Janet Falk, Attorney, CPA, Business Owner, Consultant

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Janet Falk, Attorney, CPA, Business Owner, Consultant

Janet Falk is a Communications professional with more than 25 years’ experience in-house, as a consultant and at public relations agencies. She manages pro-active media outreach and has secured placement of executives and events in local, national and international print and broadcast media. For example, articles in three hotel industry publications generated more than 800 phone calls from hotel industry CFOs inquiring about a client’s services, a far more impactful and economical approach than buying a list of hotel executives for cold-calling.

Attorneys, accountants, business executives, consultants and nonprofit leaders rely on her insight, strategy and analysis. Janet is a versatile writer who can prepare newsletters, speeches, presentations and website copy, as well as marketing literature. She has a broad network of contacts among graphic designers, web developers, photographers and printers to meet related client needs.


Special Offer: Prepare YOUR Media Profile so that YOU will be the one reporters call. Executive Media Profile, Worksheet and FREE 30-minute Consultation http://bit.ly/2KS4dma


[00:00:01] You're listening to scaling of services. We'll speak with entrepreneurs authors business experts and thought leaders to give you the knowledge and insights you need to scale your service based business faster and easier. And now here is your host Business Coach Bruce IFL

[00:00:22] Welcome everyone. This is scaling up services. I'm respectful of your host. And today we're here with Janet fall. Janet is chief strategist for communications and she is going to talk to us a little bit about media public relations marketing for professional services attorneys consultants and small business owners. Janet welcome to the program.

[00:00:41] Bruce I'm so happy to be here. Thank you.

[00:00:43] So why don't we start with a little bit of background I always like guests to explain how they got into the work that they do what their professional background is. So give us a little bit of your story.

[00:00:52] How did you get into this OK I'm so glad to ask because because I have a very eclectic background what I like to say about myself is I'm not around peg. I'm not a square peg I'm an octagonal Peg and actually my logo is the shape of an octagon with an F inserted. So to start from the very beginning I have a Ph.D. in Spanish literature which is medieval epic poetry very useful in today. But from there after teaching at several local colleges here in the New York area I've found that I was not going to get tenure because of biases on the back to the side and accentuate the positive which is I went to a program at New York University's Stern School of Business called careers in business and it was like a mini executive MBA. And we had a very intensive training of accounting finance corporate strategy marketing career development and I can tell you it was brutal it was like boot camp. We did 17 chapters of a standard accounting textbook in the classroom hours. And to me it was great because learning accounting accounting is the language of business. And I can to this day analyze the financial statement. So with that background I became an analyst at Value Line Investment Survey. I know that thing but read financial statements all day long and then read about them and talk with CFOs and Investor Relations Professionals. And I realized that that was like teaching that if I worked in investor relations I would be the person who represented the company to the Wall Street community. And it was something that I was equipped to do because I understood the numbers I understood the strategy and I could communicate.

[00:02:41] So from there I took another course where I learned about investor relations and I got a job at a public relations agency through one of my classmates who work there and that was great. And I really enjoyed the work except that my boss did and actively sell the product that I was responsible for managing. So I was out of a job in less than one year which should have told me something about this industry is that you are always subject to the whims of the market whether it's the client budget or whether it's the economy. There are a lot of ups and downs. And so whether it's restructuring or client looses the account or the economy goes soft and they cut their marketing budget. And so I've had the rug pulled out from under me. I can't tell you how many times and 40 percent of my career I've been working independently. So every time I lost my job I would hang up my shingle and work as a solo consultant until I got the next job. And I was treading water for that time. Well now it's December of 2008. And we all know what happened with the financial crisis and I'm over 50 years old. And so when that that client cut the budget then I hung up my shingle and I've been working independently now for almost ten years in this business. So you can see that I have a career that encompasses academia. Wall Street I've worked on the corporate side. I've worked for nonprofits and now I have my solo practice. So that's why I'm an octagonal peg because I've worked with clients in many diverse industries and I can understand them.

[00:04:19] Understand who's on the other side of their table and how to represent them to that marketplace and not an uncommon story for a lot of consultants and intuitive practice practitioners taking that knowledge and experience and realizing that they can they're better off in business by themselves or for themselves than trying to work with other folks so kudos to you for putting them together and making it a successful business out of it.

[00:04:41] And I also like the background just in terms of the wealth of experience you've had. I would say I don't meet many marketing communication folks with the depth of accounting and financial analysis that that you have.

[00:04:52] And oftentimes I find one of the reasons people end up being very successful as practitioners as well is they've got some unique combination of things that just make them very different. Joe as you know in this market from the fact that you know those things you to be debt limit increase surprise people everything.

[00:05:07] You know it's it's true. So your point Bruce. I did have the instructor for our Investor Relations Program and used to say that he got into public relations because he didn't like math

[00:05:21] Yes exactly. So I think the fact that you had an hour and I will say also that having worked in a Wall Street environment I am very much bottom line oriented. And I think that reporters think the same way.

[00:05:34] So when I look at your situation your company what it is you're trying to say about yourself or your practice then I think why should someone else care. How does this help this individual or this company or society to save time to save money and to make more money. And that holds for even my nonprofit clients because when they are successful they are helping society save money by getting people who were formerly uneducated or or unemployed back to work and contributing to society at large. So understanding the numbers having a Wall Street background means that I give a reality check to my clients and say Why should someone else care.

[00:06:19] Yeah was interesting because I think the other thing that I see a lot is people that are in kind of the consulting professional services particularly areas they tend to be experts. They tend to be kind of technical knowledge experts in these domains and oftentimes it puts them in a situation where they don't they don't necessarily see what other people don't understand or don't know. So having someone who can both work with them at a very high kind of technical intellectual level in terms of their Dromey but then also figure out how do we communicate and how do we manage this purply for for the general public or for your audience that may not be at that level and you may not appreciate that they don't understand that or they don't have the background or knowledge or the focus in that.

[00:06:56] So I can see why we are focusing on the communication side. You can do a great job of just really help translating that to the market and have them be effective.

[00:07:05] You actually remind me of something a client said about me. Go ahead. A couple of years ago. Yeah this client had a niche business in the financial services market and I have a great story to tell about the success we had. Perhaps I can come up later and what he said was when Chadash started working with us. She knew nothing about our business. Now she totally gets it and she makes sure that the reporters get it too.

[00:07:27] It's kind of that that translator assume that is how how do you quickly hold lots of knowledge but then figure out the pieces and how they fit together in terms of the story and then how am I going to tell that story to someone else who's an in I think is important is making it relevant to the audience that is interested in hearing it.

[00:07:45] So you can oftentimes sort of technically tell it or explain it but how do you tell it in a compelling way that they actually are interested in it and becomes newsworthy from their point of view. Yeah all good kind of aspects. I think that you know people that have been in business for a while and have dealt with media and dealt with press particularly begin to learn that but it really isn't.

[00:08:04] It's essentially sales.

[00:08:05] I mean it's sales in a sort of different slightly different way in a slightly different context but it is it's selling ideas to our audience here is our owners executives inside professional services firms who have had a reasonable amount of success but they're looking to grow and scale the company.

[00:08:21] And I certainly find that you know in the beginning it's referrals and kind of word of mouth. But at some point there needs to be kind of bigger strategies and bigger thinking around media and communications marketing. What are some sort of tools or recommendations that you typically make for companies or kind of looking to get to the next level and are thinking through their communications strategy.

[00:08:40] Where do you start.

[00:08:41] Like what's the first step for you in working at the Titanic went on getting to know a company then I want to know who's in charge and what is it that they represent. And so on. So first I like to develop a media profile and this is not a bio it's not a resume.

[00:08:58] It's to begin its four sentences about the background of whoever it is that we're focused on to establish their credibility as an authoritative source for comment on whatever the subject might pay and then we break it down to three to five bullet points of things that in particular they want to focus on whether it's operations or whether it's marketing or whether it's you know legal considerations. What have you. And then we break it down further into three to five bullet points of what are the hot topics that people need to know more about but that are flying under the radar that no one is paying attention to. And if only people knew what Groose exfil knows about X then there would be so much smarter and they would save time save money and make more money.

[00:09:50] As I said before the media bio is for who. Like who. Who do you write this for.

[00:09:56] I write it about the client and send it to reporters.

[00:10:01] The tool they are sending out to the reporters so it's it's it's reporter specific but you're not. This isn't written specifically for one individual reporter at a particular publication.

[00:10:10] This is as a general tool that agenda is OK. Judge I think you're going to go through the professional background or why they're important or why they should be listened to and the topics that remain. So this is kind of and to look if you're interested and be able to talk about these things here are the five things that people are and then them that sounds like this last part is almost like the initial story pitching ideas like hey here are some things that you might be interested in covering that you might not right. Right. Right. Right. So you know what else is on them.

[00:10:36] Right. And then the last part is a snappy quote because so the reporter will have an idea of what you might say when you have that conversation. So reporters are always looking for sources. And there's every reason why you are a reliable authoritative source and you should be the one that's called because when I like to say as reporters call the people they know they don't call someone they've never heard of. Because why would they call someone if they don't know more or less what they're going to say you know. So you want to be that person in a reporter's database because we don't have Rolodexes anymore.

[00:11:14] You want to be that person in her record database so that when the topic comes up about you know widgets or technology or employment issues and so on then they will think oh yeah I remember I got that information a while ago about so-and-so I should look that person up that should be the person I will call it. Reporters are busy. I would not say that they are lazy. I was going to ask that they all visit and so they are going to do what's Ingeus for them and that is they're going to look up the last person that they talked to on this subject and they're going to search for the last person who is quoted on this subject. And so you have to get yourself professionally introduced to that person so that they will think aha here's somebody who understands what's going on in the marketplace or Wow I didn't know that that regulation was going to affect businesses in this in this community or issues that people need to be paying more attention to.

[00:12:15] So either you're in the database for future reference or you can spark a conversation very soon afterwards that will deal with the hot topic of the day that nobody else is paying attention to so that the reporter will get the scoop.

[00:12:29] I got to loosen up the snappy quote Like what. What are the strategy and maybe what are some examples of like a snappy quote that you would put on your media profile.

[00:12:39] Now a couple of years ago I was working with someone in financial services and he missed it in venture capital. And he said and I was on the phone with him and the reporter and he said I'm looking for an equity efficient entrepreneur interesting guy. The reporter said I love it. Yeah just like that. So having that alliteration of equity efficient entrepreneur caught the reporter's ear and then made that quotable. So there are a variety of things that you can do. You can use visual imagery. For example I know someone who was on the sidelines of a job search and was trying to get into the market and said looking for a job it's like musical chairs in this market. Only the people who are already on the dance floor get to play. So you have visual imagery you have a reference to some common culture right. Everybody knows the chair. You have alliteration. You can make reference to something else that's happening in the marketplace that's a familiar slogan like no big deal on cola was set up so you can Edye on something else. Got it. Got it.

[00:13:54] So there are bright things that you can do to make your quote more memorable and then it will appear in boldface or maybe it will be you know in the call out to the side of the article and soul. And so that's the kind of thing that I would encourage use and when I work with my clients we try to prepare ahead of time so that they will have that snappy phrase or example that they can drop into the conversation very naturally of course.

[00:14:23] Yes exactly. Q How do you do with video these days. Are you putting video clips and things like that in media profiles. How are we at in terms of press to.

[00:14:34] I don't want to do that because when you have too many attachments and things and it gets quiet and spam filters and so on.

[00:14:42] It's easier if you have something like a link to a dropbox you've got so much reading out of a video or little you know creating links I think is a superior way of dealing with that issue because you don't want to do something that's going to get your e-mail colluded excluded from from getting to the inbox of the right person.

[00:15:02] Got it. OK so that's media profile. What else do you work with folks on when they're looking to boost their media coverage and presence.

[00:15:10] Ok. If you have something that is news news right you have a new executive or you're moving to a new office or you're launching a new product. On that order you're acquiring another company then you would have a press release. And those are pretty standard. Everybody knows what a press release looks like a media profile is designed to position you as interesting and a source. And it's targeted to reporters who cover your industry or your function whereas a press release is self-important. It says I think this is important. And I don't care what anybody else thinks and I'm going to time this at a place in a time where other people will find it valuable and so forth. So those are the two major ways of getting in touch with reporters. Now it could be that a media profile can be fine tuned for something that is breaking news. And I'll give you an example. And I wrote about this a couple of years ago at the time of the Boston Marathon bombing. I'm sure we all remember if you are waiting for the verdict. And and most of the coverage of that trial was interviewing some attorneys in the Boston area. Naturally they were criminal attorneys and they were focused very closely on it. But in the coverage of the verdict there was a very interesting story from an attorney in Miami.

[00:16:35] And you're saying to yourself how did he get into that. Well here's how he established himself is in my analysis had failed to fill the. But he's distributed something I believe to the press. That said I am a former U.S. district attorney. I have tried terrorism cases. If the verdict is X it means this and if the verdict is y it means the other thing.

[00:17:00] So here you have someone who is watching from the sidelines just like those attorneys in Boston and because he established his credibility and because he had the snappy quote of if the verdict is guilty if the verdict is not guilty it means that and he had made his contact information available as part of his breaking news media profile then he was the one who got caught.

[00:17:24] Yeah good example. And I think that that being strategic and probably slightly persistent on some of these areas could get you in places you may not you may not think or get you coverage you may not need to get covered.

[00:17:34] So it seems to me that you should think of news in several ways. One is evergreen news inside are always going to be interesting. Right. Tax season. You're always going to have tax attorneys and financial planners always talking about you know what goes on and goes are entirely predictable. Right. You going to look at the calendar and figure out what's going to be coming up and then you position yourself accordingly. Got it. So that's part of it. And then the other part is breaking is when you never know what's going to happen. And so you have to have your eye on the horizon and see what's coming down the road and be able to jump on it. And so having a media profile available and then as I say fine tuning it so that you can meet the challenge of the moment.

[00:18:20] You know that's the second part of the game and how any kind of strategy or process in terms of deciding is this breaking news or is this trending topic something I should comment on or not like how do you decide does it. I mean I you. You can look at news feed every day and find some kind of breaking breaking situation or breaking topic. How how do you decide whether or not that's a topic for you. Any any thoughts or strategies or ways that you've addressed.

[00:18:47] Who needs to know more about this in this moment. Right. Because what's going on in politics with Iran. Just take the top off the top of my head. How does that affect most people on a day to day basis. It really doesn't mean it's more about you know the larger trade issues and the larger economic issues. And the fact that any uncertainty in the marketplace is going to affect interest rates and so forth. But for the most part no it's not going to be news.

[00:19:20] By and large I'm jumping in. Actually a good example of a fellow if you have something.

[00:19:25] If you have something else that's more industry specific than you know then that would be something that that becomes more news.

[00:19:32] Yeah I had a fellow coach that did a great job run a quick article on the Thailand soccer team that stuck in the cave in Thailand talking about leadership and the soccer coach like some of the things they were doing to kind of get their team through this ordeal and using the two connections to you know trials and tribulations in business and what as a leader you can do to help people in crisis.

[00:19:52] But it was a good it was a good kind of taking this kind of breaking news story everything and what everyone's talking about and sort of spinning it into a way of getting a message across. That was his role as a leadership coach. Guy that was that was quits. So congratulations to him. Yeah yeah it was good.

[00:20:06] Joe let's talk about press releases a little bit because I think I see a lot of press releases go out and quite honestly not all of them are any kind of do's and don'ts or things to keep in mind when deciding if something is really newsworthy or you know errors people typically make in putting together a press release. Any guidance on that.

[00:20:25] I would say first of all who needs to know and where are they going to be looking for information. So you want to write the press release with the article that's going to result from the press release in mind. So if you want to see reference to an event make sure you have the date and the time the location in the ticket price in the event and the press release. Because if it's not in the press release it's not going to make its way into the article. You have to think that the reporter may not call you the reporter may see the press release and write the article from there and is not in the press release is not going to find its way into the article. So that's really your starting point your starting point is the end. What do you want to say result from the press release and then make sure that everything that needs to be in that news story whether it's television radio or or print make sure that everything that needs to be there is there.

[00:21:18] Ok so media profile press release what else would you suggest people kind of consider as part of a communications strategy platform.

[00:21:25] Ok so another part and this is related to the first two is your press release. So you have to figure out who you need to be in touch with. So that includes your industry media that includes whether it's restaurant or financial services or wherever your target market is going to be looking for information. And then of course you have the beat reporters at the newspapers whether it's local news in your city or whether the national papers. And then there may be some blots that are influential that you want to keep tabs on because you know that your clients and your prospects and your referral sources are going to be looking for information.

[00:22:11] They're thinking well and I think so. So I think less often less often television and radio because it's much harder to crack those that you're gonna be important.

[00:22:23] The point on referral sources is a good one because I think a lot of people forget that they focus on kind of their their customer or the person that they're trying to serve. But you know oftentimes it's your channel it's your partner it's the it's the other professional that sees you and puts you top of mind and then of a client they have they want to do an introduction to so you know I think it depends somewhat on how you typically get your leads like a lot of professional services tend to be through referrals from other professionals. Yes clients will revert things at times. But actually think through that your audience for the press is really the other professionals that have lots of clients in these situations particularly when you kind of go into a situational related hey if you have a client in this situation here's a strategy. Then they're like you know what I just saw this here's an introduction you need to help them situation and be a really good one.

[00:23:09] Yeah. That has happened to me several times now where an attorney turns to someone else that they know and they say this really interesting case. What do you know about press releases. And then the other person says I have no idea if you should call Janet Fong she'll take care of you.

[00:23:26] Exactly.

[00:23:27] And don't anything else in terms of the medialis how long is this. Ten people is it 100 people. How do you constructed or how do you kind of decide how many you need.

[00:23:36] And and this is a quote This is a question of quality not quantity. I mean I have a client that wrote an article in The New York Law Journal on a very niche business. I'll just say it's debt collection agencies. OK. This is a very niche business. You won't believe it Bruce.

[00:23:54] There are 10 publications that deal with debt collection agencies.

[00:24:00] So every industry every sector has its publications. So they were writing from a legal point of view of what is the state of the law relative to this practice in debt collection agency when it you know one of the editors of one of these publications saw the article in The New York Law Journal picked it up and put a link to it in his daily newsletter.

[00:24:26] You know. But that article was not very intelligible to the owners and managers of debt collection agencies. They just know that this exists. And here is this law from writing about it. So I went to these debt collection agency publications and the editor and I said look here's this law firm. They have written this article in The New York Law Journal and they are available to speak with you or to write an article for your audience or to give a weapon here or to speak at your conference and talk about what is the state of the law relative to this particular practice. So it was an article that was directed to a legal audience but here we were merchandising it and you know repurposing it as an introductory tool so that they could be introduced to the publications that were read by their target audience so I want to say something about this and that is when you do get that news article don't just leave it in the newspaper or online. You have to repurpose it. You know we have a strategy in the field called S.O.P which is create one publish everywhere.

[00:25:39] And so think about how you could be merchandising that news story in which you are quoted or that news article which talks about your new office or your new partner or your new practice area or whatever success you've had. And so there are ways that you can incorporate that into your social media. You can put a link to it in your e-mail in your email signature.

[00:26:04] You can share it as a question in your linked in group saying what is the state of the art in legal issues in debt collection agencies. Wow. You know his this is the situation of for more information. Read this article and then you have the link and so on. So you shouldn't think that it starts and ends with the news story. Now every news story has additional life and you should be working that angle.

[00:26:29] Yeah and I think a lot of people you know kind of take this. If I read it they will come approach and not true. You get you need to get it out there and you need to eat American and you say merchandise is good. OK so medialis.

[00:26:41] What else do you use. Of course for human terms of communication tools and strategy for financial services.

[00:26:47] So another essential is your Web site. If your Web site hasn't been updated in the last 4 years and it looks set and so you want to take care of that because any reporter or any client or referral source is going to check you out by looking at your Web site and if it's not up to snuff and they're going to think well these people aren't paying attention.

[00:27:12] Yeah. So anything in terms of content things that you either are kind of must haves or would not put on in terms of election.

[00:27:19] I would think you have to get somebody else from time to time to go to your website and to travel through it and see where it is that they get confused and how can they easily find whatever it is that they're looking for. So you have to make the navigation easy and you also make sure that it loads quickly because people don't have time to do anything. Of course all Web sites are now mobile friendly and are there that they should be. So I look at Web sites more from the content aspect. There are other people who do search engine optimization and user design and I work with those people. I'm happy to refer to them. I really can't can tread too far.

[00:28:01] As long as it's good I know good websites get the old rat's nest of issues and technology.

[00:28:06] But I think that you're right just in terms of thinking about it from a referral to crash of a client comes to it they're not there to spend a half an hour.

[00:28:15] How quickly can they get the information they need and establish you as a credible source to then call your e-mail on something else or to respond to an e-mail you read to them. Good. Anything else on account of it.

[00:28:27] I would say two things actually. One thing is Yushan have a newsletter. You should have a newsletter at least monthly if not monthly quarterly. And and if you can't write it yourself you can always outsource it to a public relations marketing communications professional like myself.

[00:28:43] But the main thing is you can be sending this as a reminder every month so that you are unobtrusively calling attention to yourself in the recipient's mailbox and you never know where that is going to lead. I checked my newsletters and I know that I have people who received them and forward them to other contacts. I don't know who these people are and I ask for their names but I know that they are being sent on to two other people and that you're sowing seeds and those are going to bear fruit over time. Another thing is you have to cultivate your online presence so that means acting professionally on LinkedIn which is both the content that you publish yourself about yourself and your practice and what it is that you do. Articles that you publish there but also and I've written about this in my newsletter and on my LinkedIn profile. When you see someone else's article right you're scrolling through your LinkedIn feed and he's saying oh Poussette feel like.

[00:29:50] Well just because Bruce Oakfield liked this article does not mean that I should read it all. So the title of that piece is as you like it please say white. Yeah right. So ads like that with the reference to Shakespeare right. I like it. Please say what. Because if I see that goose exfil not only like something but Bruce Oakfield commented on it then I'll think Oh this struck a chord with Bruce. There must be some meat on these bones. Let me take a look and then I look at your comment and it says this is an interesting article and it reminds me of this kind of situation. And so on and more people need to be thinking about this or I totally disagree. You've left out this in this aspect and so on. So now there's a dialogue going on between Gross's comment and the article and that's going to catch my eye. And that's going to make me want to get involved in that discussion. Make me want to read this article which was written by some third party who Bruce knows I don't know. And while Bruce says that this is or is not worth debating and so I'm going to take a closer look at it. People that say thank you. Congratulations. So true. How does that help me decide whether or not I want to read that article. My time is very valuable to my time as billable and I have to decide how I'm going to allocate it. So your online presence is not only what you say about yourself in your linked in profile but it's how you shape it and how you behave on Twitter and what is it that your calling to the attention of other people so that they can make the decision. Yes this is worth taking a closer look at.

[00:31:31] Yeah I like that idea. You want to participate in the conversation. You know like liking something doesn't it isn't participating in the dialogue.

[00:31:39] It's you know it's just an indicator. By making a comment and actually having a point of view or pulling something out letting something then then it brings your profile up in that kind of conversation and gets you top of mind with with the connection with the referral partners want to make sure that the link to an algorithm has a way of capturing how many people comment on things and what they actually say things.

[00:32:05] And by the way as I'm sure you know the tip to doing that when you post your own article on LinkedIn is to then be the first to comment and put a link in there. So that will make it happen. Promote self selection.

[00:32:19] There's nothing you don't get thing for that excellent.

[00:32:24] About a time here. Jenna this has been great a lot of good advice. A lot of good insights good conversation. If people want to find out more about you about your services the work that you do what's the best way to get a hold of you and contact him.

[00:32:35] Ok. My website is Jannat al as love FHL K dot com. Janet L. fall dot com. That is my name. There are Janet Waalkes out there but I have to use my middle initial to be different. So they'll find a lot of resources on my website and I'll share some of them with you that you can put in the show notes Britos. I have five best tips for managing a media interview and I have an ebook. It's called Why her and not me. How you can be the one reporter's call. And it gives you step by step instructions on how to construct your media profile. And if you follow them and then send it to me I'll give you a free 30 minute consult. Excellent. OK. And I also have a monthly newsletter. As I mentioned and you can subscribe to that from the Web site. Great

[00:33:27] And I'll make sure all those links are in the show notes here so people can just click through and get those. Janet this has been a pleasure. Thank you so much for taking the time and sharing valuable resources insights. I really appreciate it thank you for making that I so enjoyed it.

[00:33:41] Chris thanks so much.

[00:33:44] Even Been listening to scaling up services with business coach Bruce Phelps to find a full is the podcast episodes. Download the tools and worksheets and that's the other great content. This is a Web site scaling up services dot com. And don't forget to sign up for the free newsletter scaling up services dot com slash newsletter.