Small Business Week 2018 in Springfield keeps us on our toes

Small Business Week 2018 in Springfield keeps us on our toes

It’s National Small Business Week and, like most small business owners around the world, no two days are the same. 

So when we got a call from the Governor’s office on Tuesday at midday to ask if we could help pull together a visit to Sangamon Reclaimed – and a roundtable with other small businesses in Springfield, Illinois, for #SmallBusinessWeek at 11am the next day - we jumped into action.

It was a rather whirlwind 24 hours, but a lot of fun. It was a great opportunity too, for Brian Frieze, Sangamon Reclaimed founder and owner, and his team, and other small local businesses such as Serious Lip Balm, Sensible Innovations, and Free Press Coffee to talk about the subject of small businesses - and their importance to the economy – and to gain exposure through local media. This was such a great public relations opportunity for our client and - as expected - everyone also shared out the occasion on social media.  

Here are some of our favorite photos from the day. You can see more on our Facebook page or Instagram.

Engagement on Facebook is up

Engagement on Facebook is up

The beginning of 2018 brought with it major changes for social media managers, especially for those using Facebook. But the platform’s decision to favor content that’s shared, or engaged with, wasn’t a bad one.

Of the Facebook pages that we manage we’ve seen a decrease in organic reach, that’s for sure. But engagement is up. That’s right, from our experience, more and more followers are engaging with posts; reacting, commenting, and sharing the content on business pages. Changes to Facebook’s algorithm means loyal followers, those that have engaged with your business page previously - what some call ‘superfans’ – are seeing the posts in their feeds. And because these are your loyal fans they are taking the time to interact with the posts and page.

In turn, we need to reward these loyal fans with great content. The more engaging the post the faster it will be gain a reaction, share, or comment, which in turn improves organic reach. And, the posts that reach the greatest number of non-fans are those which receive the most engagement from existing fans.

So much of it is about timing. Yes, you may find that your post reaches the greatest number of people at 7, 8, or 9pm but (and this is a huge but) that post may have been circulating people’s feeds for hours and its reach may go even further if there’s been an opportunity for your fans (and non-fans) to engage prior. Just give it a try.

It’s rare that we post text only, so when I say images remain popular I actually don’t have much to compare this by other than knowing, as a former news editor, pictures paint a thousand words and I’ll almost always choose cute babies or puppies for the front cover.

The posts that do the best are the ones that appear spontaneously, or at least in the eyes of our fans. So, if we take the Local First Springfield Facebook page for example, the posts that gained the most engagement over the past month were our visit to see members exhibiting at the Illinois Products Expo, the day after the opening of Free Press Coffee on MacArthur and the Saturday morning we dropped into Custom Cup Coffee and Three Twigs Bakery. What’s also important to note is the pages that we tagged in these posts have a decent following – and most importantly – a loyal fan base AKA superfans, or what I call brand ambassadors. And, what’s even more obvious, is that you can’t fool fans. They know when you’re sharing ‘real time’ content. And that’s key. So, what’s the answer to increasing engagement (and reach)?

  • Post about your tribe, whether that be your members, clients, customers, staff, donors, or volunteers.
  • Post photos taken in situ; they don’t need to be perfect.
  • Share photos of people, places, and pets (but please don’t fill my newsfeed with photos of random dogs standing on their head - it needs to be relevant).
  • Tag, tag, tag those you want to interact with, those that you’re confident will interact with you, and those who also have great engagement.
  • Be timely, don’t get caught up in needing to post at 8pm because that’s when the greatest number of your fans is likely to see your post. You want non-fans to see your post too … post when it’s time appropriate and allow your posts to gain momentum.
  • Sharing others’ content may not gain you much in the way or reach or engagement, but, it will develop a potentially mutually beneficial relationship and … you may even gain some of that page’s fans.

Remember you’re in it for the long run and you have to be able to adapt, quickly, to changes in Facebook’s algorithm. But until the next change, this is what we’re (mostly) sticking to.

 

 

Local First Springfield & Innovate Springfield collaborate on training for businesses

Local First Springfield & Innovate Springfield collaborate on training for businesses

So many of our clients ask ‘what can I do to grow my business?’ We often tell them to get involved with the community and to collaborate with other businesses. There are lots of examples of organizations collaborating successfully. Only the other day I attended the first Mindful Mornings in Springfield at Engrained Brewery & Restaurant, where the room was packed with people that want to do good – and – collaborate in order to achieve this.

Local First Springfield is an organization we as a business are involved in – and so too are many of our clients because they, like us, see the benefit in supporting other like-minded, local, small and large companies and organizations that want to see our city and surrounding area prosper. We love Springfield and we want it to be the best city to live in – for all.

Our friend and master collaborator, Katie Davison, of Innovate Springfield, is leading the next Local First training session on Thursday (March 8 – funnily enough that’s International Women’s Day – go ladies!) on business collaboration: Fostering a Business Ecosystem. During the 90-minute class, Katie will explain the benefits and importance of business collaboration, as evidenced by Springfield’s growing business ecosystem. Basically, a business ecosystem is the interconnected web of business owners, innovators, and entrepreneurs that create relationships with one another to not only make their own businesses more successful but also recognize opportunities for all involved. In order to demonstrate the power of business collaboration, Katie will describe some of the great examples happening in our community right now.

There are two sessions, one at 9am (not too early and perfect timing for a mug of Custom Cup Coffee) and the other at 3.30pm (for those of us that prefer an afternoon class). This is not only an opportunity to learn to work together but to meet fellow business owners and entrepreneurs. The class, open to Local First Springfield members and nonmembers, is just $30.

This is the second class in a yearlong series organized by Local First Springfield, which is being led by a different member each month.

You can register for the class here.

 

Facebook & Instagram training

Facebook & Instagram training

We are teaming up with Local First Springfield to offer members and non-members a 90-minute class that takes participants behind the scenes of Facebook and Instagram business pages.

Social media needs to play a major part in your marketing strategy in 2018.

For just $30 (with $5 going to the non-profit Compass for Kids) we will provide a live demonstration on Facebook and Instagram focusing on:

·      Page content

·      Generating engaging posts

·      Boosting

·      Ads

Two sessions are being offered, Thursday, February 1st from 7.30am and Friday, February 2 from 3.30pm at Gem PR & Media 2121 W. White Oaks Dr, Springfield, 62711. Spaces are limited to 18 per session. 

Book your place by emailing Bill McMahon at info@localfirstspringfield.com by January 19th. 

Owned, bought, and earned media

Owned, bought, and earned media

It’s been a while since I’ve had an opportunity to write a blog. Tomorrow I will present to my peers and as I was writing the presentation on owned, bought, and earned media I thought I’d share my thoughts with you also.

In writing outreach strategies for clients, which align with their business goals, I always take into consideration owned, bought, and earned media.

Owned media is anything you own that can be leveraged for marketing purposes; apparel, office supplies, your website, social media, etc.

Website: maximize its potential; add a blog or news feed, update images, post client/customer testimonials, link to your social media profiles, backlink

Social media; post engaging, informative and timely content; images, videos, industry related information, ask questions, post surveys, piggyback on trends and topics, share content from other business pages etc.

Bought media is anything you buy; advertising in magazines, online, social media, TV, radio, billboards etc. It’s really a case of working out which of the above will bring you the greatest return on your investment. We are seeing more and more people investing in social media advertising/Facebook boosting and videos – as well as Google ad words – the most important benefit to remember about online advertising, is that it’s measurable.

Earned media

Essentially – Public Relations – the core of what Gem PR & Media does for clients on a daily basis.

Speaking opportunities: there are a wide variety of speaking opportunities in central Illinois and beyond. 

Articles, profiles, and interviews on TV, radio, in print and online. This is a great opportunity to spread the word about your business and/or services.

Awards; enter awards and nominate clients, colleagues, and partners/third party providers – not just to show that you care, but to spread the word about your organization, its people and those that it interacts with.

CSR – corporate social responsibility; this is a huge part of what we do as a business and encourage other businesses to do so also. Giving back to the community in which your business operates, and you live in, is a major plus here.

In addition to being a nice person, you’re also elevating your brand.

If you choose to dedicate time and resources to a cause make sure it is either one you are extremely passionate about and/or aligns with your business goals. 

Make sure you have the time to commit – don’t half-ass it – that’s bad for your reputation.

Use your existing skills – if you’re an accountant – offer to do the bookkeeping, if you’re a lawyer offer to be legal counsel etc.

One of the most important things to remember about public relations/earned media is longevity – this is something often forgotten … when you have an article published online, or you make a presentation/speech and someone shares a photo of you and tags your business on Facebook, or you volunteer for an organization, secure a spot on the news, and a link to the interview is shared on the website and social media platforms - the message is repeated, the exposure is wide reaching and you are now established as a go-to source – you/your business/services/products and expertise are available for anyone that is interested days, months, even years after you’ve ‘paid’ for that PR. 

So think about the ways in which you can best leverage your owned, bought, and earned media - and remember the investment is well worth it in the short - and long-term. 

Local First Springfield Illinois

Local First Springfield Illinois

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The 12 Days of Local campaign launches on Friday, November 24. Each day we will feature several businesses and or organizations, which are members of the non-profit Local First. Each day has also been sponsored by a member business, which means Local First has been able to raise funds to further support its members in 2018. The 50 or so participating members have sent us copy, which I’ve had a lot of fun reading and editing, from Pease’s at Bunn Gourmet and Engrained Brewery and Restaurant to District 23 and Arlington’s. Kate Spencer of Kate Spencer Photography kindly donated her skills and has spent the past couple of days visiting 12 participating businesses by taking fantastic photos.

We’re proud to provide our services to Local First in kind, to support our community, and most importantly to remind people in Springfield to buy local, shop local and embrace this fantastic city that has so much to offer.

How to improve your SEO

How to improve your SEO

Whether you’re writing a blog, a Facebook post, or article how you write and what you include will make all the difference when it comes to online traffic.

First of all, make sure you include keywords. I’d recommend at least three. Think about the words your target audience will use to search for you on Google.

Be clever when it comes to your headline. Again, use words that will be plugged into the search engine.  

Don’t ramble. Get straight to the point.

Avoid redundant words and repetition. Keep it short. I always try to keep my blogs to around 200 words, my articles to between 300 and 450 words for Eighteen21, and my Facebook posts to one sentence (two max).

Include links to other pages, articles, and social media platforms. Backlinking helps increase your SEO.

Include a call to action; at the very least remind people where they can find out more or who to contact.

So, with the above in mind, if you’re looking for great content creation, by a professional, with more than a 15 years’ experience in the media industry, call 217-210-1589 and speak to me, Gemma, about how Gem PR & Media can help get you and your business noticed online!  

Networking tips: gaining referrals

Networking tips: gaining referrals

Networking provides a great opportunity to meet new people, take a break from your screen, and develop your business. Sometimes though it feels like there’s no, or very little, return on investment and referrals or leads don’t come to fruition.

Here are a few tips for making the most out of networking and gaining those referrals. 

1.    Invite clients to attend networking events with you; they will talk about you and the good work you do. 

2.    Step out of your comfort zone. Walking up, and introducing yourself, to a complete stranger can be daunting, but your time spent with a new contact will be valuable. 

3.    When meeting new contacts talk about other networking groups that you’re involved with and/or organizations you volunteer for. Invite them to attend with you to develop your relationship further. 

4.    Follow up. Always follow up with a new contact. Invite them to your office. Brag about the great coffee … and cookies. New contacts and clients always love visiting GPR&M HQ because it’s such a relaxed and inviting atmosphere – and Chris has the beer fridge well stocked! 

5.    Are there other groups within your existing network that you could attend? For example, we are members of the Springfield Insiders BNI chapter, which meets every Wednesday morning at 2931 Montvale, but there are an additional three chapters in the area, which I have also made the effort to attend over the past month or so.

6.    Actually, work at giving referrals. Take five minutes every day to think about the conversations you’ve had and the people you’ve met, what they are up to and services they might need. Make a list of possible leads. Reach out to contacts, clients, friends and family and ask if they’d like you to make an introduction to an expert in your network. 

7.    Next time you say to someone ‘we really must do lunch or grab a coffee sometime,’ follow up and arrange a date, time and place. I’ve made the effort to spend at least one-to-two hours each week with someone I’m on a committee or board with, know from a networking group, or have been meaning to catch up with - it’s been a lot of fun. 

8.    Finally, if you want to network with certain people and develop a better understanding of their businesses or roles, nurture your relationship and support one another, there’s nothing stopping you from setting up your own group - even if you meet once a month over a glass of wine. 

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Illinois Labor Day Ducky Derby goes swimmingly

Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Illinois Labor Day Ducky Derby goes swimmingly

At Gem PR & Media we’re always keen to give back.

We are proud to be involved in a number of non-profit organizations in Springfield, Illinois. As well as developing communication strategies for charities, providing sponsorships, and coverage through our free online lifestyle magazine, Eighteen21, we sit on boards and volunteer at fundraisers in the city. This week is a particularly busy one for the team with Monday's Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Illinois inaugural Labor Day Ducky Derby fundraiser at Knights Action Park, Thursday's 6th annual Illinois Women in Leadership Women’s Symposium, and the inaugural Junk In Your Trunk For A Cause fundraiser for Compass for Kids, which takes place on Saturday, September 9 at Marine Bank on Robbins Road from 8am to 1pm.

If you're organizing a fundraiser or need support, getting the word out about your cause, get in touch with us by emailing hello@gemprmedia.com.

Here are a few photos from yesterday's Labor Day Ducky Derby!

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The importance of networking

The importance of networking

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A few months ago I wrote a blog about networking groups and provided ideas for bringing the energy back. In the past nine months, life has been pretty hectic with the arrival of our daughter (and the real CEO of Gem PR & Media) Olivia. This has meant that at times we have had to miss out on networking opportunities as, although Gem PR & Media is a priority, family comes first. I know many of you will agree. 

Networking is extremely important when you’re developing a client base from scratch. Even several years after launching your new venture, you need to get out there and meet business owners and entrepreneurs. Through networking, you have the opportunity to spread your message, tell people about what you do, how and why, and build relationships and contacts. So, last week I decided to make an effort to attend, in a single day (not an unusual activity pre-Miss Olivia), our Central Illinois Networking Group meeting, a Springfield BNI chapter, and the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce after hours event. 

I’ve always loved networking. After years of acting classes from an early age, I don’t generally fear walking into a room of people I don’t know. But, it’s been a while since I did that. So, I put on my lippy and heels and headed on up to the 14th floor of the Crowne Plaza. 

I was one of the first there. I walked on over to the viewing area where a few people had gathered to observe Springfield from a height and struck up a conversation with a young girl from AT&T. In her early 20s, I was reminded of my early networking years – being the newbie in the room (or on the rooftop) and how just one person that came across to say ‘hello’ helped my confidence. We chatted for a while until a connection I had met at the lunchtime meeting came across to say ‘hi’ and joined us in conversation. This gave me the opportunity to further develop the professional relationship I had begun to nurture earlier that day. Adding another person to your conversation also helps it progress and change direction, which is helpful if you’re struggling for topics, after the initial introduction.
I think the biggest takeaway from networking all these years is to make sure you don’t just talk about yourself, but listen to and engage with the person you are meeting. 

I stayed at the after-hours event for a while, handed out a few business cards, and then left feeling pretty satisfied. The heels came off and flip-flops went on as soon as I got in the car of course. 
The following morning I took out the collection of business cards I’d gathered and began writing follow-up emails – thanking the BNI chapter for having me, reminding them about Eighteen21.com and Junk In Your Trunk For A Cause, and mentioning I’d hope to see them again soon. Another thing I came to realize while developing our business is the importance of follow-up. Never forget to follow-up with a new connection. I admire those who do it over the phone. I usually send an email. 

Now, I didn’t do this – although I thought about and wish I had, why not take a selfie with your new connections too. Post on your social media business profiles and tag your new ‘friends’ in. This will also encourage them to like and engage with your online platforms. But don’t worry if you forget, you’ll do it next time. 

It’s never too late to network – or get back to it. If you’ve lost the enthusiasm, or haven’t simply had the time to do so, throw yourself in when you get your next chance. It’s a bit like riding a bike – once you get back on you’ll remember how. If time is an issue I recommend picking one day out of the week and devoting that day to networking. It’s hard to concentrate when you get back to the office because often you need to follow-up on the emails, calls etc. that you’ve missed. So know that it’s ok because tomorrow you’ll get time at your desk. Make those networking moments count. Don’t forget to take business cards, always follow-up, and get the next event in your calendar. 

Content marketing

Content marketing

 www.eighteen21.com 

www.eighteen21.com 

Are you doing a good job at content marketing?

Essentially, content marketing is creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content, strategically, to attract and engage with a defined audience – and ultimately, result in a profit. 

Content marketing is part of all forms of marketing and includes social media, SEO, PR, inbound marketing, and strategy. Strategy is at the heart of everything we do at Gem PR & Media. It’s the strategy that allows us to meet our goals (and our clients’ goals) – or objectives. SEO, social media, and inbound marketing (which I’ll go into more detail about at another time) all go hand-in-hand. And PR, well, that’s at the core of everything we do. 

Business owners, PR and marketing professionals, and those tasked with maintaining an organization’s website or social media platforms often tell me they struggle with content. They get stuck with what to post, how often, and when. It’s not hard to create content, but you need to know how, and where, to find it. However, it does take time and that’s something many of our clients don’t have. That’s also one of the main reasons we created Eighteen21.com, a year ago on September 1st in fact, to provide businesses with a source of content for an extremely reasonable price. Our advertorial features cost just $125 (and that includes a boosting fee for Facebook). We offer a profile piece, ‘My not so 9 to 5’, for $99. Our articles reach thousands of people – and because we don’t publish editions – this isn’t a monthly magazine as the content is loaded almost daily – they are accessible online for as long as Eighteen21.com is in existence. 

So, as I said earlier, what we do is content. We create it. But essentially we’re marketing that content to your audience so that you can provide services and products – and remain profitable.  

Improvements to LinkedIn

Improvements to LinkedIn

My user experience, when it comes to LinkedIn, has improved in recent years. Over time I built up a hefty network, being a journalist and working in public relations you tend to make a lot of connections, but I never really took it too seriously until a few years ago. Now, as the platform continues to improve its features, I find myself spending more-and-more time engaging with my connections and adding relevant content, all in an effort draw my audience back to gemprmedia.com and eighteen21.com. That’s not to say I couldn’t improve my interaction because, in the ideal world, I would.


In the meantime, LinkedIn has added new features that are definitely worth mentioning. You now have the ability to select multiple images in a single post on LinkedIn. Upload is currently available on IOS and the platform is currently working on making the feature accessible on Android and desktop too. Simply select the images, create the post, and share in your feed. A nifty feature for those of us that have trouble choosing just one image or want to share presentations in their entirety. 


The next feature isn’t widely available yet, my guess is the platform is testing out the kinks before it’s rolled out to all users, but an addition I’m excited about no less. You’ll soon be able to record and post videos directly from the LinkedIn app, making sharing content on the go so much easier. Say you’re on a job, at a conference, networking event, or just see something you really want to share – now you can do so, via video, on the go. Remember though people, keep it short and to the point.


Here’s one I really like, you can now share your posts, videos, and articles, with those who are not logged onto LinkedIn (or aren’t members yet), on other social media platforms. As a social media manager, and someone who is constantly searching for content to share, this is an invaluable feature. Thanks LinkedIn. 


If you’re brave enough to ask for feedback on an article that you’re about to publish you can now share it with your connections. However, it’s worth noting (and perhaps reassuring), that your drafts are only visible to those that have access to the direct links that you create. 
Finally, a welcomed feature for many, you can now manage the comments on your posts and articles; providing you the opportunity to enable or disable comments. From those of us working in crisis comms, you can hear a sigh of relief. 


So, there you have it. LinkedIn is making changes to provide a more professional environment, a more interactive platform, and giving members with the opportunity to share content on other platforms – with non-members. All good stuff in my book. 

 

In-house training

In-house training

As the success of our PR & Media Toolkit classes continues to grow we have decided to expand our services by offering in-house training to companies, and their staff, that want to brush up on their social media skills, improve their writing techniques, and seek out more rewarding sponsorship deals.

 
We are working with small, medium, and large businesses to develop classes for their PR, marketing, communications and admin staff. We are also working with a number of nonprofits that have limited funds and want to maximize opportunities to communicate their message to the public and fundraise.
 
The classes being offered in-house are based on the PR & Media Tool Kit series currently being taught on Tuesday evenings at Gem PR & Media HQ. However, changes are made for each business or nonprofit to meet their needs and interests.
 
We believe strongly that equipped with the latest information, the most up-to-date tools, and a different perspective on social media, writing for promotion, sponsorship and creating PR plans, you and your teams, businesses, or nonprofits will work more efficiently, be able to measure the success of your campaigns, and meet your goals. 

If you would like more information please email Gemma@GemPRMedia.com 

Practicing what we preach – Junk In Your Trunk For A Cause in Springfield

Practicing what we preach – Junk In Your Trunk For A Cause in Springfield

I talk regularly about the need for businesses, as well as individuals, to give back to the community. Often, my advice is to piggyback on an established event, which you can also ‘make your own.’ But sometimes it’s worth taking the leap and creating something out of the ordinary in the hope that it will raise funds for a cause you are passionate about, align with your values, and attract a healthy crowd.

 
 

 Not long ago, my friend, Cheri Plummer and I were talking about ways in which we could raise money for causes we believe in and have fun at the same time. We came up with the idea of organizing a Junk In Your Trunk event on Saturday, September 9th between 8am and 1pm where vendors are invited to sell their wares, with a focus on garage sale items, from their trunks. We approached Marine Bank 3120 Robbins Road and asked if we could use the parking lot– and they kindly said yes. We already knew we wanted to raise money (and awareness) for Compass for Kids, and so Junk In Your Trunk For A Cause was born.

Of course, once we’d planned the details, I got to creating a Facebook page, we’re working on a press release, Cheri will be posting onto all of the ‘for sale’ Facebook pages and we’re asking our nearest and dearest to help spread the word.

Compass for Kids, previously a program that existed at the Family Service Center launched as an independent non-profit last year. It is responsible for three major programs, which support at-risk children and families in Springfield School District 186. These include an after-school program with snacks, an evidence-based social-emotional curriculum lesson, academic time, life skills classes, and a healthy family-style dinner. Second, Camp Compass, a free summer program designed to improve reading and math skills and prevent learning loss over the summer months. And last, the backpack feeding program, a partnership between Compass, HSHS St. John's Hospital, and the Central Illinois Foodbank, which sends two breakfasts, two lunches, two snacks, and two dinners home with the children for the weekend.

Having been raised on a considerably affluent island in the British Channel, I feel it is my responsibility to give back, I know it is our duty as a business to support the efforts of others, and most of all I want to create a better place to live for our children. At Gem PR & Media we are constantly working towards projects that give back whether that’s through articles in Eighteen21.com, monetary contributions, or the time we give by sitting on boards, committees, and getting stuck in.

If you are interested in booking a spot at the inaugural Junk In Your Trunk For A Cause event here are the details: Parking lot spaces are available for people to bring their 'garage sale items'* to be sold out of their trunk. Each space is priced at $15 and spaces are limited to 30 sellers. Those who wish to reserve a space should send their check to Cheri Plummer at Lee O'Keefe Insurance Agency, Inc., 2501 Chatham Rd Ste. 100, Springfield IL 62704 by August 25th (please make the check out to Compass for Kids). Sellers are invited to set up from 7am and the car lot must be cleared by 2pm. Entry to the fundraiser will cost $3 per person (Kids 12 and under are free) or the donation of two non-perishable food items for the Compass for Kids food program.  

For more information visit Facebook.com/JunkInYourTrunkForACause or email Gemma Long at Gemma@GemPRMedia.com or Cheri Powers Plummer at CPlummer@LeeOKeefe.com. 

*Only items permitted by law can be sold. No guns, car seats, or baby cribs etc.

 

The bigger picture

The bigger picture

I‘ve been thinking a lot recently about how we can add value to our clients. And I’ve come to the conclusion that the bigger picture means including the little things. As well as doing a good job it’s important to remain connected with clients. One way to do this is to stay abreast of issues or trends in their industry. This takes time of course, but it can be as simple as setting up Google alerts and subscribing to industry websites. If we do not manage a client’s social media we always like, follow, and engage with their platforms so that we remain up to date with their daily activity.

 
I’m also a great believer in bringing different clients together to create meaningful professional relationships. If I see an opportunity to introduce one client to another I will make the effort to do so. My clients know this too – and appreciate it.

We are often asked by clients if we are interested in writing an article for Eighteen21.com about an organization they are involved with, such as a nonprofit or association. It may even be that they have a client that has a story or is involved in a nonprofit that would appreciate the coverage, exposure, and opportunity to share content on their social media platforms – and website. 

I recently also launched a PR & Media Tool Kit and am offering discounts to organizations we are involved with, such as Illinois Women in Leadership, Business Networking International, and Central Illinois Networking Group – as well as nonprofits. May of our clients are members of or involved in such organizations – therefore they enjoy the discount.

If we are not managing a client’s social media platforms, but we are in fact creating content for them through Eighteen21.com, and we believe we can add value by providing training on the platforms, we will do so free of charge. It’s important for our clients that they gain value from any work we do. If we are creating content we want them to be able to social it out, provide links to our site from their website, and help improve their SEO or Google rankings. Taking time to support their other PR and marketing activities is a solid investment for them and us. 

At the end of the day, we want our clients to be successful because as their businesses grow so will ours. 

PR & Media Toolkit

PR & Media Toolkit

So often we are approached by small to medium business owners that have a Facebook business page, Linkedin account, or Instagram but simply do not have the time or resources to manage these platforms effectively. They know that they need to better communicate with their audience, update their website more regularly, and get more from sponsorship activities but don’t have the tools at hand to do so.

 
Well, we have created a four-part toolkit with classes on social media, events, sponsorship and crowdfunding, creating a PR and media plan, and writing to promote for any business owners, or those responsible for marketing their organization, that feel they need help getting their message out to the right audience in order to help it grow, recruit, or fundraise.


Our plan is to hold 90-minute classes on Tuesday evenings (cookies and coffee included) at Gem PR & Media, either immediately after work or a little later. Each class is $50 or $175 for all four. There are 12 spaces. We are looking to kick this off on July 11 but will delay until the end of the month/beginning of August if those interested need to organize their calendars. If you have any questions or would like further information please email team@gemprmedia.com

 

It’s not about us, it’s about you

It’s not about us, it’s about you

In August 2015 I wrote the blog ‘A day in the life of Gem PR & Media.’ It was a take on a feature that I’ve produced (in one shape or another) for a number of magazines around the globe. We currently run a similar piece in Eighteen21.com called ‘My not so 9 to 5,’ which chronicles the day for those living in and around Springfield. It’s a great way to gain insight into someone’s business, organization, or life.

This week I thought about revisiting the idea of a ‘not so 9 to 5 at Gem PR & Media,’ but then I got to thinking – it’s not about us it’s about you. What I really should be talking about is our clients and what their days are like working with us because that’s what matters.

A lot of the time our clients will apologize for their delay in getting back to us about a blog we drafted, the month’s social media posts we’ve scheduled, or a meeting date and time. The reason is they are busy. Well, that’s exactly what we want to hear. We are glad that our clients are too busy to get back to us right away. When I get a text message that reads ‘my phone has been ringing non-stop,’ that makes my day. It means that we’re doing something right. 

Most recently we’ve been working with the team at SPFLD Emojis, which released about a week-and-a-half ago. The media reception has been fantastic. We issued a press release on June 1 and since then SPFLD Emojis has appeared on multiple platforms from TV to radio and print to online, of course. I’ve always said that if you’ve got a great story the media will want to tell it – and that’s the case with SPFLD Emojis. 

Something else that we feel strongly about is including clients in the opportunities that we ourselves pursue. Last week we attended the Women Empowerment networking event at Erin’s Pavilion, organized by our client Deb Sarsany and her team at The Real Estate Group (another of our clients). We wanted to show some of the work we do and what better way to do that than have clients attend with us? Brittany Wallin of SPFLD Emojis and Crystal Apostol of Apostol Heirloom Portraitist joined the Gem PR & Media/Eighteen21.com table, mingled with guests, and developed new relationships. We also had marketing materials from Sensible Innovations, AlignLife of Springfield, which has its annual 5K in Washington Park in September, and copies of the 2017/18 Springfield Visitors Guide, which we researched and wrote last summer. We also gave away four tickets to a 2017/18 Springfield Jr. Blues games, kindly provided by the team, another client of ours – and because we are located across the road from the fabulous Pease’s at Bunn Gourmet, we had a selection of their delicious mini desserts for guests to our table. 

These are just a few examples, but I think it’s important to demonstrate just how much we appreciate our clients, how we continue to look for new opportunities so that they are able to grow their businesses, and how being a part of the Gem PR & Media ‘family’ is a positive experience. 

Networking

Networking

Networking is a great way to build relationships and develop leads for your business. At times, however, you may find that the last thing you want to do is attend another networking event. Worse still, your networking group has become stale and the quantity and quality of referrals is declining. If this is the case I have a few suggestions to help bring energy back to your group. 

A social, which also involves the families of your group’s members, is a great way to get to know one another better and spend time together without the added ‘pressure’ of referrals. In and around Springfield there are a number of venues that would suit a relaxed gathering. Sheedy Shores in New Berlin, for example, allows you to bring your own food, there are plenty of tables, a grassed area, and on Sundays, there is live music. An afternoon picnic at Southwind Park is another great spot as there’s plenty for kids to do and explore. 

A community project is another way to help bring the group together and develop relationships. You may want to prepare and serve a meal for those staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Springfield, for example.


Perhaps the start time of your regular meeting needs to change, or even the day. Do you need fresh blood in the group? What about setting aside meetings for guest visits. You could make this a monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly activity. There could even be representatives from certain industries that you would like to add to the group. Sometimes it takes one or two members of the group meeting with a potential recruit, for coffee or lunch, to explain how your organization works and its benefits. It’s also worth revisiting your own contacts. Perhaps you’ve missed someone from your network that would fit right in and benefit other members – as well as themselves of course.

 
With many organizations, the leadership team can lose momentum if they have been in their respective positions for too long. If it’s time to shake things up to encourage those who have not taken on leadership roles in the past to do so.

 
Finally, is your group doing all that it can to get the word out about its members? Do you have a Facebook page or Instagram account that you can populate with members’ businesses and activities? If not then perhaps it’s time to engage in social media as well as meeting in person to share referrals and develop relationships. 

If you are interested in visiting a networking group, members of the Gem PR & Media team are involved in the following organizations and would be more than happy to provide further information.


Business Networking International 
Central Illinois Networking Group 
Illinois Women in Leadership 
Springfield Junior Chamber of Commerce (Springfield Jaycees) 

All women networking event in Springfield

All women networking event in Springfield

I’ve always been a firm believer in supporting fellow local business owners, especially those established or operated by women. 


Where we can we will use local printers Emerson Press, a contact I made at Illinois Women in Leadership a few years ago. The team at Emerson provides great customer service – anything we have printed is delivered directly to our office door. Deb Sarsany helped us to find our office on Springfield’s west side and Kate Spencer of Kate Spencer Photography, whose studio is based alongside Gem PR & Media 2121 W White Oaks Dr., provides us, and most of our clients for that matter, with headshots and images for our/their social media, websites, and marketing material. 
 

On June 8 Gem PR & Media, Kate Spencer Photography, IWIL  will be participating in the Women Empowerment networking event at Erin’s Pavilion, which has been organized by the Deb Sarsany Team at The Real Estate Group. The event will provide an opportunity for businesswomen to get together, share their work, and develop new relationships. In total 25 business and or organizations will fill the venue at Southwind Park from 5pm to 8pm. 


It’ll be loud no doubt; as it always is at women-only events, but I also think it will be a great evening. I’m looking forward to meeting new people that we haven’t  come across yet in Springfield and to see if there is anything they can do for our business or vice versa. You can find more information about the Women Empowerment event on Eighteen21.com or on June 1 on Good Day Marketplace Illinois between 8am and 8.30am. 

Congratulations!

Congratulations!

The Gem PR & Media team would like to say congratulations to all those nominated for this year’s Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce Small Business Awards. Especially to our clients The Real Estate Group and Lincoln Academy of Illinois – but in particular those listed in the New & Emerging category, which we are proud to be included. 

•    Mark D. Cortesi – Cortesi Insurance and Financial Services Inc.- A State Farm Agency
•    Paul S. Carlson – Falcon Hobby Supply, Inc.
•    Diane Davenport, Julie McCormick & Hero Tameling – Freedom Real Estate
•    Gemma Long and Chris Long – Gem PR and Media, Inc.
•    Daren & Lisa Bohannan – Mosquito SQUAD
•    Steven T. Dunker – Tails to Remember Pet Services
•    Josh & Andrea Hester – The Storyteller Studios
•    Melissa Hamilton – Your Corner Office, Inc.

We have talked about the importance of entering, being nominated for, and winning awards in the past on more than one occasion. Third party endorsement of your efforts, dedication, and professionalism towards your clients, peers, and the community, in general, is something that cannot be bought. 

We believe that at Gem PR & Media if we practice what we teach then we are demonstrating our knowledge, experience, and most of all our strong belief in what we do daily for each and every client. 

Good luck to all those listed – see you at the awards next month!