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Lessons Learned from "Talk Like A Pirate Day"

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September 19 has been declared "International Talk Like A Pirate Day". How do I know that? I read it on Matt Cutts' blog. If you don't know who Matt Cutts is, he is one of Google's first employees. Matt writes a blog which, for us in the Search Engine Optimization business, makes him the face (and the unofficial word) of Google. You can see his blog, Matt Cutts: Gadgets, Google, and SEO. His blog is read by a huge number of web designers and search engine optimization enthusiasts. Matt wrote about "International Talk Like a Pirate Day" as a joke. I don't think it is a joke, I think it's a brilliant promotional strategy - even if it didn't start out that way.

This all started back in the 90's when, on a lark, John Baur (Ol' Chum Bucket) and Mark Summers (Cap'n Slappy) decided that "September 19 each year be the day when all souls over the world should be talkin' like pirates". Their efforts apparently went nowhere until they pitched their idea to columnist Dave Barry who loved the idea and wrote about it. Shortly after, realizing there was no website dedicated to "Talk Like A Pirate Day", two blokes in England started this site, followed shortly after by John and Mark's own site.

This is the first year that I heard about this "holiday". I loved this idea and posted it on my blog and sent off an e-mail to a couple dozen of my friends and I'm sure some of them passed it on. That's how things work these days on the Internet. With promotion from the likes of Dave Barry, Matt Cutts, people like me and who knows how many other news outlets and ordinary people, these sites are getting tons of traffic.

So what exactly does this have to do with website promotion? Do I really have to ask that question? Let me say it again - these sites are getting a ton of traffic! Perhaps you are thinking, "How do I invent a holiday?" I am not actually saying that you have to invent a holiday, but if you can, do it. Just do something! Have a contest, run a promotion or maybe just write an article and submit it to some of the article publishing services.

In a former life, I worked at ShadySkates, a skate shop in Pittsburgh that had an indoor skate facility equipped with ramps and other obstacles. I was trying to find a way to improve our business in January, which, typically, was one of our slowest months. We decided to host a skateboarding contest. At first, we called it, "The Pittsburgh Skateboard Championships"… not such a great name, but it was a start. We decided to hold it on the weekend of Martin Luther King Day, so anyone traveling to Pittsburgh from out of town would have an extra day to return home. It also happened to be the weekend between the last NFL playoff game and the Super Bowl, so there weren't any major sporting events competing for our attention.

For the competition, we decided on an unusual format - a head-to-head competition with one person advancing to the next round until there was a single winner. (We took our lead on the format from the movie, "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome", which was in the theatres at the time. If you've seen the movie, you know the profound meaning of, "Two Men Enter. One Man Leaves."). Based on the format, we changed the name of our contest to "Thunderdome: The Pittsburgh Skateboard Championships". We sent out a simple press release, which was picked up by the local paper and, to our surprise, many other papers in Western Pennsylvania and three surrounding states. We had skaters come to town from all over the east and the day of the event a local TV station came in to tape it and we got a nice spot on both evening newscasts.

In the following years we kept using the movie themes. The shop owner's name was Ernie, so we had "Nightmare on Penn Ave, Ernie's Revenge", "Weekend At Ernie's" and more… all playing on current popular movie titles. We had contests to send in tee shirt designs, great prizes to give away (free from the manufacturers) and our contest got bigger and better each year with more and more media coverage. It got to the point where January became our second busiest month of the year.

What I am advising is to find (or invent) something that is currently in the news. It could be a movie, a song or maybe just a trend. Find a way to connect it to your website or business and start promoting it. Write about it on blogs, in articles, in press releases, send out e-mails (not Spam)… perhaps there's something you can think of that I haven't mentioned here. You never know where your promotions are going to end up or how they can help your business. This is the kind of thing that will cost you very little or no money and may end up paying big rewards… savvy? ARRRRRGH!

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About The Author...
Jim Lillicotch is a website designer and marketing expert based in Pittsburgh, PA. Jim is the owner of Lillicotch.com. He has worked as a Website Designer and SEO for over 10 years. His passion is helping people start or improve their own sites. He can be reached by through his website Lillicotch.com

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