Posts Tagged ‘entrepreneurism’

Preparing Your Startup for Media Interviews: the Do’s and Don’ts

March 22, 2013

Successful entrepreneurs are known for being risk-takers, putting both their money and reputation on the line to launch a new product or service, often in a competitive or nascent market. Some psychologists suggest that entrepreneurs’ brains are hard-wired to take risks—they live for the dopamine high associated with standing on the edge of a tall cliff (or business deal).

It’s not surprising then that many entrepreneurs get an emotional charge when they are put in the spotlight to talk about their businesses with media. While risk-taking may pay off in certain situations, a media interview is not one of them.  Without careful planning, an interview can result in a wasted opportunity for good exposure, or worse, it can make your company the butt of “funny headline” jokes on the Tonight Show. Here is a list of do’s and don’ts to help you make the best of your interview opportunities:

Do’s:

  • Research the Reporter: Before every interview, you or your PR advisor should research the reporter to determine what he or she has already written about and what the tone of their reporting is like (e.g. investigative, light-hearted, opinionated, etc.)
  • Develop Talking Points:  Always solicit a list of potential questions from the reporter prior to the interview. With few exceptions, reporters will usually share some initial questions, because it makes their job easier when the interviewee is already prepared with important information. These questions should be used to develop talking points to help you steer the conversation in the right direction. The talking points should also include additional questions that could come up, especially the sticky ones.
  • Practice: If this is the first time you have been interviewed on a particular topic, or if there have been significant changes to your messaging since the last interview, squeeze in a little rehearsal time. This is particularly important when interviewing with reporters that have a reputation for being critical or when the format of the interview is broadcast, where a bad 10-second sound bite can spoil an otherwise spotless performance. If you have a PR advisor, make sure they provide you with media training.
  • Follow Up: There are times when you may do all the right things to prepare for an interview, only to find that a story is not produced or that the interview is edited out of the story. Sometimes this is unavoidable, such as when the story has to be trimmed to meet a specific word count or when the reporter quashes the story to make space for another pressing news item.  But other times it can be prevented with proper follow up. When following up, reiterate any points you want to make clear to the reporter and ask if he or she has follow up questions. Also consider sending them references to additional sources, including other potential interviewees, that could support the development of the story.

Homer Simpson

Don’ts:

  • Go Off the Record: The words “off the record” go against the grain of journalistic integrity, and, perhaps more importantly, the basic interest of the reporter in publishing a compelling story. Always assume anything you say is fair game.
  • Respond with “No Comment”: Reporters usually interpret this as stonewalling, and readers will likely think it means you have something to hide. There are situations when it is in your best interest to stay mum, such as when being questioned about sensitive financial or legal information or information that could reveal too much to your competition. In these situations, provide as much information as you feel is safe, and simply explain that you can’t go into any additional details at that time. This is also a good opportunity to bridge the conversation to a different, but relevant, topic that you really want to talk about.
  • Use Jargon: Reporters strive to make their stories as accessible as possible for their audiences. With the exception of trade or special interest media, where highly technical information may be required, you should stay away from industry jargon and try to simplify complex ideas into comprehensible points. Sometimes using metaphors can be a good way to explain an intricate point, but when a metaphor won’t do, you should have a succinct and lucid description at the ready.
  • Talk About a Competitor: This is another one where there are exceptions, but in general, you should let your competitors do their own talking. The two big risks here are that you may unintentionally build awareness for the wrong team, and perhaps more importantly, if you get your facts wrong, you may find your company getting slapped with a lawsuit.

Jacob Seal

347 Days Left for Entrepreneurs’ 2013 Business Resolutions

January 18, 2013

Making New Year’s resolutions is a tradition that has increased in popularity (in the United States, at least) over the years. According to Wikipedia, about 25 percent of American adults set New Year’s resolutions during the Great Depression. That number had increased to 40 percent by the turn of the millennium.  The tradition has a very old history. The ancient Babylonians promised their gods at the beginning of each year that they would pay their debts and retuThere's still time to  make 2013 business resolutions.rn whatever they had borrowed, and, similarly, the Romans made promises to the god Janus (for whom January is named).

There’s still time to make 2013 business resolutions.

Setting goals helps most people to make changes in behavior and move ahead. This is as true in business as it is in our personal lives. I try to set New Year’s resolutions for Bridge Global Strategies every year.  My business goal for 2013 is to invest both time and budget on new sales and marketing techniques to stimulate faster growth (and my personal goal is to lose 20 pounds!).

I asked a few entrepreneurs to share their New Year’s resolutions for their companies with the readers of Bridgebuzz. Ron Dizy, president and CEO of Toronto-based green technology company Enbala, said his resolution was to “start each day thinking about the best way to have the biggest impact on the most important part of our business.” I asked him what he considered the most important part of his business (Enbala operates a Smart Grid platform that helps shift power use on the grid by controlling the industrial equipment of large electricity users, paying the users to participate – a less expensive alternative to expensive electric grid power storage.)  Ron answered, “That changes through the year, depending on what is most pressing. It might be load (client) engagement, it might be utility business development, it might be regulatory affairs, it might be a personnel issue. I guess the point of my resolution is to think about what thing or action would have the biggest impact on the business … And do that TODAY!”

Carol-Davis Grossman, managing partner of New Jersey- based events company The Charles Group , said that she and her partner, Susan Dunkelman have several resolutions for 2013: “Expand our client base by better leveraging our reputation with our existing clients; increase our company’s online presence; and focus our business development efforts on target markets we identified last year.”

Gary Palermo, managing director of Palazzo Investment Bankers, a  boutique investment bank focused on marketing, interactive, digital, information and new media companies, explained that his business resolutions involved separating business from family life. “My goal is to work even harder than the past year, while spending more time with my family. Sound impossible? Maybe … but while I continue dedicating time to business growth and clients (my other family) as a singular focus throughout my work day, when I’m with my family, I want to spend the time to actually remain focused on staying engaged with them. The idea is to not cross the time, event or moment with work-related thoughts while with my family. Work-life balance? Yes, indeed! I am aiming high this year!”

For C. Filipe Medeiros, founder and CTO of online company Ancientfaces.com,  the  most important resolution for 2013 for his company is becoming increasingly focused on identifying and solving the problems of the site’s users. “When you have a site with as much data and as many users as AncientFaces, nailing that down can be a huge challenge,” Filipe said.

Benton Morgan, co-founder and managing partner of Jet Partners, says his resolution is, “To always innovate. Never get comfortable with my normal routine. Find a way to make daily tasks more efficient. The easy way is not a option!”

Most people agree that stating a goal publicly makes it more likely that you’ll reach it. I know this is true for dieting. I believe it’s true for business goals as well. So, dear readers, please feel free to proclaim your New Year’s resolutions here. It’s not too late – we have 347 days left this year!

Lucy Siegel

Learn more about Bridge Global Strategies’ services for startups here: http://slidesha.re/XkGbit

Recent Online Finds to Share with You

July 19, 2012

First, an apology to the fans of this blog who have been pining for a fresh blog post and haven’t gotten one for three months ( or maybe nobody’s noticed?). The good news: Bridge Global Strategies has been growing and has seen a sudden surge in new clients. The bad news: we’re all working like crazy to get everything done, and we had to put the blog on the back burner for a little while.

Infographic from the Grasshopper.com blog

I thought I’d get back into the groove with a blog post on some recent online sites and groups I’ve stumbled across that you might be interested in if you’re in the world of marketing, media and/or communications.

The first is a LinkedIn group called “Find a journalist – around the world.” Its purpose is to help find journalists anyplace in the world. For example, if an American magazine is doing a story on healthcare in India, the editors can use “Find a Journalist” to look for a freelancer in India they could hire to do the story.  Journalists from around the world can offer their services to media that are looking for freelance writers or columnists. There are over 11,000 members of the group. Here’s the link to the group: http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Find-journalist-around-world-1814419/about.

The next one is also related to international journalism. It’s a place journalists can go to look for sources all over the world for their stories. Like “Find a Journalist,” it started as a LinkedIn group. There’s still a LinkedIn group, called “Media Diplomat,” but the activity is moved to a new website: http://www.mediadiplomat.com .  The LinkedIn group has over 7,000 members, most of whom are from the following countries: the U.S., the U.K., Canada and China.

Hubii is a site that just launched this year and provides an easy way to look at international media by location. The site provides a clickable map. If you click on London, instantly a choice of London-based media pops up and you can click on any of them to get an assortment of articles from the media outlet’s website.  Or, alternatively, if you want to get an international sample of coverage on a particular issue, you can enter a keyword into the Hubii search engine and you’ll be given headlines from around the world related to that key word. For example, I searched for LIBOR and found 269 articles from around the world about the banking manipulation of the LIBOR rate, ranging from the Barcelona New to the Belfast Telegraph to The Australian, and including a wide range of American media. You can filter the news results by type of media outlet and/or by language.  Very cool and convenient.

Collectors Quest is a site for collectors of just about everything and anything. It’s not a new site, but it’s been redesigned and relaunched, and it now provides a collectables marketplace side-by-side with information about the collectibles and an opportunity to share what you find with others via social media. The company has just announced a marketing partnership with media company A+E Networks to feature content from A+E’s popular “Pawn Wars” and “American Pickers” TV shows on the site and give viewers a chance to search for items similar to those on these shows. In the name of complete disclosure, I am not an impartial observer here – Collectors Quest is one of our clients. I mention this site because of the interesting marketing partnership as well as the attraction of the site itself.

Grasshopper, which offers a virtual phone system that allows entrepreneurs to run their businesses from their cell phones while appearing more established, has a blog with useful information for entrepreneurs. One of the recent blog posts features “8 Infographics to Boost Entrepreneurial Superpowers.”  Some of the most compelling infographics are “Best Infographic to Access the Newest Funding Sources,” “Can Crowdfunding Save the U.S. Economy?” and “Best Infographic to Choose the Right Apps.”

Lucy Siegel

Get Lucy Siegel’s book at Amazon, free download from July 19th-21st!  “Public Relations Around the Globe: A Window on International Business Culture”

Six Reasons Flexibility Helps Start-ups

March 20, 2012

Flexibility

Lord knows, start-ups have plenty of disadvantages (never enough money, limited staff to do all that needs to be done and low visibility compared to established competitors, to name just a few). However, there’s no point in looking at a half-empty cup when there is, after all, still half a cup left. Start-ups have some important advantages over Goliath competitors, many of which involve the ability to be more flexible. Small companies love to talk about flexibility as an asset they have over larger competitors but seldom explain why it’s an asset. Here are some of the advantages of flexibility:

1. It’s easy for start-ups to change direction. Making a big change can be done quickly and far more efficiently than in a large company. Think of turning around a small motor boat compared to an ocean liner.

2. As small businesses, it’s easier for start-ups to respond to employees’ needs by allowing less rigid work rules. If someone wants to work at home one or two days a week or come in a couple of hours early and leave a couple of hours early, there aren’t layers of bureaucracy and paperwork to go through to make this possible.

3. The founder of a start-up doesn’t have to live by anyone else’s rules. Start-ups begins with no rules and no well-established business structure, and can make up their own rules and business structure.

4. Let’s say you have a revolutionary idea, and if your company is successful, you’ll change your industry forever. Chances are that someone in a big company somewhere has had the same idea, but big companies can’t be as flexible about making revolutionary changes. They have a lot more to lose than you do: market share, customer trust, brand recognition, public preconceptions about what they stand for. Meanwhile, you’re starting from scratch and can create something revolutionary without worrying about what you’ll lose in the process.

5. The communications and management infrastructure at start-ups are much more informal and allow more flexibility to individual employees to make themselves heard and have an influence on the overall company. There’s nothing more empowering to employees than the knowledge that what they do really counts, and that their ideas and input will be listened to by senior people (who may be sitting in the same room they are) and can have a big influence the success of the company.

6. The definition of success is up to the entrepreneur. It is not predefined as generating shareholder profit. Founders of start-ups can set their own goals. There is flexibility that comes from not having to worry about short-term shareholder benefits. Some civic-minded start-up founders place heavy emphasis on the goal of helping their communities. Some founders are determined to stay small enough to allow themselves the satisfaction of doing hands-on work with clients.

Lucy Siegel

Being an Entrepreneur: Five Things I Love, Five I Hate

June 27, 2011

Some months back, I wrote a blog post about why I enjoy working with entrepreneurs.  I myself am a serial entrepreneur and I get a real charge about working with others who have the same mind-set. Most of the time I love having my own company. On my best days, I wouldn’t trade anything in the world for owning a small company and being my own boss.  However, there are other days when being an entrepreneur really sucks, and an executive spot in a big company sounds mighty attractive. Here are five things I love about being an entrepreneur, and five that I hate:

  • The obvious number one benefit is freedom to do what I want. If there’s a potential client I really want to work with, even if the fee level is lower than our normal fees, it’s up to me.  No big agency accounting department or CFO can tell me not to do it. By the same token, if a particular client is so difficult to work with that it makes everyone miserable, I can also decide, “Im mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” (a quote from the old movie, Network, that those of you who were alive in the ’70s will remember).  I’ve made both of these decisions at times.
  • Every success is more exciting because our small team knows that WE , and we alone, made it happen.
  • I set the rules and if I want to, I can break them. 
  • I don’t have to waste time or energy on office politics.
  • I’m working for my own benefit, not for the benefit of an amorphous group of shareholders.
  • I’m no longer dealing with the big company bureaucracy that used to try my patience and sanity.

Now for the debit side of the entrepreneurship balance sheet, and some tips on how to overcome them:

  • My income can fluctuate a lot. When business is good, I can pay myself pretty well. But during hard times, cash flow difficulties and client cutbacks have a direct effect on my pocketbook. I come last on the list of payments to be made, below employees, rent, utilities and other necessities. The ways I have been able to deal with this are to plan ahead very carefully on both my own and the company’s expenses, and to be tough about getting paid on time. I also bill before a month of work starts, and not after it’s over.
  • I traded company bureaucracy for government bureaucracy (such as the IRS and the NY State Labor Department). I also have a never-ending line-up of administrative tasks that I have to handle as the owner of the company. I’ve dealt with this by outsourcing as much of it as I can afford to specialists, and asking the staff to help with some tasks.
  • One person who doesn’t contribute appropriately to the team has a huge effect on a small staff. At a larger company, sometimes incompetent people manage to last a lot longer than they should because they can hide behind co-workers. There’s no place to hide on the small staff of an entrepreneurial company. There are two ways to handle this: hire very carefully, check references and give potential employees rigorous tests to determine if they have what it takes. And, when I realize that I made a mistake, I try to correct it as quickly as possible.
  • It’s lonely at the top. This is a cliche, but cliches usually have a basis in fact. The best way I’ve found to overcome this feeling is to be in close touch with other PR industry entrepreneurs. I helped found a network of small public relations companies, PR Boutiques International. If I want advice, I go to the other company heads in the group and ask their opinions. In addition, I belong to Public Relations Society of America’s Counselors Academy, which also helps fill this need.
  • Long work hours are a fact of life for an entrepreneur. What I do to compensate is enjoy my time off and not think about work every waking moment when I’m out of the office. I also prefer to take work home and do it there rather that stay in the office until all hours. At least I can work in my pajamas and slippers.
  • It can take a long time to build credibility. Larger, older companies have spent years and lots of money to do this. For the first few years, an entrepreneurial venture has to prove that it’s just as capable as bigger companies and that it’s not going to disappear.  What got us over the credibility phase was doing lots of PR for the company and  stressing the deep experience and capabilities that most of the staff members offer.  Our message was (and is) that we offer experienced, capable professionals who actually do client work.
    Those of you who are fellow entrepreneurs can certainly add to this list. What do you love, and what do you hate?

Lucy Siegel

Where Does Entrepreneurship Flourish, and Why?

December 21, 2009

Last week an article was published in Crain’s New York Business online about older entrepreneurs in the United States – older than 55 when they started a business. I was 55 when I opened Bridge Global Strategies, and I was interviewed for the article. It made me think about what it takes to be an entrepreneur, why some people are more apt to be entrepreneurial, and why some countries seem to be easier than others for business startups.

I’ve watched many overseas companies start American subsidiaries, usually with only one or two executives assigned from the home country to the U.S.  The ones who are successful have hearts and minds of entrepreneurs. Most of them are not particularly young, either.

It isn’t as easy to be a successful entrepreneur in some other parts of the world as it is in the U.S. Look at the U.S. biotech industry, where companies have been built on the strength of a single good idea, and consider software startups like Google, Facebook and Microsoft. All were started by individuals with little or no capital.  There are a few other countries that produce more than their share of successful entrepreneurs and some places that just don’t seem to be good environments for entrepreneurial ventures. I was curious about what factors cause some countries to be more hospitable than others to entrepreneurship.  Is it a national mindset, business traditions, government regulations, economic development, lack of stable corporate jobs, or what? I poked around a little online to see what others had to say about this, and I found a non-profit organization online, the Global Entrepreneurship Research Consortium (GERC), that publishes an annual Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) which reports the status of entrepreneurship around the world.  I highly recommend reading this very compelling report on what is a complex subject.

According to the report, in the U.S. there is more early-stage entrepreneurialism than in EU countries or Japan. Japan has evidently improved as an environment for entrepreneurs in the last few years.  It used to be very tough there for entrepreneurs but now it is at about the same level as the EU countries, according to the GEM report. The report says that the three EU countries with the lowest level of entrepreneurial activities are Belgium, France and Germany. Why? The GERC people don’t exactly know. Is it because people in those countries are less inclined to take risks? Or is it because there are enough attractive positions available there and economic need isn’t as much an incentive as it is in some other places.   The GEM report discusses the factors that make one country more or less favorable an environment for entrepreneurship: economic freedom global competitiveness and the ease of doing business are very important.

The executives from overseas who are assigned to start a U.S. subsidiary are fortunate that the U.S. market has the factors that make it relatively easy to start up a new company. But they themselves have to think like entrepreneurs.  They are the ones here on the ground in the U.S. and only they can make the best decisions about what needs to be done.  Sometimes they have to fight with headquarters staff to move the subsidiary in the proper direction.  Often those battles can be difficult and political and can be risky to their careers. So the type of individual who succeeds here in starting a subsidiary is someone with a very high desire to succeed, a risk-taker, a decisive person, a strong-willed person.

I believe that those are all qualities of entrepreneurs.

– –  Lucy Siegel


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