Book Review: The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

At first, The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett was not a book I thought I would pick up as I don’t often gravitate toward titles I see repeatedly reviewed by bookstagrammers and reviewers I follow on social media. However, for whatever reason, this book caught my eye and I was intrigued to see what all the hype was about.

The synopsis: The story takes place in a small town in Louisiana called Mallard where everyone knows everything about everybody. It follows two twin girls, Desiree and Stella Vignes, who are absolutely inseparable. But when the pair decide to run away at age 16, it doesn’t take very long for the sisters to lean on their own independence – ultimately losing touch with each other and reconstructing their identities as individuals.

The Vanishing Half is a compelling tale that explores the complexities of race, family ties, sibling bonds, and overall identity across multiple generations.

My review: In the beginning, I became quite invested in the relationship between Adele Vignes (Stella and Desiree’s mom) and Early Jones. A few chapters in, it becomes clear that their relationship isn’t a major plot point, but I wish Bennett would’ve continued that narrative as I found it quite captivating. I also felt that the chapters jumped around a little too much; a lot of time was spent with Desiree’s daughter, Jude, but the story as a whole focused more on the intricate relationship between the twins. Stella got her fair share of “air time,” so I think it would’ve felt more cohesive if Desiree’s perspective was equally addressed.

In addition, I felt the ending was anti-climactic. While there are still plenty of takeaways from the book overall, the second half felt a bit unfinished.

My score: 6/10

For more reviews from the CMPR team, click here.

How to Organize a Virtual Event

Thanks to the pandemic, we as a society have figured out ways to make nearly everything virtual: school, doctor’s appointments, business meetings, even fashion shows. You name it, there’s a Zoom link for it.

Shifting into the online world, virtual events have become more popular than ever. But here’s the question: how do you plan one?

No matter the occasion, here’s our 8-step guide on organizing the perfect virtual event.

Step #1: Create Your Guest List

Like any party, start by creating a guest list. How many people would you like to invite? Will it be a small gathering or a larger one? Formulate a rough list, and if you’re unsure about the size, err on the upper end of your estimate.

Step #2: Gather Attendee Contact Information

Will you be sending a physical invitation, an evite, or both? Once you’ve established how you’re going to invite people to your event, make sure you have attendee email addresses and/or home addresses. Organization is key.

Step #3: Flesh Out the Details

This portion of your party planning can be time-consuming, but incredibly important. When is the event going to happen? What time? Will there be any special guests? Swag bags? Speeches? Make sure you know how you want everything to run as it will inform what goes on the actual invitation.

Step #4: Design an Invitation

As mentioned above, this could be an evite, a physical invite, and/or a simple email. Be sure to outline the date, timing, and exactly what you’re going to do in that amount of time. For example:

Step #5: Generate a Running List of RSVPs

Be sure to document who will be in attendance, their email addresses (so you can send the Zoom link), and/or home addresses if you’re sending physical invitations and swag bags. Once again, staying organized is the best way to ensure everything runs smoothly. 

Step #6: Select a Hosting Platform

At this point, you’ve solidified a date, a time, and a guest list. Now it’s time to select a hosting platform so you can generate a link for attendees to tune into the day of the event. Whether it’s Zoom, Google Meet, Skype, Zoho, or any of the other video conferencing platforms currently out there, be sure to do your research as you may need to purchase a specific plan depending on the number of people who will be in attendance.

Step #7: Send the Link

The key here is to not send the event link out too early as your email can get lost in your attendees’ inboxes. We recommend sending it out a day or two before the event.

Step #8: Enjoy the Party!

Although most of us wish we could be hosting people in person, a virtual event is still a great excuse to get dressed up, open a bottle of wine, and enjoy catching up with friends and family. Have fun!

For more tips and tricks, check out more of our latest blogs.

Our 6-Step Guide to Earning Local Media Coverage

If you recently launched a new product or service and do not have the slightest idea where to begin with your promotional efforts, look no further than your very own backyard.

Whether you’re looking to raise awareness about yourself, your book, your business, and/or your brand, local media coverage can be the most successful form of publicity that can offer the greatest amount of impact. And guess what? You don’t have to spend a penny on advertisements. Here’s how to do it:

Step 1: Streamline Your Story

Streamlining the story you want to present to the press is essential when it comes to landing local coverage. Why should they cover it? Is it compelling? What value does it provide? Keep these questions in mind as you develop your story.

Step 2: Do Your Research

This may come as no surprise, but one of the most crucial parts to securing an interview, review, or feature stems from the amount of initial research you put in. Start by making a list using the 5 W’s:

  • Who is the best person(s) to pitch?
    • THINK: Editor in Chief, News & Program Directors, topic-specific reporters
  • What segment of the outlet would be the best fit?
    • THINK: News, Sports, Art & Entertainment, Politics, Opinion sections
  • Where can you find journalist contact information?
    • THINK: Contact sections of the outlets’ websites and Twitter handles for direct messages
  • When is the best time to pitch them?
    • THINK: Trend stories and news cycles
  • Why should the outlet be interested?

Step 3: Formulate a Pitch

At this point, you’ve established a story and figured out where and whom you want to go after. Naturally, it’s time to sit down and actually write the pitch. The key here is to share who you are and your story in the most concise way possible – ideally in one or two short paragraphs. If you’re looking for an interview, it might be in your best interest to include a press release and talking points in the body of the email (after your signature) so the receiver doesn’t have to click on multiple attachments. It’s also imperative to highlight the fact that you are local and any noteworthy contributions you have made to the community. This can be done in both the subject line and the body of the email in your introduction. For example:

SUBJECT LINE:
Portland local takes action against homelessness through new initiative

INTRODUCTION:
Dear Journalist,

My name is John Doe, a local Portland businessman and philanthropist…

Step 4: Connect with Your Contacts

Now, you’ve sent your pitches out and are awaiting responses. In the meantime, don’t be afraid to follow them on social media and engage with their posts. Sometimes all it takes is seeing a familiar name to evoke a response.

Step 5: Follow Up

Another vital step toward earning local media coverage is your follow up. If the contact you pitched hasn’t responded to your email, ping them again. Give them a call. Shoot them a message on Twitter explaining who you are and what you’re looking for. It’s okay to be relentless in your pursuit as it can take multiple follow-up messages to elicit a response.

Step 6: Stay in Touch

Whether your inquiry is accepted or denied, don’t be afraid to ask about the types of stories your media contact typically covers so you know for the future and keep in touch with them over email and/or social media. It’s always advantageous to maintain a good rapport.

For more publicity tips, check out our Publicity 101 series.

How to Rebrand Your Business in the Digital Age

Rebranding your business is an exciting time to flex your design muscles while also breathing new life into your business. The digital age also means that there are lots of avenues for you when it comes to getting the word out and building your online presence.

That said, rebranding your business isn’t always a walk in the park — and the task becomes twice as difficult when it comes to figuring out how to do so digitally. There are lots of potential avenues you could go down, so the key is creating a digital branding strategy that works best for you.

Build your website

The first step to rebranding in the digital age is starting with a website. While you may already have your business’ social media platforms operational, you still need a website to serve as a digital home base. Marketing director Michael Kava states that working with a reputable web hosting site is of utmost importance, as this prevents your site from crashing or getting hacked. Furthermore, you should also make navigation menus easily readable. After all, a beautiful site isn’t worth much if people have a hard time finding the information that they need.

Engage your existing audience

You should involve your current target audience throughout your rebranding process. Failing to do so might alienate your old customers, which is definitely not the effect you want to have. Posting teasers of your new look and sharing the story behind your rebranding strategy generates a bit of buzz surrounding the new reveal while also allowing your customers to be part of your business’ story.

Solidify your aesthetic across all platforms

It’s important to ensure consistency across all platforms to build better brand awareness amongst your audience. From adjusting banner sizes to sticking to making your website mobile-friendly, such guidelines will help enhance brand recall and attract more clients. The effectiveness of these techniques is why they are drilled into students on university design courses. This is why digital media degree professor John Fahnestock of Maryville University emphasizes the importance of focusing on the aesthetic, technical, and theoretical aspects of design across a variety of mediums and specialties. Following these principles will help designers shape their visual storytelling. Keeping those principles in mind, and asking yourself whether your design is both functional and beautiful, will help you create engaging content that works either as an Instagram story or a Facebook post.

Replace your targeted ads

No digital rebrand strategy is complete without ads. If you already have digital ads in place, remember to edit them to match your brand’s new visual strategy. You can also use this opportunity to explore other advertising options. Partnering with influencers on Instagram posts and stories is a great way to get the word out, as is creating sponsored Twitter posts. The beauty of digital ads is that you can also track their performance through analytics, which can then help you further refine your campaigns.

Choose the right payment gateways

Of course, a digital rebrand isn’t just about aesthetics: it’s about positioning your business as a fully accessible online service. As such, partnering with the right payment gateways helps establish your business as a trusted vendor. PayPal continues to be a popular payment service for online businesses, making it an obvious choice for SMEs who want to mitigate risk. Stripe is another payment gateway that you can use, and both services let you create payment buttons that you can then embed clearly on your site. Potential customers who go to your site will then see these buttons and know that you offer flexible payment options.

Our previous Social Media 101 post maintains that going digital is one of the best growth strategies you can take as a business owner. With that in mind, the tips mentioned above can guide you towards a successful digital rebrand.

 

Article made for clairemckinneypr.com

By Annie Lawson

3 Simple Ways to Improve Your Social Media Efforts

Improve the effectiveness of your social media efforts

Well-established companies with bigger budgets are investing a significant amount of money in digital branding and social media.  With so many options, understanding your audience and using the best tools is very important to make you competitive at any level of business.  So, whether you are representing just yourself, a micro-business, or any size company, here are 3 simple ways to improve your social media efforts.

Tip #1: Where is Your Audience?

So much of the world is on social media. In 2019 they predicted that the U.S. population will spend more time on social media/mobile devices than on TV by the end of the year.  My analytics definitely show an uptick in mobile use, with a 50/50 ratio of people who read my content on mobile vs. other devices. Social media host a wealth of loyal niche communities. With clear messaging and focused branding, these communities can quickly become your repeat-consumers.

Find your audience

Tip #2: Should You Pay for Online Ads?

Like any promotional content on a popular medium, ads on social media can be pricey. Luckily, there is more to this strategy than paid advertisements. Channels like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat are one-stop shops. You can create your own original content in-house, free of charge. The average user is bombarded daily with big-budget marketing. In fact, 86% of people on social crave authentic content rather than expertly-crafted material from ad agencies. Stand out in the crowded market and create something to which your audience can authentically relate, without breaking the bank!

Tip #3: Do You Know Your Audience?

We’ve talked about the ways social media branding is useful, but how will you know it’s working? There is a way, and unlike mail surveys or television polls, you won’t have to wait weeks and months to see results. Simply start a poll on your desired outlet. The media mentioned above offer functions where you can pose a question with two or more answer options, and users can select their response. These polls can run for any length of time, from one day to one week. Once the poll closes, you instantly have your results – you can even see votes as they are happening.

Download our eGuide to social media so you can find ways to improve your social media effectiveness.