8 Signs it’s Time to Partner with a PR Agency

Here’s how your home service business can build a solid reputation and reach more homeowners

You probably started in the home service business like so many others have – working hard as a technician in a truck and putting in long hours away from your family. And now you’re at the point where your business is growing and it’s starting to run like a well-oiled machine with or without you there.

What’s the next big thing you can do to have a competitive advantage? You may have heard about Public relations. Perhaps from a peer network or best practices group.

What exactly is PR and can it help your business?

Here are some things to think about if you’re considering talking to a PR expert:

  1. You want to position yourself as the market expert

This is one area where PR will help you stand out in your service market. Our team of PR pros understands residential HVAC, plumbing and electrical businesses, and we also understand what makes a good story from a journalistic viewpoint. We work tirelessly on your behalf, reaching out to the media in your market to position your company as the experts. Depending on your service offering, we would pitch you as an expert for stories dealing with freezing pipes, electrical hazards, heating maintenance, and other key service areas. PR is a long-term approach and does take some time to position you as the expert. Word of caution: PR will not make your phone ring immediately so if you are looking for a dollar-for-dollar return on your PR spend, this will not happen right away. If you have done TV or Radio advertising you understand how this works.

  1. You need to step up your social media

Do you currently have someone managing your social media? Is it one of your employees who has other priorities, but has some “free time” during the week to come up with posts? Is it a family member or friend who is taking some marketing classes? This is one area we regularly see home service businesses struggle with. You want your business to be seen in the community as professionals, so we recommend having a communications professional, who is trained to handle crises and customer complaints in a tactful manner, manage your social media. Our team of professionals will create editorial calendars that you will approve in advance so you don’t have to look at Facebook and see that no one has updated your page in months, or worse, there are spelling or grammatical errors in the posts.

  1. You need to refresh your website with relevant content

We all know Google’s algorithms are continually changing the rules of the game. But one thing that has remained consistent is the fact that Google likes relevant and regularly-updated content on a website. Our team of professional writers and journalists can write blogs for your website, helping to position you as the expert, and we write with keywords that will complement your search engine optimization efforts.

  1. You want to build awareness for a company name change or a new service

We are seeing a lot of home service companies rebranding. After years in the HVAC business, you may have decided to add plumbing so Ken’s Heating & Air Conditioning no longer tells the homeowner what you do. This is a growing trend and we get it. But if you don’t properly tell your customer base that your name has changed, you risk keeping your current and new customers in the dark about all of your services. The time to do PR around this is before you change the name.

  1. You want to respond to customer reviews

Who is currently responding to your online reviews? Many home service business owners tell me they don’t respond to the customer reviews because “that customer was a jerk and we can’t make them happy.” I get it. But, have you thought about how not responding makes you look to other homeowners researching your business. The way you respond to positive and negative customer reviews can help you win new business. Customers don’t expect perfection, but they do want to see that you address your mistakes quickly and efficiently. I have published quite a bit on this subject and invite you to explore this area further. Here’s a recent article I wrote for PHC News, entitled “Reviews and Stars Count,” and another for Entrepreneur Magazine, entitled “Using Online Reviews to Win New Customers.”

  1. You have a crisis

This is something every home service business owner (or any business owner) dreads. You may have a really good company with a solid reputation in your community. But what if just one technician does something really stupid? We worked with one client who had an employee arrested for murder! And the TV stations reporting on it showed the company van in the driveway after the arrest. Preparation is key for any crisis situation, but some things you just can’t predict. Our team of professionals is here to help you through situations that could blow up unexpectedly. For many of our clients we prepare wallet media cards for them to hand out to all of their employees. The cards have our contact information in case something does happen and the media asks them for a comment.

  1. You want to sell the company someday

This has to have crossed your mind at some point. What is your exit strategy? We had two clients acquired recently: Gold Medal Service was acquired by Horizon Services and bluefrog Plumbing + Drain franchise was acquired by Restoration 1. Earned media coverage positioning your business as the experts can add to the value of your company. It helps to educate would-be-suitors that you exist and that you are a quality company worthy of consideration.

  1. You want to dominate your market

By now, I’m sure you’re seeing the way to dominate your market is through PR. Again, it is a long-term strategy. It’s similar to branding campaigns you might run on TV or Radio. PR does work and we have countless examples to show you. Contact us today. Tell us your growth plans and we can develop a strategy that will help get you there. Are you ready to dominate your market?

 

 

Heather Ripley, Founder/CEO

This post was written by on July 19, 2017


Can public relations help your construction company expand?

Do you want to expand your construction company, but you don’t know how to take your business to the next level? There are important reasons for making public relations a key element of your expansion strategy. PR involves a variety of programs designed to maintain or enhance a company’s image and the products and services it offers. Successful implementation of an effective public relations strategy can be a critical component of an expansion plan. A construction public relations company like Ripley PR can help your business grow through:

Positive media coverage

A good construction public relations firm knows the best publications and markets to reach your target audience. Media coverage will act as a third party endorsement of your brand and can drive positive coverage for your construction company.

Credibility

The construction industry is extremely specialized, you need a good PR company which will position you and your business as an expert. This will boost your business’s credibility. Dedicated outreach using press releases, and articles in trade publications can increase your business’s credibility in the industry.

Crisis Management

Construction is a risky business, and although your business is no doubt doing everything attainable to prevent the worst, accidents do happen. It’s not a question of if a crisis occurs, it’s more a matter of when these accidents happen, your company’s reputation is at risk and advanced planning is the key to your business’s survival. A PR agency can put together a crisis plan to assist you in handling the situation properly.

If you would like to learn more about how construction PR can grow your business, contact Ripley PR.

Jennifer Rice, Senior Brand Manager

This post was written by on July 18, 2017


Exit Strategy: Here’s How One Ripley PR Client Came Full Circle to Create, and then Exit an Empire

For many businesses, survival is the main focus. But for one of our long-time clients at Ripley PR, it’s the opposite.

Statistics tells us that a majority of businesses fail within the first two years. If a business lasts longer than that, most owners are content just building it up, running on autopilot, and maybe handing it off to the next generation.

But, for one company, who is also a Ripley PR client, it was all about coming full circle—not just to survive and grow but to exit. And to grow something else.

Mike Agugliaro and Rob Zadotti started their electrical business 22 years ago. They created Gold Medal Electric, a New Jersey-based residential electrical company. In those early years it was just Mike, Rob, and two helpers, zooming up and down the New Jersey Turnpike in vans, working long hours to help as many homeowners as they could.

Their company survived—barely—and for the first 10 years Mike and Rob put in many long hours. Then one day, everything changed: Rob paused in the midst of one busy day to tell Mike that he was burning out and he wanted to walk away from the company.

Rather than completely shut the business down, the two decided to do something different: they’d stop building a business by default and start building one by design. They would “go back to school” (in a manner of speaking) and learn everything they could about how to grow a business.

They studied companies like Amazon, Disney, Zappos, and more—learning from industry leaders and the world’s top business thinkers—ultimately transforming their company into an empire. Their first ten years were a struggle but the transformation became evident in how they grew in the following 12 years:

  •  Year over year growth of more than million dollars with last year’s revenue at $32 million
  • Staff increases to more than 190 employees
  • A loyal customer base of more than 140,000 clients
  • Mike and Rob were even able to hand off the day-to-day decision making of the company to their trusted leadership team and spend more time focusing on the growth of the company

Recently, Gold Medal Service was acquired by another company and Mike and Rob officially came full circle, successfully exiting the company they built from scratch—an exit strategy they had planned and worked toward since the very beginning.

Along the way, our team at Ripley PR has had the privilege of supporting Mike and Rob’s growth as they came full circle. We’ve worked with Gold Medal Service for the past four years, and we’re privileged to work with Mike and Rob on their newest venture, a business coaching and consultancy firm, CEO Warrior.

Mike and Rob are 100 percent committed to changing the service industry through CEO Warrior.

“PR is an essential building block in the growth of our companies,” says Mike Agugliaro. “Growth does not just come from the marketing you do to get leads calling, it also comes from the PR that gets you on the 6 o’clock news, that elevates you as an expert in front of customers, and that positions you as a leader in the industry.”

Owning a business is not just about trying to survive until tomorrow. Sure, in the early days that might be the owner’s focus. But as any business grows, it would do well to keep its eye on tomorrow, making strategic decisions to grow the company while also positioning its owners for a successful “full circle” exit.

PR is a key part of that play, since business growth and exiting is not just about getting more customers. It’s about strategic positioning to make you an attractive acquisition target.

If you are a business owner that is thinking about the long-term, consider how a PR strategy can help support your exit, and put those plans in place today so that, like Mike and Rob, you can also go “full circle.”

Mike Agugliaro and Rob Zadotti in the early days of Gold Medal Electric.

From left to right: Rob Zadotti and Mike Agugliaro in front of Gold Medal Service in 2013.

Mike Agugliaro changing lives of home service business owners through CEO Warrior.

Home service business owners listening to Mike Agugliaro for the first time at a trade show.

Mike and Rob are 100 percent committed to changing lives through CEO Warrior.

Heather Ripley, Founder/CEO

This post was written by on July 17, 2017


So, you want to be No. 1 in your business space

Here’s how PR can help get you there

Every business wants to be at the top of their game. More importantly, most aspire to ascend to No. 1 in their category. A competent B2B public relations agency can help make your business famous.

There’s more than one way to skin that cat, but here are a few ways PR can help your business climb to the top:

  • Compete for awards – Your PR agency should be looking for awards opportunities in your region and maybe even nationally. Awards are a great way to get earned media coverage. After all, the sponsors of the awards will also make sure everyone knows about the winners.
  • Identify as an expert – If your business is good at what they do, why not tell everyone what you are really good at? Potential clients are always looking for experts in their field to ensure they are getting the best advice available.
  • Demonstrate points of differentiation – Public relations is all about telling the right story to the right audience via the right medium. One of the main things a PR agency should trumpet about your business is where you are different and better than the next best competition without mentioning that competition.

If you believe your business deserves to be the best, then a B2B public relations agency with the talent and expertise to get you there is what you need. Let PR help your business achieve that No. 1 status you so richly crave.

If any of the above resonates with you and your business, we at Ripley PR would love to talk with you. Not only are we a B2B public relations agency, we know we can deliver coverage and value that will help you become No. 1.

John Cherry, Senior Brand Manager

This post was written by on July 14, 2017


Leveraging PR to Highlight your Plant-Based Product

We are seeing more and more brands become vegan friendly. From supermarket offerings, to clothing, to restaurant menu options, wine, and home goods, we are seeing more variety available for consumers in this high-growth niche every day. According to GlobalData’s research, Veganism has skyrocketed 600 percent in the U.S. over the past three years and the industry is projected to continue to grow.

New brands are entering the plant-based product industry every day and aggressively going after shelf space to stay visible in the eye of the consumer. For your brand to be competitive, whether you are a ‘first mover’ or just entering the market, you must properly position your brand through public relations strategies.

GlobalData also highlighted another area where consumers can expect to see innovation. It says: “With meat consumption being continually blamed for negative effects on the environment, lab-grown meat may make its way into the mass market to combat these concerns. It also represents a cruelty-free option”.

With that being said, plant-based foods are predicted to have huge growth over the coming years, with reports from Allied Market Research saying the alternative meat market will hit $5.2 billion by 2020, and the plant-based milk sector will hit $16 billion by 2018.

According to Innova Market Insights, the meat substitutes market is reported to be growing at 8.7 percent annually in the U.S. and 4.9 percent in the UK. As part of this trend, even major meat companies are investing in startups and companies making plant-based and vegan meat substitutes.

What we also find interesting is that Suzanne Palmer-Holton, founder of The Vegan Society, believes interest in veganism has increased “astronomically” because of growing concerns about the environment and animal welfare, as well as for health reasons.

Ripley PR has been monitoring the vegan friendly industry movement and offers a mix of traditional and digital media for both startups and brand leaders to build awareness for their product offerings. We provide communications pieces for digital platforms, earned media press releases, and offer targeted advertising programs.

We can help you build awareness for your vegan friendly product. Contact us today.

Heather Ripley, Founder/CEO

This post was written by on July 13, 2017


5 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a PR Agency for your Manufacturing Company

Image of manufacturing public relations for Ripley PRIf you are looking to hire a PR agency for your manufacturing company, it’s important to do proper research about the agency before signing on the dotted line. Manufacturing public relations is a great way to reach your target audience in ways that traditional marketing is unable to.

Here are a few questions to ask the PR agency before partnering with them:

  1. How deep is your manufacturing public relations experience? It goes without saying that you want to do business with the experts in your industry. Ask about the PR agency’s track record and the PR tactics they use for other manufacturing companies. This will go a long way in creating a PR strategy and building on the agency’s previous successes.
  1. Who will be the team working on your account? When you hire an agency, there will be multiple people working on your account. Does the agency have content specialists with enough experience to write about technical subjects? Does the agency have relationships with key trade media to help secure media opportunities?
  1. Have you had to deal with crisis situations of big manufacturing companies before?Crisis can strike at any time and you’ll need a team to help you manage the company’s reputation. The key lies in good preparation. Ask about previous crisis situations the agency had to deal with, whether the agency offers crisis management training and if they can help you develop a crisis management policy for your business.
  1. How can PR help you leverage exposure at trade shows? Attending trade shows has always been an effective marketing tactic. But have you been leveraging all the opportunities a trade show has to offer? Ask about ways the PR agency can help you make the most of these events. Things like speaking opportunities, byline articles in conference publications, and social media campaigns at the event, can help drive awareness of your business.
  1. Do you only do media relations? Or can you help us with all our content needs? The definition of what PR agencies do compared to traditional marketing agencies is constantly changing. Ask about the services the PR agency can provide. Media relations is one thing, but what about creating content for your website, writing byline articles for trade publications, managing your social media platforms, developing white papers or infographics, or helping you organize a conference. It might be easier to work with one agency than having multiple teams from different vendors.

To find out more about manufacturing public relations, contact Ripley PR today.

Celeste Vlok, Senior Brand Manager

This post was written by on July 10, 2017


Five key ways Ripley PR can bolster your business

 

From content development to crisis management, you need PR pros

We’re in the shadow of the Great Smoky Mountains, but we get our clients plenty of light across the country and around the world.

Ripley PR is a Knoxville-area public relations agency specializing in the construction, franchise and home services industries. Yes, we’re Volunteers fans (for the most part), but we have a unique national and global reach that extends far beyond Knoxville.

Here is a sampling of the services we provide:

  1. Content development. Quality copy on your website is a key to good search-engine page placement and credibility. Our brand managers are first-rate, but our writers – seasoned in real-world daily journalism for decades – are pretty good, too. We can convert your ideas into hot copy, or handle the creative side, as well.
  2. Social media. There’s nothing sadder than a weak website, except maybe impotent, static social media platforms. We are constantly ahead of the curve on search-engine optimization and keyword techniques and never stop learning the best ways to promote your brand on platforms ranging from Twitter to LinkedIn and Facebook.
  3. Crisis management. Most business owners and managers in the home-services, franchise and construction industries don’t think about the need for a crisis plan until a crisis unfolds at the speed of light. Digital media moves faster than ever, and we can help you cultivate a plan to stay ahead of the media, honestly and respectfully, should the need arise. You’ve worked hard to build your brand. Don’t let it get consumed in the fire fueled by poor crisis response.
  4. Bylines. We can craft your voice and brand into solid, well-researched and highly readable articles for trade publications and traditional media. This will help position you as an expert in your field and build credibility.
  5. Media placement. We are experts at identifying what reporters in the Knoxville area and beyond find newsworthy and maintain a proprietary, continually updated database brimming with contact information for some of the biggest local, regional and national publications.

 

We may work in the shadows of the Smokies, but we’ll illuminate your brand for the media and your clients across the country, and around the world.

If you are looking for a Knoxville PR agency, contact Ripley PR today to see how we can meet your 21st century public relations needs.

Thomas Fraser, Senior Content Specialist

This post was written by on July 7, 2017


Happy Anniversary: Earning Media Coverage for Corporate Milestones

Congratulations! Your B2B company has reached a milestone, whether it’s your 1st anniversary or 10th or 25th. But it’s not just a date on the calendar. You can use it to gain some valuable earned media coverage. An experienced B2B public relations agency knows how to leverage the milestone into coverage by broadcast and social media as well as online and print publications.Business anniversary

Rather than simply buying advertisements, you can market the story of your B2B company to local, regional and national media. Earned coverage of your anniversary, by trusted local and trade publications or through the broadcast media, is the most efficient way to improve your reputation and brand image.

Your company’s anniversary can also be used as the basis for extensive content marketing: generating press releases, blogs, infographics, or even videos concerning the history of the business as well as customer testimonials. It could be promoted in conjunction with a redesign and relaunch of your website. There are many story hooks that can be used to attract the attention of journalists and writers.

A B2B public relations agency like Ripley PR can pitch the story of your company to media outlets far beyond just traditional newspapers and television stations. You can leverage our extensive relationships with the outlets that specialize in your industry. Once you gain coverage of your anniversary milestone, our social media team can boost the signal through a solid social media strategy to promote your brand on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

The return on investment for promoting the milestone will continue far beyond the anniversary itself. The content can be used to help increase your company’s ranking in internet search engine results. Visibility creates more visibility. More visibility means more leads. For more information about how you can use B2B public relations to earn media coverage for your company’s milestone, contact Ripley PR today or call us at 865-977-1973.

Joel Davis, Senior Content Specialist

This post was written by on July 6, 2017


How are you responding to franchise leads?

franchise lead communication breakdown

Three ways to better speak to your franchisee prospects

“We’ve been doing it this way for years.”

The above statement, while probably accurate, is the unfortunate mantra of some franchisors—mostly those who are stuck in a lead generation rut.

It’s also almost always followed up by a statement like, “If it worked before, surely it will work now. The issue isn’t the way we’re doing things, it’s something else.”

For those of you who have heard or said this: it’s time to take a long hard look at this stance and question whether it’s serving you and your franchise.

Whether you realize it or not, that type of thinking is often lazy and unthoughtful; and for a franchise trying to grow, it can be the difference between being perpetually underwhelmed at your franchise growth and becoming a franchise who hits and exceeds the coveted 100 unit milestone.

As an agency that specializes in franchise public relations, we want to see our franchise clients succeed. Our part in their success is helping generate fresh ideas and guide their messaging. That’s what we do to bring leads to their door. From there, it’s up to the franchise to close the loop.

In the information age, prospects who are interested in your franchise have already done their research. They wouldn’t be talking you if they hadn’t. In fact, most franchise prospects have had you on their radar for at least three to six months before they even talk to a real person.

Because of this, it’s important for franchisors to know how to better speak to their prospects to keep them interested, get them excited, and not waste their time.

  1. Don’t waste their time – Your website is your first contact with 99 percent of your prospects. When you have a discovery day or a meet and greet with a prospect, don’t assume they know nothing about your company. Instead, ask them to tell you about what they know. This will help you avoid rehashing the same information they’ve already gathered either from your website or from searching the internet.
  2. Keep them interested – Ask the prospect why they chose your franchise and what kind of experience they’re looking for. Ultimately you’re looking to create happy, successful franchisees. In order to do this, you have to know why they’re talking to you in the first place and discover whether they’re a good fit, especially from a cultural standpoint. Let them tell their story, you might be surprised at how much they’ll say. From there, you can weave in what makes your franchise a great opportunity and next step in the story of their life.
  3. Get them excited – Purchasing the rights to a franchise is a financial decision, yes; but ultimately, it’s an emotional decision. If a franchise prospect isn’t excited, they’re not going to sign. It’s important to remember to be realistic with your prospects about the business side of owning a franchise while keeping them emotionally engaged and excited about the opportunity. Talk with them about what they hope owning a franchise will accomplish? Maybe they want to get off the road and spend more time with their family, or maybe they’re ready to go into business for themselves. Whatever their dream, keeping them focused on their ultimate goals can help maintain their excitement.

If you’re a franchise in need of new ideas and better messaging, give Ripley PR a call at 865.977.1973. We have the franchise public relations experience to help you grow.

JD Sizemore, Account Supervisor

This post was written by on July 4, 2017


How to Make Your Plant-Based Brand Stand Out from the Competition

America’s plant-based market is booming. If your company makes plant-based or vegan products in the B2B or B2C marketplace, and therefore “in” on the movement, you may think that’s all you need to do to be noticed. However, have you walked down the aisle of any grocery, fitness, health food, retail or superstore lately? More and more cosmetics, clothes, furnishings, pesticides and disposables are going plant-based.

We agree this is a wonderful thing! But how can your product or service stand out in a sea of competition with similar labels, logos and packaging?

vegan-public-relations, cruelty-free-public-relations, vegan-pr-agencyIf you think of the most popular vegan, organic, plant-based and cruelty-free products in stores today, where are they placed on the shelves? At eye-level of course, because we know that the popular products get the best location in the aisles. Sellers also get financial rewards from manufacturers for the best spots on the shelves.

But there is another reason: customer desire. Grocers, retailers and specialty store managers are all influenced by customers whether that customer is a business or an individual. If customers continually ask for a product, retailers pay attention. If potential customers don’t know about your product, the store owners won’t either. To raise awareness of our clients’ products and brands Ripley PR uses:

  • Online platforms

We tell the world about your products via your online channels. We use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and your website. We can help you make interesting short videos and upload them to your YouTube channel. We also know how to use the best keywords to increase visibility.

  • Earned media

Our team of professional writers and journalists knows how to write press releases that will get media attention. They are written strategically so that reporters, newspapers and TV stations can use as-is without rewriting.

  • Targeted advertising

You may need to use some paid ads to help promote your products and brand. We can help you start in niche publications and social media ads to get in front of your target audience.

Well-defined public relations plans can address all of the above, and using a specialized agency to create a distinct yet coordinated promotion will go a long way in obtaining the right kind of media and end-user attention for your vegan and cruelty free products.

Heather Ripley, Founder/CEO

This post was written by on July 3, 2017


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