Shawn Nesaw

As a business owner, your list of to-do’s remains as endless as your email inbox. Dedicating time to marketing efforts like telling your brand story or reaching new audiences with advertising or social media just doesn’t feel like it’s in the cards. Maybe it’s not; don’t get overwhelmed or frustrated and give up. Instead, look to an agency to lend a hand, taking the marketing burden off your plate.

Agencies come in many forms. Some specialize in a few niche areas like graphic design and digital marketing, while others provide a full range of services. Regardless of their specialties, agencies want to help you meet your goals. Agencies work with businesses of all sizes, with just about all industries and can manage projects ranging from seasonal marketing needs to long term integrated marketing campaigns.

So, where do you start? While you may have started your search for your perfect agency, the guide below answers some of the biggest questions and concerns holding businesses back from looking for that much-needed support.

1. I don’t have a marketing budget.
You are spending resources on marketing, whether you realize it or not. The time to network, sponsor community events and organizations, and keep on top of social media all cost you something. An agency helps you prioritize and maximize your presence, allowing you to do what you do best — your business.

2. I don’t have time to explain my business to others.
Agencies ask the right questions and take advantage of experiences to understand your business, industry, market and competition. It’s the agency’s job to share insights and ideas aimed at accomplishing your business goals.

3. Marketing, social media, advertising…it all changes so fast I just can’t keep up.
So true. Robust agency teams keep up with trends and best practices, so you don’t have to. As experts, they constantly scan the horizon for new and emerging tools and techniques to get in front of your audience, build your brand and get that ROI.

4. Word of mouth works for me, why change?
Good. An agency will give you a menu of recommendations for how to leverage all the word of mouth referrals you’re getting into look alike customers and build on those. You will also receive recommendations based on the agency’s past experience supporting clients just like you, for advertising, social media, website design and more.

5. I’ve always been treated like a small fish when working with agencies.
Their loss. Clearly, those agencies just didn’t fit with your business. Now you know what you don’t want, you can seek out the type of agency you do want. The ideal agency treats you with respect, shows interest in your business and seeks to foster a collaborative relationship with you.

6. I’m only one person. I have a lot on my plate.
Copy that. A full-service agency can take all of the marketing, advertising, video, website, social media, public relations and, of course, design work off your plate. Great full-service agencies offer teams dedicated to overarching disciplines. And, within those teams exist project managers, copywriters, strategic planners, designers, website developers and others allowing more collaboration and a better, more integrated final product.

The bottom line
Marketing your business remains an important component to its success and a full- service agency can provide the guidance, strategy and creative solutions needed to help you be successful.

Are you ready to take your marketing and communications efforts to the next level? If you have any questions about your needs, say hello! We’d love to help you.

Jamie Abell

Due to the sometimes confusing and complicated nature of your work, the general public doesn’t always understand the message you want to get across. Fixing this problem requires creative thinking to develop unique ways to transform technical terminology into easily digestible, engaging content everyone can understand and want to read. See, when your audience goes from ‘huh?’ to ‘oh, I get it!’, they’re more likely to engage and that’s a huge win for you!

Tech-y subjects like number analyses, system functions and legislative action don’t always draw attention from audiences more interested in current events, such as the next big sale or what streaming show to watch. You need to make important messages stand out in a sea of cute puppy and baby videos. The content needs to drive a serial Instagram scroller to pause the way they did when a gossip magazine announced Channing Tatum and Jenna Dewan broke up. It must gain engagement and reach the way the blue or gold dress took over the internet in 2015. So, that begs the question, how do you turn technical and complex topics into compelling material to capture eyeballs and encourage clicks?

First, you have to take it back to basics – do the research! You need to understand your target audience and what motivates them. Audiences, of course, can range from teenage TikTokers to parents to high-powered CEOs and any other population in between. Each one of these groups find different things that appeal to them. Find those things, note them and use them!

With this new knowledge on your audience, you should begin translating the technical language into content they will understand and actually care about. To do so, look through the text and data to find the ‘pearls’ – those key points and messages you need to tell the story and appeal to the audience. Use the story to connect the data and technical terms to them personally to tell them why they should care. Use your team to talk through the subjects because, more often than not, speaking through a complicated matter simplifies it for you and generates more ideas on how to communicate it.

As you ponder the story with your team, ask yourself two questions: what do I want the audience to know about this topic? And, what do they need to know? Ah yes, the age-old debate – wants vs. needs. Once you understand that the audience does not NEED to know everything you WANT them to know to drive them to act, you can quickly transform your jargon-riddled content into a piece that’s easier to read and understand for the layman.

With the work, research and debate complete, you need to take a trip to math class. Communicating technical subjects relies on a simple equation:

Important, Simplified Content + X = An engaged audience who gets it!

X is the makeover you give your drab technical language to make it the coolest, most popular kid at the party. Now, this elusive X can be many, MANY things. For example, X can include the use of colorful graphs to communicate technical data or illustrations and motion graphics to break up long blocks of text to create visual interest. X could also include condensing information into a cohesive series of materials or relaying information through videos or social media. Once you determine the X in the equation, your method then needs to be two-fold: grab attention and then capitalize on that moment the user has given you.

While we know it can be daunting to transform massive datasets, 13-letter words and long, descriptive paragraphs that would make a rocket scientist’s head spin into something compelling and engaging, it really is as easy as solving for X. Finding the perfect X is a team effort. It includes trial, error and collaboration – a true experiment.

Translating technical content into a story the general public can read, understand and relate to is challenging. As a writer, making personal connections and analogies to the subject matter allows for further understanding of the technical topics. If you relate to the content, you can help your readers understand it too.

Tell us how you solve for X in the comments below. Learn more about our X by checking out some of our work!

Katie MacNichol

As a business owner, there’s a lot to think about these days amidst the COVID-19 virus pandemic sweeping across the world. For possibly the first time in a century, we all, together, stopped. Stopped going to school, seeing friends and family, enjoying live sports, travelling and unfortunately for some, working. We now only know an essential versus non-essential lifestyle. While businesses in both categories swiftly found solutions to modify goods and services, keeping the consumer, health and safety-first model a priority, many still face tough times as we all navigate the evolving landscape together.

At A. Bright Idea, one of our main core values focuses on flexibility. As a small business, we remain nimble to the needs of our clients, but more importantly during times like this, we show increased flexibility to the needs of our team, families and the communities we serve.

Within that same core value, we recognize the critical need to apply a proactive flexibility stance toward the future. When quarantine and stay at home orders wane, allowing people to return to work, school and normal activities, businesses small and large who start planning and investing in ways to stay relevant in the next phase now will see an easier transition when the time comes.

Here are five quick and easy tips to communicating your flexibility and proactive planning to audiences:

1. Send a personal message to your clients, partners, customers and friends letting them know how you’re doing, the decisions you made amid the crisis, words of encouragement and consultation. Sign it. Make sure it comes from you by using a personal email address. Don’t have a long email list? Mailing a note works too.
2. Leverage the power of social media and the increased digital impressions flooding the Internet to connect with consumers longing for that connection. Take the opportunity to teach people with tips and how-to posts or give advice. Share and comment on other content your audiences might find helpful. Respond to other’s posts and don’t forget to let the human element come through in your content. We’re not in a time of hard sales, but authentic connection does lead to top-of-mind relevance which can benefit sales in the future.
3. Depending on your goods and services offered, consider adapting an e-commerce option for your audience to use during this adjusted business environment. Consumers still want to make purchases and support businesses. Fortunately, getting an e-commerce function running is fairly easy with services like Shopify and Square which can seamlessly sync with your website. Your flexibility with this adjusted way to buy and interact could mean revenue build up!
4. All of this connection through personalized touchpoints, social media and e-commerce means your business website needs to appear up-to-date, eye-catching and easy to navigate. Now is a great time to tackle that website update you’ve continually put on the back burner. Consider the user experience. Look at other websites and find what you like. This does not need to mean a complete overhaul. Little tweaks can make a big difference. Just ask us – we’re constantly tweaking our site based on the needs and wants of our clients!
5. Budget for advertising! No, you don’t have to put money into advertising right now but come up with a tiered strategy that will help you launch into the next phase of business as we come out of the pandemic. Thinking about the strategy now, means you’ll be ready to put it into action when the time comes.

Trust us when we say we understand the endless thoughts and considerations that come with business management during a situation like COVID-19 but we remain encouraged ourselves by these tips to staying relevant and connected with our audiences at any time or phase. Just remember – flexibility and proactive planning. Plus, your ABI family is here to help in any way we can. You can find us on our cell phones, email and social whenever you need us!

Looking for more information about website design and features? Check out Website wisdom: The keys to a successful site.

Anita Brightman

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, I reflect on my own journey. I feel our paths reveal themselves to us if we are open to any possibility. In 1996, I took a leap of faith and left my job with a large defense contractor, a comfortable position, to start A. Bright Idea. I took this risk because I wanted more control over my schedule and to advance my career at a quicker pace.

A new mother, I was scared to step out of my comfort zone, but knew I needed to do it.

Starting from scratch, I built ABI motivated by the voice in my head, saying, “I will not fail.”

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First, I made a plan and followed it. I needed to build a clientele. When things clicked, I worked to replicate and improve processes. When I encountered challenges, I looked for ways to improve, such as building checklists and refining processes to avoid future obstacles. The lessons I learned outside the confines of my comfort zone created the foundation of the A. Bright Idea way and guides how I work to this day. I continue to stay the course, keep my head down and keep marching. Working day by day, I forge ahead and persevere, striving to maximize my potential and create opportunity for others.

I did not set out on this journey with the intent of growing A. Bright Idea into a coast-to-coast, multi-office agency. But by building up my team with brilliant, capable people, something enduring was created. In all endeavors, especially creative ones, collaboration is key. Every day with our combined talents, the ABI team pushes through challenges and identifies opportunities to create innovative ways to support our clients, engage audiences and change conversations.

Directors of A. Bright Idea
Women of A. Bright Idea

The past and present power of the women in our industry, combined with collaboration and creativity, make a positive impact on our families, communities and workplaces. I look forward to all we can achieve and remain steadfast in my commitment to moving the industry forward, investing in the next generation as they create their paths and find their voices.

Anita A. Brightman, APR, Fellow PRSA



by Katie MacNichol

2020 also marks the 100th anniversary of the American Advertising Federation of Baltimore (AAFB). Established as the auxiliary to the men’s-only Advertising Club, the organization flourished thanks to a group of women who wanted their own voices heard amidst the growing advertising scene in burgeoning Baltimore. Just like A. Bright Idea, its creation came out of a desire to make an impact.

Over the last century, AAFB facilitated and connected communications and advertising experts spread out across the Baltimore market, creating and helping generations of professionals grow into the best in the industry.

Our industry relies on empowered team members who feel confident enough to share their ideas and mentors who are readily and enthusiastically willing to provide support.

Every day I see the amazing creative contributions of women in the field and think about the progress since AAFB’s founding. Just like those women who founded AAFB, Anita created a space for all of us to use our voices. Because of her experience starting ABI and the lessons she learned, we can truly make a difference.

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Katie Bouloubassis

Technology continues to play a large role in our lives, from serving as a resource for information to providing a quick and easy way to order groceries online.

To serve the increasing number of digital-savvy consumers in the current on-demand retail environment, companies such as Apple, Google and Amazon continue to develop technology to keep up with the wants and needs of the consumer, specifically through voice-assisted devices.

The origins of the voice assistant started with Apple when they introduced Siri on October 4, 2011. Several years later, Google unveiled Google Home, Microsoft rolled out Cortana and Amazon developed Alexa, flooding the market with new devices. By 2019, there were an estimated 3.25 billion voice assistants used across the world.1  The projected increase in digital voice assistants use is expected to increase from 2.5 billion in 2018 to over 88 billion by 2023.2

Advertisers can now reach the average consumer while they’re in-home or simply completing a voice search on their mobile devices. With expanding technology from top tech companies comes expanded opportunities for buyers to purchase goods or services and for advertisers to reach consumers through these devices.

A. Bright Idea recommends the following strategies for integrating voice assistants into your advertising strategies in 2020:

  1. Follow the users

The top contenders, Amazon and Google reach most voice assistant users and capture the in-home audience.3 By purchasing advertising units through top companies as listed previously and various applications, such as Pandora, you are able to target specific consumers in real-time. Ads placed within relevant content resonates best with the target audience and ensures the call-to-action is heard.

  1. Integrate into the overall plan

The voice assistant tactic should integrate seamlessly into the current audio or digital portion of the full advertising strategy. It is important from a creative standpoint to allow assets used to span across multiple tactics and mediums. Incorporating this tactic can also help reach a new audience not previously reached.

  1. Tailor creative

A. Bright Idea recommends tailoring the creative not only to the audience but keeping the placement in mind as well. A. Bright Idea customized creative messaging for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day campaign using Pandora’s connected home placements. Using language specifically for the in-home listener, DEA’s messaging focused on taking an immediate action within the home to connect with audiences in the moment.

Moving forward and throughout 2020, advertisers can take full advantage of not only the voice assistants, but also other digital tech in development with top companies. The trend of voice assistants will increase while consumers will become less reliant on digital screens.2 While the ways to reach target audiences become more diverse, remember that the way advertisers utilize specific creative and placements help drive the success of the specific advertisement within the campaign.

 

Looking for more advertising expertise? Try this – Advertising in 2020 – The Digital Media Solution

 

Sources:
1 Statista, Number of digital voice assistants in use worldwide from 2019 to 2023 (in billions)*, November 2019, available at: https://www.statista.com/statistics/973815/worldwide-digital-voice-assistant-in-use/

2 Centro Institute, 20/20 on 2020 Trends and predictions for the future of marketing, September 2019

3 Voicebot.ai, Google Home Added 600,000 More U.S. Users in 2018 Than Amazon Echo, But Amazon Echo Dot is Still the Most Owned Smart Speaker, March 2019, available at: https://voicebot.ai/2019/03/07/google-home-added-600000-more-u-s-users-in-2018-than-amazon-echo-but-amazon-echo-dot-is-still-the-most-owned-smart-speaker/

Tasha Scotto DiCarlo

No matter what our age or profession, there are no rules when it comes to creativity. Creativity is a form of self-expression that gives us the opportunity and freedom to explore crazy ideas that pop into our heads. Being creative opens our minds to new ways of thinking and problem-solving. As children, we were encouraged to turn off technology and play, whether we were coloring with crayons, molding with Play-Doh, building forts out of sticks or just spending the day outside, we were having experiences, building memories and developing our character.

One of our favorite hands-on, creative projects for A. Bright Idea currently is a series called “Today’s A.” Initially conceptualized by several members of the A. Bright Idea team, it was Graphic Design Specialist, Robyn Koenig, who has overseen the growth of the project. “Today’s A” is an example of one of the creative agency’s many bright ideas, allowing members of the Visual team to break from their creative pursuits with a computer and mouse and let their imagination run free to fuel productivity and creativity in the workplace. Team members take turns creating different “A’s,” exploring various forms of lowercase or uppercase A’s and using different materials and techniques to create something physical instead of digital.

History of “Today’s A”

Two of the most recognizable brand elements of A. Bright Idea are the lightbulb and the “A.” Over the years, a lot has been done with the lightbulb. When the team was looking for something fun and creative for future content, they chose to focus on the “A,” which stands for the first initial of Founder and CEO, Anita Brightman. “Today’s A” allows members of the Visual team to dig deep into their creative minds to conjure up beautiful, inspiring and fun creative interpretations of the agency’s “A” logo.

“We’re always looking for new ways to show off our creativity,” said Koenig. “At the time when this was started, we were looking to develop some new social media content. We went outside and picked a bunch of flowers and leaves and nature-type things, came back inside, sketched a very loose, kind of handwritten calligraphic “A” and just had fun with it. We laid the flowers and the leaves out on the outline of the “A,” and that was it! Everyone really loved it and now it’s a hanging print inside of our Burbank office.”

Making an A

The idea for a “Today’s A” usually comes from inspiration on social media, in an industry publication or just from brainstorming with our team of creatives. A select team meets monthly to discuss and plan upcoming content strictly for the agency. It’s from those meetings the “Today’s A” ideas flow.

“One of my favorites is the Pinata A,” Koenig said. “We built it like a real, miniature piñata, but without the candy inside. Then there’s the one we recently created for Halloween – the Jack-O-Lantern carved ‘A.’ We have made them out of Play-Doh, wine corks, marshmallow Peeps and various other materials.”

 

Benefits of Creative Play

While it may seem like the team just likes playing with Play Doh and craft materials, the team has identified some solid benefits to the “Today’s A” creative exercise.

  1. Exercise – Using different creative muscles to have the freedom to do something in your way instead of trying to fitting within the confines of a brand style.
  2. Tactile – Working with your hands is beneficial for the creative process. For Koenig and others at the agency, joy comes from creating by hand, without the use of a computer. It’s satisfying to create something physical and then share your creation with others.
  3. Practice – “Today’s A” isn’t just a fun, creative exercise, it’s practice for when it’s time to really think creatively to hit deadlines and make a big impact with client work. It also helps the teamwork through problems and grow as creators. One of the biggest skills needed for being a creative, whether it’s a designer or filmmaker or writer, is problem-solving and finding a good creative solution.

The “Today’s A” creative has allowed for creative expression, as well as personal and professional growth. While “Today’s A” is specific to A. Bright Idea, the concept is one any creative individual or organization can attempt to help build culture at a company, work through a creative block, spark new ideas and exercise known skills and tap into new ones.

Do you see a benefit in our “Today’s A” that we missed? Is this something you might try? Send us an email or DM on social. We’d love to hear from you.

—-

Don’t miss another Today’s A on the ‘gram at @abrightidea.

Megan Olson

As advertisers look ahead to 2020, many feel they must choose between an advertising path focused on mass reach brand awareness or an alternative path to direct sales through targeted digital media advertising.

Many recognize the power of promoting a brand through a strategic mass media approach but cannot deny the benefits and return on investment offered by a targeted digital plan. 2019 marked the first time digital ad spending surpassed traditional media spending, signaling a shift in strategy, budget and execution by many U.S. brands. At A. Bright Idea, we believe a strategic digital media plan can increase brand awareness and drive leads, using a combination of cost-effective advertising tactics.

In the past decade, digital advertising capabilities improved significantly, giving advertisers the opportunity to target niche audiences, see results in real-time and make adjustments mid-campaign to impact sales and maximize budget. Audience targeting capabilities also improved with audience segmentation, enhanced geo-targeting and IP-targeting. The incorporation of first-party, third-party and CRM data gave digital advertising legitimacy in the lead generation space. This data-driven approach allowed advertisers to focus on an audience most likely to interact with their brand and used tangible data to reach the lower end of the purchasing funnel. And, best of all, digital advertising costs a fraction of many broad-reaching mass media buys.

In theory, converting to a pure digital advertising campaign checks all the boxes, but this approach has its drawbacks too. High frequency of exposure to the same audience can cause burn-out and potentially turn consumers away from a brand. Also, limiting reach to those already in the funnel ignores a potentially untapped audience of new customers. Once marketers churn through existing leads, they must find ways to feed the top of the funnel and ultimately cultivate new leads, which cannot be done at the micro-level.

Fortunately, companies do not have to stand on one side of the advertising fence or the other. With more options than ever before, the right formula often includes a combination of digital media that reaches the target audience at multiple points along the consumer journey. As we look to 2020 and consider all of the media options around us and those yet to come, A. Bright Idea considers the following to help build and ultimately execute an effective media campaign:

  • Know your target audience
  • Outline campaign goals and objectives
  • Pinpoint key timing and benchmarks
  • Determine what you want to learn from the campaign
  • Identify key metrics to measure campaign success

 

Learn more about how A. Bright Idea can build a media plan for you! https://www.abrightideaonline.com/work?select=advertising-services

Anita Brightman

When I came across the above quote, I felt a strong connection to how much it relates to my working in a fast-paced creative agency. Every day you get thrown various situations, but how you choose to react to those situations serves as the catalyst for your success.

When approaching new tasks, we inherently seek guidance from others to layout step-by-step directions because creating a sense of familiarity makes us comfortable. The sense of accomplishment, however, feels much stronger when it stems from pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. Your ability to get comfortable starts with recognizing the point at which you transition from uncomfortable to stressed.

 

Many mistakenly identify feeling uncomfortable with feeling stressed. Stress, real stress, comes from situations beyond our control, often involving family, health or livelihood. When I experienced a significant earthquake while waiting for a plane in Los Angeles – that was real stress. Similar to what I witnessed during the 2017 California wildfires in Sonoma and the devastating fires in Los Angeles County, in a moment’s notice people became displaced, injured and left with a real sense of raw vulnerability. Despite practicing emergency preparedness drills and thinking I knew what to do in these situations, I realized I was far less in control than imagined.

While stressful situations reach beyond our control, everyone can take ownership of an uncomfortable situation and set their own path forward. Stay focused on the big picture and tackle the project one step at a time to easily identify where you feel most uncomfortable, so you can move toward a stronger level of comfort for future tasks. Tackling uncomfortable situations brings personal/professional growth to help you become comfortable with the uncomfortable.

I knew I wanted to explore the concept of “getting comfortable being uncomfortable” with the rest of the ABI team, so I made it the theme of our annual employee summit. Each team member wrote down one thing that makes them comfortable at work and one that makes them uncomfortable. Through an open group discussion, we found similarities among our answers, and in a few instances, discovered what one person identifies as comfortable, another found uncomfortable. Some answers on both ends of the spectrum included public speaking, multitasking and working under pressure.

 

During our discussions, I shared another story of feeling uncomfortable – when A. Bright Idea received its first government contract as prime contractor. For many years prior, we executed public affairs support for our commercial clients and got comfortable serving as a sub-contractor for larger government accounts. Our hesitation to apply as a prime contractor stemmed from a feeling of uncertainty in not knowing all of the answers and we did not feel fully prepared to navigate the entire process ourselves. Though we faced many new and uncomfortable tasks to take on this new challenge, we pulled our resources, asked a lot of questions and figured it out. The risk was worth the reward.

That singular experience allowed A. Bright Idea to evolve into the 23-year-old, full-service agency we are today with over 45 employees serving clients coast to coast.

Life brings unknown obstacles to navigate, but how you choose to move forward determines the confidence and knowledge you’ll bring to future tasks. Change can be uncomfortable, but real opportunities for transformation rise from the unknown.

Katie MacNichol

There’s a lot more to media relations than having a great story. You may know what you want to say, but if you don’t know how to say it or who to say it to, then your pitch will turn into a swing and a miss.

Like all communication tactics, media relations requires strategy. No matter how much the industry continues to evolve, these 5 fundamentals will always remain the same.

  1. Keep the audience front of mind

Whether pitching about a product or person, an innovation or an accomplishment, think about the pitch from the audience’s perspective. You have to consider media outlets and the readers, listeners or viewers of those outlets as your audiences. The pitch must deliver exciting, useful information or a unique story for media outlets to share with their audiences. If the product or story doesn’t appeal to the outlet’s audience, it’s not going to appeal to the outlet.

  1. Spend time reading, listening and watching

Spend the time to read, listen to and watch your targeted media outlets. Know who they talk to and how to create a pitch customized for their target audience. The time spent researching on the front-end will save you from wasting time sending pitches to the wrong outlets and contacts. Better your chances of breaking through the clutter by sending a pitch that’s spot on.

82% of journalists say PR professionals can improve by researching and understanding their media outlet.

  1. Pitch with a purpose

A pitch should answer two questions — why would the media have interest in this story and why is this story better than the other 500 pitches the outlet received that week? Until you can confidently answer both questions, the pitch is not ready. Before you begin crafting your pitch, ask yourself — how will/can the news or product you’re pitching affect the audience? How will they benefit? If the story has no legs, media reps will not only delete your email, but will more than likely also delete future emails you send.

  1. Build, then foster, relationships

It’s all about connections and relationships. In order for media reps (writers, reporters, producers) to want to share your story, they must first like, respect and trust you. Securing and strengthening these relationships will come from pitching newsworthy stories and only newsworthy stories. If an outlet is looking for a particular story or expert that you can’t provide, but you know someone who can, let the reporter know. Not only will the reporter remember you, but the person you recommend may return the favor the next time.

58% percent of influencers and journalists said displaying knowledge of past work, interests and beats drove them to pursue a story.

  1. Be realistic. Be patient.

Timing is everything. You have to consider the timing for the outlet and the reporter, but you also need to have a keen awareness of the trending news cycle. The topic du jour could help or hurt your pitch efforts. Stay the course and wait for your opportunity. Your story must stand out and be relevant to stick. Of course, if no one bites on your first attempt, that’s normal. A reporter you pitched today may call you back months later because the time is finally right.

Looking for more tips on successful media relations? Ask us your questions by tagging us on Facebook and Twitter.