Coverage failure

The majority of my sales comes from word of mouth.  People I’ve worked with tell people like them facing similar communications challenges with their businesses recommend my business.  Looking at the Google Analytics for my website the majority of traffic comes directly or via social media – the proportion of social to direct traffic is relatively small – and the amount that comes from third-party sites is even smaller.

I’ve long questioned the logic of editorial coverage and so when one site whose readers are my idea customer demographic started sharing an article I published on their platform I watched with interest.  What would the impact on my inbound leads be?  Would I see any noticeable uptick in traffic?  A surge in new business enquiries? I suspected not.

Before you ask, it wasn’t a one-off.  The site has shared my article on many occasions in the last three months via its twitter account.  It has been retweeted at least 100 times by followers of that account – but yet the traffic it’s delivered to this site has been almost non-existent.  And that’s not a surprise.

If you’ve not read it then I’d encourage you to pick up a copy of Ryan Holiday’s ‘Trust Me, I’m Lying’.  It’s a fascinating insight in to the current state of the media – driven by clicks and page impressions that focus on sensational headlines and opinion, rather than because they have any value to the reader.  In the B2B sector in particular, articles aren’t shared for any reason other than driving traffic to their platform.

So, next time you want to spend thousands of dollars paying a publicity agent to secure you coverage, stop and think. Will it benefit you or the outlet it runs in more?

Want to know more about why traditional media-based PR doesn’t add up? Here’s the math of media coverage

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Why does my content marketing suck? | THINK PR Espresso

I read a piece over the weekend called ‘Why content marketing sucks?‘ and it made me mad. The author makes the point in the piece that content marketing doesn’t suck – she just used the title to get people to read her post.

The irony is that she’s demonstrating, perfectly, the reason that most content marketing sucks. Badly.

The problem is that the action/outcome appears to be to get people to read something, rather than anything that is of value to the individual or business. A link-bait title also sets unrealistic expectations and, invariably, disappoints the reader. How do you feel when somebody wastes your time? How would you feel if somebody hooked you with a sign outside their store offering a 50% discount, only for you to find that once in the store there was no discount, it was simply a tactic to get you in the store?

How likely would you be to do business with a company that operated in that way?

Startup and SmallBiz PR and marketing tip: If you want to improve the quality and effectiveness of your content marketing don’t chase anybody that is willing to click a link. Focus on the people that are likely to become your customers and provide them with valuable content. You might find that when you ask them to take an action – whether it is to share something, buy something or tell others like them about you – they’ll be far more likely to agree.

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BlackBerry: the easy part is over. Now the hard work begins.

Blackberry’s stock has rallied in recent days.  Buoyed by John Chen’s announcement that the restructuring of the company is over, many people have started to talk about turnaround and of better days ahead.  The reality is that the restructure was the easy bit.  The hard part – selling devices and in increasing volumes than in recent years – may yet consign the company to the mobile telecommunications history books.  It’s a part of the jigsaw puzzle that the company has been notably poor at in recent years. 

The nadir being had to be the company’s Super Bowl advert that left many scratching their heads at what they had witnessed.

The Blackberry YouTube account shows more than 1.2 million views – some would claim this to be a success because it created ‘buzz’. But when the advert served no valuable purpose it did far more damage than good.

In order for Blackberry to complete the turnaround that Chen now says he
believes is 80:20 in favor of successfully being executed it needs to retain its existing customer base and start to capture those that have in recent years abandoned the company.   That is going to require a PR and marketing campaign the likes of which the company hasn’t seen for at least a decade.  I’d even suggest it would take a campaign to
rival the one credited with turning around a failing Apple Computer in 1998.
 Blackberry needs to beat the master marketer, Steve Jobs, at his own game.

Before you start, I’m not suggesting that Blackberry go after iPhone customers.
 I think to continue down that path would be the death knell for the company.
 What I’m talking about is something that gives Blackberry diehards, and those
that could be tempted back, a reason to buy a new Blackberry over any of an
increasing number of attractive alternatives.  The company needs to be clear about what it stands for – and why people should care.  

In order to do this the company needs first to identify who its audience is and start to rebuild some of the burned bridges with a PR program.  Its value proposition needs to be clear and its message compelling.  It also needs to deliver it in a consistent way across
multiple platforms, both directly and via traditional, online and social media
channels.  This is something that the company has struggled to do, despite it being one of the most important parts of a successful turnaround.

Unless the company can successfully rebuild relationships and deliver marketing that encourages consumers [B2B or B2C] to take action then the company is doomed, no matter what their financial position is.  They’ll be consigned to the lower leagues of the mobile telecommunications marketplace – something they’ve been trying to avoid ever since Steve Jobs launched the first iPhone.

Do you think Blackberry will make it?

Read my continuing analysis of BlackBerry’s turbulent struggle

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.

Where to do I find customers? | The THINK PR Espresso

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

Why is that most PR programs focus on awareness with as many people as possible in the hope that you find the ones you’re looking for? The people you want to build relationships with are probably closer than you think – they’re either within your extended network or are accessible through it.

Rather than playing an expensive game of “Where’s Waldo”, why not focus on figuring out who they are, who you already know that can help you start a conversation with them, and focus on a few people, rather than broadcasting to the masses, hoping your audience will hear you?

Startup and SmallBiz PR and marketing tip: don’t play a game of ‘Where’s Waldo?” – identify the people that are critical to the successful achievement of your next milestone and focus on building relationships directly with them.

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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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Do I need public relations, marketing or publicity?

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*Before you read this post please check out my definitions of public relations, marketing and publicity. It’ll take you less than two minutes.

PR is the process of building and maintaining strong relationships with the people that are critical to the attainment of a goal.

Marketing is compelling a defined person or group to take a specific action in support of your business – because they want to.

Publicity is awareness – the one-way communication of information/your story/your message to an audience en mass.

There’s a lot of confusion over the difference between public relations, marketing and publicity – most of it by people that are supposed to know better! The public relations industry in particular has struggled for decades – including the two that I’ve been working in it – to communicate exactly what the commercial value of it is.

Our customers see PR as smoke and mirrors; expensive smoke and ridiculously priced mirrors. Under no circumstances should they attempt to do themselves. Journalists are a prickly bunch that needs careful handling. You can destroy your business with a badly written tweet. The truth is that public relations isn’t only about the media – traditional, online or otherwise. It’s about relationships.

Relationships are what entrepreneurs do. They question you need to ask your self when figuring out whether you need PR, marketing or publicity to help you grow your business is, “what do I want them to do?”

If you want them to have a relationship with your organization then you need help with public relations. Public relations is about building and maintaining relationships. It is based on trust, mutual benefit, a shared value set, honesty and transparency. It’s also about the long-term success of the business, rather than short-term gratification. It’s a marriage, rather than a one-night stand. Editorial pitching with the aim of securing coverage is not, generally, public relations. Think about it – you don’t even have a relationship with the journalist in most cases, let alone one with the intended audience.

If, on the other hand, you want people to do something – then it is marketing support you need. Marketing is about getting people to take action on behalf of you [or your business] because they want to. I’ll say the last part again… because THEY WANT TO. If the action is taken grudgingly because you’ve kept asking or because you’re bombarding them with messages in the hope of beating them in to submission then it is not marketing. It’s intimidation!

If you want the world to know about your product, service or business – without an attempt to either build a relationship [a transactional purchase for an app, for example] then you need publicity. Publicity is the communication of information to an audience. Most media coverage is publicity – if it is news then it’s almost certainly publicity; editorial bylines can have the intention of building a relationship with the reader – but it’s the exception rather than the rule. Advertising is paid publicity.

So, what do you need most in order to grow your businesses?

  • Relationships based on trust?
  • People taking action, because they want to [I’d argue that you need to build relationships before people will willingly take action on your behalf]
  • Lots of people to know about you – without any intention of building a relationship or them taking action?

I can only think of a handful of scenarios where the latter is the case.

Startup and SmallBiz PR & Marketing tip: Understand the difference between public relations, marketing and publicity – and which one your business needs to achieve your next milestone.

If you have questions then please feel free to get in touch – you can email on lyndon@thinkdifferently.ca or call me on +1 647.773.2677

Ask questions; start conversations | The THINK PR Espresso

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Next time you’re tempted to pitch somebody – whether it is a prospect, early adopter or a journalist – stop yourself.  Before you introduce yourself think of a question. Think of something you’d like to know about the person you’re about to try to engage in a conversation.

Startup and SmallBiz PR and marketing tip:  Asking questions is a great way to start conversations and can provide you with information that could help you ultimately get what you want.  It is one of the best -and most overlooked – public relations strategies.

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.