When Should I Start PR for My Start-Up?

When Should I Start PR for My Start-Up?

I get this question all of the time. Some may find it surprising, but what’s more surprising to me is that many start-ups are sitting on real news and doing nothing about it. Sure, it’s easy to recognize when you raise money – announce it! When you partner with a major company – announce it! But, what’s not so obvious to the masses is when you fit into a larger narrative that can drive real business results – even without a major announcement!

Say for example, you are working on a company in the artificial intelligence or driverless car sectors. There are a lot of stories being written about those subjects today. It’s possible that a media outlet hasn’t reported the story from your point of view – you need PR! Or, maybe your research team made an interesting find – you need PR! Have you been tracking other news and trends? Maybe you can fit into those narratives? You need PR!

Though, what you don’t need is a retainer for a PR firm.

Maybe what you need is to sit down with a PR pro who understands what makes news, strategize with him/her, and pitch some thoughtful stories out to media who have been covering similar subjects in days past. It’s not rocket science, just not your job to think this way. IMHO.

Here’s how I would see it if in your shoes.

You’re a CEO at a company with 20-50 employees. Your revenue is in the millions. Yet you’re being out marketed by your competition. They keep coming up in your new business pitches. You’re not coming up in theirs, so you’re hearing. In addition to running email marketing programs, staffing events, publishing whitepapers and such, you can use PR to get into your competitors’ narratives. It seems simple, right?

It’s not. Time and resources are not on your side. They have been doing PR longer than you have. And, they have a bigger team, with a bigger budget for PR. So why do you need PR now? What advantage can it give you, if any?

You’re not starting a PR program to beat out your competition.

Accept that. You’re not going to have the largest share of voice, at least not in the beginning of your PR program. Own it. What you do have is a positive attitude and a team – albeit small – of people in your organization who can work together on PR to increase your share of voice and generate awareness and leads for your company, in a short period of time – without any announcements.

Is this ideal? No, not really. It’s rare if a prospect knocks on my door and just asks if it’s time for him/her to do PR. I actually tend to shy away from such calls. Why? Most of those calls come in because the company calling hasn’t done PR before and was told to do it. The best case is when a start-up has an announcement to make and the PR that follows builds upon that announcement (and others) and helps narrate the services and solutions it offers to others.

Talk with a PR pro to find out when it’s ideal to start your PR!

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How to Get Press from Two Media List Building and Distribution Services

How to Get Press from Two Media List Building and Distribution Services

Once upon a time, you got press coverage. Publications that you were only hoping would write about your company, did. But, now you’re thinking – that was good, but it wasn’t enough, it didn’t hold. The quality and quantity of your media relations went up and down. Now it’s time to get back on that rocket. Unfortunately, you don’t have an announcement to make.

Where do you go (or start again) from here?

While there is no magic button to make it happen, there are two media list building and distribution platforms which could help you land mentions in nationwide publications.

You kind of have a media list, if you go back and mine the data from previous coverage. So, you were covered by which publication, TV program or radio show, and who wrote the story or did the interview? Capture that data. That’s your first task. Don’t get locked up on whether or not you have relationships with those folks. They wrote about your company. They’ll know you, when reminded.

Now sign-up for MuckRack and BuzzStream. Ok, just give me a moment more to help you understand how this will all get pulled together and benefit your company. Next, don’t just take all of these steps below into consideration – do them…

STEP 1: Create a list of your previous press coverage including name of publication, name of repoter/producer, location, title, phone, email, and link to coverage. You can do this with MuckRack. You will be building a press list. Make sure it’s in a format that you can upload into BuzzStream. So, get the contact data of the folks who covered your company from MuckRack. Walla! Now upload it into BuzzSteam (Walla X 2) and title that Category in BuzzStream, “Previous Coverage.” I would also recommend you break out the media outlets into Categories depending upon the coverage (ie. technology, business, kind of trade publication, etc.)

STEP 2: Now use MuckRack and BuzzStream to track what those journalists are writing about. They’ve written about you before – and not for quite some time – so it’s possible they may cover you again. Of course, not on the same subject, but here’s where it gets interesting. I’ll have to assume since you’re interested in the news, you’re reading it. What’s trending in your business sector? Did any big news stories break recently? If so, you can become a part of that news stream. How? Take a news story, edit it into your own words, and send it to those journalist on your list letting them know that you are available to speak on that subject while at the same time providing them with some insight into what you can talk about – don’t just say that you are available for comment. Become their expert source!

STEP 3: Not to sound like a broken record, but use MuckRack and BuzzStream to track what those journalists are writing about. This time round though you’ll be pitching people who haven’t covered your company before… Sit down with your C-Suite – and do what Steve Jobs taught me – make a list of the publications / TV programs / radio shows – that you want to interview you and write out their headlines and lead paragraphs – just not for them – this is for your eyes only. It’s not as crazy as it sounds. You want to be written about in FAST COMPANY? So, take yourself through a test. See if you can write a headline and opening paragraph of a story you would be quoted in - in that publication. If that’s the case, then you have yourself a strong pitch to send to a reporter or editor at FAST COMPANY.

Each of these steps can be done independently or together. Ideally, you’ll either have someone in-house or a PR Consultant who can help execute all of these programs simultaneously. Looking back at previous client engagements, every client has had a consistent mixture of these steps to help generate press interest on a sustained basis.

You can achieve these results even after having several years of dormancy.

That’s what we found from experience. Some companies have a great launch when announcing their new funding, but go silent after that – in some cases for many years. By leveraging any one or more of these steps and MuckRack and BuzzStream, each company can get back into the press.

Do you need support with one or more of these steps? Let 2pinz do the heavy lifting. Click here to get in contact with us today and learn more.

Thanks to my friends at Bison Analytics for giving me the inspiration to use their blogging style to craft this post.

Three Things to Consider When Hiring a PR Consultant…

Three Things to Consider When Hiring a PR Consultant…

1. There different kinds of public relations professionals 2. The right PR person will care about your success (too) and 3. Hire a PR pro!

Full Disclosure: I am a PR pro. I’ve been one for over 20 years. My work has ranged from pitching celebrities to cybersecurity companies. Success has come in many forms. From product launches to content placement, I have seen it all.

The Net-net: Some think professionals like me are hired to tell your story. I think I’m hired to help build and sell your brand to potential investors, partners, and customers. The story is the end to share on stage. I focus on the means to get you there. If you’re on the prowl for a public relations partner, here are some tips to consider:

1. There are different kinds of public relations professionals. They can be broken up as such: Agency, Corporate, or Government.

Agency public relations professionals typically have worked within small, mid-size or large agencies. The experience of the staff and focus of the agency will determine their style (ie. progressive or conservative) and what kind of clientele they have served (ie. start-ups or large brands). There’s no fault in choosing either kind of agency staffer as your public relations counsel. The true test is the fit. Will a person from a progressive or conservative agency meld with your culture? Has that person worked on companies like yours? Agency professionals generally have a lot of experience from people to client management and can handle low to high stress situations.

Corporate public relations professionals are experts in their field. They tend to really know more about a particular space than anyone at an agency because in corporate, they lived it, presumably for many years. They also have a strong grasp on the industry players, analysts, and events. Needless to say, agency staffers can have a similar hold on such information, but are sometimes regarded as outsiders when compared to their corporate twins. For more mature positions, agencies will require that their senior staffers have acquired as much knowledge as those in the corporate world, but are part of a broader team where not every person included will be able to dive so deep. You will need to test your applicants before committing to make sure they are in sync with your team.

Government public outreach professionals are in a category of their own as compared to their private counterparts. A person working in the government sector should not assume to quickly jump into the private sector and represent companies. Government employees in communications departments use language specific to the residents they serve and are in the business to not be in business, but to help, inform, and educate the public. When reviewing a public relations person for a non-government position, the role needs to clearly define requirements that a person applying has experienced or can master within a short period of time, depending upon your needs and resources.

2. The right PR person will care about your success (too)

I have a number of public relations friends who have a lot of success on their resumes. Yours truly, included. But none of us did it alone. Every single successful outcome was a combination of (in this order), the right talent, with the right product/service, at the right time. And, boom. Every single success is a story, a case study, bragging rights. We’re bragging because we can’t believe it ourselves. The perform storm some would say. However, there is one area I will accentuate – the best public relations campaigns succeed because they’re backed by the people who care that they do. Those folks may not be the preeminent experts on the subjects that they’re pitching – no joke – but they understand what they are sending out to editors/reporters and the impact those stories could have on the market, on many levels. Those public relations professionals are ethical, don’t stop when they hit walls, are creative, and committed to the respect that the journalist community deserves and professionally knows how to get their clients’ messages across. It’s a gift every time I get to work with people who share the same excitement and passion as I do.

3. Hire a PR pro! Seriously, don’t just hire anyone to do your public relations. You’ll also need to do more than just weed out non-starters from the answers through an RFP. Sit down with your prospective public relations professional candidates and get to know them. Find out if they have helped built a company’s communications platform like you think you want to build yours. Ask them for ideas. Test their ability to keep a conversation on the subject that you want to pitch. Explore how you will work together. See if they have a broader understanding of the market at-large and how you fit into it. Make them earn your business as you will earn theirs. The next time you interview a public relations candidate, ask them: What kind of PR pro are you? What differentiates you from the rest? Will there ever be a perfect match? Of course not… But, maybe a hire can get you from one stage of growth to another. That’s worth placing a bet. And if you are not absolutely sure if you’re about to hire the right person, ask them for references.

Thank you for reading my insight. If you are looking to interview public relations professionals for consulting / contract / freelance positions, please consider speaking with me at david@2pinz.com or call 415.518.6611.

How to Get News from the News

How to Get News from the News

Google News Alerts is a gift. Just type in any keyword phrase such as the “internet of things” and capture “as it happens” news articles in your email. Though, not all search results are created equal. Some are more valuable than others - that all depends upon your objective. Here, I am writing to you as a public relations professional who is interested in finding a story that I can get a client into. You’re probably scratching your head right about now…

Above I said that the stories have been published, and have been delivered to you. But, below that I claimed that I could use Google New Alerts to get into a story, but didn’t mention that I would try to get a client into a story that was already published. Believe me; some would think that was possible too!

What I am using Google News Alerts for is to track news in a specific sector like the “Internet of things” and find where there may be an opportunity to use a trending news story to get news by sending that story to journalists who haven’t covered it yet – and don’t compete with those who have written - and offer my client as a source for an upcoming article on a topic he/she can speak to.

As you can see from the clipping below, one of the three news stories has “legs.” Which one? It’s possible that a journalist may have interest to hear from a company or vendor about the results of the IDC study. Maybe the company or vendor’s opinion is in stark contrast to one of the findings or he/she can shed light on a new way of looking at a result from the study.

How can you do this? First start by emptying your mind of any preconceived notions that the trending news was covered too much or is a dead story. Also, don’t worry about whether or not a journalist would have interest in your client nor try to push any kind of marketing messages. Try freeing yourself up by using your “beginner’s mind,” where you can truly just fish to find out if a journalist may have interest in having a source comment on a particular story or be available for a related piece.

To learn more about how we can help you get press from press, send us a message.

Staffing the PR Agency

Staffing the PR Agency

At a PRSA event in San Francisco I was pleasantly surprised to be in the center of a packed room. Hosted by PAN Communications, attendees ranged from PR Consultants - such as yours truly - to agencies with a few to a few thousand people. Standing room only, I managed to network with the likes of staffers managing large projects to individuals just trying to get the word out about their association. Albeit never that simple, what I found fascinating was the varying personalities in the room. It got me thinking. What kind of PR agency make-up is a good breeding ground for success? Is there such a thing? Well, yes there is.

Instead of focusing on what kind of people an agency should staff, an agency should first look at what kind of agency they are or want to be. Sometimes an agency leads with analytics and other times it is creative. Agencies can be more liberal or conservative in their opinions – and clients retained. Agencies can also be progressive or risk adverse. And, these are most likely not the only factors that add up to form an agency. I have also seen virtual models where there is no agency per se, but a long list of remote staffers who work on projects together and help clients achieve their goals. Whatever works?

Well, not necessarily. The vision has to come from the top. At the executive level, what are the agency founders and heads like? Who are following them? Who are their past clients and friends? Reputation is such an important asset when developing an agency or growing a staff that I cannot stress this enough. Who is in-charge is a big deal. What they have done matters. That sets the tone for the entire organization.

I always talk about the agency model as compared to a family. The “Mom” and “Dad” do a lot to help the kids grow up, including nurturing the troops and setting them free to do better, accomplish their dreams. It’s no different inside an agency environment. If your managing director is a good person, with strong morals and values, who is there for his/her staff, teaches them, makes them feel part of something bigger than themselves, then he/she is in a good position to foster retention and growth.

And pay doesn’t matter. Sure, it may matter a little bit more when your friend just scored a million from his/her latest start-up, but that’s another life well had. The agency staffer wants comradery, a group effort, something to fight for, laugh and cry about, and to walk away from at night. That person doesn’t want to live in the trenches, but cast strategy and tactics from the sideline – and make a difference worth being awarded for.

And that person gets bored easily. The PR staffer wants diversity in work product and people and needs outside counsel to get the job done. Either they share office resources, pull from other regions, hire consultants or other agencies to generate results for clients. There is no one person who can do this alone. It is an integration of sorts. The kind, where we have recently witnessed in pro basketball, the magic just happens. As much as we want to kid ourselves, it’s not about that one guy or gal. It’s about the team. The team that a very smart person or group brought together.

And, you know when you have it. I have worked inside agencies and as a consultant where you could feel the magic. There was always an excitement in the air when those teams worked together. A little motivation and a lot of hard work went a long way to successful client campaigns that are still talked about years later.

What does it take to get those people together? I used to think it was a series of Myers-Briggs testing, maybe still. But, I truly believe that it’s really an inside out approach that needs to happen. The not so simple exercise of identifying what has driven a PR agency to lead such successful engagements and to replicate that point of view, that stamina, that work ethic, into the interview process. I’m not talking about just hiring bubbly, enthusiastic people or those who have deep experience in a client’s sector.

I’m talking about delving into the cultural aspects of an organization. Teasing those out, getting to know the true agency. That’s what will drive the business forward. It’s figuring out the formula of the magic potion. And, it only works if the agency has the maturity and honesty to open up the kimono and explore what's inside.

To learn more about how I can be a part of your magic team, please contact me through LinkedIn.

Here’s How to Keep Winning With PR

Here’s How to Keep Winning With PR

I have to admit that I am obsessed with one Presidential candidate’s consistent “winning” rhetoric. He must say the word “win” dozens of times a day. It got me thinking. What does it mean to win to him? What would we win if we won? Why is winning so important to this candidate and no other? Or is it? Do I win for my clients? Well, yes, when I am. And, sometimes I’m not. So, how do I do it, win? Here’s how it starts and evolves for PR.

It’s All About Attitude

The best client engagements start even before we’ve won an account. I can hear the hunger in a prospect’s voice, see it in their eyes. They want to achieve a goal, not at any cost, but know that it can be accomplished. The prospect wants to hear creative ideas, talk about different approaches, and hear previous results from similar campaigns. I love this kind of person. He/she is always enthusiastic about what their company is doing or will be doing and confident that we can get press, generate leads, and contribute to building their business. There’s energy in the room that is unescapable. It’s infectious. To some people, it’s too much pressure. To me, it’s a target to hit, or targets. They’re also moving at the speed of light, always thinking, learning, teaching, and inspiring others to do better.

Planning is Practical

Once the engagement begins, we’re not spending weeks or month laying out a traditional plan in Word format. My contract specifically has laid out what the client expects and what we will accomplish within a given period. The marketing plan is campaign oriented broken down by common themes within each discipline (ie. PR, social, content marketing, etc.). We’re meeting weekly – sometimes more – to make sure that the team is on task to reach our monthly goals. The team is also using tools to monitor the client’s competitors, market landscape, analyst coverage, and press. There’s this genuine feeling that we’re all in this together and that we will integrate our efforts to reach the company’s objectives. It’s electric.

Creativity is Key

The client knows more about their company than any PR agency ever will. Especially in the technology sector, change is imminent and comes fast. Not only is it important to keep in close contact with each other – PR agency and client – but equally important for both parties to be on the same page about upcoming company campaigns and how the PR agency can realistically and effectively generate results for the company. Creativity is critical and can come in many forms. For example, sometimes a PR agency will guide a client on how best to make an announcement the most impactful in terms of how much press coverage is realistic and other times an agency will help a client develop a story or see how a topic can get placed as an article submission. Thoughtful creative advice may not be the result of a PR brainstorm, but may come after a careful competitor and market analysis and strategic recommendations.

Checks and Balances

So often lost in mid-size client engagements is attribution. Where did the lead come from? How did it happen? Finding a way to tie campaigns to results is an art. Speaking from a PR point of view, most clients think that PR will only generate brand awareness. But, campaigns I’ve run have helped clients acquire leads, spark funding interest, and much more. Constantly checking in with the client to hear if the needle is moving forward and how we got there is an important task to learn where we have been winning, where we can keep winning, and how we can improve.

If your team members adopt a good attitude, keep it simple, constantly challenge one another, and come up with creative ways that are making a difference then you will win together.

Why Content Marketing Agencies are Selling You a Bill of Goods

Why Content Marketing Agencies are Selling You a Bill of Goods

I hardly, if ever, until now, have written a post with such a combative headline. But, it cannot be helped. I am outraged that “content marketing” agencies are popping up, that contributing writers are asking prospects for cash to be written about, and that all of these services are being sold as PR. This is not PR, well, at least, not traditional PR. And, not what you need, if you want your company to show growth.

Content marketing is a great tool for creating brand awareness and thought leadership.

Yet, the articles are always talking around what you’re doing, not what you are launching or have accomplished. Why? Content marketing pieces are not allowed to talk about the companies who are writing them. They are not allowed to be commercial. They are branding exercises, thought pieces that give an executive an opportunity to comment on industry trends, best practices, how tos, etc.. Exclusively, that’s no way to run communications campaigns, and not traditional PR.

Do you need content marketing?

Yes, of course, but not without doing traditional PR too. The two need to work in concert. On one hand, you may not have the news to generate a press release or pitch. You still want to get “press.” And, there are plenty of publications, a list which I am willing share with anyone who asks, of publications that take “contributed articles.”

On the other hand, isn’t your company growing?

I hope so. You’ve got new partners to announce, product news, investment, hires, and so forth, right? You cannot announce that within your content marketing, unless you’re publishing that news on your corporate blog. You have to have PR.

PR is also an important tool to help you establish and maintain contact with reporters who cover your space. You’re telling a growing story to them. You cannot accomplish this feat by sending them your latest Huffington Post article. You need to show momentum, increase in revenue, year after year, case studies, and so forth.

And, meanwhile back at the content marketing agency office…

They’re just trying to jump onto the next bandwagon, as digital marketers that they are, and telling prospective clients how they’re killing it doing content marketing for clients and generating PR. They call this “growth marketing.” Do you know what I call it? Not thinking about what’s in the best interest of their clients.

And, yet.

Some of you will argue that you have no news and that content marketing is great because it helps generate brand awareness on social and increases your lead gen programs. Yes, true. And, I’m not disputing that. However, I have helped so many clients that have gotten acquired and gone public and believe me, it’s not because they had great content marketing programs.

It’s because they did PR too…

What I Want to See at RSA 2016

What I Want to See at RSA 2016

I have been a public relations and social media consultant representing cybersecurity companies since 2001 and can tell you that one theme hasn’t changed – what’s new? Journalists want to hear what they haven’t heard before. That’s tough these days. Maybe there will be a “surprise” from a vendor at the show? 

This is the Biggest Problem that Every Startup Faces

This is the Biggest Problem that Every Startup Faces

What is the biggest problem that every startup faces? It is where to start. Don’t worry, though. You’re not alone. Henry Ford beat you to it. You see, while you may think that you’re inventing the wheel, it’s actually been created before in a similar form. Why not learn from it? 

How to Get More Out of PR than Just Press

How to Get More Out of PR than Just Press

One of the single biggest challenges for a startup is that they just want press for what they’ve been working on - so few actually request a PR strategy. To make matters worse, typically startup employees inundate whoever is heading up marketing internally with articles that the startup “should have been in.”

How to Make Your Content Break Out into Press

How to Make Your Content Break Out into Press

Any seasoned PR professional will tell you that making advance announcements is not enough, if becoming a thought leader and attaining market differentiation are important long-term goals for your company. Your PR needs to be creative.

B2B Technology Blogging: 4 Ways to Drive Lead Generation

B2B Technology Blogging: 4 Ways to Drive Lead Generation

92% of B2B marketers[1] report that lead generation is the #1 goal of their content marketing programs, and B2B companies that create and maintain a high-quality blog generate 67% more leads[2] than companies that don’t.  How are successful B2B marketers achieving these results through blogging?

 

Hear ye! Hear ye! Read all about it… on Social Media!

Hear ye! Hear ye! Read all about it… on Social Media!

Public relations agencies and companies learn a lot from social media. They don’t just market on social media. And by learn, I mean, get their news and information. If you are following or have friended the right set of people on social, then it’s possible that you are all sharing news and information about products, services, trends, politics, and learning from one another. 

3 Ways Local Air Quality is Impacting Your Life

3 Ways Local Air Quality is Impacting Your Life

Local air quality matters. Tens of thousands of Americans are at risk of dying due to poor air quality in the nation. That’s according to doctors and federal officials at a recent White House Summit.

Here are three ways Americans can better understand the impact of local air quality:

Marketing Personalization: 3 Game-Changing Technologies that Drive Conversion

Marketing Personalization: 3 Game-Changing Technologies that Drive Conversion

We’ve all experienced the magic of marketing personalization - it sure is nice when companies make our lives easier by showing us exactly what we want to see precisely how and when we want to see it.

Why the PR Sector is in Constant Change

Why the PR Sector is in Constant Change

If you look at the new 2pinz website, you’ll notice that it’s changed, once again. No, we’re not just putting on another outfit from our closet. Our firm continues to be in touch with the constant change that we’ve experienced running public relations campaigns for clients since 2011.

So, what’s been in the works over the last four years?

Are Quotes from Analysts Newsworthy for a Company?

Are Quotes from Analysts Newsworthy for a Company?

The answer is yes. Take this example into consideration. Though, when reading, insert an analyst or firm in your space. I’m not going to give any one analyst firm props here as this could apply to many firms nor am I going to pitch how to do analyst relations.

Beat the B2B Blogging Blues:  When and How to Outsource

Beat the B2B Blogging Blues: When and How to Outsource

B2B companies universally face challenges around content development – overtaxed staff, no plan, and no integration with broader marketing initiatives.  And with respect to blogging, the mere mention of the word evokes a shudder.  It all seems so daunting – creating a content calendar, assigning authorship, and – worst of all – actually executing the writing.

Most B2B companies view their blog as a chance to showcase thought leadership pieces penned by their in-house “experts” – AKA the executive management team. Topics are allocated by functional area and expertise, and the C-level folks agree to draft a post each month. Hey, it’s only 300-500 words – that seems reasonable, right?

B2B Technology Marketing:  4 Key Blogging Techniques that Drive Conversion

B2B Technology Marketing: 4 Key Blogging Techniques that Drive Conversion

Many B2B technology marketers shy away from blogging programs because they believe that they’re resource intensive and difficult to manage.  And then there are the questions around ROI – what’s the reward for all that effort and how long will it take to create a meaningful impact?

While B2B technology marketers evaluate “impact” along a variety of metrics, at the end of the day conversion is king, and a quality blogging program can get you there.

What are the four key B2B technology blogging techniques that drive conversion?

Break Out, Don’t Launch, Your Public Relations

Break Out, Don’t Launch, Your Public Relations

If there are stories which I rarely tell, they’re my experiences working with Steve Jobs. Why? Because not everyone can be Steve. Whether wanting to bring a company, product or service to the U.S., they’re bent on just doing a launch, not breaking out among the competition. That’s why Steve was different. He always broke out and explored ways to tell his story unlike other companies. He would take strategic, calculated public relations risks so many were afraid to do. When it’s time to bring your story to the market, follow these steps to break out, not follow others onto the scene.