Lets be blunt: the only thing that most start-ups want more than cash is exposure (unless theyre in stealth mode, which is an altogether different conversation). Exposure leads to buzz, which leads to interest, which typically leads to funding and/or that all important gold-plated exit when a big boy like Google swoops in to snatch up their intellectual assets.
But while most start-ups want exposure, theyre almost always hampered by the same challenge: Cash. Whether self-funded or under the gun from investors, start-ups need to not only fund R&D and pay for overhead but also get noticed. The tight budgets tend to rule out overt marketing and advertising campaigns, making public relations a primary buzz driver for the start-up community.
But hold on is your start-up REALLY ready to hire a public relations agency
While less expensive than full-blown advertising and marketing campaigns, a PR push still runs between $20-25,000 for a product/company launch over the course of several months. Thats a fairly big expenditure on the bottom-line, so shouldnt you make sure it goes as smoothly as possible?
When it comes to determining whether your start-up is ready for PR or not
, heres a few things to keep in mind:
- Website Namely, do you have one? Laugh all you want, but its a legitimate concern. In todays market, trying to launch, let alone gain exposure, sans website is borderline impossible, no matter how much you spend or how good your PR firm is.
- Expertise Gaining solid exposure doesnt just involve talking about your application or company it means providing an expert that can explain your start-ups place in the industry. So do you have an expert (is it you)? Are they media trained? What are their credentials?
- Product/Service Do you have a firm roadmap of where your product or service is? You dont necessarily need to have it ready to launch, but do you know when it will launch? Even more basic, do you know what your product/service IS?
- Content Last but not least, do you have any messaging or Web content ready, beyond the basic site? Do you have a content roadmap? Is your messaging complete? While it might seem like an afterthought, content is king on the Web, and no matter how cool your site or your product, the lack of content will drive potential users and customers away, not reel them in.
But youre the perfect start-up you have a great website, a couple of experts prepped and trained, a solid product roadmap and, even better, a solid messaging framework. But you want more beyond just interviews and talking to journalists
so what else can your PR firm do you for you?
Stay tuned to find out same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.
|"Wait, what?" (Credit: Universal Pictures)|
Just curious, but how did the European Organization for Nuclear Research get the funding to build an underground particle accelerator from Geneva to Italy?
I'm not saying this is specifically why Europe is having an economic crisis. But when they open the books on that thing, I'm predicting a crowded evening at the Bastille (do they still use that?).
Really, what was their business model anyway, going back in time to bet on the 1980 Winter Olympics?
Maybe I'm just skeptical because as we all know from watching the GOP debates, innovation is only possible when it's "incented" by cold hard dollars. And yet here's CERN, tooling around in their underground particle highway, thanks mostly to Swiss money laundering, and--oddly enough--the American Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
But don't sleep over this.
I don't know much about the science. But I do know a lot about PR gimmicks. And this feels remarkably like a fundraising-minded attention grab. It's this quarter's new sensationalist headline from those wacky Europeans, right on cue (remember last year's experiment colliding matter and anti-matter, when they were 98% sure the universe wouldn't collapse).
And thanks to 24-hour news outlets, this story gets picked up and propagated, despite the fact that nobody really believes it, and even CERN calls the results "probably not accurate."
But no matter, some French scientist gets his face in the Huffington Post, and some lucky particle gets on the cover of Neutrino Weekly.
And as long as the headline gets enough clicks, everything's copacetic. It's a slippery slope though. Or rather... tunnel.
|(Credit: Despair, Inc.)|
Heres a brainteaser for your Friday morning: Name anorganization with a poorer public relations track record than the U.S. FederalGovernment.
Then factor in how much time and money is spent each day tryingto curry public support for various federal activities. It really starts toboggle the mind.
According to last weeks New York Times/CBS News Poll,a full 88% of Americans now disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job.Wait, what? 88% of Americans cant even agree that the earth revolves aroundthe sun (seriously).
So what, is the public simply incapable of trusting itscentral governing authority? Or are federal PR professionals missing the mark?
And make no mistake, there are real-world consequences. Consider that our federal officials are so despised these days, they cant even gin up support forbadly needed, uncontroversial activities like road and bridge repair.
Now Federal spin-doctors might have you believe that the lowpublic perception is merely a consequence of difficult times. But there are positive news stories concerning theFederal Government. Youre just not hearing about them.
Perhaps part of the problem is that universally positivenews doesnt sell anymore. Todays media outlets look for zero-sum battleswith one winner and one loser, and it doesnt really serve the Federal interestto campaign against the privatesector, since the two entities are inextricably linked, and the FederalGovernment relies on private sector support to perform many of the functions itcant (or wont) accommodate.
Another factor, perhaps, is a political tendency to runFederal office candidates by railing against the Federal complex. This wouldntwork in most circumstances (for instance, when I tried to finagle a job at theCheesecake Factory by pointing out how worthless and ineffective the restaurantis, and vowing to dismantle it from within). But capturing populist anger doesseem to be effective these days. Its just not particularly useful.
Its also possible that the Federal Government is now tooenormous and fractured to ever sustain a coherent PR strategy. Certainly atraditional plan would be nearly impossible to coordinate or manage. But whenperception of the government is so low that it impedes basic functioning, maybeits time to try somethinganythingelse.
What do you think?
I spent this evening at Deloitte's Tech Venture Center in Tysons for the Technology Marketing Alliance
(TMA) and FounderCorps
special event -- an evening with Brian Halligan
, CEO of HubSpot
. Brian's built a game changer in the inbound marketing industry, so I was looking forward to hearing his thoughts.
Here are my notes from Brian's talk:From outbound to inbound
The traditional marketing playbook includes buying lists, spamming them, cold calling your brains out, going to tradeshows).
The playbook is busted! It's impossible to reach buyers via those traditional methods. People are changing, and blocking out those traditional forms of push marketing, and marketers need to move to a pull
So how do you get visitors to your website? Halligan outlined a three step process:
Segments of 1
- Create content: could be blogs, videos, presentations, photos, etc. Publish your way to success. Links are the currency of the Internet.
- Optimize your site: instead of "100 charts" title your content "100 awesome marketing stats, charts and graphs." Half of your time should be spent thinking about the title of your content. It's how you're getting found. Be remarkable! Create content that encourages people to remark! Whatever you do, don't be boring.
- Promote: If you create a piece of content that's interesting, people will share it, and it'll help you exponentially grow and add new subscribers. Early adopters on new social platforms get unfair competitive advantage. Remarkable content gets shared more.
How do you start converting, or dramatically improve your conversion rate?
What do Google, Amazon.com, Facebook, Netflix, Groupon and LinkedIn have in common? They're all bloody successful, but they're amazing converters. The key in BtoB is thinking about how you can replicate the success these companies have had. How?
- Usage --> better personalization --> better value --> better conversion, and the cycle continues
This personalization is how BtoB websites should work. Every individual visitor to your website should have a personalized visit.
BtoB companies should take a lesson from Isaac Newton" If I have seen a little further it's by standing on the shoulders of giants."The modern marketing team
What does the modern marketer look like?
Halligan sums it up with his acronym, DARC.
- Digital - they should speak Internet without an accent.
- Analytical - today's Internet is analytical, and data-focused.
- Reach - in almost every industry, there is someone with incredible reach.
- Content Creator - most people aren't comfortable writing for the Internet, or creating videos, etc. You either need to get over it, or find someone who is a content creator. Break your marketing organization out as TOFU (top of the funnel) and MOFU (middle of the funnel).
HubSpot's social media policy? "Use common sense." Encourage your employees to be active in social media.
Marketing needs to adopt best practices from agile software development: measure often; evolve fast.
Write like a human, not a marketer. Traditional press releases are like smoke signals coming from within the wall of the company. It requires a mindset shift, but organizations need to tear down those walls and communicate without "marketing speak."
Don't dip your toe in; jump all the way in.Crush the competition!
If you can get way out in front, it's really hard for your competitors to get past you. Think about Zappos... you could launch an online shoe competitor, but with so many inbound links to their site, they're unbeatable. BtoB companies need to crush their competition in the same way.
Recently Iposted the first part of a conversation I had with Sebastien “Seb”Provencher, co-founder of Montreal-based Needium and one of NortAmerica’s foremostexperts on online local search and social media. In that post Seb shared his perspective onwhat it means to be a successful blogger and how blogging has helped him expresshis unique perspective on the industries he follows.
Here is thesecond part of that conversation, which covers an even wider, more ambitious rangeof topics. Here, Seb touches on histhoughts regarding the current state and future of social media, as well as onlinetrends such as the “real-time” and “temporal” web and how the power to commandbusiness has shifted from the company to the customer.
Lately there’s been a lot ofdiscussion about Google + -- is it something worth keeping an eye on or justanother Google social media experiment doomed to fall in Facebook’s shadow?
I actuallythink Google + is an interesting evolution. I don’t think it’s a Facebook or Twitterkiller, but I do think it shows that products like Facebook and Twitter need toadapt more quickly. The launch of Google+ told Twitter and Facebook to get moving.
However, Ialso think Google + is still very much niche. I think we’ll see the real value of Google + once it’s integrated intoGoogle search. I think this is why itwas launched in the first place and the real reason why Google is insistentupon having everyone’s real identity – because it will impact search in thefuture. I think they need to incorporateit into their search architecture to make it a valuable product.
Is there really social mediafatigue?
Some peoplesay there is, but I don’t believe it. Ithink people still rely very heavily on these networks to communicate, and there’sstill room in people’s lives for more.
What do you think is the mostpowerful social media platform for communications?
To me,Twitter remains the killer communication platform. Everyone can create an account and starttweeting. It’s very open, as opposed toFacebook which is very closed. Forexample, on Facebook you can create a page but then you need to figure out waysto promote that page. I think Facebookcould definitely improve their page profile process for companies that want topromote themselves on Facebook. (Editor’s note: since thisinterview Facebook has added synchronous following through its new FacebookSubscribe buttons, which allow users to follow other users who they may notknow).
Staying within the online world, buttaking a look at something a bit different – what type of trends do you seeemerging with regards to online communications?
There areseveral trends that I find very interesting. For example, I really like the idea of what I call the real-timeWeb. What I mean by that is you now haveall of these communications tools that allow you to publish and obtaininformation very quickly – in effect, in real-time. An example of this would be an applicationlike HotelTonight or TheVeryLastRoom that allows you to find a last-minute hotel in a city atany given time.
I love thefact that we can get news and analysis much faster than ever before, as well asthe ability to access and analyze big data; data that’s generated from all ofthe information that’s put out there. Ifyou take millions of tweets per day, collect them all and take a look at them,you can actually generate some really interesting, useful data points about a widevariety of topics – trends, politics, music, movies, customer interests andneeds.
I’m alsovery interested in everything that’s related to the temporal Web. The temporal Web incorporates everything fromthe past to the present to the future of online communications. The past is everything that’s been donebefore on the Internet; the present is where we are now, the real-time Web thatI mentioned before; and while the future is unknowable, we can certainly forecastwhat will happen with the Web based on current data points.
What are some of the ways youenvision the Web evolving in the near future?
Forinstance, we may soon begin to see time as a variable in search criteria. You have the hotel example I mentionedearlier, but there are others like that. There are online applications and sites like WillCall that allow consumers to buy last-minute showtickets. There’s also Groupon Now, whichallows users to find local deals as they’re happening in real-time. Real-time is becoming much more ingrained inthe way we do things online.
This is allpart of the slow trend of reversal of power between businesses andcustomers. Ten to fifteen years agobusinesses had the upper hand, but today the power is switching to thecustomer. The buying decision is now intheir hands, and that gives them the power.
So technology is allowing customers– particularly consumers – to pick and choose the types of products andservices they want, how they want, when they want?
Exactly. And I believe eventually we, as customers,will ultimately find ourselves with access to some form of dashboard. The dashboard will provide a means throughwhich to broadcast a need or want to a wide array of friends, companies andexperts. In return the customer will getsomething like an RFQ. They’ll take alook at the three or four best leads they receive, evaluate them and pick awinner. Companies will either have tofight on price or build a reputation around service or friendliness. Big brands will fight on price, while smallerbusinesses will fight on just about everything else.
When thishappens people will start to ask themselves if they’re being good customers. Because it can’t always be about price. Other factors need to be considered aswell.
In the end,if a customer asks for a product or service companies will offer that productor service. That’s not going tochange. What will continue to change andgrow is the ability for customers to dictate the types of products and servicesthat are available. That’s a verypowerful position for customers to be in, and it will likely only get stronger.
Thanks again to Seb for taking thetime to speak with me. If you’d like tohear more from him, be sure to check out his “Where Local Meets Social” blog or follow him on Twitter.
That new link you just posted on Twitter and Facebook? It has a shorter shelf life than you might think, on average only around three hours.
Last week, the New York Times had an interesting post on the lifespan of links
, following some research by Bit.ly
. According to the New York Times:
The research determined a links longevity by measuring its half life the point at which it has received half the clicks it will receive online.
Hilary Mason, Bit.lys lead scientist, found that links have different lifespans if they are posted on Facebook and Twitter or sent through e-mail or chat clients. After analyzing 1,000 popular links shared on bit.ly, Ms. Mason discovered that the average half life of a link on Twitter is 2.8 hours. On Facebook its 3.2 hours, and for e-mail and messenger services its 3.4 hours. This means a link gets an extra 24 minutes of life on Facebook compared to Twitter.
A good reminder that you should be reusing and reposting links as part of your brand's content marketing and social media strategy (though do so in a way that isn't spamming your followers).
Recently I had the pleasure of speaking with Sebastien SebProvencher, one of North Americas leading experts on local search and socialmedia. Seb is a co-founder of Needium, aMontreal-based firm that helps traditional media companies leverage socialmedia. He also writes the Where LocalMeets Social blog, maintains a popular Twitter feed, is a frequentguest speaker at industry conferences, and is often quoted in the media.
Given Sebs background, it probably goes without saying thatour conversation covered a lot of ground, from how he got started in blogging,to tips on how companies can (and should) embrace the power of blogs, to how hesees the future of online media shaping up, and more. This is the first of two blog posts based on theconversation we had. Here, Seb talksabout how he got into blogging and the benefits hes seen both personally andprofessionally as a result of his efforts. He also provides tips on how companies can successfully embrace socialmedia, and offers PR professionals insight into what types of stories catch hisattention. Seb, youve beenblogging about local and social media for several years now. How did you get started? I was formerly with Yellow Pages Group (YPG), and startedblogging shortly before I left that company. I wanted to work on my own stuff, which included launching my ownstart-up. I had some interesting ideas Iwanted to explore and share, but I needed to find a compelling angle to makesure all of these ideas had something to tie into. Eventually I decided to focus on theintersection of local search and social media what I called Local 2.0. At the same time, I began thinking about waysto position myself in what was, even at that time, a very crowded space. When I first started the blog it was on my companys URL (atthe time Praized.com). The thought wasthat I could start building the brand of the company through the blog. Bear in mind we didnt even have a product atthe time this was in 2006 and the companys first product didnt launch untilJuly of 2008! In the meantime we usedthe blog as a means of building the brand so when the product did launch peopleunderstood who we were and what we were doing. Eventually I left YPG (in 2007), but I continued to blog,using the Internet as a means to both promote myself as an expert and build abrand for the company I was starting, Praized Media. Between 2006 and 2009, I stuck with aschedule of one blog post per day. Itwas very tough to maintain, but it paid off it created a habit where peoplekept coming back to read the blog. As you stated thereis heavy competition out there for readers attention. Aside from the angle you took, was thereanything else unique you came up with to encourage reader engagement? With each post I began including a section called What ItMeans. This section essentially takessome interesting news of the day and analyzes it in a single paragraph. I try to put myself in the heads of CEOs byasking what are these guys looking for? Theyre looking for bite-size analysis. So the value I bring is not necessarilythrough reporting the news, but analyzing it and, in turn, giving people areason to keep coming back to the site. How did this approachhelp you make a name for yourself in the blogosphere? By continually offering unique, updated content, I was ableto build not only my companys brand but also my personal brand. People began seeing me as an expert. By positioning myself as an expert I began toget readers and followers. And as thosereaders and followers slowly built, I started getting interviews; journalists werecalling to get my opinions. I startedgetting invited to speak at conferences. The point is, blogging allowed me to become considered anexpert in my niche. I found that peoplewanted to listen to me, and I became a point of attraction. You do more thanblog, however. For example, youreactively involved on Twitter. Yes, in fact Im doing a lot more tweeting now. Ive got 3,300 followers. Unfortunately I dont blog as much as I usedto. I wish I had continued to blog oncea day, though; the whole essence of marketing yourself and your company onlineinvolves keeping your blog alive. Twitter is a good secondary outlet to broadcast quick bursts of informationthat directly relates to the larger thoughts contained on a blog. Clearly its a timecommitment, and time is something many CEOs simply dont have much of. True, but blogging can prove to be extremely beneficial to abusiness, so even given the time commitment I think CEOs need to blog and makeit a priority. If companies blog everyday they have a voice out there. Theycan proactively answer customers questions or concerns and shut down the noisebeing generated by outside parties. You see, social media blogging in particular puts ahuman face on a company. A lot of peoplenaturally assume businesses are evil and stupid. Theyre not theyre human. Social media helps to show that. You are frequentlycontacted by PR consultants and others looking to get your attention. What catches your eye and how do you like tobe approached? In terms of catching my attention, Im interested inanything thats not me too. If itssomething that concerns a leader in market innovation I want to hear aboutit. Anything that hasnt already beenwritten to death is interesting. Bear inmind that Im interested in analyzing trends. Finally, make sure what youre pitching relates to my focus, which islocal and social media. Anything outsideof that doesnt interest me. Regarding approach, a simple email will do by the way, wejust launched this, please let me know if youd like to talk to someone. Iread everything and sometimes I write about it. No need to follow-up; if its interesting Ill post it. Its pretty simple, really: make sure what your pitching is relevant, andjust show openness. Any other insightsyou can share with executives that are considering engaging in blogging orother forms of social media? A lot of people are expecting quick wins. The truth is, you cant have quick wins. You need to be prepared to be involved day inand day out. It took me ten months ofdaily blogging before something I posted got picked up by (widely-read authorand blogger) Robert Scoble (the post: http://sebprovencher.com/2007/07/14/robert-scoble-is-media/). This may have taken about 200 blogposts. It took tenacity
and a lot ofpractice! The other thing to note is you cant always talk aboutyou. You cant always beself-promoting. Youre allowed to dothat if youve shared enough insights, but first you have to earn the respectof your audience by showing knowledge about your industry. Then you will have earned the right to plugyour products and even then it should only be once in a while. So, its not a campaign. Its a long-term commitment. Sometimes its difficult to see that
but its important to remember. In part two of myinterview to be posted next week - Seb will touch upon how he sees online andsocial media evolving over the next ten years, including the current state (andfuture of) Google +, the real-time vs. temporal web, and how the customer notthe company will continue to wield the power when it comes to business.