Posts Tagged ‘start-ups’

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

Calling All Baby Boomers: It’s Time to Embrace Inbound Marketing

March 5, 2013

Despite our cultural obsession with baby geniuses—college students who launch tech companies right out of their dormitories—the fact is that baby boomers are now behind a large proportion of startups, and are becoming more entrepreneurial than ever before.Baby Boomer Marketing

According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, the self-employment rate for adults over 54 is 16.4 percent, and research by the Kauffman Foundation suggests that entrepreneurship among this group will continue to surge. Some boomers are launching startups to bolster their retirement nest eggs. Others simply don’t want to retire yet—they are passionate about what they do and want to leverage their years of experience to grow their own enterprises.

To successfully market their ideas, baby boomer entrepreneurs will need to look beyond the traditional marketing strategies they grew up with, such as print and broadcast advertising, direct mail and telemarketing. These methods can still work to generate business, but from a consumer’s perspective, they represent unwanted interruptions, and often are not tailored to the individual’s unique needs. And from a business perspective, these strategies usually require a significant investment.

In recent years, the Internet has enabled an alternative approach, in which a business creates content to attract visitors to its website and collect information from the visitors that will allow the company to tailor its marketing to various types of people to convert visitors into customers. This approach is referred to as inbound marketing. If you’re not a marketing guru, this may be a new concept, but don’t let the jargon scare you. Inbound marketing isn’t complicated: if you have a website, then you’ve already started the journey. Here are the 3 stages of inbound marketing.

1.      Get Found

The first step of inbound marketing is attracting visitors to your site. Here are some proven ways to do it:

Search Engine Optimization SEO:   Many customers start the buying process at a search engine, so your site should be listed as prominently as possible. At a minimum, you should regularly analyze and edit your content to make sure you’re using appropriate keywords.

Blogging:  The best way to attract new visitors to your site is by publishing a blog that provides relevant and credible information. Companies that blog get 55% more leads than those that don’t.

Social Media:  When people go online, they’re interacting with friends and sharing content on social media. These sites provide a great opportunity to expand visibility of your company and drive more visitors to your site.

Content Marketing: In addition to publishing a blog, think about creating other content, such as white papers, webinars and videos that provide valuable information to attract visitors.

2.      Convert Your Visitors

As you start attracting visitors to your website, your goal obviously will be to convert them into paying customers. Here are a few ideas:

Calls to Action: When you develop new content for your site, you’ll need to create a call to action that encourages the visitors to act (e.g. “Download the Whitepaper”). Other possible calls to action could be “Request a Consultation” or “Get Product Sample.” The offer you’re making must fulfill the needs of your visitors for the call to action to work.

Landing Pages:  When website visitors click on a call to action, they should be sent to a landing page. This is where prospects submit information about themselves, which will help you determine whether they are a good sales lead or not..

Email Marketing: You will get many leads that aren’t immediately converted into customers. One effective way to nurture a longer-term relationship with these people  is through a series of emails providing content targeted to their interests.

3.      Analyze

You should measure outcomes at every stage of your marketing strategy to figure out ways to make it more efficient and determine the return on your time and investment In addition to looking at common metrics, such as number of unique visitors, page visits and click-through, you should also monitor:

Conversion Rates: The percentage of people who convert from visitors to leads or from leads to customers.

Benchmarks: Benchmarks are data used to measure your marketing performance against peers. For example, conversion rate benchmarks allow you to see how your own conversion rates compare to those of similar companies.

Content Performance: You want to see how well each type of content you produce is attracting people to your website so you can get better and better at providing content that works for you.

Jacob Seal

Learn more about inbound marketing – download our free e-book:
     

Ask Not What the Media Can Do for You, Ask What You Can Do for the Media

February 13, 2013

Unfortunately, most emerging companies have approached public relations as little more than an extension of their sales promotion efforts, narrowly focusing their messaging on attributes of their products or services with the expectation that reporters will spread the word to the masses. At best, this approach usually yields a limited number of media placements originating around a product launch. At worst, reporters will view the announcements as editorialized sales pitches and discard them. Then comes the inevitable question from the corporate brass: “What value are we getting from that PR budget?”

kennedy

This scenario often could be averted if the question were turned around: “What value can the media get from our company?” Marketing professionals should appreciate this question—they are accustomed to defining value for potential customers, but reporters are not potential customers. Their needs are completely different.

To effectively engage reporters, it is important to understand how they evaluate information. Their raison d’être is to uncover what’s “newsworthy” to their specific audiences and to report this information in an easy-to-understand format. Thus, for a company’s message to resonate with a reporter it must be perceived to have a certain quality of newsworthiness.

Newsworthiness is a very abstract concept. It differs from company to company. A management change at a large conglomerate, for example, would be considered more newsworthy than a similar change at a startup. It also differs from reporter to reporter. Trade reporters, for instance, view newsworthiness through a narrow lens focused on a specific industry, while reporters with general business and consumer media often (not always) view newsworthiness through a broader lens focused on major social, economic or technological trends.

We’re at a time when major brands seem to wield more and more media influence, and reporters are becoming more and more immune to unsolicited story pitches. So how can a startup company demonstrate newsworthiness in such a tough climate?

The key is to start developing a PR plan early. It’s not uncommon for startups to focus their early-stage efforts on building out core business functions, such as sales channels, product development, logistics and other back office functions, putting off PR until the product launch approaches. This is understandable—resources are always an issue, and expenditures and staff time have to be prioritized. We also understand the competitive reasons for some companies to operate in “stealth mode” until they’re ready to launch sales. However, postponing PR planning until a month or two before going to market can seriously limit the company’s opportunities to drive greater visibility and lead to pitfalls that could have been avoided with proper planning.

As you begin crafting your PR plan, a key component is to identify story angles that will interest the media. This involves brainstorming with your management team and PR advisors to collect pertinent information about your company and its founders that is often scattered across many minds, and identifying the facets that could be used to create compelling story angles. Significant product news creates potential angles, as well as any anticipated milestones (e.g., acquisition of new management, new external partnerships, new funding, etc.). These events may offer good opportunities for exposure in some media outlets, with the highest potential usually being in trade and business media.

But there is no reason to limit the company’s story angles to these business events. PR planning is a creative process that requires you and your PR advisors to look beyond the obvious characteristics of your business to discover other aspects that could distinguish you from the flock. A great example of a company that has succeeded at this is Ben & Jerry’s. The company has been able to command media interest at will. Its products, however, are rarely what grab the headlines. Rather, much of the media coverage has focused on the company’s eccentricities: its unconventional founding (it was originally conceived as a bagel shop), its offbeat management practices (e.g. its erstwhile salary ratio policy) and its reputation as a champion of social issues.

Admittedly, the comparison between the media strategy of an emerging IT or biotech company with that of Ben & Jerry’s is tenuous, but there are opportunities for most companies to seize the limelight in unconventional ways if they try. Before they became iconic brands, companies like Microsoft, Facebook, Groupon and Flickr were successful at this, getting attention for quirks in their corporate cultures,  business models, operational development or founders’ stories.

The bottom line is, in order for your company to derive value from its media strategy, it has to first prove its value (i.e. newsworthiness) to the media. The art of PR is storytelling: mining the various facets of your business to uncover what sets it apart—its newsworthiness—and packaging that information into compelling story angles to engage the media.

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

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

Podcast: PR & Marketing for Start-ups & U.S.-based Foreign Companies

November 4, 2011

I was interviewed yesterday by Bruce Hurwitz  for his Blog-Talk Radio show, “Bruce Hurwitz Presents,”  as part of a series of interviews with women entrepreneurs. The show is available on-demand as a podcast and the topic is “PR & Marketing for Start-ups & U.S.- Based Foreign Companies.”

Have a listen! Click “play’ below, and then click the arrow on the radio dashboard that appears.  (There is a 10-second delay after clicking the arrow on the radio dashboard.)

Lucy Siegel

PLAY


PR Can’t Create Thought Leadership

October 27, 2011

…But It Does Help Magnify It!

There are trends and buzzwords in every industry, and “thought leadership” is currently on everyone’s lips in the world of public relations.  Actually, this has spread way beyond the PR industry and is often heard now in the business world as a whole.

According to Wikipedia, a thought leader is “business jargon for an entity that is recognized for having innovative ideas.”  The business media have featured articles ranging from how to “engage” [another buzzword] thought leaders, to how thought leaders can engage employees.  Among many articles on thought leadership, the Harvard Business Review (HBR) weighed in with “How to Become a Thought Leader in Six Easy Steps.”

Thought leaders stand out.

If you read between the lines in the HBR article, you see that the headline is a little misleading. The article really tells you how to leverage the thought leadership you already have, rather than giving lessons on becoming a thought leader. The truth is, the  best PR in the world can’t turn a follower into a leader. PR can, however, help people who actually are thought leaders to be spokespersons for their organizations, to draw attention to and build credibility for their companies.

Thought leadership doesn’t have to come from big company executives. Entrepreneurs in start-ups can leverage  it to build their companies into “challenger brands” (companies that give brand leaders a run for their money).   Steve Jobs was one of the most famous thought leader entrepreneurs. Although he ended up CEO of one of the biggest technology companies in the world, he started as an entrepreneur working in a garage.

Bridge Global Strategies has had the pleasure of helping entrepreneurs in a variety of industries to make waves by communicating their innovative ideas.  Public relations can really make a small company soar when there’s a truly innovative thinker at the helm who has a good product or service to offer. With a good PR program,  start-up companies can change their industries.

Lucy Siegel


%d bloggers like this: