Berbay Visits the Natural History Museum

As a part of our Cultural Camaraderie program, the Berbay team took a trip to the Natural History Museum in Downtown Los Angeles, and even got a behind-the-scenes tour of its Dinosaur Institute.

We learned about the labor-intensive process of collecting dinosaur fossils. In some areas, it’s not possible to use cars to carry fossils, as the tires could create ravines and alter the landscape. Instead, paleontologists have to walk long distances and hand-carry the bones, which can weigh a few hundred pounds!

My favorite part of the museum was its Butterfly Pavilion – a seasonal exhibit that features hundreds of free-flying butterflies, including the California native monarch. It was a little alarming to have them fly so close to me, but it was a beautiful sight to see them up close.

Berbay recently launched its Cultural Camaraderie program with a focus on exploring the vibrant culture that is Los Angeles as a stimulus for innovative thinking and creativity, as well as encouraging team building.

Take a look at some of the pictures from our trip!

Los Angeles’ New Media Reporters – PRSA Panel Recap

I recently attended the Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) Breakfast with Los Angeles’ New Media Reporters, including a panel of journalists from Buzzfeed, Time Out L.A., and Moms L.A. The discussion ranged from the best ways to get their attention to 2017 new media trends, pitch tips and pet peeves. Below are some takeaways from the discussion.

Humanize Your Pitch

The panelists estimated that about 30% of their stories come from pitches, and with journalists, bloggers and editors receiving anywhere from tens to hundreds of pitches every day, it’s your job to make your pitch stand out. It isn’t as simple as merely using a reporter’s or editor’s first name and the name of the publication you’re pitching, but it certainly helps.

Sending pitches individually sounds daunting, especially when your media list expands beyond 20 – 30 publications, but this approach might be worth exploring for a more targeted media list. The panelists all agreed that the best way to communicate is through a personal email, and if you can, reach out to the reporter or journalist and try to build a relationship before you ask them to cover a story. Here are some tips to make your pitch stand out:

  • Make sure you pitch the appropriate person within a publication—try to put those short notes in Gorkana and Meltwater to good use.
  • Score points by humanizing your email and directly appealing to what they do, topics they’ve covered and their ideology.
  • Look over their editorial calendar and reference it in your email, noting that your topic would be a perfect fit for a specific issue.
  • Use original photos as it saves the publication time and money they’d have to spend getting those photos, making your pitch lower-hanging fruit.
  • Most importantly, be mindful that the ever-so-tempting copy and paste tool is not always your friend. Save yourself the embarrassment of sending an email with a person’s name or publication in a different font, or worse, with the mother of all copy and paste mistakes, the subtle and often overlooked light-gray highlight.

Subject Lines

In the age of growing technology, it’s no surprise that a lot of business is conducted on the go, and while we as PR professionals craft catchy subject lines while sitting in front of our desktop or laptop, we often forget about the people who will be receiving our email on their mobile devices. The panelists pointed out a flaw in our witty 40+ character subject lines: most of it gets cut off on mobile devices. Use your space wisely, which means avoiding the use of “BREAKING:” and “NEW STORY:” etc.

Pet Peeves

Diligent follow-up is a crucial aspect of pitching to media, but you don’t want to be known by a journalist or editor for the wrong reason. Try to avoid these pet peeves the panelists mentioned, including:

  • Receiving unsolicited products and being expected to write a review – it’s an invasion of privacy and quite audacious.
  • Being pitched old news – unless you can add something new to the story, don’t pitch it.
  • Being pitched embargoed content – the journalist/editor didn’t agree to the embargo, so don’t screw yourself.
  • Receiving pitch emails that take too long to get to the point – journalists/editors just pass over these emails after the first few sentences.
  • Receiving calls from PR professionals on their personal cell phones.

2017 Trend(s)

Lastly, the panelists unanimously agreed that politics is the most prominent trend so far in 2017, and while publications like Time Out L.A. stay away from politics, the overwhelming trend has turned many non-political journalists into political journalists. For now, it appears that we will have plenty of opportunities to capitalize on topics related to the current political administration.

Why Virtual Reality Is the Real Estate Marketing Tactic You Should Pay Attention To

Tech insiders are calling virtual reality (VR) the hottest innovation of the decade, and there’s no question that it has the potential to change how we view the world, do business, and engage with each other online.

Virtual reality has serious implications for the real estate industry in particular. VR has made it possible to create 3D images of properties that potential buyers can explore through online tours or immersive VR headsets. These experiences go far beyond videos because they allow consumers to move through the property and experience it as if they were really there.

In the real estate world, traditional media is on the decline, and digital marketing tactics that were fresh five years ago have become commonplace. Could virtual reality be the tactic that amps up your marketing plan in 2017?

VR breaks through the marketing clutter.
Although VR is growing quickly, it’s still niche enough that not every firm is using it. The few firms that are using VR no doubt stand out against the thousands of real estate marketers who are still using traditional media, photos, and videos to sell properties. Virtual reality may eventually become mainstream, but getting in on the action early solidifies your place as a tech-savvy industry leader.

Photos and videos don’t cut it with consumers anymore.
With 24/7 access to any information imaginable, consumers are always hungry for more. Photos and videos don’t give viewers the in-depth information they crave, because they’re only seeing what the cameraperson wants to show them. VR allows buyers to poke around a property at their own pace, the same way they would if they were there in person. Since they’re not relying on a third party to share images, it gives them the sense that they’re getting more trustworthy information.

The technology is becoming cheaper.
Tech companies have tried to make virtual reality mainstream for years, but it’s never quite caught on for a number of reasons. Namely, there was a lack of affordable technology available to mass consumers. Now, the price of VR headsets is dropping fast and the technology is more accessible to people outside the tech industry. Startups are making 3D photography more available to real estate firms, too. The cost will only go down from here, so expect more firms to take advantage of this technology.

VR creates an emotional connection.
Photos can be beautiful and videos may incorporate sound or animation, but they can’t top the engagement that VR tours provide. They allow viewers to put themselves in the space and imagine what it would be like to live or work there. That feeling is way more powerful than looking at a few pictures. Real estate is an emotional purchase, and engaging buyers’ imaginations can mean the difference between making a sale and losing it.

The Dos and Don’ts of Marketing Your Firm Through Speaking Engagements

Speaking at a conference, CLE event or workshop is a great marketing opportunity—as long as you know how to take advantage of it. According to Hire an Esquire, speaking engagements are the second most useful lead generation tool, right behind referrals. If you have a captive audience, don’t waste your chance to convert them into regular clients. Here’s how.

Do start planning early.
Many of the more well-known conferences start planning next year’s agenda as soon as the last guest at this year’s event is out the door, so plan accordingly. Keep a running list of every relevant venue, note application deadlines and make it a habit to periodically scan your list and see if anything is upcoming. And in the meantime, it never hurts to brush up on your public speaking skills in your spare time by taking a class or joining a club like Toastmasters.

Don’t be afraid to make an investment.
Plenty of conferences are free to participate in, but if those are the only ones you’re considering you could be missing a huge opportunity. If you have room in your marketing budget, it’s worth every penny you have to get in front of the right audience. Securing just one new, high-paying client can pay for the cost of participating and then some. Don’t let sticker shock prevent you from leveraging a major marketing opportunity.

Do think like a storyteller.
You can name every statistic, show every bar graph and cite every study you want, but at the end of the day people only care about one thing: stories. When you’re writing your talking points, make sure they read like a story, with characters, a central conflict and a happy resolution. Find a way to humanize the knowledge that you’re sharing, and always bring it back to people—what problems they’ve had, how they’ve responded and how you’ve helped them.

Don’t prioritize audience size over audience engagement.
It’s always better to be in a room of 20 people with 10 or 15 ideal clients than it is to be in a room of 200 people with only one or two ideal clients. Big, splashy conferences have their place and they’ll certainly get you some name recognition, but if your main goal is to generate leads, you may have more success at niche events. They allow you to target a very specific audience, and give you more opportunity to engage with potential clients in the audience one-on-one.

Don’t act like a salesperson.
Yes, one of the main benefits of participating in a speaking engagement is the potential to find new clients. But audiences don’t usually decide to go to conferences or workshops because they’re in the market for a new lawyer—they go because they want to gain useful knowledge that will make their lives easier. That’s what you must be responsive to. Provide your audience with the information they want and you’ll build credibility, which will keep you top of mind when they really are in the market for a lawyer.

Customer Satisfaction

You know how a bad customer service experience can put you in a really bad mood?  Well, I recently had two really pleasant experiences while shopping that got me thinking…

I had to return two items, one to Saks Fifth Avenue and one to Neiman Marcus—stores at which I rarely shop (seriously). I had purchased one item at Saks a little over a month earlier and I remembered at the time of the sale the cashier telling me they had a 30-day return policy.  On the evening of what happened to be the 32nd day later, I decided I wanted to return the item; but then thinking the store’s policy would be strict, I decided to not even bother trying to make the return.  A friend of mine in apparel retail told me that these days stores are much more flexible in their policies (online competition, etc.).  She said I should at least try.

I walked into Saks with the item, telling myself “Okay, you’re not going to get heated about this if they say, ‘No, we can’t take it back.’ You’re just going to say, ‘Thank you very much’ and walk out.” Braced for a “no go,” I walked in, showed the salesperson the item, said it had been a little over 30 days and handed her the receipt.  She didn’t even look at it; rather, she just took the item back and credited my card. She was very pleasant and I was out of there in about 10 minutes.

From there, I went to Neiman’s to return the other item.  I had ordered a couple of things online and I wanted to keep one and return one.  I walked over to a salesperson and explained what I wanted, thinking I’d be sent to the bowels of the store, but she took the item and receipt; she scanned whatever she had to scan, processed the refund and again, I was out of the store in 10 minutes.

I have to say that I was floored by both experiences, and how the world has changed. Even boutiques near me that for years allowed no returns or exchanges have been forced to do so. What also got me thinking was how competition raises the bar. What if one of the stores I went to had taken their item back but the other wouldn’t?  How would I have felt? I would have been a lot less inclined to purchase from that store again.

It also got me thinking about the whole issue of customer service as it applies to our business and that of our clients. Today, you have to hustle just to stay even and devote even more energy if you want to differentiate your business.  You certainly don’t want to be the one that elicits a response of, “I’m never working with them again!”

Fortunately for Saks and Neiman Marcus, I’m still a customer—and a happy one at that.

Marketing Tasks to Do on a Slow Day

Most of the time we are swamped, so any time we have a slow day it’s a welcome relief. It can feel a bit odd, though, when you get to the office and there’s nothing urgent that needs to be done. What exactly are you supposed to do all day?

Slow days are an opportunity to catch up on some of those forgotten-about marketing tasks—the items that need to get done eventually but keep getting put on the back burner. They can often be accomplished in only an hour or two, but their impact can be huge. Here, we’ve narrowed down some of the top rainy day marketing tasks from Lawyerist.

  1. Catch up on an industry blog. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s subscribed to a blog and planned on reading it regularly, only to delete every “new post” email notification without opening it. No matter how interesting the blog is, reading industry news always seems to get pushed off in favor of more pressing tasks. Slow days are the perfect time to catch up on your reading.
  2. Make sure the external links on your website actually work. There’s nothing more frustrating than clicking a link only to find that it doesn’t lead anywhere. Plus, having broken links just looks unprofessional. At least twice a year, spend an hour or two clicking through the external links on your website to make sure they still take your clients to the right places.
  3. Thank your best clients—and not just in a quick email. Actually take the time to handwrite a note on nice stationery or a thank-you card. Sure, you probably thank your clients verbally and end emails with “thank you,” but a quiet afternoon is a great opportunity to show your gratitude in a more meaningful way.
  4. Beef up your online reviews. Most clients are happy to write a testimonial or give a rating on a review site like Yelp. They just need to be asked to do it. Send a quick note to the last few clients you represented and ask them to provide feedback on your preferred site. Just be careful not to lead their answers too much.
  5. Get feedback on your content. You’ve probably put a lot of time and thought into your content strategy (or at least, you should have). However, it’s easy to forget that you should be prioritizing content that readers want to read, and not necessarily content that you want to write. On slow days, check in with a few of your clients and ask them which topics they want to know more about.
  6. Draft a few social media posts. It’s easy to fall behind on social media, so take advantage of every window of time you have to prepare posts in advance. Round up some industry headlines, write a few posts about what’s going on around the office and find a handful of evergreen blog posts to republish. In just a few minutes you can fill up a week’s worth of posts.
  7. Update your website bio. It’s amazing how quickly bios become out of date—and how quickly they slip out of our minds. When you have 15 minutes on a quiet day, give your bio a once-over and update any inaccurate or old information.

Notes from the PRSA Western District Conference

This year’s Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Western District Conference, held in Riverside, CA, covered a number of emerging issues in public relations. In case you missed it, here’s a recap of a couple of the panels.

Differentiation

These days, the professional services landscape is a buyer’s market – there are so many great options that people often fully research different agencies and make a decision before even reaching out to a company. With this glut of choices, differentiating your business is harder than ever.

In his session on successful differentiation, David Arvin, President of The Visibility Coach, discussed the importance of determining the practice area or service your company has that puts it ahead of the rest – the one thing that you do better than your competitors. It’s also important to determine what question or problem your brand is the answer to. Otherwise, it’s almost impossible for consumers to pick out one good option from all the other good options populating the market.

Influencer Marketing

In his keynote address, Jim Lin, SVP and Creative Director at Ketchum Digital, covered best practices for working with influencers and shared his perspective on how influencer marketing fits in with public relations and marketing as a whole.

An influencer is a person or group with the ability to influence the behavior or opinions or others, and who has a significant effect on a consumer’s purchasing decision. Influencer marketing is the act of incentivizing influencers to spread awareness of a product or service to their audiences, in the hopes that these audiences will be inspired to try the product themselves.

Though influencers may sound similar to journalists you’re hoping will write about your clients or company, don’t make the mistake of conflating them with the media. While it’s true that influencer marketing, like media exposure, contributes to the overall perception and visibility of a brand, influencers’ objectives are fundamentally different. Journalists report on stories because it’s their job to do so, whereas influencers need more incentive than just a story, as they are working to build their personal brands and names. This incentive usually comes in the form of free products/services, as well as additional payment.

Another common misstep companies can make when leveraging influencers is the failure to properly vet an influencer, and to take their audience claims at their word. Always take the time to research an influencer’s social media follower counts and engagement to ensure that they and their audience are the right fit for your brand.

Online Client Research Isn’t Going Away Anytime Soon

This year’s U.S. Consumer Legal Needs Survey has just been released, and the results are hardly surprising. Like virtually every other legal industry survey that’s come out in the last few years, the Legal Needs Survey shows without question that online research, particularly on mobile devices, plays a major role in which law firm clients choose. If your firm hasn’t already seen the impact of online research, it will soon.

If you need to step up your online presence, here are three critical places to start:

Embrace online profiles and reviews. According to the survey, one third of consumers say that the internet was their main source of information when deciding to contact a lawyer. That’s up 14 percent from just two years ago. And before you think, “But we’re doing just fine with word of mouth!” the influence of in-person referrals has actually declined by 12 percent in that same time period. Now more than ever, it’s critical to claim your online profiles and encourage clients to leave their (positive) feedback online.

Know your keywords. Okay, so you’ve accepted that there’s no turning back on online research. The next step is to understand the keywords that potential clients are using to search for you. Make sure your website is optimized so it shows up higher in search rankings, and you may even want to include some money for paid search in your marketing budget. Researching common keywords can also help you discover more relevant online directories—which 41 percent of people say they use—where you can list your firm. Using keyword marketing ensures that you get in front of the right audience.

Use social media. If you’ve been struggling to commit enough time and energy to keep your social media accounts up to date, maybe this finding from the survey will help motivate you: information found in blog posts, videos, Facebook updates and tweets from attorneys all grew in importance to consumers by 10 percentage points. That’s a big jump, and it’s only going to increase. This year, 28 percent of consumers used social media, compared to 20 percent last year. Even if you’re not doing anything particularly groundbreaking on your social media accounts, just keeping them current, informative and appealing can make a huge difference.

10 Quick and Timeless Digital Marketing Tips

Let’s face it: creating and maintaining an effective digital marketing strategy is hard. It’s mostly because the digital landscape is always changing. New trends, social media platforms and viral campaigns are popping up all the time, and it can be difficult to know where your business fits in, which trends to jump on and which ones to skip.

However, now that digital has secured a permanent place in every marketing plan, there are some common digital marketing concepts that have proven to be useful no matter what hashtag is trending. Here’s 10 of them courtesy of Convince & Convert:

  1. Have a plan and a reasoning behind it. Set short- and long-term goals, measure progress and results, and make adjustments when necessary.
  1. Don’t be a social media micromanager. Keep social media guidelines short and give the people posting some creative freedom.
  1. Use video, but use it mindfully. Be aware of your followers’ time and attention spans.
  1. Have a purpose. Provide some sort of benefit to your followers and readers, whether it’s valuable information, humor or inspiration.
  1. Don’t force it. Jump into the conversation when it feels natural, and allow clients and followers to decide how they want to interact with you online.
  1. Put social media in the budget. Yes, technically social media is free—but you should be paying someone to manage your accounts effectively.
  1. Know what your clients think of you. Use Google’s Keyword Planner to research the terms and phrases they’re using to talk about you online.
  1. Offer value on your blog and across all your digital platforms. Explain how your services make your clients’ lives better, and use real-world examples.
  1. Take chances methodically. Don’t shoot down any out-of-the-box ideas immediately—just test them first before committing.
  1. Remember that you’re a human being, not a marketing robot. Interact with your followers accordingly.
Berbay Marketing & PR
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