What value media coverage? | THINK PR Espresso

The more I read in the media, the more I question the value of media coverage as a way to inform and educate audiences; as a way to start conversations and build relationships.

Startup and SmallBiz PR and marketing tip:  understand why you want media coverage and its role in delivering your desired commercial outcome.  If you don’t understand why then you shouldn’t be doing it.

PR is Simple | THINK PR Espresso

PR Espresso, THINK PR Espresso, Startup, Smallbiz, PR Strategy

Traditional PR programs are full of things that add budget, effort and activity – but it doesn’t have to be that way. I presented at ProductCamp Toronto this weekend and a lot of the conversation was about how to avoid feature-creep – the continued addition of one thing after another for fear of missing something that will make it attractive to customers.

Simple is best, but it requires continual reviews and mental strength to avoid features or, in the case of public relations, marketing and publicity, activities creeping on to the plan that add no real value. Today’s PR Espresso explains how you can start to simplify your PR, marketing and publicity programs today.

Startup and SmallBiz PR and marketing tip: keep it simple, stupid! 

Why Tech Startups Don’t Need ‘PR’

I read a piece by The Houston Business Journal’s Joe Martin this morning called Tech startups: You don’t need PR, exec says.  In it, he says that Uber GM Chris Nakutis told a local group of entrepreneurs they don’t need PR.

In this video I explain why I agree.  Sort of.

Startup and SmallBiz PR & Marketing tip: Don’t mistake PR for publicity and make sure that you own the key relationships for your business – with customers, prospects, journalists and analysts.

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How PR helps turn “one-shot” opportunities in to an opportunity | THINK PR Espresso

PR Espresso, THINK PR Espresso, Startup, Smallbiz, PR Strategy

During a Google Hangout looking at Lean and Design Thinking I was asked how a startup can use PR when they only have one shot at making an impression.  My response? Don’t approach the situation as a one-shot opportunity – start a conversation that aims to find a mutual benefit for both sides.

Working for a traditional PR company in the UK a few years ago I was tasked with building a new practice within the business.  Rather than calling people hawking public relations services I spent time researching the company I was approaching, called them and asked questions and made a deliberate choice not to try to sell.  [Let’s face it, the chances of getting a sale by phoning asking if they were looking to buy PR services on the day I called were slim].

By asking questions, getting to know more about the people and organizations I was speaking with I was able to understand which presented opportunities, understand the specific commercial or communication challenges each faced, and started conversations that ultimately led to business.  It also helped me identify the companies that would never want what I was offering – which saved me time, money and effort.

Startup and SmallBiz PR and marketing tip: play a long game and focus on building relationships, rather than treating people as transactions.

How To Sell Your Product or Service Like Elon Musk

Public Relations, Tesla, PR, PR Strategy, Value Proposition, Startups, Startup, Smallbiz

When I work with entrepreneurs I ask them repeatedly to tell me what their business does.     In the majority of cases they talk about feature and function, rather than about the value it delivers to their customers. It’s often the biggest hurdle to growing a business.

An effective value proposition focuses on the value to the customer.  It understands the problem that a product or service solves. Why? Because if you can prove a value over and above the sticker price the question of price tends to be a secondary consideration [this presumes the prospect can afford the price – a question of finding the right audience].

Let me give you an example.  Tesla announced yesterday it will launch a $35,000 electric vehicle in 2017.  Its current Model S sells for anywhere between $60,000 and $110,000. When customers talk about price what do you think the sales representative says?

“Imagine if you never had to buy gas again”.

Gas, the great variable in owning a car right now.  Let’s say you spend $100 a week on gas…

$400 a month. $4800 a year. $24000 over a five year period.  The car suddenly starts to look less expensive.  Factor in that gas prices will fluctuate – and are likely to continue rising…

You also have no expensive trips to the Shop for repairs.  No fluids. No oil changes.

Elon Musk is thinking about the perceived value to prospective customers and is looking at the total cost of ownership of a vehicle, rather than just the sticker price.  When you think about your product or service, consider what your customers will value most – and sell it to them.

Things Can Go South On Social Media. Quickly!

PR Espresso, THINK PR Espresso, Startup, Smallbiz, PR Strategy

Earlier today I wrote a post about best practice on social media.  I should have known better!  If you want an example of how quickly perceptions can change on social media, check this out!

Having published my original post I tweeted, “We may disagree about PR but get’s social. You can learn from his example! [cc ]”.  It seems, however, that despite calling Shane out for best practice in social media, he wasn’t happy!  

You can read his tweets below [from the bottom up]. 

Social Media, Public Relations, 'Experts'
Everything can change in 140 characters

Apparently, he was concerned that I had outed his professional background in my piece because I had said he works in social media and, as he had admitted publicly to me on Friday, has no experience in public relations.  This, despite the fact that he’d written a piece that assumed publicity was PR – and that PR was dead.  For anybody that doesn’t understand the industry I work in this is misleading – and, having worked in the profession for 17 years, I feel justified in correcting this common misconception.

Here are my tweets from this morning’s exchange:

Public Relations, PR, Social Media, Publicity, THINK DIFFERENT [LY]Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 1.00.05 PM

If you want to read Friday’s exchanges then you can find them at @THINK_Lyndon

Why am I so passionate about this topic?

Let’s face it, my industry does a good enough job without help from uninformed commentators like Shane adding their misguided opinions that are based on an incorrect definition of what public relations is.  I have spent 17 years trying to help businesses to understand that public relations is not about publicity, but about relationships – despite the industry’s attempts to drive it in to the ground for a quick buck.

Shane, as you can see, disagrees!  He, after all, thinks you don’t need to be a singer to know how to sing! [his words not mine] I’m not qualified to comment on that, as anybody that has heard me caterwauling along to a Radiohead of Depeche Mode track will confirm!  But what I am qualified to talk about than him is public relations – I’m 17 years more qualified that Shane and, despite his claims that he’s open to being corrected, I’m not so sure!

I’m also not convinced that he really understands communication, let alone social, at all.

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Social Media Best Practice | The THINK PR Espresso

PR Espresso, THINK PR Espresso, Startup, Smallbiz, PR Strategy

Read this post, “Things can go wrong in Social. Quickly!” for an update on this post.

At the end of last week I read an article on Technorati by Shane Paul Neil, entitled, “Technology, self-promotion and the death of public relations.  It’s one of many to make this claim recently.  It’s also one of many written by authors that don’t understand public relations – confusing publicity with PR.

Had the article focused on publicity I would have agreed with most of the points that Shane makes.  The fact that it focuses on public relations means that most of his opinions on why he believes PR is dead or dying are wrong.  Just plain wrong.  The problem is that Shane doesn’t have a PR background: he works as a social strategist and while, when I questioned him on Twitter about his experience of public relations, he had the correct definition, his understanding of what that looks like is incorrect.

It’s a problem I’ve written about many times.  The majority of so-called ‘professionals’ working in the PR industry don’t know the difference and have done an excellent job at misinforming customers and complementary industries like marketing and publicity about what it is we do. It’s something I want to change and challenging people that write in, supposedly credible media outlets, when they get it wrong is the first stage.

Technorati, Public Relations, Publicity, Social Media

Having added a comment, which was in ‘moderation’ for almost a day [and which has subsequently been deleted] I took to Twitter.  What were the author’s PR credentials/experience? It turns out I was right – he has none.  But, what happened next is something that every company can learn from.  It’s an example of how to use social media to engage people.

My usual experience of trying to have a conversation about an article – where I have constructive criticism [OK, sometimes the constructive looks a lot like frustrated irritation] – is that I get no response.  Either that or I get a firm rebuttal or the digital equivalent of “f*@! you’ – people usually don’t like being asked to support their position with evidence or experience.  A social ‘conversation I’d had with AirPR earlier in the week was a prime example of this approach. I’d questioned the company’s position that PR is actually customer marketing [it fundamentally misunderstands the difference between PR and marketing]

This was different.

Public Relations, Social Media, Twitter

After an initial back and forth, a conversation broke out.  I went from irritation about the piece to appreciating the opportunity to have the conversation – to make and debate my opinion with Shane. What’s more – rather than trying to make sure that the publication didn’t see my comments, Shane got the Managing Editor at Technorati in on the conversation.  There was talk about a series of views on the topic because the original piece had highlighted passionate responses from a number of people and with a range of differing perspectives.

This is social media as it is supposed to be used. It’s not about publicity – self-or otherwise.  It’s not about broadcasting a message and labelling people that agree friends, while labelling those that don’t trolls.  Social Media’s value is about the discussion; the conversation; the opportunity to change perceptions in real-time. It’s an extension of the owned internet, where organizations and individuals have the opportunity to publish their opinions – and start conversations where all opinions are welcomed [unless you really are a troll!].

Shane showed that, while he doesn’t understand PR, he understands the power of social media as a communications tool.  I started out questioning whether he had anything of value to add to the discussion about the future of communications and found, where social is concerned, he does.  He probably understands more about PR than most ‘PR’ people.

Startup and SmallBiz PR and marketing tip: social media is about conversation.  The tools are just that – tools.  You still need the basic skills required to use them for best effect.

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What is the value of press coverage? | The THINK PR Espresso

Public Relations, PR Strategy, ROI

Almost every entrepreneur I meet says that they need media coverage to grow their business. When I ask them why, very few have an answer.

The PR industry sells “awareness” as a solution to almost every business ailment – but it’s simply not true. Media coverage can be a very inefficient, expensive and indirect way to talk to the people that matter most to your business. You’re putting the opportunity to build your businesses most important relationships in the hands of a third party, that has to convince another third party to publish something. You then hope that the people you want to read about your product or service actually see it when the coverage appears.

With traditional media-based publicity – because that’s what it is, not PR – you’re effectively buying a lottery ticket. Let me explain. If we apply the 5% direct marketing rule to publicity look what happens:

The website has 300,000 uniques every month.

5% will see the piece [15,000].

5% of the 15,000 will read it [600]

5% of the 600 will be have a possible need for your product or service [30]

5% of the 30 will have a need right now [1.5]

5% of the 1.5 will… well you get the idea!

With traditional media you had weekly, monthly or, in some cases, quarterly publications – where the magazine sat on their desks for a week, a month or three. Compare that with a refresh rate of one story an hour – or, in the case of the likes of Mashable and other online tech publications, once every 15 minutes. So, not only are you hoping to attract the attention of one and a half prospects with every piece of coverage, the chances they will read your piece is one in forty every week compared to the days of traditional media. The number rises to 1/160 over a month!

So, you’re paying five to ten thousand dollars a month for ‘PR’. Let’s say you’re getting 10 pieces of coverage a month. You’re getting your message in front of 15 prospective customers per month [most B2B businesses would bite your arm off for 15 new qualified leads every month]. Lets say, for the sake of argument, 33% of these make contact with you – that’s 5 leads. Each one has cost you $1,000 if you’re paying $5,000 a month. In PR terms, that’s pretty good ROI. If 20% convert to a customer, you have one new customer for your investment.

But then there’s always the chance that you get nothing from it. Think what you could do if you identified 5 – 10 prospects and spent even $500 on each to capture their attention. $500 a month to start building a relationship with them that increases the chances of them converting to a customer. What if you could spend $500 and figure out how to make sure you delivered the right message to each of these validated customers, at the right time and delivered via the right channel?

In reality, you could spend a lot less and get significantly better results. So, do you still want to play the publicity lottery?

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Why this ‘PR guy’ agrees with Mark Cuban

Today I was reading a piece on LinkedIn where a PR professional was explaining why he disagreed with Mark Cuban’s assertion that startups should never hire a PR firm.  I found myself agreeing – with Mark Cuban.

The author of the piece I was reading, written recently, was talking about a bullet point in an article published in Entrepreneur magazine more than two years ago. It was called Mark Cuban’s 12 Rules for Startups.  He was explaining that PR professionals play a valuable role in helping early-stage businesses to grow.  I agree. In part.  But what he was describing wasn’t public relations it was publicity – media coverage. Awareness. Brand-building.  Call it what you will the majority of the companies that claim to sell PR are actually in the publicity game.  On that basis, I wholeheartedly agree with Mark.

I wrote a piece recently that explains what PR companies don’t tell their prospects or customers.  Over the last few days I’ve become even more convinced that the traditional PR industry is scared to death that you’ll discover these things.  It is the key to their business model and without the illusion of value the industry as we know it quickly unravels.

The author of the piece I read today – I would mention him by name but I can’t find the post again*.  Having viewed it via the LinkedIn app on my phone it updated between leaving the subway and getting on the bus – makes some interesting points about the value of using strategic communications strategists, and I agree with that.  Startups need advice on building the relationships they need to grow their business; they need help in communicating their value proposition, developing messaging, figure out how to deliver it and at the right time for the audience.  But, it’s not what most PR companies offer.

The majority offer, at best, a tactical approach that focuses on pitching journalists [a single audience or public] in order to get the right to talk with every other one of a company’s audiences.  What’s more most PR companies act as a barrier between an organization and journalists, rather than helping their customers to build relationships with journalists or any of an early-stage business’ critical audience groups. Imagine if every conversation you had with the important people in your life used the same ‘strategy’.  Your relationships were managed by a third-party and then had to be approved by another arbiter who decided whether your message would be passed on to the intended audience.  Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?!  It’s definitely unworkable.

Yet, for this ‘strategy’ they charge exorbitant amounts of money. Every month. And, they ask for a minimum commitment, irrespective of whether the arrangement delivers any value.

This is, I suspect, why Mark Cuban says that startups can do without it.  And it is why this PR guy agrees.

———-

*I spent about 30 minutes looking for it using the information I remembered – the company was called UberStrategy, and the author was called Mario – and still can’t find it. Everything you need to know about the effectiveness of ‘awareness’ -based public relations [or publicity as it should accurately be described] is demonstrated right there. When I type UberStrategy into Google I get results about taxicab industry disruptor Uber’s business strategy.