Why is public relations so expensive?

Why is public relations so expensive?  Because you continue to pay the ridiculous monthly retainer fees that firms charge.  Without question.  You don’t even expect them to quantify the return you will receive on the investment they are asking you to make.  The reason public relations is so expensive is your fault.

The first question that any PR company asks when you enquire about working with them is ‘what’s your budget?’ And you tell them.  At least, you tell them the number you think is the going rate for the cookie-cutter PR ‘strategies’ most sell comprising a standard set of activities and, let’s be honest, very little strategic input.  It’s like playing poker where you show all of the other players your cards – and then wonder why you always end up losing your shirt.

If you want to make public relations more affordable here are three easy things you can do:

  • Start being more specific in what you need.
    You don’t need media pitching. You DEFINITELY don’t need somebody else doing it on your behalf.  Focus on specific short-term outcomes that will help you achieve your big hairy business goals – and have a PR company tell you how they are going to help you achieve them.  Then ask them to put a price on their part in that process.

To get resources and templates that will help secure media coverage email lyndon@comms.bar

  • Focus on building relationships.
    Relationships are the key to the success of every business.  Devote time, energy and money on building strong relationships with the handful of people that are critical to achieving your next milestone

To get a Key Relationship Mapping™ Canvas email lyndon@comms.bar

  • Start focusing.
    Whether it’s milestones towards your ultimate goals or stepping-stones to building a relationship with key people, start focusing on specifics.  Most PR firms justify their activity on the basis that they’re trying to deliver awareness.  Most of the activity is wasted [at your expense] because they’re targeting the wrong people.  More focus means less waste.  Let waste means lower investments.

To start setting pr and marketing goals that will help you achieve commercially valuable outcomes visit https://comms.bar

  • Stop telling PR firms what your budget is.
    It’s the fastest way to have them spend every single cent – and more often than not, it’s not necessary.  More often than not your budget is really what you think the going rate is – but there is no ‘going rate’.  You can’t put a price on activity – only on advice and outcomes that deliver value.

To get affordable pr and marketing advice from startup and small business specialists visit https://comms.bar

Only you have the power to change the price of PR retainers, by voting with your money.  If you refuse to buy in the way that most PR firms sell then they’ll have to change.  But, while you continue to play their game – a game they’ve loaded to ensure they always win, PR will continue to cost thousands of dollars every month and continue to deliver little value for your investment.

For affordable public relations & marketing advice designed for startup and small business budgets visit https://comms.bar

Stop Creating Content. Start Building Relationships.

What if you stopped creating content to post on every social network and publishing platform and focused instead on building relationships?  Think about it.  How much time, money and energy are you wasting by creating content in the name of marketing that has no noticeable impact on your business?

Sure, you might get a few people sharing a post; you might feel good that somebody liked what you wrote; but what’s the tangible value from spending hours every week creating content?  Don’t know?  Don’t want to know?! If you’re doing it because your ‘PR’ or ‘marketing’ company told you to there’s a pretty good chance the only winner in the process is them!

What if you stopped creating content and, instead, focused on building and maintaining relationships with the people who matter most to the success of your business?  What if, rather than creating a piece of content you picked up the phone and talked with somebody? A potential investor; a prospective customer; a journalist; a former customer that just became an ex-customer.

What if, rather than trying to sell them something you asked questions? What if you tried to gather insight, rather than convincing them you’re the Uber of X or that you have a unique, innovative whatever that they simply must buy?  What if you spent the money you’re wasting creating content that nobody reads; nobody cares about; and invested it in the relationships that matter most to the success of your business?

What’s the worst thing that could happen?

Startup Storytelling: how to make people care

When was the last time you read a book where the story started with a product pitch?  How many of the books you’ve read recently, autobiographies aside were about the author?  How many of the autobiographies were of people who had still to achieve something significant in business? I raise these questions because storytelling it was a topic of discussion during a twitter chat organized by Startup Canada as part of its #startupchats series.

The chat was a rarity on social media these days – a civilized exchange of views by people with polar-opposite viewpoints.  Scrap that.  It is a rarity these days. Period. One of the participants was a long-time member of the Toronto Startup scene, Mark Evans.  Mark’s position in the chat was that product is key to good storytelling.  He wrote a blog post about his experience of the chat and asked me to write a piece about my take on the topic because we disagreed so fundamentally on the issue.

In his post, ‘For Startups, What’s More Important: Good Product or Good Story?’Mark poses the question whether it is the product or story that is more important for startups stories. He makes a case for both in his post, but I still disagree with his assessment. While the story is always more important than the product, a story that focuses on the startup, as Mark suggests, is also the wrong approach. I’d also argue that the product is irrelevant if you’re not telling the right story.

Mark makes the point that product rules because a bad product will be found out.  I agree.  But that’s one of the Ps of marketing – not part of the storytelling process [the promotion P].  Marketing doesn’t work without successfully delivering on all four [Product, Price, Place and Promotion] but starting the promotion with ‘I’ve got a good product’ without explaining why anybody should care is unlikely to win friends or influence people – let alone sell things.

When I was a child of the stories I read started with the fabled sentence, ‘once upon a time…’.  Why?  Because it is a vehicle for setting the scene.  It’s a way to provide context; to draw people in to the story. They didn’t start with a product pitch.  None of the stories I remember from my childhood started with a pitch by the author telling me how good they were are storytelling, character development, etc. and none started by telling me they were the Shakespeare of children’s books.

We all know that when we find a good story we can’t help but want to read more. We enjoy the twists and turns; the stories of good vs. bad. So what is the right story?  If it’s not product or a story about your startup, what should the theme of every good startup or small business story be?

The right story is the one that the audience wants to hear.  And, this is where most companies get it wrong.  They’re so busy pitching and telling the world how unique their product is; how they’re going to be the Uber of X, Y and Z, that they forget about the audience and, as a result, they lose them.  Nobody cares about their story.

I read, on a daily basis, supposed content marketing ‘experts’ imploring startups to tell their story.  I hear the same people telling entrepreneurs they have a voice.  But, for startups in particular, the key to telling the story your audience wants to ‘read’ is first understanding the audience.  If you understand the audience you can create story they can relate to.  

In his post, Mark talks about Dollar Shave Club and the video that is widely credited with putting them on the map, called, ‘Our Blades Are F***ing Great’.  The key to that story is the problem faced by men around the world – having to spend ridiculous amounts of money every month on razor blades.  Had their story been about their blades or the company it’s likely nobody would have cared. It’d just be a story about a cheap razor-blade. 

But because the company told a story that showed it understood the problem and positioned its solution in a fun and attention-grabbing way, the company was able to communicate how it solved the problem in a new and innovative way. They didn’t lead with their product or their startup story – they lead with a problem that their audience understood. We all know how it worked out.

So, when you’re starting to write your startup or small business’ next story forget the product pitch and the narcissistic navel-gazing and figure out what story your audience wants to be told.

Startup storytelling tips

  • Write the story your audience wants to hear – not the one you want to tell
  • Your product is useless without an understanding of the value it delivers
  • Nobody cares about your story or your product.  They care that you understand their story and your product can help them write a better one
  • Resist the urge to use storytelling as a veiled product pitch

Learn from some of the greatest corporate storytellers

Nike ‘’Take It To The Next Level

Apple ‘think different

Maserati ‘Strike

Chipotle ‘Back To The Start

How to measure ROI on public relations

As the year draws to a close–you’re probably trying to calculate the return on your investment in public relations.

Public relations companies have long struggled to measure the value of what they do. Some cite “awareness” or “engagement” but both are meaningless based on current metrics. Part of the problem is that they’re not selling public relations; part of the problem is that they’re selling something that is reliant on so many unknown variables – there are so many things that traditional PR agencies have no control over. The other problem is that their definition of return is based on an estimated financial value of advertising, rather than the value of the product of their labors.

I read an article recently that talked about how AVE [Advertising Value Equivalent] was outdated and suggested that a better measure of publicity activities should be gAVE [Google Advertising Value Equivalency]. It might be me, but it doesn’t sound much of an evolution – you’re still measuring an estimate of advertising equivalency based on a cost per page impression and using a value defined by a publisher – Google. The problem remains that a gAVE calculation makes assumptions: the most obvious one being whether the audience is the right one for your business but others like whether customers have a need, whether they have purchasing authority or influence in the purchase decision, or that they will be motivated to enough to reach out or click a link to a website to find more information. It also relies on the assumption [often incorrectly] that the reader or website visitor will initiate a conversation.

As entrepreneurs, we’re building businesses around a set of, hopefully validated, assumptions. We know that the problem we’re solving exists and we know who our ideal customer is. Right? So, what if, rather than trying to measure the value of public relations using an abstract like advertising equivalency we measure it on something that we already has value – relationships with the people that will help us grow successful, profitable businesses such as prospects, customers, industry luminaries, purchase influencers, advocates, journalists and investors.

We subconsciously measure relationship strength in our personal lives every day. We know if we’ve annoyed or irritated our spouse or partner, or whether a friendship is strong enough to support a disagreement. Whether we can count on somebody to help us when we need it – no matter what – or whether they’ll make promises but never follow through on them.

What if we measured the strength of our professional relationships in the same way? We could measure the strength of the relationships needed to achieve commercial goals and monitor whether our behaviors strengthened or weakened them. We could identify which relationships were necessary – and the strength of each – to achieve a specific outcome.

Try something with me now. Who are the 6 – 10 people that you need to have relationships with in order to achieve your next milestone? Write them down.

How strong do you need each of those relationships to be in order for you to achieve your desired outcome? Give each of them a rating between 0 and 10 with zero being no existing relationship and 10 meaning you have a relationship with them that you could call them today to ask for their help and they’d do whatever they could to help you.

Now use the same scale to give your relationship with each of the people on the list a value using the same scale. Zero being no relationship at all and 10 being a relationship you could bet your business on. How do they compare?

Chances are that there will be gaps – and that’s OK. It is the function of PR to help strengthen relationships where you need them to be stronger–and maintain the relationships that are where you need them to be. In many cases, to build a relationship with somebody on your list, you’ll need to build relationships with other people that can provide you with credibility, testimonials, social proof and, in some cases, introductions.

The list you have will contain the most important relationships for achieving your next milestone. Revisit and update it every time your goals change to ensure that you’re PR strategy is always focused on building and maintaining relationships with the most important 6 – 10 people for achieving that specific outcome.

Measuring public relations is easy when you know what you should be measuring – it’s all about measuring relationship strength with the people that are critical to the growth and long-term success of your business. When you’re defining the measures of success you want from for your PR activity in 2015, focus on relationship strength with named individuals and ask your PR company or your own team members about how they’ll help you achieve it.

Startup and SmallBiz PR and marketing tip: be clear on what your desired commercial outcome is before you start any public relations, marketing or publicity activity – it’ll make it far easier to measure whether you have delivered it.

This post also appeared on Launchable Magazine http://www.launchablemag.com/?page=post&title=Measuring-PR-Its-All–About-Relationships-Not-Coverage

BlackBerry’s Biggest Problem: Nobody Cares

I’ve been talking about what I perceive are the reasons for BlackBerry’s demise in recent years.  There’s a long list from product market fit to a failure to grasp the fundamental shifts in consumer tastes; a failure to understand what its customers wanted to abysmal marketing and PR strategies.  But BlackBerry faces its biggest problem yet.  One that no company wants to find itself in.  It is almost always fatal.

*NASDAQ stock price at time of recording was $9. 40

Startup and SmallBiz PR and marketing tip:  Stay focused on the value you deliver that nobody else can and reinforce this wherever possible. When nobody cares about your company it’s over.

What do you really want from public relations?

I received an email today from a partner agency that proclaimed, ‘company X is disappointed they don’t have any coverage yet’.  I replied that I suspected they’d be equally disappointed if they had had coverage but it had had limited commercial impact.

I’d previously asked what the desired outcome was from the coverage. I got no response.  I had asked about the commercial impact of the last set of coverage the company had received [via their work with another agency].  I was told that it was likely minimal.  I’ve tried to offer advice on how to ensure that  this time the coverage actually delivers tangible results. But I keep getting the same response – they just want coverage!

I’ve also suggested that rather than simply sending out a press release, or blind product samples – the samples are the most expensive piece of their current activity [more than the cost of services provided by my company] and asked them to record short videos to personalize their company and the product; to show they care more than simply emailing a promotional press release. But, I’m told, they don’t have time or money for it.

They don’t have 60 seconds to sit in front of a cell phone and record a short video – yet they have money to send product samples to journalists in the hope that they’ll write about  them.  There’s no review guide, no demonstration video, no attempt to stand out.  But, worst of all, there has been no thought given to why they want the coverage – and, as a result, they’ll likely be no commercial value even if they get the coverage they appear to so desperately want.

I wrote about this because its current, but it isn’t an isolated situation.  It was one of the main reasons why I started THINK DIFFERENT [LY] – to help entrepreneurs realize that coverage for its own sake is valueless.  That the tired PR sausage machine doesn’t work any more.  That they should expect more just coverage from their public relations activities than a piece of coverage that, nine times out of 10, has no commercial benefit.  It drains money from their bank accounts – but does little to help refill them.

Startup and SmallBiz PR and marketing tip: When you’re reviewing your public relations activities over the coming weeks and trying to understand why it didn’t deliver the desired commercial value, consider that it is probably because coverage was the only goal.

To find out how to make public relations affordable, accountable and effective for your business contact lyndon@thinkdifferently.ca or call 1. 647.773.2677 today.

Blackberry iPhone Switch Deal Shows Nothing Has Changed

B

BlackBerry wants you to think that it has changed.  Its Black Friday deal demonstrates it hasn’t.  It’s bad news for the Waterloo, Ontario based company and is yet another example of how the company continues to get its PR and marketing wrong – to the detriment of the company.

The company is offering iPhone users up to $550 if they switch to a Passport on of after December 1.  The chances of persuading many to ‘trade up’ is slim. iPhone users are unlikely to switch – and $550 incentives is not going to be enough to persuade those that could be swayed to give up their shiny i device.

If BlackBerry had a clear business and communications strategy designed to bring users back to its devices, it would realize that iPhone users are not their target audience. The company should, instead, be offering entrepreneurs and small businesses incentives to choose the BlackBerry passport. These are the people who will get most value from the companies devices.  They are also customers that, once captured, are likely to be long-term and loyal.

Until BlackBerry figures out who its customer is, understands the value it delivers to them, develops a long-term strategic plan to communicate this to them, and build long-term mutually beneficial relationship with them the company will continue to flounder.

Read more about BlackBerry’s Marketing and Public Relations Disaster

Startup and SmallBiz PR and marketing tip: focus on the people that value what your do, rather than chasing those that don’t.

How To Measure Success of Public Relations

Ask most PR professionals and they’ll tell you that measuring the value of public relations is hard to express.  As a result, they’ll say, it’s hard to be specific about the value they deliver.  The return on your investment is affected by so many variables it is hard to be able to give you tangible outcomes.

It’s all a lie.  Here’s how to measure the success of public relations.  It’s all in the strength of the relationships build or maintained as a result of your PR activities. We do it every day in our private lives, so why do we find it so difficult to do it in our businesses?

Think about the most important people to your business right now.  Do you have relationships with them at all?  If not, they score a zero.

Of the people you have relationships with how strong are those connections?  Would they drop everything to help you if you asked them to?  Would they willingly do everything within their power to help your business overcome its current challenge?  Will they go to bat for you if you needed them to? Will they introduce you to people within their network that may have a need for your product or service? Will they testify to your credibility or vouch for the quality of your work?

If they would then score those relationships a 10.

If they’re not a 10 then you need to figure out where on the scale they are currently.

Perhaps they’re a new connection that will help you with advice, or will provide feedback on your product development.  They might be willing to introduce you to people that are potential customers or partners, but won’t provide a reference or testimonial.  They will help if they can, but you can’t guarantee they’ll come rushing in an emergency.  Would they help if they really were your last hope? What incentive would you need to offer in order to get them to help your business if you needed them to? Do you have direct access to them? Who are the people that you rely on to give you the access you need? Do you loose access to these people without the intermediary?

Make a list of the top ten people your business needs relationships with and score them, between 0 and 10, based on these criteria.  Having benchmarked the relationships that are most important to your business achieving its next milestone you can develop a PR programme designed to build, strengthen, or maintain these relationships.

Measuring the success of your PR activities can then be tracked, based on whether these relationships strengthen, weaken or whether you are able to maintain them until you have achieved your desired outcome.  If you reevaluate each of your ten most important relationships every 30 days you can quickly see the impact that public relations is having on your business.

Startup and SmallBiz PR and marketing tip: benchmark relationship strength and build a plan to ensure you have the ones you need in place.

Do You Trust Your PR Advisors | THINK PR Espresso

Public relations has a bad reputation.  Often, with good reason.  But in some circumstances companies employ a PR company only to have them do what they want, rather than taking their advice.  Would you get on an airplane and try telling the pilot how to fly it?

Today I have a plea to anybody using a PR company.  Let them do the job you employed them to do, listen to the advice they give you and judge them on their ability to deliver, rather than having them do what you want and then asking them why you didn’t get the results you wanted.

Startup and SmallBiz PR and marketing tip:  If you don’t trust your PR company enough to take their advice FIRE them and find a company you do trust.  Bad advice may be ruining your PR company’s reputation, but it’s doing damage to your business  and your cash flow.

 

3 things entrepreneurs can learn from Apple’s keynote disaster

Apple iPhone 6, Apple, Keynote, Apple Watch
Apple – Bigger than Bigger?!

Despite reaction to the product announcements at Apple’s latest keynote have been, at best, lukewarm there’s not doubt both the iPhones and Apple Watch will sell.  So, what’s to worry about?  If you’re an Apple executive or investor the answer is lots.

By far the biggest loser from the event was Apple and its reputation.  Having hyped the keynote, according to media reports, far more than usual and with ABC positioning it as featuring a ‘historic’ announcement its failure to live up to top billing, the unveiling of solid, rather than revolutionary product point updates and a smartwatch that  has seriously underwhelmed fans that have waited years for a wearable device, it has seriously damaged the company’s brand.

Here are three mistakes Apple made and what you can learn from them to avoid damaging your reputation and the reputation of your business:

Apple over promised and under-delivered. With new product launches and media announcements there’s always the temptation to hype, hype, hype.  Traditionally understated, media reports suggest Apple got carried away in the weeks and days before the latest keynote and then failed to deliver on the raised expectations.

One of the central pieces of the Apple launch machine under Steve Jobs was that everything… OK, almost everything, was a surprise.  Watch any of the keynotes from Steve’s time at the company and watch audiences go crazy when there was ‘One More Thing’.  It’s always better to deliver something unexpected than fail to deliver what is expected.

 Apple now appears to be taking its customers for granted.  Two new, larger, iPhones that look similar to the handsets they’ve been selling for the last three years.  Yes, they are thinner, they have a few new bells and whistles [nothing that the competition hasn’t already launched] but they’re is little sign of the innovation that got customers standing in line for days ahead of launch.

The Apple Watch is another example of this complacency.  Having been rumoured for years the final [first generation] product was not what most had expected; it definitely wasn’t something that fits easily within the Apple product portfolio.

Apple now believes its own hype. It’s a dangerous position to be in and is the starting point for a fall from grace for Apple.  Whether the company believes it or just wants you to think that it does it sends out the wrong messages – internally and externally. Tim Cook’s over enthusiasm for what added up to less than historic… less than exciting product features and functions like the fact the iPhone 6 is 50% faster than the original [think of Moore’s law and the advances in processing power since the first iPhone was announced and then compare it with a 50% speed bump and tell me whether you’re still impressed] or the glee with which he announced it had trimmed a millimetre or two off of the height of the handset… Apple fanboys are starting to see through the reality distortion field.

The only people that don’t see through it appear to work for Apple.