Four tips on how to handle your own public relations as an entrepreneur

As a journalist, it never ceases to amaze me how entrepreneurs and business owners get in their own way when it comes to receiving media coverage. You can imagine how happy I was to hear Myleik Teele address this topic in her "How to handle your own PR" podcast.

If you have just launched your own business and you don't have the budget for your own public relations team to interact with the press, here are some of the items that Myleik suggested that business owners need to take care of ahead of time.

Take photos

As an entrepreneur, you should have high-resolution images of yourself, both headshots and full-body photos. Take some time to really think about how your photos can tell a story. Your personality can still shine through while being professional.

You should also have high-quality images of your product for the press to use. Be sure to have a Dropbox share link that you can give to media outlets for easy access. If you do choose to go the Dropbox route, make sure that each photo is clearly named and labeled with a description. You could even go as far as signing up for a account and creating a custom URL that will redirect to your Dropbox link.

Tell your story

Make sure that your business has a clear story or narrative. It's very important to have an understanding of what you do, what your skills are, the kinds of businesses that employ you and how you deliver results through solving a particular problem in the marketplace.

Story Template:

I am a/an _______________ (what you do) with a passion for ______________ (what your skills are). I love working with _______________ (kinds of businesses and people you work with) to _______________ (problem that you solve).

Online presence

You have to be easy to find! Deadlines are real and if a journalist can't find you or your contact information, then that reporter will have to move on to the next.

Having a website is a must. Thanks to Squarespace, a drag-and-drop content management system, having a sleek website is easier than ever. In addition, before you launch it, you should at least have these items in order:

  • Domain name. (Professional websites don't have ".wordpress" or ".squarespace" or ".tumblr" in the url. You can actually purchase your domain name through Squarespace as you're putting your website together.)
  • About page. (Feel free to tweak your elevator pitch here to tell more about your brand, along with a photo. You will have to tailor some of your information to the industry that you are in. From hours of operation to customer testimonials, it will vary.)
  • Contact page. (Your phone number, location and email address should be here. Speaking of email, please invest in a business email address and retire that @gmail address. You can set up a custom email address using Google Apps.)

Respond quickly

Save yourself some time emailing back and forth with reporters by having templates of responses ready for media and interview requests. You should have that elevator pitch, address, phone number, cost, prices for your services, your elevator pitch and more. It would also be helpful to keep this information in the notes section of your phone while you answer emails on the go.

How to bounce back from an embarrassing mistake on social media



There it was on the cover in big, bold letters. An otherwise great issue of Juice magazine, the Des Moines Register's weekly entertainment publication, about the joys of THRIFT shopping in Des Moines, Iowa had been ruined by a typo.

At the time, I was the online editor responsible for Juice's presence on the web.

So, what's an online editor to do?

Well, how you handle an error depends on the severity of the situation. Being that the magazine focuses on entertainment and has a snarky brand voice, I could get away with being light-hearted in how this error was addressed. Here's what I learned about bouncing back from errors on social media...

Don't ignore it or get defensive. Quickly acknowledge your mistakes and apologize.

Regardless of the severity of the situation, you need to OWN whatever happened and do so quickly. With social media at the fingertips of your customers and/or readers, the public conversation surrounding what you've done will build whether you like it or not. While you can't control where that conversation goes, you can at least start it with accepting responsibility for whatever it is that you have done.

Laugh at yourself before anyone else does.

Taking a cue from the Detroit Free Press, always be a good sport about these types of situations and poke fun at yourself. It takes away some of the sting of social media. (It also makes the day go by quicker. Trust me.)

You'll even get some cool points for owning your mess.

Put the extra attention to good use.

If I could change one thing about how I handled this situation, I might've asked my editor to milk this a little bit more. Maybe write a short post? "The one thing that's worse than having a typo on your front cover" or something of that nature. We hadn't relaunched Juice's newlsetter just yet, but if we had that to plug, you better believe I would've tried to loop that in somehow.

There are a lot of factors that come into play when you're addressing corrections online. I would love to hear feedback about how editors and social media managers approach addressing corrections online in other ways. Share your feedback with me!

As always, feel free to tweet me @AmeenaRasheed or write to me in the comments. I'm looking forward to your feedback.

3 powerful digital marketing strategies we often ignore

It's no secret that we are living in a society that's heavily influenced by what's happening on social media. This endless stream of likes, hashtags and filters has permeated it's way through just about everything we do.

As a media professional, I'm fascinated by its impact and I've recently been interested in learning more about the best social media practices across different industries. published its "Trends" series that takes a deep dive into what's ahead in 2017 for the events industry.

Seeing as more traditional media companies are leaning toward hosting live events as a revenue stream, I think it's important to pay attention to these developments.

The "10 Event Trends for 2017" report included a section on event social media and digital marketing. Here are a few of the digital marketing strategies that I liked from this year's trend report that can be applied to the media industry:


Suggested Social Content

Send suggested copy for social media to speakers, sponsors, exhibitors and contributing suppliers of the event. This makes it easy to copy and paste the content to social media and increase the conference’s reach to like-minded followers of speakers and sponsors. Build up the buzz!

Official Banners

The NFOC Conference for Communications Technologies created impactful branded social media images optimized for each platform and issued to stakeholders to show off their position at the conference. Trade show exhibitors were given banners with their booth numbers while sponsors were given images that displayed their contribution levels. This strategy makes it very easy for those contributing to your event to seem like coordinated extensions of your marketing efforts and to reach an extended event.


Facebook Live

Having live streams portals are a great idea because of the possible sponsorship opportunities and web embedding, which should be coming to Facebook Live soon. Facebook Live's greatest asset is that it has is access to its network’s users that can be reached organically or through paid targeting.

Possible content? Try presenter Q&As, FOMO moments and fireside chats.

Video Testimonials

Capture testimonials from attendees and stakeholders at the peak of excitement around your event. Seeing and hearing from those who attended the event can build the buzz for your next event.


Social Media Walls

The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission Content Discoverability Summit's digital strategy included social media walls in every room of this multi-track and multi-day event. Social media walls will entice your attendees to share information about what's happening within your event.


Creating an event ambassador program takes advantage of the credibility of individuals who can influence others to attend while humanizing your brand. When putting together this team, aim for diversity and a representative of each buying persona you are marketing to.

You can read the seven other social media and digital marketing event trends by clicking here. What are some digital strategies that you all use for your live events? Tweet me or share it with me in the comments.

As a new blogger or social media manager, you need these 9 phone apps

So, you’re a recent graduate and budding media professional who’s stepping into your first gig as an online editor or social media manager.

Or maybe you just launched that blog you’ve been promising yourself to start since the day before forever.

Either way, if you’re juggling professional and/or personal brands on social media, then you need to understand that everything you do must be strategic. 

However, there are those times when plans fall through and you have to get things done on the run. From live tweeting to Instagramming, it can all get pretty overwhelming.

After managing different brand accounts and my own social media handles for a few years, I've found it helpful to utilize certain phone apps in order to help me QUICKLY create the best content possible for those times when I’m not in front of a computer.

Remember: If you stay ready, then you never have to get ready.

Here are the nine apps that I suggest for any new blogger or social media professional to have ready when he or she is on the go:

A Color Story: Great for photo editing. I mostly just use this to lighten up any dark photos. There are lots of other features and filters within the app, though.

Canva: Need graphics? There will be times when you don’t always have the time to hop on over to Photoshop to whip something up. That's when it really helps to use this simple graphic design software.

IFTTT: I miss the days when Twitter would automatically let you post Instagram pictures natively to Twitter. You, too? Well, this tool allows you to do that and then some. IFTTT, which is short for "If This Then That," is one of my favorite productivity hacks. IFTTT is centered around "applets,” which are triggered by different web platforms and services to carry out different tasks, that you can activate to do different actions.

That might be hard to understand, so here are some “applet” examples:

  • Have an email sent to you every time someone posts on Instagram using a hashtag that you created.
  • Automatically retweet the text of new tweets from a specific Twitter account. This will retweet the text of new tweets by the @user of your choice. You can make multiple versions to retweet multiple accounts. Just add in the username to watch.
  • Backup your new Instagram photos to Dropbox. Automatically download your Instagram posts to a folder in Dropbox to make sure you never lose your beautiful pictures!
  • Sync your new Instagrams to a Pinterest board.
  • Do you want to unplug from your work emails, but know that you can't afford to possibly miss messages from certain individuals? Well, there's an applet for that. You can get a notification sent to you whenever you receive an email from a certain email address. (I can't take credit for this one. I got it from Mark Luckie.)

Layout: Initially created by and for Instagram, Layout lets you create photo collages straight from your phone's camera roll. You can use up to nine photos at once for a collage.

Boomerang: This app will let you create mini videos that quickly loop back and forth like a GIF or Vine video. Seeing as this app was also created by and for Instagram, it’s best used on that platform. But…..

GIPHY cam: If you would like to create your own GIFs that can be used across different platforms, this app is for you.

Hyperlapse: In my experience, I have found that timelapse videos do pretty well on social media. Timelapse videos have always been among the posts with the highest engagement when I have used them. Hyperlapse allows you to easily create videos at an accelerated speed and post them to your various social media platforms. No video editing classes needed!

Instasize: Instagram lets you "pinch" your pictures to fit Instagram's square photo frame but only to a certain extent. If you need to fit your picture to the frame a bit more than what Instagram allows, then this is the perfect tool to help you do that.

Later: While this tool doesn't automatically post to Instagram for you, it does enable you to create an Instagram content calendar that will schedule out future posts. You can add your caption and several different hashtags in a scheduled post. Once the scheduled time of your Instagram post rolls around, you're sent a post notification to your mobile device where you will then approve and send that particular post. Here's a tutorial on how to plan and schedule your Instagram posts using Later. Hootsuite, another social media management platform, also has this same functionality. You can read the Hootsuite tutorial by clicking here.

While this isn't a comprehensive list of apps that bloggers and social media managers should have, it's what I use to make managing, both personal and professional, social media accounts easier.

I would love to hear about any apps that you use and I missed. Feel free to tweet me @AmeenaRasheed or leave me a comment below.

How to become a better advocate for your ideas in order to get the credit you deserve

In December, I shared a room with 24 other talented journalists to participate in the 2016 Poynter-NABJ Leadership Academy for Diversity in Digital Media.

There aren't enough adjectives to describe the impact that this program had on me, both professionally and personally. I gained a new perspective on what true leadership looks like and how I should start reflecting those qualities in order to develop my own leadership style.

We did a number of things during our week of training, but it all started out with eight ViewPoynt surveys. Those surveys were sent to a group of my former supervisors, colleagues and journalism mentors I admire. After reviewing the surveys, I noticed some common themes in how I need to improve. The following critique stood out to me the most, though.

"I have so much respect for Ameena, so much faith in her and such high hopes for her. But I will say this about her: She can be too quiet....Ameena is one of those people who may not be getting the projects she deserves because she often flies under the radar, quietly and steadily doing her job. I would never wish for her to be a loud-mouth or a spotlight-hog, but I do very much want for her to get the attention she deserves. I want her to find a way that she is comfortable with that allows others to see more quickly how very much she has to offer."

Well, there you have it. I need to be more of an advocate for my ideas, vocal about the projects that I'm working on and share the knowledge I have gained through the work that I have done.

I wasn't the only person who struggled with this at the leadership academy. I suspect that some of you who might be reading this are dealing with this same issue.

Luckily, Katie Hawkins-Gaar, one of Poynter's digital innovation faculty members, gave a presentation on how to confidently pitch better ideas and get your work seen. Here are some of the points that really stuck out to me.

Generating ideas and inspiration

Read a lot! Before you push for your ideas, you need some good ones. Studying industry trends and seeing what others are doing might stir up some inspiration for your next big project.

For journalism and media, the Columbia Journalism Review, Poynter and Nieman Lab are all great resources. In order to be more organized in following industry trends, I use the Feedly app to keep up with all of my favorite blogs and websites.

Building credibility and confidence

Get published! I'm sure that various industry publications and blogs are all looking for the next great story. After you're done reading articles from those places and you're feeling inspired, try to get some of your own ideas published in those places.

Say yes to speaking opportunities! From moderating and sitting on panels to presenting your ideas at conferences or workshops, getting out in front of others helps expand your network and visibility within your respective industry.

Crafting your pitch and executing your ideas

You have your idea. You have the confidence and credibility to stand before your peers and share your idea. But how do you go about presenting it?

  • Pay attention to metrics. Bring data and examples to support your case.
  • Suggest a trial run. Put a timeline on ideas to ease people into new ideas.
  • Be visual. Even simple sketches can help illustrate ideas.
  • Anticipate pushback. When preparing a pitch, think about the concerns others will have.

Once you're finished with a project, follow up with a post-mortem meeting. Post-mortem meetings are a good way to make sure you get credit for your ideas and your work.

Be sure to assess what worked well, what could have been better and what you can do to achieve success in the future.

I would love to hear any pro tips that anybody reading this might have on this subject. How have you learned to become a better advocate for your ideas and the work you do?

I ate great Italian food in Des Moines, and it was in a food court

When my stomach's rumbling and I have to take a break in my workday to grab lunch, there isn't much to choose from. I tend to look for places that are quick and close to Capital Square. Sticking to those two criteria usually forces me to sacrifice quality for convenience.

That is, until the Greater Des Moines Partnership opened its food court not too long ago. Initially, I assumed there would be the same ol' restaurant chains and low-quality selections that we've all grown accustomed to at food courts.

L'italiano is in the Greater Des Moines Partnership food court in downtown Des Moines. (Photo: Ameena Rasheed)

L'italiano is in the Greater Des Moines Partnership food court in downtown Des Moines. (Photo: Ameena Rasheed)

But you know what happens when you assume, right? I ended up being way wrong. To my surprise, I was able to get fresh, quality food from L'Italiano, an Italian eatery located in a corner of the Partnership's food court.

When I walked up to L'Italiano, I knew that this place was a little different from what I was used to. The tables that surround L'Italiano's eating area have tablecloths and centerpieces.

There also is a projector that plays movies during the day. I believe "Goodfellas" was playing the first time I visited. If you have time to sit and eat there, all of these little touches combined make for an enjoyable dining experience. It's the little things.

My dining partner Courtney and I decided to start things off with arancini aka Italian rice balls. I ordered one Arancini Bolognese ($2.99), which contains ground top sirloin, tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and arborio rice. Courtney had the Arancini Zucchini ($2.99), which contained zucchini, smoked mozzarella cheese and arborio rice. I was skeptical about these at first because I thought they would be glorified hush puppies. Once again, I was mistaken. It was love at first bite. Courtney and I agreed that we could eat three of these each and call it a day. We didn't stop there, though.

So fresh

One of the most impressive things about this place is the freshness of the food, especially the pasta. My favorite thing about the pasta here is that it's fresh and each dish isn't drowning in sauce. We went with the Penne Al Pesto Pasta ($8.95), which is made with arugula, garlic, pine nuts, grana padano cheese, cherry tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil.

While I've tried several pastas on the menu, this was my least favorite and my Snapchatting sidekick wasn't a big fan of it either. It wasn't bad, but it didn't blow us away. If you are looking for a pasta to try, I would recommend the Tagliatelle Bolognese ($11.95). I tried it in a past trip, and THAT dish really hit the spot.

One of the more impressive things about L'Italiano is that it takes the time to make fresh pasta each day. I even got a behind-the-scenes look at how they make the pasta after hours.

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Lots of textures

Going to an Italian eatery and not trying the pizza is disrespectful on so many levels. We split the Mediterranean pizza ($10.95), which was made with mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, capers, Kalamata olives, arugula and extra virgin olive oil. We enjoyed the mix of textures with the arugula, capers, tomatoes and olives. It was quite tasty.


Last but not least

We had to finish things off with the Panna Cotta ($2.99) dessert, which tasted a bit like ice cream with a pudding-like consistency. I like ice cream and I like pudding, so this was a win-win for me. It also comes with a thin layer of strawberry sauce on top. I wish the sauce was a bit thicker, and my eating buddy was thrown off a bit by the different textures. Overall, I enjoyed it.


Location: 700 Locust St.

Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Contact: (515) 282-6700

I tried Zombie Burger's new wing menu; here's what I think

Zombie Burger announced that it was adding wings to its menu last week.

As someone who enjoys a good ZB burger every now and then, I made it my mission to give these a try.

There are eight flavors total, but I only chose three to taste.

Those flavors were southside ranch, brown sugar and Carolina mustard BBQ.

I tried to pick flavors that might be a little out of the ordinary based off the name. Here's what I found ...

Not-so-little-known fact about me: I love ranch dressing. A lot.

I am a ranch connoisseur. Ranch is more than a condiment, it's a way of life. I take it very seriously.

So when I saw a wing flavor with ranch in the title, I knew that southside ranch was going to be on my list of wings to try.

This wing flavor ... has promise. I was expecting a little ranch-y twang, but I didn't get that. The flavor falls a little flat. Maybe my expectations were too high? Maybe I'm a ranch snob?

Would I order these again? Probably not.

On to the next wing...

I was a little skeptical about these at first, but ...


Never judge a chicken wing by its cover. With it being a rub, I was worried about the brown sugar being too overpowering, but the hint of brown sugar used was just the right touch.

Would I order these again? Absolutely!

Last one: Carolina mustard BBQ.

I have mixed feelings about these wings. They had a mustard-y kick and a tinge of BBQ sauce, but the wings weren't coated with enough sauce for my liking.

Would I order them again? Only if there was more sauce.

A Dong. The jokes write themselves.

We wrote a post two years ago about how A Dong started up pretty much the best Twitter account in Des Moines.

It's not like other, bigger-named restaurants that try WAY TOO HARD to connect with their patrons on social media. (Looking at you, iHOP.)

A Dong's tweets have a quirky charm to them. Despite suffering a fire and being forced to close temporarily, the account keeps things fun and light-hearted. I mean, when your name is "A Dong," it's hard to take yourself too seriously. The jokes pretty much write themselves.

We caught up with Thai Luong, one of the guys running things behind the social accounts, for a Q&A (with his own GIFs — he likes to stay #onbrand).

Ameena: How long have you had the Twitter account and why did you start it up?


Or, you know, since March 2014.

It started as a lark — to give the restaurant some sort of social media presence. It’s a great way to keep people informed and thinking about us. We’re also on Facebook, so like us there for the occasional longer joke/informational post.

A: Who runs the Twitter account?


This handsome devil, @thailuong, with help from Tuan Phan

A: What’s been the reaction from the public? Do people interact with you a lot?


People seem to enjoy the puns and self-awareness!

There’s definitely a lot more interaction on the Facebook page. I always look at Twitter as more of a broadcast platform, and Facebook as more of the community platform. You definitely need to be on both platforms, and I prefer Twitter for how quick and effortless it is to throw something out into the ether.

A: What can we expect in the future from A Dong’s Twitter account?


More dope tweets. More inspiration. Possible DJ Khaled collabo (just kidding, he’s busy ripping doors off hinges.)

Here are some of our favorite tweets: