Since 2001, Hope Katz Gibbs has been helping entrepreneurs, educators, authors, and small business owners get more visibility through her firm, Inkandescent Public Relations—a PR / publications / media relations / marketing / and website-development firm.
A journalist since graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 1986, Hope heads a team of award-winning reporters, editors, graphic designers, illustrators, web developers, and photographers who create high-end marketing materials, and who write and edit press releases, newsletters, and white papers. They also work closely with reporters at some of the nation’s most prominent newspapers, magazines, and TV and radio stations to help get Inkandescent clients featured in the news. Hope also plans and organizes events, co-writes and ghostwrites books, and maintains her clients’ websites so they are up-to-date and provide an accurate, impressive image.
MO: What inspired the name for your company?
Hope: I was riding from NYC to DC and picked up a copy of Amtrak’s magazine that featured Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert. In the article, Annie Proulx described Gilbert’s writing as incandescent. I just loved that word, so I circled it and before I even closed the magazine I knew that was the perfect name for my company. A few days later, my husband and business partner, illustrator Michael Gibbs (www.michaelgibbs.com), designed the logo with the “Inky” twist to celebrate the fact that we’re a company led by writers and artists. The double entendre continues to work for us, because after all—who doesn’t want to Be Inkandescent?
MO: You’ve written the, “PR Rules: The Playbook,” which will be ready this fall. What was your inspiration for the book, and what do you hope that the average reader will walk away with?
Hope: The inspiration for the book is our clients. So many of them had a misperception of what they needed to be successful. “I want to be on Oprah!” I’ve been told more than once, as though one appearance on a national TV program would translate to instant recognition and perpetual success. We’ve also had clients with tremendous expertise or a fantastic product who didn’t have the money to sustain a PR campaign and didn’t understand the necessity of devoting some of their resources to telling their target audience about their business.
The goal of any successful business is, of course, to stay in business—and grow financially. It’s tough to do that without a good PR and marketing campaign. At its essence, PR is the megaphone you use to tell the world your story—about what you do, why and how you do it, and why customers should buy your goods and services.
Knowing what to do—and what not to do—each day to maximize visibility … that’s the difference between a successful PR and marketing campaign, and one that falls flat. Doing it well takes a lot of practice, and it takes money to have a professional do it for you.
Whether entrepreneurs hire a PR firm, or become their own publicists, I’ll feel the book is successful if it teaches business owners the best practices for crafting and spreading their message. Given some time and creativity, entrepreneurs who use our Playbook can master the tools that will keep their companies glowing and growing.
And though getting on a national TV program is not usually a good primary goal for most small companies, we don’t ignore that approach. In fact, just last week I was able to get a financial client of ours mentioned in a Wall Street Journal article. The WSJ reporter told my client, “I get thousands of emails from PR people, but the way your publicist worded her email made the pitch about you stand out. That’s what made me contact you.” Our client’s success is our success!
MO: What are some of the most prevalent issues or challenges you see entrepreneurs encounter and how can they be corrected or avoided all together?
Hope: That’s a great question—and one I tackle in the book. Specifically, the Playbook begins with a discussion of what my team and I consider “The Trifecta of Small-Business Failure.” Here are the three mistakes we consistently see small businesses make, especially when it comes to their PR and marketing efforts:
1. I’ll do it all by myself. After all, that’s why I got into business in the first place. So why should I pay someone else for what I can and want to do?
2. After about eight months, they realize their business can’t succeed at the level they want—and they might die trying to get it there. That’s when we usually get the call. I’ll reluctantly hire an expert to help—but won’t take their advice because I’m determined to prove that I can, and should, do all the work myself.
3. After about 18 months, they realize that growth is not going to happen if they continue to hold onto this idea. And so the conversation shifts. I’ll hire an expert to help, and I’ll take their advice—but I want them to turn things around right now! If they are worth their salt, and my money, they can do it.
By laying it out in this way, the goal is to get business owners to laugh at themselves—which is very powerful medicine.
MO: What are some easy ways that entrepreneurs can get more visibility? What are some more long-term approaches?
Hope: Our long-term approaches include not only developing a sound strategy, but having more patience and thoughtfulness about goals. Short-term, my team constantly energizes our clients’ businesses by adhering to what we call The 7 Steps to PR Success:
1. Create a stunning website. Design matters. So does good writing. The phrase to keep in mind is: What’s in it for the reader?
2. Develop an explosive PR campaign. Create e-newsletters and press releases that get opened and read.
3. Make a splash in the news. The key is good content. Here’s the truth: It is not the publicist who gets you in the news. It’s your story. Make sure yours is authentic and polished.
4. Write a column in a magazine. This will give you a platform to share your expertise and get you in front of the people you want to impress.
5. Network! Learn which organizations are best for your business to work with. Then follow through.
6. Write a book. How? By working with nonprofit organizations that work in your industry and can benefit from your expertise.
7. Join a speakers bureau. If you’ve already launched your spectacular campaign, you’re getting quoted in the news, you have traffic to your website, and tons of social media connections—don’t stop! Consider joining a speakers bureau as a way to stay fresh and relevant, and find new markets to get the word out.
Remember, quality counts. We include a variety of case studies in the Playbook, so that readers can learn by example. By explaining the basics of PR in a fun, interactive way, we hope to enable more entrepreneurs to find the success they desire.
MO: You get more than 1 million visits each month on your four websites. How have you managed to gain such an impressive amount of traction since you launched your first website, InkandescentPR.com in 2008, and how do you plan to keep the momentum going?
Hope: The key to our success online started when we launched Be Inkandescent magazine in January 2010, www.beinkandecent.com. I knew there was a need in the marketplace for a well written, beautifully designed, thought-provoking publication for entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs. And since all of our clients had great stories to tell, and incredible wisdom from decades spent perfecting their own craft and companies, I wanted to create a magazine to showcase those big ideas. It took about a year for us to get the traction we were looking for, but since then our readership has taken off. In fact, in the last six months our readership has doubled! I attribute that to the fact that the more successful something is, the more successful it will be. So we just keep at it.
In August 2011, we also launched www.InkandescentNetworking.com, which lists some of the best networking events happening in seven East Coast cities. We also profile the business leaders, authors, artists, and hotels and restaurants in each city, so there is a lot of “sticky stuff” that’s interesting on that site. It’s also free to post a free event, and to post a basic profile. This year, we’re hoping to sell more ads on both the magazine and networking site, which click through to each company’s own site. It’s affordable, easy, and effective. As a result, we now get about 20,000 visits/day, and the traffic continues to grow.
MO: Can you talk about the launch of your new site, www.InkandescentSpeakers.com?
Hope: Our speakers’ bureau is our newest initiative, and it’s one that I am incredibly excited about. This will be a bureau of experienced small-business owners, thought leaders, and high-profile motivational speakers, who will share best practices with others wanting to grow their firms. It’s part of the win-win-win formula that I look for in all of my endeavors. In this case, the speaker wins (by spreading the word about what they know and do), the audience wins (by learning from veterans about what to do and what to avoid), and the Inkandescent Group wins (because it gives us another way to accomplish our mission of promoting and educating entrepreneurs). The new website should be live by August, and the beta site is now available on InkandescentPR.com.
We’re also looking forward to publishing more Inkandescent Rulebooks in 2012 and beyond. It’s all part of our PR in a Box approach, which gives businesses the ability to get the most effective, efficient PR possible at an affordable price.
While we offer a lot of services at Inkandescent PR, the key to our success is that everything we do accomplishes one mission: To promote and educate entrepreneurs. What makes it all the more fun is the ability to help dozens of firms accomplish their goals in a creative, sophisticated, Inkandescent manner. We love what we do, and we look forward to helping dozens more companies grow in the years to come.
For more information, visit www.InkandescentPR.com, as well as our monthly business magazine, www.BeInkandescent.com, and our networking site, www.InkandescentNetworking.com.
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