Archive for the ‘pr firms’ tag
This is a guest post by Patrick Ward, CEO and founder of PR firm 104 West.
I feel like I have this same argument at least twice a year when a disgruntled entrepreneur lambastes PR agencies. And I am invariably bemused when I dig deeper only to find the complainer has poured a bunch of negative experiences into a collective bucket and thrown the PR industry baby out with his or her personal bathwater.
So, following Kevin Leu’s recent post on “5 reasons you’ll regret hiring a PR firm for your startup,” here I go again, but this time I’ll mirror his points with my own five reasons you won’t regret hiring a good PR firm for your startup.
1. They will keep your story honest
I have always been a PR agency guy and have been working deeply with startups for almost my whole career — starting with companies like Sun and Autodesk in the late 1980s through launching Digital Chocolate and Webroot 10 years ago to companies like Evolv today. I have never met a CEO or founder who thought his or her product was anything but newsworthy.
Good PR agencies temper that enthusiasm and ingest some realism. No one wants to hear their company isn’t newsworthy, but some companies just aren’t. Good PR agencies keep it real and really good ones find other creative ways to communicate the company’s brand value. Bad PR people feed egos and apologize later — that serve’s no one’s interest. You want unfettered praise about your product or your company, it’s Mother’s Day on Sunday, ask her. The more sober and honest you are about your story and your media goals, the more strategic you can be.
By the way, anyone who thinks a press release is anything more than search engine fodder isn’t paying attention. Releases have value, but no reporter worth his or her salt gleans stories from press releases. Press releases are for your web site and other, let us call them, receptive audiences (again Mother’s Day is Sunday). You want to tell a story? Write three good lines in an email to a reporter whom you know covers your company or industry. If you can’t hook them in three lines, you’ll never hook them. And if you don’t know who to send the email to, well then let’s move on to Point #2.
2. Their past experience means they know the right reporters and outlets
I have worked with Pulitzer Prize winners. I’ve worked with arrogant sloths. Some of my best friends are reporters. I’ve hung around them since my days drinking with the staff of Electronic News in 1986. That means my experiences color, influence, and inform every client engagement I take. My past successes don’t mean I can always make a future client successful, but they do mean I have access. If the story is good, it will get a hearing — and that’s a valuable thing in this competitive world. If it’s bad or even mediocre, all the contacts in the world won’t help. But if the story is good, then they can help immensely (see Point #1).
3. They may not know everything, but just might know more than you
There is something in the coffee at many PR agencies that makes junior and mid-level staff think they know much more than they sometimes do — but I’ll take a confident staffer over a tentative one any day. And remember one thing: they do this everyday, all day. So when an entrepreneur is dealing with QA or buying Aeron chairs, or in a board meeting, your PR agency is doing PR. So when they say it’s uncool to send a gift to a reporter after a story has hit, don’t send it. When they say is TA-reese, not TA-rez-A, listen to them. And when they say that your enterprise software story won’t work in TIME Magazine, they’re right. Oh, and don’t always assume they don’t understand sometimes arcane technology — like what a software abstraction layer is. Sure, some PR people are, shall we say, over-extended, but others are brilliant. Again: babies and bath water.
4. They’re thinking beyond publicity
The more brilliant ones are starting to think beyond publicity. Clients complain about inflated clip reports because that’s the only measure some smaller-minded clients can think of. Here’s a fun fact: According to a Poynter Institute study a few years ago (and it’s absolutely trending this way even more now), about 15 companies represent about 60 percent of all tech press coverage. You know which companies they are; there in the press every day.
So guess what, your media chances just got sliced in half and then some. Moral of the story: you had better find another way to communicate with your audiences. The good PR agencies are doing just that. But if a client insists on making buggy whips, well guess what, we’re going to show them how many horses there are on the street. And I can guarantee you, the most carefully crafted ideas — at this time when communications are undergoing such rapid change – are not going to come from the PR manager at your new startup.
5. They’re a better value than an internal employee
That brings me to my final point. Anyone who thinks a PR manager can do the work of a PR agency is either cheap, has never had a good PR firm, doesn’t really care, or some combination of all of the above. And don’t give me some financial analysis that shows an internal hire is cheaper. If that were true, you’d have formidable accounting and law departments at every company in the US and fewer accounting and law firms. And the fallacy that a $100,000 PR contract is better spent on one or two employees is especially ill-conceived. With payroll taxes and benefits, any employee actually costs about 20 percent more than a service contract.
But, here’s the real kicker: When you hire an employee, you only get that individual’s personal experience. When you hire an agency, you get the whole team’s perspective and background.
Finally, what do you think happens to that PR manager after six months? He or she realizes that the growth path inside the company is outside PR and he or she starts to attend a bunch of meetings to demonstrate their other skills and assess where they might contribute to the organization in a larger, more lucrative role. Then, they turn to you and say, “You know, with all the other stuff I’m doing beyond PR, I’m really not getting to my core function and I think we should consider hiring an agency.”
There are business reasons to hire or not hire a PR firm. Many reasons are valid. But to dismiss any option categorically or to blithely substitute one’s own poor experiences as a reflection on an industry is questionable advice.
Patrick Ward is the CEO and founder of 104 West. He started 104 West thinking of the slogan of the fictional California senate candidate, Bill McKay, “There’s got to be a better way.” He started his career in New York, moved to Silicon Valley and finally settled in Denver. The logos of Canon, Panasonic, HP, Webroot, Digital Chocolate, and Mapquest, among others, appear on his personal experience slide.
Man yelling through bullhorn image via sparkstudio/Shutterstock
Everyone, from PR firms to individuals with a product to sell, pitches bloggers these days. Getting coverage or exposure for your business by way of a number of highly read blogs should be a foundational element of your PR approach.
Sadly, it would much easier to write a post on what not to do, but I like to stay on the positive side here.
Whether your goal is to land a guest post, get a review of your product or just advance an idea you’ve got to put in the work to personalize your pitch and build relationships by demonstrating you’re a resource and not a pest.
Make non-spammy comments
One of the best ways to get on the radar of a blogger is to join their community by making relevant comments. Don’t drop in just to add a comment about your business or point to your recent blog post about some unrelated idea. Add to the conversation like someone who actually cares about the conversation and you’ll start to build a relationship based on trust.
Find regular features
Take some time to dig around in the archives of a blog and you’re likely to find some regular features just like you might in a magazine. Then, when it comes time to pitch your idea, you can suggest that it would be a good fit for a certain feature. This will always give your pitch more relevance and offer proof that you know a bit about the blog and that yours is not simply a bulk pitch.
I’ve run a Saturday post for several years now where I feature three services or apps that I call my weekly favs. Smart marketers have picked up on that and often pitch their product for a feature in that post. It’s a little thing, but it suggests a lot.
Look beyond the blog
If you buy that this is a relationship building game, then why not employ a few tools outside the blog to help. Build a Twitter list of your targeted bloggers and pay attention to what they tweet and what the retweet. Look at what they favorite on Twitter for some real meaty clues about what they like,
By monitoring what they do beyond their blog and in social networks you can often find angles that won’t be apparent on a simple media list.
Connect with guests and get referred
Many blogs run guest posts these days and one of the best ways to get your content on the list of potential guest posters is to study and connect with those that are already posting. In fact, you might go as far as to target these folks as suggested above and reach out to a few and ask for introductions.
A guest post on a highly read blog may be one of the most effective marketing tools you can employ so don’t just blast guest post requests, build a case for your post by becoming a part of the community and creating a network within.
Ask for an interview
Many bloggers, even well known bloggers, still work on building their awareness and will jump at almost any opportunity to spread the word about things they are working on. Many bloggers have business interests beyond their blog that need exposure. Many bloggers are also authors and have books to sell.
Consider interviewing some of your targeted bloggers for your own blog or podcast or connect them with other journalist or even customers of yours that might have a reason to want to interview them. An interview might consist of a twenty minute phone conversation or it might just be one well thought out question that you send via email, either way, this a great approach for building both content and relationships.
It warrants repeating, if a mention or link or review in your favorite blog is a worthwhile objective for your business, then put in the work required to get it done right.
I like Paul. Like me, he founded and grew an agency (PR 20/20) and he has a lot of the same business philosophies as me. You know what that means? You’ll like him, too.
During the webinar, he discusses the 10 rules for transforming your agency, which I’m going to share with you in a minute.
But, first, he describes the three things that happened in the past four years that created a need for change.
- Change velocity. You know, this whole technology thing. It’s sort of put the industries on their heads.
- Selective consumption. While inbound marketing isn’t new, it’s become increasingly more popular as it’s effectiveness begins to shine.
- Success factors. We began to see clients demand real measurement a couple of years ago. My personal opinion is this is the year agencies will be fired if they don’t figure it out.
In other words, you really have no choice but to change, evolve, and adapt. During the webinar, Paul discusses the 10 rules you will have to adapt as you begin to build and grow your modern marketing agency.
10 Rules of Transformation
- Eliminate billable hours. Nearly two years ago to the day, I blogged about PR firms needing to be rid of the billable hour structure. You still have to track your time because that’s your inventory. But the idea that clients receive invoices with big blocks of time and nothing to show for it (other than time) is as old as dirt. Figure out how much it costs to do things and set a standard. Stop billing by the hour.
- Transform into a hybrid. Becoming a technology firm doesn’t mean you have to do software or build apps or know how to develop. It means you’re immersed in technology and know how it’s affecting your business and your client’s businesses.
- Think talent and team. In the modern marketing agency ecosystem, the one thing that can’t be replicated by your competition is the talent you have on your team. Structure the business to hire the best and retain them. It’s impossible to sustain a profitable business if your talent leaves every two years. Invest in them.
- Build a scalable infrastructure. There are some good little tidbits when Paul talks about this because he gives you free (or nearly free) apps to use in order to build your infrastructure. Like me, he’s a big believer in the cloud, which allows you to scale without the costs of the olden days.
- Devise an inbound marketing game plan. An inbound marketing plan for an agency? Are you insane? No, he’s not and this is the same philosophy we use. He suggests looking at yourself as a client and doing work for the company in that way. And he shows you an actual game plan that you can beg, borrow, and steal.
- Control the sales funnel. When I worked at Fleishman-Hillard, once a year they’d bring in some sales guru to talk to us about how to drive new business. It never worked because a) we were too young to have any connections that could make purchase decisions (though I did land a $2MM account when I was 26), b) we had to bill 40 hours a week, and c) we had to work on new business proposals 20 hours a week. There is a better process for formalizing your new business, but in a way that involves everyone where they’re strong.
- Commit to clients. This is kind of a no brainer, but you have to accept the fact that not all clients are created equal. You have some that mean more to your agency than others. This is the hardest thing you’ll have to do, but once a year, look at the bottom 10 percent of your clients and “fire” them. I know it’s hard to give up revenue. But you’ll just have to trust me when I say it’ll be the best decision you’ll make.
- Deliver results. Most agencies fall short here for two reasons: 1) The industry standard for results is still media impressions and advertising equivalencies (total BS) and 2) “We went into a creative discipline because we don’t like number.” Yeah…that’s not going to cut it. With all of the data you know have at your fingertips, you’d better quickly learn how to measure results.
- Embrace failure. Paul says this is the willingness to take chances. A lot of agencies know the model is broken, but most don’t know how to fix what’s wrong. Are you willing to take some risk and be OK if you fail?
- Pursue purpose. This is what I call the vision. Entrepreneurs are rarely satisfied with making money. If that were the case, I would have given up in late 2010, when I had to stop paying myself to keep Arment Dietrich afloat. But there was a bigger purpose at stake and that is what drove me to get out of bed every morning. What is it for you?
Like our previous two webinars, this one is pre-recorded (which we’ll play live at 11 a.m. CT tomorrow) so Paul can answer questions as you have them throughout the discussion. He’s also left about 15 minutes at the end to have a group discussion.
It’s $50 (momma needs new shoes!), but I didn’t give away all of his secrets here. There are several game plans and worksheets available through the webinar that will be extremely helpful for you.
Or you can buy The Marketing Agency Blueprint and help him buy new shoes instead.
Register now and we’ll see you tomorrow (or it’s always available on-demand if that time doesn’t work for you)!
5 Ways for Small Business to Jump on the Big Data Train
This content from: Duct Tape Marketing
The idea of something that’s being called “Big Data” has definitely reached the trend tipping point. Tech firms like are all about it. PR firms are forming teams to promote it and consulting firms have their business technology teams all over it.
So, what is it and what does it mean for small business.
The “what is it” part is pretty easy to explain in textbook terms, but the hype that’s currently surrounding the idea makes it much harder to bring down to practical application.
Initially the idea of Big Data applied to organizations that had such large data sets they could no longer work with them internally to analyze things like customer buying patterns.
The broader sense of this term and the one that is gaining steam of late is the ability to mine and analyze public data as a business opportunity. Google for example has been able to analyze the rise in the number of searches for flu related phrases to help the CDC pinpoint where to supply flu vaccine in near real time.
Companies are creating new tools such as Affectiva to help measure customer emotion and identify trends and opportunities based on social signals.
In many ways we’ve become a society of data producers – every email, tweet, blog post, status update, link, purchase, listen, download and review is generating data about what we think, how we act and maybe even what we want for breakfast.
The rush to make sense and profit from this information is driving a lot of the buzz surrounding Big Data.
But, here’s what I think this means for small business. While a great deal of the talk is centered on enterprise solutions there’s a great opportunity for small business to benefit from the coming set of tools and appliances aimed at helping us tap into the minds and data of the market.
1) More cloud integration – The adoption of cloud based tools for things like CRM, project management, file storage, backup, email, customer service and accounting means that integration of all of these various data set, even for the smallest of businesses, will become much easier.
The idea that everyone in the organization can have access to files that may live on a coworkers laptop or see customer history from inside an inbox is stuff that used to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in hardware, software and consulting time. Now this kind of access is becoming a cloud based solution that people tackling big data will make available to small organizations for very little investment.
2) Culture of measurement – Before access to more data will serve any purpose there needs to be a culture of measurement and analysis. Most small businesses don’t measure or lead based on objectives, goals and metrics.
Until a business of any size gets serious about listening to their customers, talking to their customers, and measuring every possible data and touch point, the promise of more data will only serve to distract.
Unless you get hooked on small data – things like routinely asking your customers what they think – big data is just more noise. In fact, what I call small data, actually talking to your customers, is a real advantage that small business have. I think some of the appeal of Big Data for large organization is that it shields them from actually having to interact with their customers.
The real value for the small business that builds a culture based on data will come when services like those from ClearStory that aim to help organizations integrate their own data with existing large public databases, become commonplace.
3) Know what you need answers to – Actually, we’ve always had access to reams of data, the real trick, and this will prove so for enterprise as well, is knowing what to make of the data. Proper analysis is more important than more data.
The trick for the small business is knowing what it is your trying to find out or knowing what answers you’re trying to find. One of the best ways to analyze data for a small business is to go into it looking for something.
Spend time up front asking your customers and your sales team about things they don’t have, things that don’t make sense, things that always bug the customer, and things that they are seeing and hearing more and more. This is how you make sense of trends that might come from research in public data sets like Google Insights and Google Public Data.
4) Walk before run – The first place you need to start is internally. Until you get a handle on your own data, you shouldn’t concern yourself with the cool new tools that might help you make sense of more data.
So, for most small businesses this is going to mean creating a dashboard of key metrics and installing tools that give you real time access to the data that would allow you to measure simple things like, leads generation, ad conversion, and cost to acquire a new customer.
Starting with some of the more robust web site analytics tools such SpringMetrics (a client) and KissMetrics is how you gain insight into this craft. Learning how to test and measure your ads, headlines and offers is an essential data collection starting point.
Like so many things about business, until you build a strong foundation based on real customer interaction, you can’t build on top of it with the latest and greatest.
5) Hire a numbers nerd – data mining and analysis is essentially math and, well, some people excel at math and some at art.
Every business needs a numbers person – the one that can look at what seems like a pile of unintelligible digits, charts and graphs and sees music. Look for a proliferation of data marketplaces like Infochimps to crop up and offer access to data integration in a candy store kind of way for your numbers person.
From a practical sense this person probably needs to also know how to install and write a little code, read a P/L and create processes that allow you to build, track and measure a sales pipeline, but find the right one and your business will change forever.
Hint: If you’re college right now think about data analysis as a major!
Let me give you an example: A couple of years ago my friend Kaitlyn (Note the ‘my friend’ part, PR peeps) at Ogilvy pitched me on an idea she had to get some more exposure for one of Ogilvy’s clients, Ford. She was attending the 2010 Paris Auto Show where Ford CMO Jim Farley would be, and she pitched a small group of bloggers on this idea: Give me a question you’d like to ask Ford’s CMO, and I’ll get him to answer you on video. Hello! Of course I wanted to be a part of that!
So my question to Jim was: “Are there any areas that Ford can point to where social media has either lowered business costs, or improved existing processes?”
Jim answered the question, and said that social media had resulted in cost savings of up to 90% versus using traditional advertising in some cases (such as with the Fiesta Movement campaign). This post also led to Scott Monty jumping in the comments and adding another nugget: “We had a higher level of awareness for the subcompact than for vehicles we had in the market for 2-3 years; we collected over 125,000 hand-raisers who indicated they wanted to learn more when the car became available; and the conversion of reservations to sales was 10X higher than our traditional conversion rate.”
I just checked this blog’s stats, and that post has over 9,300 pageviews and going by pageviews is the fourth most popular post ever on this blog.
And it happened because Kaitlyn was smart enough to position the pitch with the blogger’s needs in mind.
When you are pitching bloggers on your story idea, keep these things in mind:
1 – What topics does the blogger write about? Actually READ the blog, look at the categories used, or if they have a list of their Most Popular Posts, see what those posts are about.
2 – Look at your story idea, does it jive with the topics that the blogger writes about? If you’re on the fence as to whether or not its relevant to the blogger, think about what topics the blogger writes about, and how your story idea could tie into the areas the blogger focuses on. For example, if you have a story idea on how Michaels is using Pinterest to build traffic back to its site, I might not be interested. But if you tailor the pitch to me and point out that Michaels is activating its brand advocates to use Pinterest to drive traffic back to its site, then my interest in the story increases dramatically. Always think about how you can make your story idea relevant to the blogger you are pitching.
3 – Don’t follow up repeatedly with the ‘Hey Mack, just wanted to check and see if you somehow missed my story idea the first 10 times I emailed you about it?’ email. If I don’t respond, there’s at least a 95% chance that it was because I wasn’t interested in covering the story you pitched me on. If you DO want to email me to followup, you should ASSUME that’s why I didn’t answer you. You could say something like “Hey Mack, I just wanted to circle back with you on the email I sent on Monday about how Company A is Using Social Media Site B. Is this something that you feel your readers would be interested in learning more about? If you don’t think that story would be relevant to your readers, are there any particular areas of social media marketing that you are looking to cover? My firm represents hundreds of companies that are producing successful social media marketing results, and I’m sure that in the future I could find some examples that you feel would be of value to your readers!”
This approach at least gives me the opportunity to spell out to you exactly what areas I am looking for.
4 – Check to see if the blogger has any guidelines on how they want to be pitched. Many do, including me. This alone will save you a ton of time and help you do a better job for your clients.
But overall, just think about how your pitch will benefit the blogger you are pitching. Simply doing that will greatly increase your success rate. If you’re a blogger that’s gotten pitched before, what’s some great examples that you can share?
Privately held advertising and PR firms are defying the sluggish economy that has cast its dim shadow on many American industries.
According to Forbes, Sageworks’ data shows an average sales increase of more than 11 percent in the last 12 months.
Is that your experience? Are you selling more services than you were at this point last year? If so, what do you credit the uptick in business to?
Lean times for the economy can mean good times for those working to bolster the bottom line. Is that what is at work here?
Marketing is all about the audience. Who are you speaking to? What are you trying to motivate them to do? What kind of relationship are you building?
With increased online capabilities, every brand is now a publisher. So how can you rethink your business relationships as publishing opportunities that will reduce costs or drive revenue?
Redefining your relationships to these audiences will help you to target and measure your efforts better. Here are some new audiences that you may not have considered and some important questions to ask yourself about how your brand can speak to them better.
Your employees are an audience
Internal communications are valued to different degrees by different companies. But getting everyone up to speed and on the same page is vital to coordinating all your efforts. This is an audience you can empower.
- How can you use real time technologies to reinforce your successes and move quickly to correct your processes?
- How can you plot out the sales journey and provide content and communications at key trigger points to aid your sales staff?
- How can you encourage shared terminology across departments and reinforce your unique value across disciplines?
Your partners are an audience
Most brands don’t keep the full extent of their business in house. You use manufacturers, distributors, retailers, spokespeople, PR firms, agencies, the list goes on. Treating them as an audience allows you to be always thinking of what they need to serve you better and vice versa. This audience is captive and motivated.
- How can you use web technologies to serve information to and between all your vendors?
- How can you distribute content to facilitate communication and collaboration between agencies?
- How how can you empower retail sales people with the latest messaging, tips, and tricks?
- How can you use online channels to build new partnerships?
Your loyal, repeat customers are a distinct audience
Ok, this is really a subset of your traditional audience. But the path they take to purchasing your products and services is completely different than someone who has never heard of you. They are also the most likely to spread the word in an authentic way through their own network.
- How can you provide best in class support content and customer service?
- How can you deliver the inside scoop on new and upcoming events and products?
- How can you build community and strengthen loyalty?
Solving your challenges
When thinking through your business challenges, remember that the end user of your products and services isn’t your only audience. As nearly all your communications move online or use online resources, it’s important to identify who else is your audience and to tailor content to meet their needs.
In a press announcement that sent ripples throughout the business community yesterday, Edelman, one of the largest PR firms in the world, proclaimed that the agency was doing a complete about-face radically shifting direction. The firm has staked "its claim in ‘Authentic Communications.’”
According to the release, Edelman is mobilizing rapidly to convert its entire ambiguous worldwide PR operation to “authentic.” In support of the initiative, the agency said that it has consolidated its three digital service practice areas into one global operating unit. The new group will be a combination of the firm’s Web design team, its social-media toy lab and a couple of ideas that were being bandied about last fall under the name “Edelman Mobile."
Heading the overhaul will be Rick Murray, former head of the Agency’s botched “Me2Revolution” Practice. Murray set the stage for the announcement a little over a year ago articulating Edelman’s very public optimism regarding Second Life. Then he said, “Anytime you can bring fake people together spending real money on fake things to create value... [well] I don’t really know how it’s going to end up or where we’re going to end up in it but it’s really cool."
Along with yesterday’s announcement Murray described the agency’s investment: “We think authentic communications is where it’s at. The debate over what is and isn’t authentic is likely to be rich, complex and never-ending.”