The team here at Hodges knows media relations in Virginia. From the Eastern Shore to Bedford and beyond, there is a level of nuance and finesse needed to navigate the ins and outs of Virginia’s various media outlets, which differ in shape and size.

On the surface, media relations may seem like a lot of copy and pasting the same email without much rhyme or reason. But the reality is, there’s a significant amount of planning and strategizing before we click “Send.”

We surveyed the office to get some thoughts about everything from planning and timing to writing and sending those pitches.

Planning and List-Building

“Consume the news you’re pitching. This might sound elementary, but so many people miss the mark on this. If you can reference a recent story or a specific segment and highlight how your pitch honestly aligns with their coverage, it will go an extensive way with an assignment editor or reporter.” – Meg

“If it’s an area where you’re continually engaging the media, get a subscription. It’s a good way to have a better understanding of issues important to the local community while supporting local journalism.” – Cam

“Being sure you’ve done your homework and understand that some news outlets may be owned by the same property – potentially sharing the same staff. For example, the same editor may work for The Farmville Herald and the Mecklenburg paper, so don’t pitch the same person twice.” – Laura Elizabeth

“Don’t forget about radio! It’s what I call the original Twitter.” – Cam

“You don’t have to re-create the wheel every time you pitch, but I like to create a master media list, keep that one file updated with correct reporter information. Then, I save a new copy and tailor it for individual pitches. This helps me remember who I pitched for what, which is helpful with reporting, too.” – Casey

Timing

“In many of the smaller markets, Waynesboro for example (News Virginian), the papers need at least a week of lead time to ensure a reporter will make it out to an event.” – Evans

“Be aware of publishing schedules and deadlines. Knowing when papers go to print will help you better understand when reporters generally are reviewing pitches versus solely focused on getting their story finalized. With smaller staffs at newsrooms, it’s helpful to give teams plenty of notice.” – Meg

“Reaching out to the reporter you’ll be pitching to inquire how far out they work on stories also is a good way to make an introduction and get on their good side.” – Paulyn

Visuals

“Make sure you have all the permissions and photo credit information with all images.” – Jon

“If you’re trying to promote an event or get coverage ahead of an event, it helps to have some photos or b-roll to send along in the pitch and follow ups to make it easier for outlets to tell the story visually.” – Aidan

“Share hi-res photos with a Dropbox link with photo credits. It’s rare that an online article will go up without a visual, and the images you send can help.” – Cam

Pitching

“Adjust your pitch based on outlet type. When you’re reaching out to media, cover off on the basics – TVs are interested in visuals and often someone to interview live, whereas for print, high-res imagery might be more important. For all outlets, a human-interest element is key.” – Meg

“Email isn’t the only way to pitch. Sometimes Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn can provide a natural opening for a pitch, if you see them posting something related. A word of caution though: ask before you launch into your pitch! A simple “Hey, this brings a story idea to mind that I’d love to share with you. Are you open to receiving a pitch via DM or email?” should work.” – Paulyn

“When I’m working on a media relations project that spans Virginia, I like to delegate markets/regions to the team. That allows everyone to dig in deep to really learn the market and its reporters and media.” – Casey

Media relations is as much an art as it is a science – particularly among Virginia’s various news outlets. If you need more insight than beyond what we’ve shared here, we’d love to help!

image of Danuta SyskaCongratulations to Danuta  on being named the AMA Richmond October “Comcast Spotlight” Volunteer of the Month!

Danuta Syska is the Marketing Specialist at Hirschler Fleischer.

What She Does for AMA Richmond and Why We Nominated Her:

“Danuta jumped right in to help with our social media editorial calendar, and has been crucial to the launching of our Instagram account” – Nicole Hansen, Social Media Director


Comcast Spotlight combines the power of traditional television and premium digital video advertising to reach audiences through high-quality content at any time, on any device, and we’re ready to prove our impact on your business.

Account-based marketing (ABM) is a powerful B2B strategy for reaching and engaging specific, named targets in order to grow your sales pipeline. For B2B firms with high-value, low-volume deals, ABM can help align the efforts of marketing and business development, while providing more intentional support during a long and complex sales cycle.

B2B firms have greatly invested in content marketing and demand generation to generate awareness and interest, and they are reaping the rewards, which include raised profiles, thought leadership and new streams of leads. However, ABM has emerged as a complimentary strategy to assist business development teams with accelerating the sales cycle, close more deals and penetrate new markets.

Among B2B marketers who are leveraging ABM, 97% say that it results in a higher return on investment (ROI) compared to all other marketing activities.

According to research from Alterra Group, among business-to-business marketers who are leveraging ABM, 97% say that it results in a higher return on investment (ROI) compared to all other marketing activities. By allowing the marketing team to focus on the companies a firm is most interested in doing business with, ABM can make a measurable impact on business development and the bottom line.

As with any marketing strategy, an account-based marketing program requires the right approach in order to be effective. Here are 7 steps to help your firm get started with ABM.

1. Get buy-in and set goals

Every marketing initiative should start here, and ABM is no exception. Obtaining buy-in from both the C-suite and sales team is critical to the success of the program. It’s important to make the distinct connection between the objectives of the firm and the objectives of the ABM program. You’ll also want to make the case for how ABM will benefit the firm’s sales and business development efforts. An ABM program will require close alignment of marketing and sales, and necessitate ongoing collaboration and proactive support. Once buy-in has been obtained, and prior to putting a plan in place, goals and specific key performance indicators (KPIs) should be put in place.

2. Identify high-priority target accounts

An essential question to ask at the onset of an ABM strategy is who does your firm want to work with? Who are the companies (accounts) that your firm would love to land as a client? You’ll certainly want to talk to the sales team who already has some specific, known accounts that they would like to pursue. But there are others who aren’t on their radar that should be. One great way to identify new target accounts is to profile what makes up an ideal, best-fit client. Take a look at your best accounts, the ones that firm leadership would love to duplicate over and over again, and identify the characteristics that are common in an ideal client. These characteristics might include the following:

  • Organization type
  • Organization size
  • Annual revenue
  • Geographic location
  • Project volume
  • Method of procurement
  • Projected CLV
  • Strategic importance
  • Leadership/cultural fit

This becomes a checklist of sorts that will help your team better identify new target accounts that your firm should pursue with an ABM strategy.

3. Profile decision makers and influencers

Once you’ve identified specific, named accounts, you’ll then want to identify the right contacts at those organizations. But in addition to knowing who to target, it’s important to profile decision makers and key influencers through the development of buyer personas. In order to create content and campaigns that are going to help you engage these accounts, you have to have a deep understanding of their context and perspective. This is where personas can provide insight into your audience’s:

  • Goals and objectives
  • Issues and challenges
  • Questions and interests
  • Selection and purchasing triggers
  • Sources for information and research
  • How your content can help

Buyer personas are best developed through qualitative research (one-on-one interviews, ideally 3rd party) that provides a real-world basis for the personas, as opposed to assumptions made internally.

4. Create content around personas and the client journey

The right kind of content is at the heart of any effective ABM program. And buyer personas should form the foundation for your ABM content strategy. Building off these buyer insights, you’ll want to create content that speaks directly to decision makers and influencers at each stage of the client journey. At the awareness stage, you need to understand what non-sales content you can provide to a target account that will both grab their attention and introduce your firm. At the interest and consideration stage, you’ll need content that starts to offer specific solutions and/or approaches to a problem or need that your prospect has identified. Finally, as the account moves into the evaluation and selection stage, you’ll need content that assists with the vetting process and positions you as the firm of choice for that account’s needs.

5. Choose the proper channels and tools

Based on each individual account, you need to determine which channels will be best suited for reaching and engaging those contacts. Likely it will be a combination of channels, as an integrated approach is more likely to make an impact. In addition to the channels, you’ll also want to identify which tools will be leveraged for your ABM efforts. Marketing automation and CRM software are price-of-entry tools to leverage, but can be combined with other tools for things like predictive lead scoring, ad technology, real-time personalization or ABM-specific platforms such as Engagio.

6. Plan and execute targeted campaigns

Once you’ve identified target accounts, profiled the influencers and decision makers, created the right content and selected the proper channels and tools, it’s time to plan and execute specific targeted campaigns. While campaigns may share similarities, each campaign should be targeted and tailored to that specific account. In other words, the content and messages that each account receives should come across as though you have created it specifically for them. You’ll want to gather the content assets, tailor them for the target account and plan out your plan of attack for each stage of the client journey.
The content you create can and should be used for both offline and online distribution, and repurposed for a myriad of channels and circumstances. While much of the process will be done digitally, in-person, offline interactions should be included as well. Look for ways and times to arm the sales team with account-specific content to assist in their relationship building. As the relationship matures, your sales team will gain more insight into their specific interests and needs, so your content should become even more hyper-focused based on those insights.

7. Measure, analyze and optimize

Understanding how your firm’s ABM efforts are performing is critical to the long-term success of the program. To understand performance, you’ll want to measure and analyze engagement related to website visits (individual and multiple visitors), email opens and clicks, lead scores, downloads, opportunities and wins. You’ll want to create a scorecard of analytics and KPIs that will keep the sales and executive team aware of all activities by account. In addition to reporting your activities and success, you should also leverage the analytics for insights into how you should optimize your efforts moving forward.
Build on success, learn from shortcomings
With any new marketing initiative there’s going to be wins and losses. So it’s important to build on success, but also learn from what didn’t work and change your approach midstream. ABM done right can provide your sales team with the proactive sales enablement and support to help your firm close more deals and grow your business.

image of Elizabeth KeeneCongratulations to Elizabeth Keene on being named the AMA Richmond May “Comcast Spotlight” Volunteer of the Month!

Elizabeth Keene, when not managing her three kids and seven pets, works as a freelance social media marketing consultant, and writes humorous things on her award-winning blog, Chronicles of Cardigan, and Facebook page.

What She Does for AMA Richmond and Why We Nominated Her:

“Elizabeth has been doing a phenomenal job managing our Twitter account on a daily basis. Her efforts have significantly increased engagement while helping to deliver educational content to Richmond’s local marketers. Her efforts have been consistent since day one and she is always willing to lend a hand when there’s a last minute need from the board” – Amanda Conocho


Comcast Spotlight combines the power of traditional television and premium digital video advertising to reach audiences through high-quality content at any time, on any device, and we’re ready to prove our impact on your business.

Image of Tim AsimosCongratulations to Tim Asimos on being named the AMA Richmond March “Comcast Spotlight” Volunteer of the Month!

In his day job, Tim is Vice President and Director of Digital Innovation at circle S studio, a Richmond-based strategic marketing and digital agency. Leading circle S studio’s online marketing team, Tim develops innovative digital strategies for web development, content marketing, lead generation and marketing automation.

Tim is also a national speaker and syndicated blogger on the topics of online marketing, lead generation and content marketing. I’m a member of the American Marketing Association and a Past President of the Richmond chapter.

What He Does for AMA Richmond and Why We Nominated Him:

“Tim has been a champion of AMA-Richmond in many ways-from board member and president to SIG leader and adviser. He is always ready and willing to step in when needed and embodies our chapter’s values and mission through his work and service to the marketing community. We are fortunate to have him as part of our chapter and are grateful to be the recipients of his time, talent and expertise!” – Kourtney Ennis


Comcast Spotlight combines the power of traditional television and premium digital video advertising to reach audiences through high-quality content at any time, on any device, and we’re ready to prove our impact on your business.

 

As marketers, we’ve all had our fair share of large projects. The AMA Support Center (that’s what we call the national AMA organization) is about to reveal one really big project: A simplified membership structure to coincide with the release of new technology platforms (CRM, CMS) and a redesigned AMA.org.

This is one high-stakes project, and requires all of our participation and understanding. Below is what we at AMA Richmond know. We will update this blog post if any new information becomes available, so stay tuned!

What’s Happening

AMA.org will have a new, redesigned website. Blog posts, member resources, and chapter resources will all be refreshed and updated. Managing your membership will also be simpler. Here’s how:

Only Two Options

Remember when you had to select Professional, Academic, Doctoral, or Young Professional when you became a member? People won’t have to deal with that anymore. There will only be two options: Members and Student Members.

Flat Fee

Whether becoming a new member or renewing membership, Members will only have to pay one flat rate per year that also includes dues to the home chapter: $300. The AMA Support Center is also eliminating application and rejoining fees.

Expiration Dates

Additionally, new membership expiration dates will be based on joining date. For example, someone who becomes a member on April 6, 2019, will have an expiration date of April 5, 2020. As a current member, your expiration day will not change and remains the last day of the month. If you are enrolled in auto-renew, that will process on the day of your membership expiration.

Student Membership

For now, Student Member dues will remain unchanged. The typical one-year Student Member rate will be a one-time charge of $50 + chapter dues. Student Members will continue to receive a discount code upon graduation that gives them one free year as a Member.

Group Memberships

Upon implementation, Group Memberships (sometimes referred to as Corporate/Team Memberships) will be replaced by a new Group Discount program that new members can participate in (minimum of three people). We will share pricing, information, and processes for this program after February 11.

So What Now?

The AMA Support Center plans to launch everything (website, database, membership structure) simultaneously on Monday, February 11. To allow for proper transition between the AMA’s old and new platforms, there will be a multi-day blackout period on AMA.org.

AMA.org Blackout Period: February 1-11

The blackout means that no one can become a member, renew their membership, make purchases like conference registrations, or update their customer/member profile or contact information.

Related pages on AMA.org will display a message informing visitors about the blackout and providing them with an option to receive a special follow-up email once the functionality becomes available.

Important: These activities do not affect AMA Richmond’s website (amarichmond.org). We will be functioning as usual!

  • If you need to renew your membership in January or February… Renew by January 30 or wait until after February 11.
  • If you are supposed to renew your membership at a different time of year… Sit this one out. You don’t have to do anything!
  • If you have not been an AMA member before and want to become one … We encourage you to do so in the new system once everything is live after February 11.

By the way …

I’ll admit it, we really don’t talk about it enough, but that $300 membership not only gets you great perks here at the local level in Richmond (amazing network, free or discounted access to events, opportunity to volunteer, etc.) but you receive the following from the AMA:

  • Discounts on becoming a Professional Certified Marketer – Think the equivalent of “APR” in PR, but for marketing.
  • 100+ ready-to-use, downloadable tools and templates – Anyone I’ve talked to who has used these found them LIFE CHANGING, myself included.
  • Access to exclusive content and a subscription to award-winning Marketing News magazine – Really good content that members used to have to pay extra for. Where do you think we get our ideas for speakers and topics, anyway?
  • Best pricing for national AMA conferences and events – Stay in top (marketing) shape with anything from national conferences to boot camps and training series.
  • Digital access to all AMA Academic Journals — Journal of Marketing, Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of International Marketing, and Journal of Public Policy & Marketing – More good content members used to have to pay $125 extra for. Impress your boss with these.
  • Free shipping, great pricing and design help on promotional products purchased through The AMA Shop powered by Consolidus – You know you want a pair of AMA socks.

If you have any questions or issues at all, please reach out to any of us on the board. This is new territory for us, too, and we are doing our best to stay on top of it.

Thank you for your membership, and thank you for being on this ride with us.

Samantha Platania of the AMA Richmond chapter talks about the events and programs offered by the chapter and her role as the Director of Collegiate Relations on the AMA Richmond Board.  In her role, Samantha focuses on student membership in the AMA and how an affiliation with an AMA collegiate chapter offers many benefits to students including career resources, platforms for professional development and experiential learning, participation in chapter events, leadership development, and participation in AMA competitions.

Check out the podcast here!

 

The AMA Richmond chapter has been recognized for “Programming Excellence” and “Membership Special Merit” for the 2017—18 year by AMA international headquarters. The AMA’s annual Chapter Excellence Awards (CEAs) program highlights exceptional performance among the organization’s 70+ professional chapters across the U.S. and Canada.

The CEAs were established in 1974 to recognize local AMA chapters for outstanding achievements in leadership, membership and programming. Entries are judged over a three-day period by a panel of past-presidents of award-winning chapters and members of the AMA Professional Chapters Council.

The AMA Richmond Board is proud to have our chapter recognized on a national level for the hard work and dedication of our board members to make the chapter great for our membership!

 

Congratulations to Steven Yavorsky on being named the AMA Richmond October “Comcast Spotlight” Volunteer of the Month!

What He Does for AMA Richmond and Why We Nominated Him:

“Steven has been a great addition to the communications team. He is always eager to help and jumps in wherever needed.” – Laura Elizabeth Saunders


Comcast Spotlight combines the power of traditional television and premium digital video advertising to reach audiences through high-quality content at any time, on any device, and we’re ready to prove our impact on your business.

 

Visit the AMA Richmond Facebook page to see pictures from the September Signature Speaker Series – Noah Scalin: The Art of Innovation.

Photography by Kim Brundage Photography