseplants can pose to dogs and cats and link to a relevant page on an authoritative site. That content goes on their site and if it is good quality, it will be shared across your customer networks on LinkedIn,Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other relevant social networks. Google will recognize this as quality content, raising your website’s page rank. Even if just a handful of people see it, they are the pet care provider’s target customers and each visit has e-commerce value in addition to the SEO improvements.

 

  • Data is king: Just writing content is not enough. You should have a content strategy. SEO is most successful when people engage with your content. Monitor which articles are being shared and amplified by your customers. Track the engagement rate for each of your content pieces and determine which ones are being consumed more than others. This will allow you to refine your content strategy to better reach your target customers.

 

  • Be aware of SEO changes. Google regularly posts helpful articles on search trends and SEO best practices and there’s really no better source for search engine optimization. Some of what they share is highly technical, but what entrepreneur won’t be better off with a little more technical know-how? But Google can be very secretive about its algorithm. The Moz blog is a great resource for all the Google algorithm changes like Panda and Penguin that impact the SEO rankings.

 

There’s no quick fix or shortcut to getting Google to notice your website, and most small business owners wouldn’t be able to handle a rush of thousands of website inquiries anyway. Stay abreast of emerging Google changes, write fresh content , and spread your content across social media and your page rank will move in that right direction.

MyStartUpStory – Aaron Anderson, A2 Solar Design and Engineering

I originally trained to become a CISCO Network Administrator, but decided at the young age of 18 to pursue my original passion of becoming an Architect. After working for a year in Construction, I moved over and became an apprentice electrician in 2005. The electrical company I worked for ended up winning a bid for a commercial building project that year for a local Electrical Engineering Firm. At the end of the project, the owners of the company were so impressed by our work that they offered all of us jobs. So, by the beginning of 2006, I found myself working under a team of 10 engineers as an Electrical Technician and Draftsmen. . . just about one parallel step from architecture after just two years of in-field experience. Things were looking up.AaronAnderson

I learned a great deal from my new employer. I grew to love electrical theory and engineering concepts and I was amazed at how far I had come in so short a time… then December of 2007 hit us like an unforeseen storm. The recession meant many jobs lost, and I was laid off with about 10 others after 6 months.

In June of 2008 I found myself unemployed and depressed. I had grown accustomed to my line of work, but suddenly found myself running out of places to apply to. After about 3 months of contemplating teaching, relocating and the sort, I found something that interested me. I had always been interested in how Solar electrical projects worked, and thought to myself that renewable energy would probably be one of the few types of construction that would continue to grow in a recession. So, I picked up a newspaper, and applied for a labourer position with a  solar company in Sacramento California. I’ll never forget that interview. I showed up in a 3-piece suit and a 3 page resume. After about 5 minutes of speaking to my soon to be manager told me “Well no one who works construction shows up to a job interview in a suit, I don’t think you’ll last a week, but you can try to prove me wrong.” And prove him wrong I did.

I started officially installing solar electrical projects July 4th of that year and led 2 crews for 6 days a week installing residential a commercial projects ranging from 5kW to 20kW. It was after about year that I had my moment of inspiration; or you could call it my “Flash of Genius.” After helping my manager finalize plans for a solar panel design he couldn’t figure out, it dawned on me that I could help him be much more efficient by taking over the designing task for the projects that were being installed. I begged him for 3 months, to no avail. He liked me to be in the field. He knew he could trust me and wanted me to stay onsite and continue managing the crews.

After 3 months I told him I wanted to do more than simply install, and gave him one last chance to consider my proposal. He disappointingly told me that all engineering was going to be done by another employee in L.A. So my concept was born. I began applying at Engineering firms again. It was the beginning of 2010 when I landed a job as a Solar Designer. I again was back in the designers chair working on giant commercial projects. It was very reminiscent of my previous engineering work, only it now pertained solely to solar!

From there I was offered a job to design for a Solar Racking manufacturer where I learned a lot about UL certifications and the solar industry as a whole. From there I was offered yet another job as the lead solar designer for a nationally recognized distributor where I implemented my business model as a value added service and immediately began increasing sales and return customers.

After gaining a significant amount of experience in the industry, I officially bought the Business License in Sacramento California for “A2 Solar Design & Engineering Services” in September of 2012. The same year my first son was born.

We managed to land about 25 contractors our first year of business. We’ve seen a continually growth of 200% for each proceeding year. We managed to relocate HQ to Oahu, Hawaii this past Q4 of 2014, and continue to make a grand impact on the solar feasibility and marketing capabilities of Home Owners, Solar Contractors and Distributors.

The rest is history. We have clients around the world now, from the East Coast to the West of the USA, and now projects in South America, Europe and Africa.

5 resources for Small Business Ideas

Small business ideas are highly personal choices. So the industry you pick for launching your small business is predicated in no small part on your interests, skills, and experience. But another important consideration is growth potential. It’s important that there’s demand in the marketplace for what you’re planning to offer, otherwise life could be challenging no matter how much work you put in.

Make sure to consider the current growth of the industry, as well as its future growth potential. Here’s some advice from a few reputable small business sources:

• Inc.’s list of five of the fastest growing small business sectors to invest in is a solid metric to consider, as they wouldn’t recommend investment in a stagnant of dying industry. It’s no surprise that four of the five are service businesses, as these are typically easier for one entrepreneur or a small group to start. Tops picks include accounting businesses and consulting. Consulting is a broad term that can be relevant in almost every field – meaning whatever your expertise is, it’s probably valuable to others.

The Fiscal Times has five picks of fast-growing industries for small business, with choices based on financial information firm Sageworks’ analysis of the recent financial statements of U.S. private companies. Like the Inc. piece above, they include accounting and consulting, along with architectural services, computer services, and employment firms. Many of the “big guys” in these industries started out as one-person, home-based shops!

• Another Inc. piece focuses on industries that have a lot of promise for new entrants. Picks include food e-commerce, gamification, legal marijuana, and yoga instructors. Some of these choices are clearly for the more adventurous, but all have a lot of opportunity for long-term growth.

QuickBooks has eight recommendations too, and with their access to client books it’s fair to say their intelligence is accurate. With picks ranging from home health care to child day care and data recovery to translation, it’s clear that opportunities abound in a wide range of fields.

• Hiscox’s six useful tips for starting a small business that can help, as well as small business insurance options to fit every need.

If you’re already established in your small business we’d love to hear your advice for would-be entrepreneurs in the comments.

Going from small to big: Is your small business ready to grow?

For many entrepreneurs, growing their small business is a goal. For others, keeping their business small, and their schedule flexible, is preferable. Every business owner has to come to the decision to grow on their own terms and in their own timeframe, and keeping your small business small is absolutely fine if that’s what’s best for you.6 things you should know before starting your small business

So how do you know if your entrepreneurial venture is growth-ready? The good news is, it’s always ready! Growth is normally a slow, continuous process that happens organically. Every day that you’re running your business it’s evolving and changing to meet your needs and your customers’ needs. And when you’re good at what you do clients tell others, enlarging your clientele and increasing sales based on the hard work you’ve already put in.

Framework for Growth: Sometimes you may feel pressure and stress along with that growth. Maybe you just can’t keep up with demand, or there aren’t enough hours in the day to get done the things that are vital to fulfilling orders, providing service and managing business operations. If this is the case, you need to set a framework for intentional and structured growth to reach your goals.

Cost of Upgrading: Growth will likely include hiring help to free up your bandwidth as an owner  and potentially moving to a larger space. Figure out what these upgrades will cost, and create a sales plan that can meet these projections. This will help you figure out how much  growth you can take one, and how fast you can do it.

Pace yourself:  It’s important that you don’t try to grow your business too fast, which almost guarantees failure. Growing too fast  has the potential to leave orders unfulfilled, clients unhappy, and cash flowing in a negative direction. Know what your growth goals are  – whether that’s opening a second location or selling to a national chain – and you can easily track your progress and keep your actions grounded in an achievable goal.

Protect yourself: And make sure your business is protected with the licensing, small business liability insurance and workers compensation coverage that  you need to protect yourself and your business.

3 ways to combat the winter blues in your business

Whether you call them the winter blues, cold weather blahs, or winter doldrums, the shorter days and colder temperatures of winter are likely having a negative effect on your mood and productivity – and that can impact your business. But you don’t have to patiently suffer until the flowers bloom again this Spring. Here are three ideas to help you combat the negative effects of winter.

Make sure you properly insure your health and fitness business in 2014

Have a company morale-building excursion

Five days a week of fluorescent lighting and stale air can really take a toll on moods and attitudes. Bust out of the rut with an afternoon off every other week, for you or your staff. You can use the time to decompress and pursue one of your hobbies, or even plan a company morale-building excursion like hiking or bowling.

Use light to increase productivity

If your office or store has windows, make sure the blinds and curtains are open so as much natural light as possible gets in. Natural light, as well as light therapy lamps, are proven to help people feel better and drive productivity during the winter.

Start a new project

Now is a great time to launch a new small business idea that you can get excited about and staff can rally around. It can be a drive to land that dream client, a customer pow-wow to help pick out new products, or starting a fundraiser for a non-profit. Whatever you choose, it will be something new and interesting to focus on – a sure-fire way to put those blahs in the backseat.

What techniques do you use to combat winter blues? Did you try one of our suggestions? Leave your ideas and feedback in the comments – we’d love to hear from you!

Top Small Business Webinars To Attend in The New Year

Online webinars are great small business resources to increase your knowledge about topics related to your industry and running a small business. Supplementing your knowledge of the general consumer landscape can help you identify potential opportunities for growth.

Register for one of the upcoming webinars below and solidify techniques to grow your small business in the New Year.

Tuesday, January 6th

How to Grow Your Business in 2015

  • Organize your business plan to make sure that it’s in line with your vision for your company, and adjust your business plan to meet your business goals in 2015.

Tuesday, January 13th

Email Your Way to More Customers

  • Learn how to effectively incorporate email marketing into your business marketing efforts, and measure the impact and success of your campaigns.

Tailor Your Disaster Recovery Strategy for Complete Business/IT Alignment

  • This webinar will teach you about aligning your IT management services with your business needs to make sure that your business is covered based on the criticality of technology needs.

Thursday, January 15th

The Media Industry Technology Trends, Challenges and Insights 2015

  • Learn about how consumers are using technology to influence their purchase decisions, and better inform your small business decisions regarding technology usage.

Wednesday, January 21st

Securing Your Site, Server & Data – The value of Always On SSL

  • This webinar focuses on the importance of using SSL for your small business website, and how it promotes consumer trust and a good user experience.

Tell us! Are you considering registering for one of these business webinars? What are some small business resources that you use to help plan your new year?

“Spotting” your personal training business with small business insurance

Personal trainers are always spotting others. As a personal trainer with your own small business, your goal is to help clients meet their fitness goals through customized exercise routines. A big part of those routines is protection – keeping clients as safe from injury as possible with built-in breaks, staggered amounts of exertion, and direction on when they need a spotter.Personal Trainers: Don’t Let Gym Injuries Hurt Your Business

But what about your personal training business? Are you keeping it as safe as possible with personal trainer insurance? Liability insurance for personal trainers is like spotting for your business – there to step in right when you need it and prevent major catastrophe.

Small business insurance serves as the spotter to your fitness business with the two separate coverages of professional liability insurance and general liability coverage. Together, these insurances protect your business from most potential threats. Here’s how.

Professional liability

Professional liability insurance, also known as Errors and Omissions insurance (E&O insurance),  applies to 1) mistakes you make yourself, or 2)mistakes you may be accused of making. For example, if a client follows your prescribed workout routine and becomes injured in the process, he or she may sue you for damages, income lost due missing work, or pain and suffering. But with a professional liability (PL) policy in place, you’re protected. PL coverage protects your business if you are sued for negligently performing your services, even if you haven’t made a mistake. It’s a must for businesses that provide a service or give advice to clients – which personal trainer do all the time.

General liability

General liability insurance, also known as commercial liability,  protects your business from third party claims for bodily injury, associated medical costs, and damage to someone else’s property. And it covers the medical costs and legal fees resulting from these incidents, “spotting” your business from having these expenses.

For example, a client may trip over someone’s gym bag or a mislaid towel, falling and injuring herself. If she blames you for not keeping the area clear she may sue, and your personal training business might have to pay damages. A general liability policy lets you rely on your insurer to handle legal communications and pay any claims for bodily injury and related medical costs.

Just like spotting clients protects them from injury, professional liability insurance and general liability coverage protect your personal training business from legal injury. Contact us today for a free review of your current coverage or to start a quote.

Don’t Get Snowed Over: Why Snow Removal Professionals Need General Liability Insurance

The winter months are when snow removal professionals can build up their bank in the cold months helping  businesses and home owners keep their properties clear and accessible. The risks associated with this kind of work are both obvious and hidden. Sure, you’re aware of the risks of injury that comes with trudging through waist-deep snow and climbing up ladders, and you know that the heavy machinery you use to clear out snow that at clients’ properties could break down and need repair.

But you may not be as aware of the liability insurance you need to protect your business. General liability insurance, also know as commercial liability coverage, protects your business from third party claims for bodily injury, associated medical costs, and damage to someone else’s property, picking up potential expenses that your small business may not be able to pay out of pocket.

What are some specific examples of how a snow removal business could benefit from general liability insurance?

  • Bodily Injury:A business hires you to clear their large parking lot every day that it snows two inches or more. One of their employees trips over one of your shovels and badly sprains their ankle, leaving you legally liable for the cost of treating the injury.
  • Property damage:While on site at a private home owner client’s residence one of your employees accidentally  throws a shovelful of snow towards an exterior window  of the house, breaking the window and causes a mess inside.  Your GL policy covers the subsequent claim, up to your limits of liability.

As you can see, snow removal professionals need general liability protection in the event an event like those above happens. Don’t take the chance; get a fast, free quote for  general liability coverage tailored to your business.

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