18 Myths of PR DebunkedWhether your perception of public relations comes from Sex in the City’s Samantha Jones, who’s career seems to be one of party-going and rubbing elbows with the well-to-do or from the image of the so-called “spin doctor” who weaves falsehoods into entertainment, most of us assume that we know what public relations professionals do. They lie, cheat and manipulate. Myths of PR: All Publicity is Good Publicity and Other Popular Misconceptions is here to set the record straight and help anyone interested in the PR industry understand how it really works.

What is Myths of PR About?

Myths of PR explores 18 of the most common myths public relations professionals face while doing the job. These myths range from confusion about the purpose of PR to the belief that public relations is some kind of “silver bullet” that the rich and powerful use to cover up their mistakes. While exploring these myths, author Rich Leigh brings readers back to what he argues is the central purpose of public relations, to help individuals and businesses achieve their communication goals.

This simple purpose of helping individuals and businesses achieve their communication goals can be pursued in a number of ways which Leigh explores throughout the book. Public relations professionals use events, press releases (which aren’t dead), press coverage, social media marketing, advertising, blogger relations, newsletters, stunts and crisis management. Unlike popular perception, it isn’t about “spinning” lies into truth (although, as in any industry, this can happen) or helping a business or individual gain instant fame with a single interview.

Public relations, as Leigh explains it, is a lot of work.

Public relations professionals have to be proactive (building a positive public image) and reactive (addressing threats and risks to a personal image) for their clients in an always-connected world. It’s also long-term work. PR professionals, no matter how good they are, can’t guarantee fame after a”viral” video or product launch.

In providing this insight into public relations, Leigh hopes to dispel the myths surrounding public relations and increase understanding of how PR can (and can’t) work for a business. This understanding will help PR professionals and businesses achieve their common goal of communicating a message in a busy world.

Leigh is an award-winning PR professional who carved his own path through public relations, working through the ranks as a PR account director. Leigh launched his own PR agency, Radioactive PR, at 27 and is the founder of Bloggabase.com and PRexamples.com.

What Was Best About Myths of PR?

Myths of PR offers a realistic and unvarnished view of the present reality of the PR industry as well as where the industry is going. This can be very helpful for a business or individual that has an interest in the PR industry but has some basic questions or concerns. Myths of PR gives information on what PR pros do, how much they charge, and what kind of general results to expect.

What Could Have Been Done Differently?

Myths of PR is primarily focused on clearing the air about the PR industry. The focus is on the stereotypes themselves. Leigh explores why he believes they exist and how these stereotypes impact the reading audience (which includes business owners, aspiring PR professionals, etc.). The book isn’t a prescription for PR success, although several tips and recommendations are given. In other words, readers of the book won’t get all of their PR issues resolved within these pages, but they will gain insight into how they can get those PR issues addressed.

Why Read Myths of PR?

Many business professionals, along with the public, have a love-hate relationship with the PR industry, although they haven’t explored why. Myths of PR starts the conversation and helps readers understand what PR is, what PR isn’t and where PR is going. If you are a business owner or aspiring PR professional, this book offers detailed insight from a personal perspective that should cause you to revisit your beliefs about the PR industry now and in the future.

This article, "Myths of PR Debunked" was first published on Small Business Trends

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Small Business Healthcare Coverage Trends Show Drop, ACA Given as Reasons

Fewer small businesses are offering healthcare coverage to their employees than have in recent years, according to recent research.

Small Business Healthcare Coverage Trends

The Kaiser Family Foundation found that only 50 percent of small businesses with between three and 49 employees offer healthcare coverage to employees. That’s down from 59 percent that offered coverage in 2012 and 66 percent more than 10 years ago.

There are many potential reasons for this growing trend. But the biggest seems to be the cost involved. In the survey, 44 percent of businesses that don’t offer health benefits cited cost as the main reason why. Price hikes have become commonplace in recent years, especially since the passage of the Affordable Care Act. And those prices have simply climbed too fast for many small businesses to adapt.

Of course, businesses with less than 50 employees are not required by the ACA to provide health benefits to employees. But doing so can be a major draw or even a requirement for businesses looking to attract and retain great workers.

However, some small businesses are making up the difference by simply offering more monetary compensation to employees so they can go to the marketplace and pay for their own health coverage with the extra money. Others have found that their employees simply obtain health coverage through a spouse or, in the case of young workers under the age of 26, from their parents. This last option of staying on a parent’s plan is again due to changes ushered in with Obamacare.

Overall, this trend is a disturbing one for small businesses. Health benefits are often considered to be an important factor for job hunters. And since large companies with full time workers largely provide those benefits, the inability for some small businesses to do so can make them less competitive. Some small businesses are looking to make up for that in other ways. And doing so might become more and more important for small businesses struggling to navigate the complicated world of employer health coverage.

Obamacare Photo via Shutterstock

This article, "Small Businesses Drop Healthcare Coverage with Cost, ACA Given as Reasons" was first published on Small Business Trends

Startups that use artificial intelligence (AI) technology got some welcome news this week — Salesforce just launched a brand new venture fund to encourage AI innovation in startups. Additionally, any small business can now work on creating augmented reality (AR) experiences using the new iOS 11.

Learn about these updates and more below in this week’s Small Business Trends news and information roundup.

Technology Trends

Salesforce Launches $50 Million Fund for AI Startups

Salesforce announced a new $50 million venture fund for startups to innovate with AI technology.  The goal is to encourage AI startups to develop artificial intelligence solutions that work together with the Salesforce platform. The Salesforce AI Innovation Fund, part of Salesforce Ventures, has already made investments in three AI startups.

iOS 11 Brings AR to iPhone, Is Your Small Business Ready?

Every iPhone 5s or later, or iPad Air or later is going to be able to run iOS 11 and the new Augmented Reality (AR) feature. If you are a small business, shouldn’t you be making the most of these features? The availability of AR on iOS means instant market penetration.

Warning: Cyber Security Breach, Could Negligence be Responsible?

What is the number one root cause behind data breaches across North America for small businesses? If you said negligent employees, you would be right. More than half, or 54 percent of respondents in the 2017 State of SMB Cybersecurity Report  gave this very same reason.


Shoppers  Plan to Spend 25 Percent More at Small Businesses Next Year, New Study Finds

More than a quarter of U.S. consumers say that they’re likely to shop at small businesses more often in 2018 than they did in 2017, according to a recent survey from Vistaprint (NASDAQ:CMPR). Consumer Shopping Trends for 2018 The survey results, which the company released today, offer several takeaways that should have small business owners feeling optimistic about the future.

Back to School eCommerce Sales Jump 3 Percent Over 2016

Back-to-school sales come before the big holiday season, and it is an indicator of how consumers will shop when Black Friday finally rolls around. The back-to-school ecommerce sales data released by NetElixir reports a 3 percent increase over the previous year, but a much better number in mobile orders and revenue.

11 Percent of Americans Think Bitcoin is Illegal, But Business Use Growing

Close to 11 percent of Americans believe owning Bitcoin is illegal, but almost half or 47.71 percent are also not sure. This is according to a poll commissioned by LendEDU and carried out by polling company OnePoll. Are Bitcoins Legal? Bitcoins are legal, however, the perception that they’re not is slowing its use.

Could Louisiana Small Business Asset Building Program Be the Start of a Trend?

A new small business program in Louisiana could potentially serve as a model for communities around the country looking to support and fund small businesses. Asset Builders of Southwest Louisiana, which is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, actually started as a way to help low and moderate income residents save enough to buy homes in the area.

Franchise Businesses Expected to Grow Faster Than the Economy This Year

Eighty percent of franchisors, 64 percent of franchisees, and 76 percent of suppliers expect their business to do better in the next 12 months. This is according to the Franchise Business Economic Outlook Report released by the International Franchise Association.


Are  You Keeping Up with Employee Recordkeeping Requirements? You Might be Surprised

Did you know that employers who don’t file the required Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) reporting forms with the IRS may be subject to a $3 million maximum penalty? That’s enough to keep you up at night! And that’s just one legal requirement.

California Considers 12 Week Leave for Small Business Employees

California is currently considering a bill that would require some small businesses to offer 12 weeks of maternity and paternity leave for employees. Up for Consideration: New Parental Leave Law in California The New Parent Leave Act would apply to small businesses that have 20 employees or more.

Marketing Tips

Facebook  is the Most Popular Social Media Site for B2C Small Businesses, Survey Says

The social media preference for business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) companies not surprisingly is different. While B2C companies like Facebook and YouTube, B2B organizations prefer LinkedIn and Twitter. Even though their preference differs, the new survey conducted by Clutch revealed social media has a positive influence for most companies.

Retail Trends

Hobby Lobby Controversy Shows ANYTHING Can Cause a Crisis for Your Brand

Hobby Lobby has gained some viral attention recently — but not necessarily the right kind. A Facebook user named Daniell Rider posted a photo of a vase containing some decor resembling raw cotton stems being sold at a local Hobby Lobby. The caption to the photo read: “This decor is WRONG on SO many levels. There is nothing decorative about raw cotton …

Omni-Channel Retail Report Shows Results of Bigcommerce Study (INFOGRAPHIC)

Business owners who understand the different touch-points their customers interact with will be successful. Because shopping channels are not siloed and consumers shop wherever it is most convenient. This is the conclusion of the new comprehensive report and infographic by Bigcommerce.

Shopify Introduces Shopcodes, QR Codes Connected Directly to eCommerce Items

The easier you make the checkout process for customers when they shop online, the more they are likely to buy from you — or so the people at Shopify believe. Shopify (NYSE:SHOP) recently introduced Shopcodes, a service taking customers to a product or cart in your Shopify store when they scan a QR code.

Small Biz Spotlight

Spotlight: This Company Created a Business Around Concrete Staining

Staining concrete might not seem like the most exciting thing to build a business around. But one entrepreneurial family recognized that it was an underserved market. So they set out to change that with a new venture — Concrete Camouflage.

Small Business Operations

Is Your Desk Work Killing You? New Medical Research Says — Maybe!

Do you run a small business which requires you to sit at a desk for long periods? Perhaps you’re a freelancer working from a desk at home, day in, day out? If you have a sedentary job, you may be working to the detriment of your health. This is the finding of a study by the Annals of Internal Medicine. The research examined the association between sedentary lifestyles and mortality.

10 Ways to Winterize Your Business to Manage Energy Costs

Winter might be synonymous with cold weather and sky-high energy bills, but it’s not all doom and gloom. If you run a business and are determined to lower your bills this winter, take a look at the following 10 ways to winterize your business to help manage energy costs.

Florida SBDC Offering Assistance to Small Businesses Impacted by Hurricane Irma

This week, the recovery from devastating Hurricane Irma continues in Florida. Small businesses remain closed or are struggling to re-open. And small business owners are faced with no electricity, limited cell service, damaged or destroyed properties, and limited resources to do anything about it.

What is the ELD Mandate and What Small Businesses Does It Impact?

By the end of the year, some truck drivers working for American small businesses will be logging their hours electronically.  The new rule could mean trouble for some small business and no changes for others. What is the ELD Mandate? Many long haul truck drivers including those who carry freight to Canada and Mexico are going to be subject to new electronic logging device (ELD) rules.


16 Percent of Small Businesses Rely on a Single Customer

New research shows some U.S. small businesses walking a tightrope by relying on one customer for half or more of their revenue. However, the ninth annual DNA of an entrepreneur report from Hiscox (LON:HSX) is mostly good news.

Millennials Not Replacing Older Business Owners, Stats Say

As older entrepreneurs retire, the hope would be that younger generations would step up to replace them. But that doesn’t seem to be the case, as some recent reports have indicated that millennials in particular are starting businesses at lower rates than previous generations.

City Tries to Improve Community with Small Business Training Program

The city of Springfield, Massachusetts is putting an emphasis on supporting its small business community with a new executive training program called RiseUp Springfield.

Image: Salesforce

This article, "In the News: Salesforce Launches AI Fund, Apple Brings AR to iPhone" was first published on Small Business Trends

I’ve been fascinated with Amazon (and devices from them) for years now. So much that I’ve been in the process (a long process …) of writing a book on how this one company has and continues to change the rules of customer engagement for almost every business. And as the years go by, maybe the most fascinating thing about Amazon is that the number of ways they are impacting customer expectations for engaging with vendors grows larger and come faster as time goes on.

Recent Amazon Lessons

There is so much going on with Amazon these days I find myself watching them constantly and looking for lessons to take away from all the moves they’re making, from a customer engagement perspective.  And I not alone in my non-stop watching, as my friend and ecommerce thought leader John Lawson is a big time Amazon watcher as well.  So it was only natural for us to take our watching to a new level and do it together, which is what our video podcast Watching Amazon is all about.

So, while this is a bit different than the usual conversations I post here weekly, there are so many interesting things going on around Amazon that I thought I’d share one of our Watching Amazon episodes we call The Week in Watching, where John and I look at a few developments that caught our attention recently and discuss their potential impact on ecommerce and customer engagement.  Here we talk about the recent announcement that liquor sales are coming to Amazon Prime Now, what the Google-Walmart voice shopping partnership will mean for the industry, and how Amazon’s recent acquisition of a shopping mall to use as a fulfillment center is business jujitsu that only they could pull off.

Below is an edited transcript of our conversation.  To see the full episode — with corny jokes included — click on the embedded video and audio players below.

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John Lawson of Watching Amazon: Non-stop News Provides SMBs Most Recent Amazon Lessons to Takeaway

Google and Walmart Partner to Compete in Voice Shopping

Small Business Trends: So, what do you think comes from this kind of partnership? Will they push Amazon for leadership in the voice shopping category?

John Lawson: Let’s be real. Right now, at best, eCommerce, as a whole, is 10 percent of the market. Amazon probably owns about 50 percent of that. So, Amazon’s maybe 5 percent of the entire market, and then how much of that is really being ordered right now through voice? Very minimal, especially when you look at the whole wide thing.

So, they know that, ultimately, search is going to voice, right? That’s really what it’s about. Voice search. So, once I search for something, I want to be able to order it, and so I want to be able to say that.

Small Business Trends: Most product searches are, right now, being taking place on Amazon.

John Lawson: Yeah, exactly. I think with Google, they know that if we lose this one, we’ve kind of lost the whole ball of wax. So, it’s like, let’s go ahead and focus in. Let’s get a good partner instead of with everybody, because they’ve been partnered with everybody. With Google Shopping, you can order from all these different places with, what is it? Google Now?

Small Business Trends: Yeah.

John Lawson: But the thing was, that’s hard to scale because everybody’s got different terms of agreements. So, now, it’s like, let’s get real deep with one partner that’s got most of everything that Amazon’s got. I think that’s where we are right now.

Small Business Trends: All right, so, I’m going to say this. I’m going to say in the big picture of voice commerce, this is a big deal.

John Lawson: It’s a big deal.

Small Business Trends: Yeah. As it comes to the competition with Amazon, I’m saying, Google and Walmart just better be glad they’re going to have a chance for second place.

John Lawson: Ooh.

Small Business Trends: I’m saying that because I think it’s harder to coordinate between two companies the things that Amazon can do internally. Not just with the technology, but also with the processes, with fulfillment, with being able to be quicker when they see things happening in the market.

John Lawson: Customer service.

Small Business Trends: Customer service, customer experience. When something goes wrong, you know you can go to one company, Amazon, on that side. If something goes wrong-

John Lawson: Who do you call?

Small Business Trends: Oh, you’ve got to determine which piece goes wrong, and then who’s going to try blame the other people for it. So, I think it’s so much harder to have these concerted integrated partnerships than it is to have one company who is creating the technology, creating the processes, and creating the experiences. So, I think, overall, it’s a great thing for voice commerce because Walmart and Google, they’re two huge companies, and when they start to get themselves together, that means that there’s another competitor out there.

Apple’s coming with the Home Pod. They’re going to have to do something.

John Lawson: That’s an unknown right now.

Small Business Trends: That’s an unknown, but the bottom line is, all the big guys are lining up, and it’s going to push the overall voice commerce economy. I think we’re going to see an accelerated increase in the percentage of eCommerce coming from it because of voice commerce, but I still think Amazon is …

John Lawson: Wait, wait. I thought your statement of, “They’ll be lucky to get second place,” that was … That’s a pretty bold prediction right there.

Small Business Trends: You’re not the only one that’s bold …

John Lawson: Whatever.

Brent Leary: But I do believe Amazon, with the Echo, pretty much had a two, two-and-a-half-year lead.

John Lawson: And what’s the device adoption in the house right now? It’s something crazy.

Small Business Trends: Yeah, Amazon is, right now, is killing it … with Prime Day, they sold seven times the amount of Echo devices that they did the year before. The Echo Dot was the biggest-selling product on Prime Day.

John Lawson: And it’ll be bigger for Christmas, too. It’ll be huge.

Small Business Trends: And the other thing that’s missing, I think, with Walmart and Google, they don’t have an answer for Amazon Prime. That is the biggest driver-

John Lawson: Walmart used to have a Prime, and they used to charge $99 a … Was it Walmart? Or was it Google?

Small Business Trends: Wow …

John Lawson: Google used to have a shopping type Prime, and now they’ve made it free to compete with Amazon. So-

Small Business Trends: A little late!

John Lawson: A little late.

Brent Leary: Amazon is going on a hundred million members of Prime, then they go out and buy Whole Foods. Now you’re going to be able to say to your Echo device, “Get me some of that gourmet stuff at Whole Foods.”

John Lawson: Yes, which I will be saying.

Small Business Trends: So, that’s why I’m saying that my bold prediction is great overall. It’s great to see the competition.

John Lawson: Great overall, yes, but …

Buying Alcohol with Amazon Prime Now

John Lawson: Now you can order alcohol through Prime Now. That’s going to be important for a lot of parties.

Small Business Trends: Yeah …

John Lawson: I think that’s very interesting though, that Prime’s able to do that in these local areas… other than wine clubs, I don’t know anybody else that’s able to deliver alcohol to your door so this is pretty awesome.

Small Business Trends: It’s big because it’s one of those “last mile purchases”.

John Lawson: Exactly!

Small Business Trends: These are things that you don’t typically think you’ll order online. Now, you’re talking about getting your gourmet food with Whole Foods. Now you’re talking about getting your liquor delivered on demand in an hour.

John Lawson: I mean, you’ve been there before where you’re like, “Okay, we got a football party going on,” and all of a sudden five, six more people come and you’re like, “Dude, somebody’s going to have to go out to get a couple more 12 packs.”

Small Business Trends: Dude.

John Lawson: Not anymore.

Small Business Trends: Can you imagine what the Colt 45 commercials could have been with Billy Dee Williams and this?

John Lawson: Billy who? God, you’re old!

Small Business Trends: I embrace my oldness. But that’s pretty cool.

When Alexa Met Cortana

Small Business Trends: This is a little bit more enterprise-y, but there was news that came out recently around a partnership with Microsoft and Amazon so that Alexa, which is, of course, Amazon’s virtual assistant and digital assistant, talks with Cortana, which is Microsoft’s digital assistant. I think this is big news because I don’t think we’re going to live in a world where one digital assistant rules everything.

John Lawson: Right.

Small Business Trends: So when you have these big companies like Microsoft and Amazon opening up their digital assistant so that they work together, that means more things are going to be able to get done by any individual digital assistant. I think maybe this is the first step in being able to ask your digital assistant one thing and maybe in the background without you even knowing it.

John Lawson: Getting results.

Small Business Trends: It’s working with these other digital assistants.

John Lawson: Do you think that’s going to be maybe a single point for a lot of these things?

Small Business Trends: I think that it’s going to put … There’s already lot smaller companies that are doing individual digital assistants that do one thing, do it really well.

John Lawson: Right, right.

Small Business Trends: I think you’re going to see the big guys like the Alexa’s, like the Cortana’s, be able to start working with these other little things in the background and it’s great that the big guys are going to actually allow theirs to work with the other big guy. Puts pressure on Google-

John Lawson: Apple.

Small Business Trends: And Apple, and anybody else that is trying to become like the Numero Uno. I don’t think you’re going to be able to be a numero uno if you have a closed system with this.

Amazon’s Business Jujitsu

John Lawson: Amazon has purchased one of America’s biggest malls that is out of business, now, in the Ohio area. They’ve purchased it and they’re going to open a distribution center there.

Small Business Trends: Remember the days when you were a teenager?

John Lawson: Yes.

Small Business Trends: You would go hang out at the mall all day long?

John Lawson: Yeah.

Small Business Trends: Those days are gone.

John Lawson: Gone. We’re at the mall area right now and I … You don’t see the kids getting dropped off like we used to.

Small Business Trends: Nah, man.

John Lawson: They’re in and out, if anything.

Small Business Trends: We talk a lot about how jobs are going away because of technology.

John Lawson: Yes.

Small Business Trends: Here’s a chance where it’s a different kind of job. You won’t be doing customer service in terms of front-facing, “May I take your order? Can I help you?”

John Lawson: Right, right.

Small Business Trends: But what you will be doing once an order comes in online …

John Lawson: Back office, man.

Small Business Trends: Fulfillment

John Lawson: Yes.

Small Business Trends: That’s a different kind of job, but it’s a job no less.

John Lawson: That’s right. That just goes to show you when we talk about things like voice shopping, we talk about AI, we talk about robotic learning, it’s going to replace some jobs. But it’s also, at the same time, going to create other jobs that we don’t even know might be needed at this time. Everything’s cyclical, I don’t think we’re going to just all of a sudden be without jobs because of robots. We’ll see though.

Small Business Trends: We’ll see.

John Lawson: We’ll see, but I think it’s really cool that they’re able to reuse some of this space to do fulfillment and still do commerce.

Small Business Trends: I think it’s ironic that they [Amazon] put all these companies out of business. They close these people … then Amazon comes in and uses them for fulfillment.

John Lawson: And gets the space at a discount.

Small Business Trends: What a business jujitsu move that is.

John Lawson: That is, that is … You know what? I see them repeating it.

Small Business Trends: I’m sure there’s a whole bunch of Borders stores that are just sitting there, big buildings. They’re perfect for fulfillment.

John Lawson: That would really be the nail in the coffin.

Small Business Trends: That would be just so … Amazonian …

John Lawson: Yeah, that would be … Yeah, that’s a little much, man. It’s Amazon and we know that they are … They’re a beast when it comes to competition. They really are.

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This article, "John Lawson of Watching Amazon: Non-stop News from Amazon Provides Non-stop Lessons for SMBs" was first published on Small Business Trends