The official blog of Nancy Marshall Communications
offering tips, techniques, and thoughts from Maine's PR Maven, Nancy Marshall


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Maine PR Maven blog being discontinued

Starting in 2015, I am now posting on my PR Maven Blog at  This blog will no longer be updated. We also have a blog on the Nancy Marshall Communications site at Please leave comments and keep in touch!

10 tips for effective press releases in the digital age

Reports of the premature death of press releases have been overly exaggerated.

I was with a travel writer friend a couple weeks ago, and she was lamenting the fact that she hardly ever receives real press releases from tourism destinations any more.

“I think that these young PR people think that just posting a blurb on Facebook or a Tweet on Twitter replaces an actual press release,” she said.

Well, my friends, press releases are still relevant and useful.

You should write and distribute press releases to:

  • promote new products and services
  • announce the hire of new personnel
  • announce awards and recognition
  • come clean during a crisis with factual information
  • provide details on an upcoming program or special event

Press release exampleThe press release is still a valuable tool to provide information to the media and the public. It is also the principle means of fair disclosure for corporations. A press release is more formal than a social media post, so it is more credible and is seen as coming directly from the management or leadership of a company or organization.

Here are some tips on crafting good releases:

  1. Use relevant keywords because it will help with search engine optimization on your site (SEO).
  2. Follow up with a phone call to the media outlets where you most want to see the release published or broadcast and provide another snippet of information to the journalist.
  3. Be sure that everything in the release is factual, truthful, relevant and timely. If it’s about an event, be sure to allow enough lead time (at least six weeks in advance).
  4. Provide email and phone contact information for the contact person and be sure that person is available when the release is received by the media.
  5. Provide a photograph or piece of artwork that will illustrate the release. If a newspaper uses a photo, it’s more likely to get placed ‘above the fold’ which is a more desirable placement.
  6. Include a boilerplate paragraph at the end of the release with some background and history on the organization, as well as a link to a website.
  7. Proofread and proofread again. There’s nothing worse than a release riddled with typos. Messiness like this erodes at your credibility as a PR person, as well as that of your organization.
  8. Include at least one quote from an official at the organization or company to express what this news means to the company.
  9. Be sure to carefully research your media list and make sure you are targeting media people who will actually be interested in your news.
  10. Be sure to update your list if there are bouncebacks after you send out your release in order to prepare for the next time you distribute a release.

Writing and distributing press releases is sometimes seen as something that can be done by interns or low-level professionals but it is actually a critically important job function and should be handled by someone with experience, expertise and professionalism so as to give a good impression of your company or organization.

One Easy Way to See if Your SEO is Getting Better or Worse

by NMC Internet Marketing Manager Matthew Rideout

Google’s search engine algorithm changes a lot, trying to provide searchers with the best search results possible. Their goal is to put the best, most helpful content at the top of the search results page.

How SEO Has Changed

Google Analytics Acquisition metricIn the old days all you needed to do for SEO was make sure your page title, headings, and content all used the same keywords, and that you got links from other pages using the same keywords.

Not anymore. Google is getting better at looking at a website the way a real human would, and deciding if your content is better or worse than other websites about the same subject. Everything from your syntax and the vocabulary used, to the friendliness of the site layout, and several other factors that humans pick up on, are now used as part of Google’s algorithm.

Read the rest of the article…

Surprise, Surprise! Google is Now Basing its Rankings on What Humans Want

Three Key Takeaways from a new book
on SEO in 2014 & Beyond

For many years now, search engine optimization has seemed like a mysterious science, where only the tech geeks worked their magic to make websites rise to the top in search rankings. Well, I have good news for all of us mere mortals. Google is now basing its rankings on what real humans want, not the spiders or bots or other mysterious creatures that live on the web.

SEO 2014 & BeyondMatthew Rideout, our interactive marketing manager at NMC, recently recommended that we all read this new book, SEO 2014 & Beyond by Dr. Andy Williams. Thanks for the great recommendation, Matt! I especially like that this book was a quick read, not a voluminous textbook on SEO. Matt has told me that these common SEO practices are brand new; as a matter of fact, even the techniques that were used as recently as 2013 are now obsolete and can actually harm your rankings. Most people are aware that SEO has changed, but you will probably be surprised at how drastically and how recently the changes have taken place.

These are my three key takeaways:

1.  No longer can you get away with “keyword stuffing,” which is inserting the words that you think people will be searching for in order to find your site. Here is an example of keyword stuffing, if I were trying to promote Nancy Marshall Communications:

At Nancy Marshall Communications, we are a public relations agency and we do public relations and build and promote websites, because we are experts in public relations, website development and internet marketing, and we know all about doing PR, website development, online advertising, and using public relations to help promote your website and your company so the public and the media can find you.

Is that a sentence that a human would like to read? Probably not!

The key is to create content that sounds like it was written by an expert, not a marketing person. Here’s the same sentence written in a more human way:

At Nancy Marshall Communications, we use our expertise in public relations and website development, as well as internet marketing, to help our clients raise their profile and promote their services.

This last sentence is more readable, and easier to understand. The sentence is created for someone visiting your site (a human), as opposed to the search engines.

2. Quality content needs to be useful, informative, and balanced, with no marketing hype.

3. From a personal branding perspective, you need to get your site name and photos of yourself on as many high-quality sites as possible, with links back to the appropriate pages on your own site. The high quality sites are sites that are owned by accepted sources of expert information or advice.

Dr. Williams’ book is full of expert advice on SEO that is new and based on Google’s latest updates which are called Hummingbird. These updates are based on an algorithm, or a series of mathematical equations which mimic the way the human brain searches for information. With more and more people now talking into their smart phones to find information, the way that searches are conducted has changed dramatically. (Siri, can you find me the best sushi place close to where I am right now?)

If you are interested in SEO, I recommend you read this book. I especially recommend it if a company is trying to sell you SEO services and you suspect that they are basing their methodology on outdated techniques. The techniques that produce fast results, which are called “Black Hat,” will definitely backfire on you because Google will punish you for trying to outsmart them. I compare Black Hat SEO to crash dieting. You might lose 10 pounds in a week but you risk gaining 20 pounds as soon as you go back to your old way of eating.

New Hope for Old Resolutions

Happy 2014! NMC President Charlene Williams wrote this humorous article about New Year’s resolutions. Enjoy!

As we near the end of January, many of us have already determined that the New Year’s resolution we made with the best intentions less than a month ago is nothing more than a nagging reminder of something we know we should be doing for ourselves.

According to, the top three New Year’s resolutions for 2014 (source: University of Scranton, Journal of Clinical Psychology) are:

1.  Lose weight
2.  Get organized
3.  Spend less, save more

The research goes on to report that 45 percent of Americans usually make New Year’s resolutions, but sadly, only 8 percent are successful in achieving their resolution.

While 8 percent is pretty meager, I have to wonder if that percentage is actually an increase over past years due to newer technology and social media platforms that offer up the latest in self-help techniques right at our finger tips. It seems that keeping resolutions should be much easier. Let’s take each of the top three resolutions for 2014 separately:

Pinterest board#1 – Lose weight – No surprise here. This is a big one. Just Google “weight loss” and you could read for the next six months about the tips, tricks, and lifestyle changes that will result in a new you. Just be sure to do your reading on your hand-held device while on your stationary bike. Take my personal advice and do not watch the Food Network while on your stationary bike. The conflict is too great.

You can even join and participate in Weight Watchers without ever attending a meeting. Just download their app, enter your credit card number and you’re ready to roll…hopefully, not literally.

And, don’t forget Pinterest. You can find just about any low fat, low carb, low cholesterol, low calorie recipe you could ever imagine. And, how about those pins of the cute little outfits appropriate for super models? They do wonders to guilt you into not eating.

Lastly, you can download the free My Fitness Pal app to your mobile device. You will be able to enter your food intake and log your activity. This only works if you’re completely honest. Food you eat while you are preparing the food you track does count. Sorry.

#2 – Getting organized – I must admit, I had no idea there was a magazine called Getting Organized available online. One of the featured articles in the current issue is 12 Things to Simplify Your Workday. I stopped reading when I got to number 2 – check it out.

If the online magazine isn’t enough, wikiHow has a five-part series on how to be organized. After Part 5, you’ll even find a list of warnings – don’t worry, nothing like horrible side effects from taking prescription medication. Just benign warnings like, “Don’t expect to get organized overnight unless you’re really fast at it, or it’s a small area.” Thank goodness! In addition to the warnings, there is a Things You’ll Need section with the second bullet being “Patience” – which leads right into other resolutions that are even harder to achieve.

It would not be fair to Pinterest if I didn’t give them props for this one, too. You can find a plethora of ideas on organizing your home, office and life in general. Have you ever seen so many neatly arranged closets in your life? The best part is, you can have those same organized spaces by using either old bureaus, left over wrapping paper rolls, or used pallets. Oh, yeah…we’ll have to be sure to organize all the left over and old stuff we’ll need to renovate our storage spaces to look as good as those on Pinterest.

#3 – Spend less, save more – First, let’s cover “spend less” by starting with comparison shopping. You can shop online for just about anything by doing a quick Google search for your item of choice. The popular shopping sites are abundant, including Amazon, Overstock, Etsy, eBay, and the endless number of stores, shops and manufacturers that have online shopping carts. Of course, this can work against you, if you let it. The temptation is great when Amazon seems to know what you want even before you do. Seriously, their newest plan for “anticipatory shipping” is a system that predicts your future purchases.

To help us spend less and save more, coupons have made an online splash in a big way. Not only can you download savings in the form of various coupons from coupon, store and manufacturer sites, (check out SmartSource when you have a chance, maybe while on the stationary bike mentioned in #1) you can also get tips on extreme couponing from the Krazy Coupon Lady or Coupon Mom. I think I should add my own warning on this section, just like wikiHow did for getting organized…if you happen to find yourself in line at the grocery store behind someone who has taken this coupon advice, please see “The Things You’ll Need” section in #2 above.

With all the online help today, there are no excuses. This is your chance to help boost that 8 percent success rate. Get in front of the screen, boot up and get started.

All Business is By and Between People

“If you believe relationships build business,
then make building them your business.”
Scott Stratten, author, UnMarketing

Senator Angus King and Nancy Marshall

In 1982, I met Angus King while working at Maine Public Television. He later became Governor, then U.S. Senator from Maine, and we have been friends ever since. Relationships like this are a wonderful part of my personal and business life. We met this fall at the Colby /Bowdoin football game and, even though his team (Bowdoin) won, we still had a lot of fun.

When a baby is born, the first thing he or she wants to see is the adoring face of its loving mother. Then, throughout our lifetime, we are conditioned as human beings to connect with happy, smiling and familiar faces whether we are a newborn baby, an elderly person in a nursing home or a business executive giving a presentation in a crowded convention hall. There is nothing more compelling in business or in life than a bright smiling face with an open attitude of warmth and acceptance.

If we have the opportunity to do business with a happy, smiling professional we know, like and trust, or another professional we don’t know anything about, we are most likely going to go with what we know. It’s the human connection that makes the difference.

Whether we’re in the business-to-business world or the business-to-consumer world, human interaction is ingrained in the fabric of everything we do. In our day-to-day dealings with clients, potential clients, vendors, and our professional peers, we should strive to make authentic connections so the people in our professional network know us, like working with us and trust us.

Zig Ziglar, the late great sales guru, said, “People will listen to other people they know, but they will do business with those whom they trust.”

What does it take for people to know, like and trust you? They need to know you care about them as individuals, not just as talking heads you are only interested in because they can further your business goals in some way. You establish the “know, like and trust” factor by asking them about things other than work and finding common ground. For example, I find that asking about a person’s family, where they grew up, upcoming vacation plans, or hobbies they are passionate about are all good conversation starters. By asking these basic questions, you are guaranteed to find something you have in common with virtually anyone.

People love to talk about themselves, and everyone loves a good listener. Being a good listener and giving the person you are talking to your full attention are important parts of the equation, too. Make eye contact with the person you are speaking to and treat them as if they are the only person in the room. Say their first name frequently. During the course of your conversation, also refer back to things they mentioned earlier to show you are really hearing what they are saying.

Like the business contacts we are working to connect with, we ourselves want to do business with people who we know have “got our back.” It takes a great deal of time to identify, build and maintain business relationships fortified by a strong foundation of trust. However, it is very much worth the investment. It’s kind of like building the “circle of trust” Robert De Niro’s character Jack Byrnes refers to frequently in the classic comedy “Meet the Parents.” Though future son-in-law Greg, played by Ben Stiller, eventually makes it into Jack’s circle of trust, you will find that, just like Jack, you cannot like and trust everyone. Aligning yourself with individuals that share your values, respect you as a business person, are competent in what they do, and are trustworthy themselves is critical to building a strong circle of trust that will bring you personal happiness as well as success in business.

In a world driven by technology, social media now plays an important role in building human connections. While it can never take the place of face-to-face contact, social media can be critical to maintaining and strengthening the connections you have within your professional and personal networks.

Recently, when I was leading a PR Boot Camp, an ad agency owner questioned whether social media is really worth the time or not. I responded, “How could it not be worthwhile to have an ongoing dialogue with your current and prospective customers?” If people want to read what you post, whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, or another social network, or to admire the photos you post on Instagram or Pinterest, how could that not be to your advantage?

Also think of it this way: thanks to social media, you can maintain a connection with many more business contacts than you ever could before. I travel a great deal to conferences, workshops, and networking functions throughout the country as part of my position as CEO. I always meet lots of great people with interesting stories to tell and professional experience to share. It’s one of the most gratifying parts of my job. Before social media, I could never make the time to maintain connections with all of those people. The occasional email, phone call, or holiday card was just not enough. With social media tools like Facebook and LinkedIn, I have established a community in which I can communicate with my “tribe” on a near-daily basis. When we do have the good fortune of meeting again in person, we can pick up right where we left off without missing a beat.

The takeaway from this article is that the ability to build relationships and make connections with people is one of the most valuable skills you can possess as a professional. Likewise, a strong circle of trust is the most powerful tool you can have when it comes to growing and sustaining your business. I encourage you to get out from behind that desk and get to know those you do business with on a personal level. Cultivate your network with the help of social media but don’t rely on it to do all the work. If you work at it consistently, your own happy, smiling face will begin opening doors where there were only walls before.

Five Steps to Develop Your Social Media Marketing Campaign Strategy

Morning Sentinel masthead

I wrote this article for the Central Maine Morning Sentinel’s Business Journal, which came out earlier this week. Jen Libby, our graphic artist, created the infographic to illustrate the five steps. 

5 Steps to Develop Social Media MarketingMany people in business think of social media as a distraction or as something that’s just for kids; others think it is a waste of time. Some even wonder how anyone in business even has time to spend on it. If you are in one of these camps, my question to you is this: how can we, as small business owners, afford not to spend time on strengthening relationships with our current and prospective customers?

Data shows that people who follow brands on social media are likely to buy more products and services more often than those who are not connected. Furthermore, they are more likely to share their enthusiasm about a brand with their own family and friends. That kind of endorsement has the same power as word- of-mouth marketing, which is the most powerful kind of marketing.

Younger people are less likely than ever to believe anything they see, hear or read in advertising, which makes even more of a case for using social media to market your business. Ask a 25 year old if they are more likely to buy a car based on an ad they saw on TV or a recommendation from a friend on Facebook, and guess what the answer will be?

You may not want to spend time on social media, but if you are trying to sustain the growth of your business, you need to find an employee or a professional who will help you engage in this kind of marketing. It’s just a fact of life today: a social media marketing strategy is essential for any business, whether you are selling cars, financial services, farm-fresh vegetables, or fishing equipment.

The dramatic sea change that has occurred in the marketing industry over the past ten years means that we now build brands by engaging people who are interested in having an ongoing relationship with us, as opposed to creating campaigns that promote or sell your business in short campaigns. People don’t want to feel like they are being “sold to” online. You are better served by having a large number of people who are interested in an ongoing dialogue with you than spending a lot of money on an ad campaign that is short-lived.

Furthermore, social media helps your search engine optimization. Google Plus is an often overlooked platform, but it’s worth paying attention to the social media platform created by the number one search engine.

Don’t Just Stay In the Game, Win It: Strategies for Small Business Success

by Paige Calahan, Content Advocate, SocialMonsters

Work smarter for your small businessThink fast: Why do most new small businesses fail? According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), the top reasons are lack of capital, poor management of credit and lack of experience. This last point may be the most daunting. After all, how do you get experience other than trying and sometimes, failing? Sure, everyone knows the basics—solidify a business model, order business cards and execute a marketing strategy—but it’s impossible for a novice business owner to know how to fix every problem that arises. If you’re a savvy small business owner who just doesn’t have much experience, learn from the experience of others. Here’s help to secure capital, stay competitive and win customers.

Show Yourself the Money

It’s often challenging for failed business owners to accurately pinpoint where they went wrong—which makes sense, since if they knew what wasn’t working, presumably they’d have fixed it. That said, lack of capital is consistently cited as a problem that can lead to the downfall of even the most hardworking new small business owner.

This is a knot of a problem with a few different threads, but one of the easiest solutions is making sure you have access to the best business credit cards to give yourself cash reserves for long-term funding. When choosing a card, consider the most popular options that business owners prefer, and compare the various benefits offered. Do you plan to travel a lot? Choose a card that maximizes your mileage rewards and gets you free trips, faster. Do you conduct a lot of business lunches? Seek a card that gives you extra bonuses for dining or any other business-related expenses. By staying on top of your credit and choosing the card with perks that best fits your needs, you can access resources while building your business in ways that a simple loan simply can’t provide.

Management is Key

Once you’ve got your assets squared away, you need to appropriately manage the income and expense streams that flow in and out of your business. Use technology such as accounting and time-tracking software and email management tools. Automate most of your financial planning and decision-making to free you up to focus on developing your product and listening closely to your customers about what’s working and what they’d like to see improve.

Your goal here is to stay on top of your expenses without spending too much time wading through spreadsheets. After all, every minute you’re tied up at the desk is a minute your competitor might be out there snagging a customer that could be yours. Invest in systems you trust and credit plans that give you freedom and peace of mind. Then focus on acquiring new customers and meeting their needs with excellent, memorable service.

Stay Focused, Not Fearful

Finally, while it’s good to keep a clear head about what your competition is up to, remember that at the end of the day, your goal is to do right by the people who are handing you their hard-earned cash: your customers. Listen closely to what your customers need—it’s one of the hallmarks of any successful business, no matter the size or the budget.

10 Ways to Improve Your Personal Brand

I saw this blog post about personal branding and asked the RiseSmart people if I could share it with you here.

Original post published by Dan Davenport – Aug 13, 2013

Building your personal brandEffective career management involves managing a brand, and that brand is you and your workplace accomplishments. If it helps, think of your career as one long brand campaign that will evolve over time but always has the consistent goal of presenting you in the best possible light.

A brand in essence is a promise of a certain level of performance. Great brands have high expectations attached to them, and everything associated with a great brand reflects those expectations.

What do the things associated with you say about your personal brand? Seemingly small details add up to a big overall impression. Here are 10 ways to improve your personal brand.

1. Your written professional bio

Less formal than a resume, this document describes your professional value proposition (PVP). It tells readers what’s in it for them by letting them know how you benefit them. When they read the PVP, they know why they want to hire you because they know how you will be an asset.

2. Your elevator speech

This is the spoken version of your bio. Can you sum up and explain your PVP in 30 seconds or less? If not, practice, practice, practice until you can. Give this real thought, because often it is the first impression you make on potential employers.

3. Your self-description

Can you sum up your PVP in just two to four words? Great brands can, and you should be able to do so, too. Aim to intrigue listeners enough to want to know more about you. Saying “I’m a forensic accountant” is boring. Saying “I’m a numbers detective” is much better.

4. Your business card

Even if you are not employed and are in the middle of a career transition, you need a business card. You can get 500 cards online for little to no cost. Make sure your contact info is on the card and on the back, your brief self-description.

5. Your appearance

Do you look professional during job interviews? Are you well groomed and dressed appropriately for the organization? It’s amazing how many job candidates sabotage themselves by ignoring these basics.

6. Your behavior

Do you act professional during job interviews? Do you avoid chewing gum or interrupting the person speaking to you? Take a good look at how you behave. Your actions should always reinforce your PVP, not take away from it.

7. Your own domain name

Find out whether your first name, middle initial, and last name can be strung together as the address for a website. Use a domain registrar like GoDaddy or Active-Domain to find out if it’s available. If yes, register it, or some variation of it. Free or low-cost services like Weebly and many others can help you build a professional looking website and host it. Make sure that website address is also on your business card.

8. Your social media profiles

You want a business profile on LinkedIn. Then you want to assess your non-business oriented profiles on other sites. If there is anything that might embarrass you if a current or potential employer finds it, do your best to clean it up. On Facebook, for example, you may want to unfriend connections that have posted dubious comments or other material. Who are you following on Twitter? That says more about you than you may realize.

9. Your photo

Make your headshot photo consistent across the Internet, including your personal website and your social media profiles. This photo is a professionally taken headshot of you alone, dressed in business attire and smiling.

10. Your voice

Consider starting a blog. You can make it part of your personal website. Commit to posting at least once a week and choose intelligent observations or articles as the basis for your discussion. The point is to establish you as a voice on the web that people in your industry or field find interesting enough to read regularly.

With regular attention and persistence, your personal brand will become known for quality and even innovation, making you a desirable job candidate or valued employee.

Take Your Social Media Marketing to the Next Level with NMC’s Social Media Boot Camp

Nancy Marshall Communications is again hosting our Social Media Boot Camp, this time on September 25, 2013 at The Senator Inn and Spa in Augusta.  We are pleased to again welcome our sponsor-partner MaineBiz as our presenting sponsor.  People who have come in the past have told us that they were able to immediately apply what they learned to their job once they got back to their offices. We place an emphasis on making the information practical, and teaching how to measure results.

The goal of this session is to help marketing professionals to create a social media marketing strategy for their business or organization. We will share tools, techniques and information on how to enhance social engagement, increase website traffic and boost ales through popular social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram and Vine.

Here’s the schedule for the day:

8:30 to 9 a.m.:  Registration with complimentary continental breakfast and networking (the food at The Senator is really good, by the way.)

9 a.m. to 12 noon:  The NMC team of marketing and social media professionals will teach you how to create a social media strategy for your organization or business. You will learn:

  • The key differences between popular social media platforms
  • Tactics to engage with prospects and customers through these channels
  • How to create a following of fans that will know, like and trust your business
  • How to create loyalty and expert authority
  • How to get your followers to take action
  • Best practices for posting
  • How to justify the time spent on social media and how to generate ROI

12 to 1 p.m.:  A delicious hot buffet lunch with a keynote presentation by yours truly, Nancy Marshall, The PR Maven™ on how to develop and communicate your personal brand by creating your personal brand manifesto and communicating it through social media and public relations.

We are offering all of this for $99 per person and we ask that you register no later than Sunday, September 22. You can register and pay online at  We hope to see you there!