Here are two facts about journalists and public relations (PR) that might surprise you.
These facts come from a quarter of a century of media relations experience that included a decade stint at a $100 billion corporation, working with 13 start-ups and 10 awards.
#1 Journalists don’t owe you anything.
The first surprising fact is that reporters don’t owe you anything. Did you set up a one hour interview with your startup’s CEO? Did she rearrange her schedule to be there? Did you buy them a $300 dinner with the best wine at the hottest restaurant in New York? It doesn’t mean a thing. What matters is that the founder actually says something that can be quoted or made into an angle. If your company is hot right now, the reporter may have come armed with an angle already though. It is rare that you would be working for a “hot” company though. Most start-ups are unknowns.
#2 The boss doesn’t always know what a great press release looks like.
Great PR pros are not “yes” men and women. Are you a PR manager supervised by the vice president of marketing or founder of a start-up? Have you ever heard, “We need a press release on software upgrade x” or ,“We need a press conference on new product y.” Have you ever just written the press release because the boss demanded it? And what happened when the journalists ignored it, or did an interview to be nice. . . but didn’t write? There was no coverage and you wished you would have strategically said, “No.”
The key to great PR is to work hard to figure out what is interesting about your company, founder or solution. Then say the right thing at the right time to right reporter.
Doing the first thing the boss requests may not be the best route to PR career success.
And don’t believe that any reporter owes you anything. They don’t.
[The photograph above was purchased from Canva.]
Michelle McIntyre is the president of MMC PR, an IBM vet, and on the executive team of TEDxSanJoseCa. @FromMichelle on Twitter
By Michelle McIntyre
The reason it’s hard for your start-up to get media coverage is because of noise.
Take the app market. As of June 2014, there were 1.2 million apps in iTunes.
Imagine if just a quarter of them contacted a reporter on the same day as you. That’s several hundred thousand companies!
In fact, your email to Alyson Shontell of Business Insider about your new app feature is probably sitting unopened next to 299 others just like it in her inbox that she received that day.
So in order to get some attention, you need to intelligently contact the media.
Here are 15 timely tips to help your start-up get journalists’ attention in 2015. They come from my experiences with Bloomberg, Business Insider, Buzzfeed, KQED, Mashable, TechCrunch, San Francisco Chronicle, Thomson-Reuters, Wired, Wall Street Journal and others.
1. MAKE YOUR KEY POINT FIRST.
In a note to a reporter, don’t bury the lead. When you land a media interview, say your main point first. Don’t plan to show a 45-page presentation.
2. KEEP IT SHORT.
A reporter receives 100 to 300 e-mailed pitches a day. Their voice mail boxes fill up fast. A short email might get read fully. To add detail, include a link. My Stanford media relations instructor and former San Francisco Chronicle Writer Marshall Wilson said a sentence should be no longer than 27 words. Key messages should take no longer than nine seconds to say.
3. READ THEIR STORIES FIRST.
Before Pam Edstrom attended her first media event with Bill Gates back when both their companies were just getting started, she read all of the industry magazines first. She then had intelligent talks with the journalists there. She is co-founder of public relations firm Waggener Edstrom.
4. PITCH THE COMPETITION.
KQED’s Peter Jon Shuler spoke in my Stanford post-graduate media relations class. He said he’s not likely to cover a story twice. Don’t call him and say, “I see you covered topic x. My company is a fit for that.” Instead pitch someone who hasn’t done the story yet, like a reporter at a competitive outlet.
5. OFFER SOMETHING SPECIAL BUT NOT TO EVERYONE.
TechCrunch takes contributed stories but they won’t run something unless it offers a unique viewpoint.
6. BOUNCE BACK AFTER FAILURE.
Great media relations folks don’t let rejection get them down. The timing could be off. It might take a year of relationship-building to land a shopping app in Good Housekeeping, for example, as was the case with one of my clients.
7. CONTACT THE RIGHT REPORTER.
If your story relates to new B2B social marketing software, contact the Huffington Post social business writer not the Elite Daily political blogger. Check Twitter profiles for updated job details. Some change jobs a lot.
8. PRETEND YOU’RE TALKING TO YOUR GRANDMA.
Skip the jargon like “mission critical” and just say what it is or does. If it’s a storage device that stores 500 movies just say that. Pretend you’re talking to your grandmother.
9. GO PLACES.
To increase your chances of meeting journalists, go out and get noticed. Give a talk at an industry conference or at a Meetup. Travel to a city where reporters are based. I set up a meeting with Issie Lapowsky of Wired and a Silicon-Valley based client recently and a cool story resulted.
10. TELL A COMPLETE STORY.
Compelling stories have a beginning, middle, end and hero. Include one when you are talking to a reporter. Overcome the fact that company founders do not like to highlight client problems. The story surrounding Sony’s movie “The Interview” features a big problem.
11. TELL A STORY THAT TUGS AT THE HEART STRINGS.
An app client tested a new nearby deals app feature before issuing an announcement. The story highlighted in communications was about a mom struggling to makes ends meet who was able to afford Christmas presents for her kids. It got attention. Another client’s story was about how he had three open heart surgeries by age 19. Staying healthy was the inspiration for co-founding his fitness app company while still in school.
12. ANNOUNCE NEWS BUT MAKE IT TIMELY.
Your campaign needs to fit in with what’s happening in the world. Right now it seems to be Sony movie “The Interview,” holiday shopping or New Year’s resolutions. A week ago it was Bill Cosby. Soon it will be losing weight, fitness, Super Bowl 2015 and Valentine’s Day. In August it will be back to school.
13. USE THE ELEMENT OF SURPRISE.
Snapchat, the “disappearing message” app got a life time worth of publicity by rejecting Facebook’s acquisition offer of $3 billion+. This was a surprise just due to the sheer amount. After that, everyone knew who they were. Reporters love to be surprised.
14. MAKE IT VISUAL.
Always have a photo of the founder, app screen shots and other graphics handy. Infographics and videos are popular. For social media posts, use a free graphics tool like Canva. Hire a news-smart photographer like Silicon Valley’s Mark Hundley or Paul Sakuma for your PR photography.
15. WRITE IT YOURSELF.
Some outlets like Buzzfeed, TechCrunch, and Wired accept contributed material. My blog is syndicated on a popular website. If your article is good, it will be promoted to home page. Venture Capital Firm General Catalyst Partners is known to be awesome at getting its own material published. It’s because the vice president of marketing communicates like a journalist.
In any case, if you try these tips and are still having a hard time, hire someone with media experience to help. [Photo credit: Newspapers and glasses photo was purchased through Canva.]
By Michelle McIntyre
Naming start-ups can be fun. When I advise clients on name ideas, I just let them know what sounds good and what makes sense based on their target market and growth plans.
However, the biggest mistake they make is naming for the present and not for their business climate many years down the line.
Here’s an example. International Business Machines (also known as IBM) has a name that lends itself to global expansion. It’s more than 100 years old and top investors like Warren Buffet like it. (It’s public knowledge that he owns a lot of stock.)
The name isn’t as exciting as Uber but it makes sense and the acronym is nice.
I love the name Uber. It’s short, cool, easy to say and easy to spell.
After using it recently I’m a huge fan of the private room-or-house-for-rent service Airbnb. But when I tell people to download the Airbnb app to look for their own dream getaway cabin or bargain business trip room, I have to explain how to spell it five or six times before they get it. By the way, you can also rent a houseboat, yurt, hammock or tree house through the service.
Naming a company after its headquarters city may not sound great when it expands globally, especially if that name is hard for someone elsewhere to spell or say.
Or what if the city has a negative connotation somewhere? Suppose I named a store Moscow Chocolates but I wanted to sell them online to the U.S. President? That may not work at this moment.
In any case, whether you are planning to sell software apps or chocolate bars, it’s good to put some careful thought into your new company’s name.
Here are eight of the biggest mistakes start-ups make when choosing a name.
1. NOT SECURING OWNERSHIP. It costs both time and money to take ownership of the new name. Make sure you take care of this early on or you might be sorry later. That doesn’t mean you have to shell out $80,000 to a naming firm although some of them do a great job. A 2013 Mashable article recommends checking your company name here first: http://namechk.com/
2. STEALING SOMEONE ELSE’S. This mostly applies to companies in the same market. If two companies have similar names but sell completely different things, it typically is not a problem. Did you know the game Angry Birds is being sued because there allegedly was already a stuffed animal company named “Angry Birds” in Europe formed years before the popular app came out? Granted the video game came before the “new” Angry Birds stuffed animals came out but if they are both plush toys, it’s definitely a conflict.
3. MAKING IT HARD TO SAY. Do you want people to muck it up when they introduce the speaker from your company at an awards ceremony? Of course not!
4. MAKING IT HARD TO SPELL. This is especially true in the age of social networking when everyone posts news stories and tidbits so quickly. If you are start-up CEO speaking at a trade show and you want people to tweet your awesome quotes and attribute them to you and your company, then make its name clear and easy to spell. When I’m live tweeting at a SVForum event, I get frustrated when I have to leave out a speaker’s company name because it takes too long to look it up.
5. THERE’S CONFUSION BETWEEN THE COMPANY NAME AND THE PRODUCT. The company Facebook is called Facebook but then the company has an app called Facebook and another one called Instagram. Thinking back, maybe Mark Zuckerberg should have made the company name different than the app to avoid confusion. As widely popular as Facebook and Instagram are, “Facebook’s Instagram” still doesn’t roll off the tongue. Same goes for Google’s YouTube. When I think of Google, I think of Google search. Google’s YouTube sounds awkward to me still.
6. IT MEANS SOMETHING AWFUL TO ANOTHER CULTURE. Again, plan for global growth! Most experienced business people know the number or word four is unlucky in several Asian countries. It’s because it sounds like the word death in some East Asian languages. There are a few of these zingers out there. Here’s a great Mental Floss article about this topic: http://mentalfloss.com/article/31168/11-product-names-mean-unfortunate-things-other-languages
7. NOT THINKING ABOUT INTERNET SEARCH ENGINES. Make your company name easy to find when people are searching for that topic. “Quality Dog and Cat Grooming” will likely come up first when people search for that service.
8. MAKING IT EASY TO LOOK SILLY. This story “50 of the Worst Business Names” at http://bestonlinemba.net/50-of-the-worst-business-names has some hilarious but sad examples of naming gone wrong. No offense to the person who owns Hooker’s Funeral Home but don’t they know what the word means? Is this a place for ladies and gents of the evening to be put to rest? Or is Hooker a highly respected family name? Probably the latter.
In any case, tell your name to a few different people before solidifying it. If at least three of them tell you it’s awful, believe them.
Michelle McIntyre is the president of MMC PR, on the executive team of TEDxSanJoseCA and director of marketing communications of the Silicon Valley International Association of Business Communicators. Follow her on Twitter at @FromMichelle.
By Michelle McIntyre
Oakland-based business coach for midlife entrepreneurs, Dina Eisenberg recently spoke to my Women in Consulting (WIC) group in Los Gatos last week about how to kick start an information product or “infoproduct” business.
An information product is any product or service that you can sell to people to provide them with information. It includes e-books, books, audios, CDs, DVDs, seminars, videos, tele-seminars and more.
Because the event description mentioned her law degree and creating a “passive income,” I was expecting tips on self-employed (S.E.) IRAs and 401Ks. I had just set up a S.E. 401K so I figured it will probably be redundant to what I already just learned after spending hours with a Fidelity representative to set up my own plan. I went to the meeting anyway for the networking.
I was pleasantly surprised when Eisenberg started talking though.
What it was really about was creating sustainable income to make, what Eisenberg calls “a cushion for life’s bumps.” Consultants and entrepreneurs who are typically actively involved in delivering their service benefit from creating passive income streams that work, even when they cannot.
A self-proclaimed “information product junkie,” Eisenberg has also produced a range of products from online courses to retreats and subscription programs.
She said she it all started when her husband, whom she considers a successful entrepreneur just like herself, went on disability for two years due to a medical issue that has since mostly gone away. He was her fiancé at the time.
She shared her tactics with the consultants, many of whom had created their own infoproducts. Several consultants had their products on hand and the talk turned into a brainstorm and information share of sorts instead of just a presentation.
Two of her messages stuck in my mind.
First, start charging! Yes, the internet is awash in free material however, people will pay for the exact right product that solves their specific problem at that time. Don’t assume you have to start with free.
Second, ask first. The difference between a profitable infoproduct and one that flops is research. Search Linkedin threads and comments for a wealth of topic ideas for your information product.
To learn more about Dina Eisenberg, visit her website at http://infoproductdoctor.com/.
Here are related Twitter handles.
Dina Eisenberg: @DinaEisenberg
The author of this post: @FromMichelle
Michelle McIntyre is a blogger and high tech PR consultant based in Saratoga, Calif. She’s also the director of marketing communications for the Silicon Valley International Association of Business Communicators and on the executive team for TEDxSanJoseCA.
According to the State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, the number of businesses owned by women in the United States has gone up 59 percent since 1997. These companies generate $1.3 trillion in revenue and employ eight million people.
I looked up this statistic after noticing that a large number of women, particularly those with children, in my Silicon Valley neighborhood founded their own companies.
Parents Maitjian and husband Todd Welke started their IT services business CMIT Solutions of Southwest Silicon Valley three years ago. Mom Nikki Brown has been a self-employed graphic designer and personal trainer for years. I have a son and started my high tech public relations consulting firm in January.
My next door neighbor Lisa Guyman has just jumped on the lady CEO bandwagon with her new company DrinkDrop (www.drink-drop.com) and she says the experience has been a good one.
“It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve had a lot of very positive feedback about our products, and I’ve been blown away with how supportive other moms have been. I think that’s the coolest part about being a female founder–the understanding from other women about the balance it takes to have a business and be a mom,” says Guyman.
A DrinkDrop is a frozen, two ounce individual size drink mix that contains whole fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Saratogans can purchase them at Gene’s Fine Foods.
Guyman says that all DrinkDrop mixes are designed to be combined with a particular liquor and club soda. A DrinkDrop cup is provided to measure the rest. The all natural drink concoctions are also good without alcohol, Guyman says.
Guyman says you can keep DrinkDrop mixes in your freezer, and when you feel like a drink, just drop one in your glass. In seconds, you’ll have an attractive and tasty specialty drink.
Her husband Jeff Guyman came up with the idea after the couple held a wedding reception in their Saratoga backyard for her brother and sister-in-law. They needed a way to serve special drinks to a large number of guests.
Lisa is keeping busy promoting her company. She recently hosted a tasting table at Gene’s Fine Foods. Distillery 209 of Pier 50 in San Francisco is sponsoring the next DrinkDrop tasting event at the San Francisco Ritz Carlton on Sunday, August 25. The details are on the DrinkDrop website.
Like other female CEOs, Lisa Guyman is master priority juggler. She and Jeff have a one year old son, three year old daughter, and two rambunctious and just as adorable chocolate Labrador Retrievers. She holds an undergraduate degree from University of California Berkeley and a doctorate in physical therapy from University California San Francisco. She also ran Cal Bear track.
Guyman says, “Raising kids is the hardest and best thing I’ve ever done, but I’ve always needed that something else. I’ve worked as a physical therapist for years, and I actually love being a physical therapist, but I’ve always wanted something that’s my own creation.”
Husband Jeff Guyman also has an impressive resume. He is a sales executive for a local power supply company and a Stanford University graduate who used to both swim and play water polo there. At one point he was ranked the number one water polo player in Washington State.
However, Lisa tells me that Jeff is totally focused on his 9 to 5 sales job so she started the company and handles the details herself. Due to the uniqueness and quality of her product, she is realizing that there is a lot to do to fill demand.
She elaborates on this point by saying, “These days, there is a big trend toward fresh herbal cocktails and mixology, or drinking your garden. We take all the work out of it and just say here, have a great cocktail and feel good about what you’re drinking.”
For additional information about trends in female leadership, read my review of the book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead here.
Note: This story was originally published in the Saratoga Patch community newspaper in August and as of today, it has received 146 likes on Facebook.