Thou Shalt Follow These 10 PR Commandments

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A commandment is defined as a divine rule. If you want to be a devout public relations professional, follow these 10 PR commandments in 2020.

Thou shalt spell check PR materials. Let pitch notes, press releases, client reports, blog stories, speeches, video scripts and so on sit overnight. Proofread it again in the morning or have someone else look at it. Sometimes editors will share an error-filled pitch or press release over social media to showcase poor communication that they have received.

Thou shalt keep thy PR message brief. Pitches more than 250 words might be hard for a top tier writer to comprehend. Some writers receive 400+ email pitches a day. Get to your point concisely.

Thou shalt surprise thy journalist. When you write a press release, ask yourself, did you include something new, interesting or surprising? Did you explain how it would improve someone’s life or improve a business process?

Thou shalt have a PR coverage goal. When you set out to garner attention for a company, concept or product, set a success bar. How much attention is considered successful? For example, your goal could be one feature print story, two TV news spots and five million impressions.  A tool like Meltwater could help.

Thou shalt not annoy an editor with too much follow up. Too many follow up messages might get you blacklisted by a writer. Use logic when following up. Instead of asking, did you receive the pitch note, ask something else like, are you back from holiday? Or, how was the trade show?

Thou shalt not abuse a mobile phone number. When a writer gives you their mobile phone number, don’t call it unless the situation is urgent. Typically people now can receive an email or direct social media message pretty quickly.

Thou shalt read a recent story by the writer before pitching. Read a recent story by the journalist before reaching out. If you don’t see any stories published in the past couple of years, they may not be worth your time. Maybe they took a job in PR, which is common these days. The exception is someone who edits but doesn’t have bylines. But lately it seems that editors publish as well.

Thou shalt not pitch via public Twitter profile. Journalists like scoops. They are not likely to discuss a solid story idea over their Twitter account for the competition to see. Some read direct messages but to send them a message they have to be following you. So it helps to have a quality Twitter profile and messages.

Thou shalt listen to what the writer wants. If a writer wants to only talk to customers and not the CEO, don’t keep offering interviews with the CEO.

Thou shalt say, “no” and add “try this instead.” When the lead marketing executive demands that you issue a press release on a drab, me-too, follow-on product, don’t be a yes man or woman. Offer a better idea like production of a video featuring a happy customer of the first product. Or write a pitch featuring a happy customer and success story: offer the customer as an interview source to a favorite writer. Mention the new product briefly as an aside.

Save the in-depth new product description for direct communications with customers and prospects and/or the right social media channels.

Boy praying photo:  Shutterstock

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Michelle McIntyre, an award-winning IBM vet and blogger is the president of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC, a tech PR consulting firm in the Silicon Valley. McIntyre has served on several  nonprofit boards and was named VLAB Volunteer of the Year in 2017 for her marketing and blogging efforts. @FromMichelle on Twitter

 

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The First 3 Steps in A Startup’s PR Journey

Publicity matters to your company because it affects reputation and influence and this might surprise you: it also boosts *SEO.

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Because of this, quality media exposure needs to be at the top of every startup founder’s priority list.

Let’s face it. It’s hard to hire and acquire customers without it. Before prospective employees decide to apply for a job, they look up a company online and check out what others are saying. If a company has had coverage, they are perceived as more important to the world.

So what’s a startup to do? There are many tactics to try. Here are three to start with.

1) MAKE AT LEAST FOUR MEDIA LISTS

Junior PR people usually get put on media list compilation duty when they serve a new client at PR agency. Long time clients usually have their lists compiled and updated already. When I worked at a PR agency in Palo Alto, California, in the early 90s at first I spent about half my time working with a database of about 5,000 journalists for a whole agency. This helped me learn how to build and maintain a quality list.

Early stage startup CEOs and their marketing VPs just beginning their PR journeys usually start with list making. And one just won’t do.

Here the types lists you might need: journalists and analysts attending your next conference. Top five to 10 industry-specific publications and newsletters. Thirdly, your regional list. Is there a local news journal that covers companies like yours? Like here it’s the Silicon Valley Business Journal. If you are in Dallas, it’s the Dallas Business Journal.

Lastly make your stretch list. Which media outlets are your absolute favorites? What is your dream headline and where do you want to see it? Did you always want to be quoted in Fortune? If you know what you want, you have a better chance of getting it.

2) ISSUE NEWS

Keep in mind your news does not have to be in the form of a press release. Write a 300-500 story and publish it on LinkedIn or Medium. Post it on your website. Write a few paragraphs and email it with tailored cover notes to 10 key journalists. Make sure it’s hard news. That means real news with details.  As an aside there are things called feature releases but you have to be experienced at PR to be successful with one of those.

The biggest journalist complaint is lack of details. If you are announcing a new product, say ship date and cost. If you have vaporware consider not issuing news about it. Try not to go “backwards” on this tactic. Don’t say, “We need to make some news. What can we issue a press release on?” Read what the local business journal people are writing about. It may surprise you. For example, a writer may be interested that you doubled your office space. They may not care that IDG gave you a newbie award.

3) INTRODUCE YOURSELF TO KEY JOURNALISTS

There are many ways to do this. But keep in mind that they are busy. A Venturebeat writer who covers tech news told me on average he files five news stories each day. That’s really busy.

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You can meet writers at a trade show by walking up and saying, “Hello.” You can go on a multi-city press tour: meet two journalists in four cities and tell them about your company.  You can send a personalized note to a handful of key reporters in your industry as well as a couple of regional ones. Ask, would you like to have a cup of coffee over a 10 minute get-to-know conversation? Say you are new to reaching out to the press and wanted to start out on the right foot.

Note that it’s easier to set up a meeting if you have a high title like CEO, are in a super interesting industry or have some hard news to discuss. Do not send a mass email though. That’s tacky and journalists can tell that when it’s happening.

An infographic in a 2019 Wendy Marx @WendyMarx blog post says mass email blasts are the sixth most offensive act a PR person can commit against a journalist. 

That’s about the gist of it. If you are starting out on your publicity journey do three things: make your lists, issue your news and then introduce yourself.

And if you don’t have time, hire a PR consultant or agency to help.

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*SEO is search engine optimization. When people search for what solution you provide you want your company name to come up high in the search. According to a January 24, 2018 blog post by Dorothy Crenshaw @dorocren “7 Reasons Why PR Matters,” “Established publications that link to a brand will boost search listings due to the sheer power of their digital domains.”

This PR tips article was written by Silicon Valley PR Consultant and President of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC Michelle McIntyre. She’s an IBM PR vet and was recognized as #3 top PR pro to follow on Twitter in November of 2018 (Ragan.com). @FromMichelle Business2community syndicates her PR blog.  The two images used for this story were purchased from Shutterstock.

Two PR Trends Percolating Right Now; PR Industry Growth Holds Steady at 5%

In case you missed it The Holmes Report reported in April that public relations industry growth held steady at about 5%. Here’s an excerpt from their story on this followed by two warm PR trends I see driving demand.

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“The research reveals that the Top 250 PR firms reported fee income of around $12.3bn in 2018, compared to $11.7bn for last year’s Top 250 ranking. That growth was underpinned by a rebound from the world’s Top 10 PR firms, which improved their toplines by 4.9% on a constant currency basis, compared to +3.3% in 2017, led by strong performances from BlueFocus (up 10.8% in constant currency terms), Brunswick (+7.7%), Ogilvy (+9.6%), FleishmanHillard (+6%) and Weber Shandwick (+5%).” (The Holmes Report, April 29, 2019)

That’s steady growth. But not remarkable.

Taking the what-is-happening-in-PR conversation further, here are two warm PR developments driving this growth. I’ll explain: either CMOs are hiring agencies and consultants to run campaigns focusing on these things, or the agency folks are recommending them to clients. I say “warm” not “hot” because these trends have been percolating for a while now.

Two warm PR trends right now:

  • THE RISE OF THE MICRO-INFLUENCER: PR professionals and their marketing counterparts are more aware of and paying more quality attention to those social media folks who have tens of thousands of followers. Companies like Tom’s of Maine and Banana Republic have especially been paying attention to this new frontier of marketing according to PR Daily. I like this definition from PR Daily:

Micro-influencers have more followers than most people—typically in the 1,000 to 100,000 range—but fewer than celebrities and established luminaries in fashion, entertainment or sports. They tend to have a very engaged, loyal fanbase in niche B2B or consumer categories, and they are affordable even for small organizations. Superstars might have more reach, but they have less time to engage with fans.  -(PR Daily, The Rise of Micro-Influencer Marketing, 2017)

  • GENDER EQUALITY AS A KEY FOCUS: With the Me Too movement being so prominent in most of our business lives — every day and sometimes hourly it seems — it’s not surprising that communications campaigns focus on treating women with respect. There are many aspects to this: paying them what men make, hiring more women and putting more on an executive board.

Here’s an example: Intel constantly mentions its focus on the importance of hiring more women. I see press articles quoting them saying this, for example, “Intel’s New Diversity Chief On the Secrets to Hiring and Retaining,” (San Jose Mercury News, Nov. 29, 2018) and friends have told me that Intel hiring managers have told them this.

In fact one male friend told me, “I talked to Intel about working there but the hiring guy said, unless you are a female, forget it. You won’t get hired.” Well that’s a little extreme and I’m not sure those were the words verbatim but as a women I’m generally okay with the idea. By the way, my friend got a job with an Intel competitor.

I do hope Intel actually did hire more women. I haven’t looked up their actual progress in that respect. I did read that they made huge progress in gender pay equality.

As an aside and while keeping with the theme of respecting women, oddly the PR industry still has a long way to go in pay equality. A 2016 PRWeek survey says that a male executive makes $125,000 while a female makes $45,000 less at $80,000. To quote Austin Powers, “Crikey!”

Oh and if it’s a PR pro in the Silicon Valley or San Francisco Bay Area, expect all of those numbers to be a lot higher. Everything costs more here and usually people get paid accordingly. To me $80,000 is more of a junior PR person’s salary. Managers and directors in the Bay Area should be paid over $120,000. Nonprofit publicists make a lot less of course; some work pro bono.

There are many other PR industry developments that go along with this steady growth reported by the fine folks at The Holmes Report. I will be writing about those in coming weeks.

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Michelle McIntyre is the president of MMC PR, a 6-year old Silicon Valley PR consulting firm. She’s an IBM vet with more than 10 awards for outstanding PR results, most in B2B tech, and a closetful more for community service. She’s considered a #collaboration and #futureofwork micro-influencer; as part of this she blogs for the Microsoft website from time to time. Follow her at @FromMichelle

The Holmes Report on the growth of the PR industry story, April 2019, is here.

PRWeek 2016 salary survey is here.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

My 7 Absolute Favorite PR Trends for 2019

I zealously perused several impressive 2019 public relations trend articles and tips today. Here are my seven favorite tips. Most of them list who said it and an associated Twitter handle.

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Some of them are evergreen; others are more timely.  Happy reading!

1) Create your own news.

“Creating news that promotes thoughtful discussion of your brand is possible by commenting or riding on the waves of current news.”

Source: Critical Mention Blog

Follow @criticalmention

2) Artificial intelligence will continue to be a theme.

“AI will continue to be a theme in the new year, as we get a clearer idea of the role it will play and how it can help enhance what PR pros do.”

Who said it: Michelle Garrett

Source: Meltwater Blog

Follow @Meltwater and @PRisUS

3) The micro-influencer finally gets some respect in PR.

“I’m thinking that 2019 will be the year that the micro-influencer finally gets some respect in PR, particularly for those who toil in the B2B sphere.”

Who said it: Lou Hoffman, CEO, Hoffman Agency

Source: Meltwater Blog

Follow @LouHoffman

4) The lines between marketing, PR and fake news blur.

“Another big challenge is how to produce effective storytelling as the lines between marketing and PR blur and fake news and fact continue to battle it out.”

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Who said it: Melissa Hoffmann, Editor, PR News

Source: B2B PR Sense blog

Follow @WendyMarx

5) You can’t wield influence with freebies.

“We all know you can’t wield influence with cookies or taco lunches. You’re not buying a journalist’s favor by doing what most business folks do on a daily basis. But don’t shower journalists with freebies. It’s awkward, so it’s best not to place you or your client in that kind of position.”

Who said it: Ms. Kyle Niederpruem

Source: PRSA blog

Follow @PRSA

6) Make Siri and Alexa your friends.

“PR pros must become knowledgeable in how their clients can use AI for online chat and when their clients should not use it. We’ll be relied upon to help guide the flow of the text being used and when the chatbots should pass the conversation over to human employees.”

Who said it: Ebony Grimsley-Vaz of Above Promotions quoted by Michelle Kane

Source: Ragan Communications blog

Follow @RaganComms

7) Content will always be mobile first.

“The average American looks at their smartphone 52 times per day, according to Deloitte research, and more than a third admit to using their smartphones for work purposes ‘very/fairly often’ when they’re not officially ‘on the clock.’ More screen time means more opportunities for you to reach your (audience). But smartphone screens and mobile experiences are vastly different than what buyers get with a desktop or laptop.

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B2B marketers, in turn, are going to be rethinking the way they approach content experience and design.”

Who said it: Alicia Esposito, Content Strategist

Source B2B Marketing Zone

Follow @content4demand

8) Press relations alone won’t cut it in 2019.

Great public relations professionals will need to understand a myriad of modern communications techniques and adapt accordingly in 2019, if they haven’t already. These include blogging, quality social media engagement, thinking about online communications as “mobile first” and a hyper focus on images and videos. Yes, this means that a PR practitioner without a social media profile head shot or a private Twitter account should be sent to marketing jail.

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Who said it: Michelle McIntyre of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC

Source: Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC blog

Follow @FromMichelle

(C’est moi!)

By the way, it is “who said it” and not “whom said it.” The trick for figuring out which word to use is to replace “who” with “she” and “whom” for “her.” Then ask, which one sounds better? Since “she said it” sounds better, I went with “who said it.”

Have a phenomenal 2019.

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Michelle McIntyre, founder of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC, is an IBM PR vet. A 2018 Ragan.com article says she’s one of the Top 50 PR professionals to follow on Twitter. @FromMichelle

Photo credits: The top three representing chatbots, storytelling and mobile images are from Canva and the bottom one is mine.

Are You One of the 52 Million People Who Work At Home? Do It Right With These 3 Tips

work at home lead photo purchased from Canva Aug 14, 2018

According to the State of the American Workplace Report, more than 40% of Americans say they spend at least part of their time working remotely, a 4% increase from 2012 to 2017.  Since a whopping 52 million* people work from home it makes sense to learn how to do it right. This article provides three tips on maximizing your remote work including one that may surprise you.

Why are there so many remote workers? Remote work means more flexibility and happier employees. It also saves time and money in areas like dry cleaning, gasoline, and day care. I know these benefits well: I worked at home for IBM for a decade and for the last five years for my own PR firm.

IBM’s old rule was that you were assigned a traditional office if you could be in it at least three days per week. My managers and closest coworkers were often in Boston and New York so this Californian usually was sent home to get her work done. That was a win-win. It saved Big Blue a lot of office rent money and I scored a bunch of awards for results. All that extra sleep due to not having to drive two hours a day to and from the office paid off in more energy and awards for results.

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Times, however, they are a changin’. Sadly IBM Corporate reversed their position on working at home. Luckily I left the company before this happened. I still “bleed blue” by the way; I don’t regret building my career there.

The good news is that many companies are still encouraging workers to stay at home. Some  established startups I’ve worked with are are mostly home-based. Executives tell me it makes it a lot easier to recruit. Worker retention is probably higher because employees don’t want to leave to change to an in-office role.

Here are three tactics I’ve used to be more productive and happier at my at-home job.

  1. Wake up early and take a shower. Don’t work dirty! You feel peppy and professional when you are dressed and feeling your best even if the only person who will see you that day is the FedEx delivery guy or gal. man showering purchased from Canva
  2. Decorate a teleconference wall. Make sure the wall behind you and above your head has attractive decor and the nice lighting. Test what it looks like before a video call with a client or prospect. One test I like is a laptop selfie. I learned this video conference tip from two under 30 CEOs, one in Austin and another Toronto, who had decorated their in-office walls. I thought, people at home should do that too!Home office bedroom wall decor photo purchased from Canva
  3. Get outside every day. Take a walk, run, swim or hike mid-day. Exercise during the work day even if it’s packed with urgent tasks. Remote workers who take on a lot of desk work have the challenge of getting a little lonely. Get outside for a shot of Vitamin D and energy and mood-boosting exercise. Additionally, attend networking groups a minimum of two times a month and invite your favorite client to coffee. When you have a lot of work and you aren’t pitching you clients this tends to happen. When you are wooing new clients it usually doesn’t happen. walk during a work break purchased from canva

In summary, if you are starting a company, don’t be afraid to encourage your workers to stay at home more. They’ll be happier. If you want the benefits of working at home like not having to sit in hellish traffic every day, consider moving to a stay-at-home job.

*How did I get this number? An August 2018 Statistica report said there were 130.64 full time U.S. workers in July. Forty percent of this is 52 million. Therefore around 52 million of us in the U.S. work at home either all or part of the time.

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Michelle McIntyre, an award winning Silicon Valley publicist runs Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC. She blogs for VLAB which brings together startups, established companies, VCs and members of academia to promote emerging tech like artificial intelligence. Follow her on Twitter @FromMichelle. Image credit: All are from Canva.

 

Serial Entrepreneur Advises Scrappy Startup Founders to Be in Constant Listening Mode

by Michelle McIntyre

free man on ledge photo from Canva

“Entrepreneurs are cool. I frickin’ love working with them,” said David Saxby, a Los Gatos, Calif., serial entrepreneur who advises startups in the internet of things (IoT) space. He has dabbled in investing and has started seven-plus tech companies himself, most winners, others not so much. He is also an IBM vet, like me.

He was today’s speaker at the Bootstrappers Breakfast Meetup today at a coffee shop in Sunnyvale, CA.

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Even though my startup consulting firm is three years old, the key takeaway to me was listen closely at the beginning. Listen to what the market needs are. This will help you get customers.

(He’s right. Let’s face it. Customers are God.)

Here are his eight questions.

1) Is the timing right? Is there a need now for your offering? Timing is everything. He added that when he started a voice recognition company in 1982, the timing was definitely off.

2) You need to have something special. What is it? Knowledge, expertise or both?

3) Who are your customers? This is where things get real. Talk to as many people as you can. Be in constant listening mode.

4) Why did you start a company? What drove you? One attendee said maybe the best motivation is not hating your boss. That comment resulted in a few chuckles from the founders there.

5) How will you let your customers know who you are and what you do? This especially applies to technical founders. Then, when there is interest, what do I do with it?

The group’s organizer SKMurphy Founder Sean Murphy added some gentle sarcasm when he said, the real problem is, how do you handle the huge influx of customers after your product launch? He added the disclaimer that actually most launches meet dead silence.

6) How big and profitable will this company become? Have some objectives and attach them to your “to do’s.” Think about the market size. What are the characteristics of the businesses financials?

7) What other talent do you need to make things happen? The big problem in the Silicon Valley is attracting software people.

8) Think about money. How will you fund your new business? For example, why bootstrap over other choices? Have you been saving up for 20 years?

For more information about Bootstrappers Breakfast visit Meetup.com.

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Michelle McIntyre is an award winning Silicon Valley PR consultant and blogger. @FromMichelle

Two Surprising Facts to Boost Your Media Coverage by Michelle McIntyre

Here are two facts about journalists and public relations (PR) that might surprise you.

Press InterviewThe first might make some experienced PR folks angry.

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.]
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Michelle McIntyre is the president of MMC PR, an IBM vet, and on the executive team of TEDxSanJoseCa. @FromMichelle on Twitter

Premium Business Advice from the Founder of Buzzfeed

By Michelle McIntyre

Earlier this week I heard a talk by Jonah Peretti, CEO and founder of entertainment and news website Buzzfeed, which has 200 million unique visitors monthly.

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To put this in perspective, Business Insider, which is no slouch, has 15.9 million and Time.com has 8.9 million.

A graduate of MIT Media Lab, Peretti lives in Brooklyn, NY, and was interviewed on stage by investor Chris Dixon at a Commonwealth Club INFORUM meeting in San Francisco, Calif.

As if he didn’t already have enough cool things to put on his LinkedIn profile, Peretti also co-founded Huffington Post.

Buzzfeed is known for its list format stories like The 40 Greatest Dog GIFs of All Time and quizzes like “Which 90s Toy Are You?” Its staff of 800 includes serious journalists who cover a variety of news from global terrorist threats to politics.

Because its stories are regularly shared millions of times, founder Jonah Peretti is fast becoming known as the master of virality.

Although Buzzfeed is sometimes criticized by more traditional people for its “fluffy” journalism (no pun intended), the business model works.

Here are some of Jonah Peretti’s more interesting comments and pieces of advice from the event in the areas of content marketing and entrepreneurship.

1. We optimize for content shares at Buzzfeed. You won’t click on a story to find out it is a trick. Another site might imply in the headline that two celebrities are dating, but when you click through to the story, you find out it’s not true.

2. We don’t look down on the business and advertising side of things. While the groups here are independent, they also respect one another.

3. When it comes to creating ads, we embrace innovation.

4. Regarding the popularity of video, he joked, “We are headed back to a preliterate society where soon no one will use words.”

5. Sometimes you have to be indifferent to business to serve the consumer.

6. When determining what content to run, we ask, will it change lives? Will it change laws? On a human level, we ask, does this have meaning?

7. One of the hardest and most important things is to build a great team. Startups need people with shared values and who also want to go after something big.

8. How do I attract talent? I let people do their best work and be more productive than they would be somewhere else.

9. Set up small groups of people each with a lot of autonomy. Let them build things inside of a company.

Jonah Peretti was asked what he thought of the Buzzfeed parodies, for example on Click-hole. “If it’s a parody and funny, I love it. At Buzzfeed we don’t take ourselves too seriously.”

[The photo of Jonah Peretti on stage in San Francisco, Calif., was taken by Michelle McIntyre.]

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10 Premium Tips to Kick-start Your New Business

By Michelle McIntyre

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October marks the two year anniversary of my public relations consulting business. Since I left my corporate job and started working for myself, I have produced results for 10 clients. They have included consumer and B2B software app start-ups, engineering services and clean tech firms and the third largest technology company in the world.

If you are thinking of starting your own consulting business, here are tips. These are things I’ve learned along the way.

1. Set a goal and make it realistic! You’ll need a few months to set up a website, figure out your finances, and develop your brand. Don’t plan on getting a customer during that time. I achieved my goal of acquiring my first customer less than a month after I launched my website. In fact I got two customers during that time.

2. Legally define it early. For example, is it going to be an LLC, single member LLC, or S-Corp? An LLC allows you to own your company name and generally protects your private property from being taken should someone sue your business and you lose. Read up on the definitions and consult a lawyer before finalizing the plan.
Be aware that in California, LLC’s have an annual $800 fee-tax on top of regular taxes.

3. Figure out your formal business name. If it’s an LLC, you can choose to add “,LLC” or just “LLC.” If you choose to freelance consult without forming an LLC or S-Corp, etc., be ready to put your social security number on W-9s that you need to fill out for some clients. I have an LLC and just put my EIN number on forms, instead of my social security number.

Unfortunately different lawyers and tax experts may give you conflicting advice on this topic.

The best thing to do is call the IRS or your state tax board directly for information.

4. Order business cards and have a nice head shot taken early on. People ask for cards as soon as you tell them you’re starting a business. Your professional head shot is for social media sites like LinkedIn. You must be on LinkedIn. Wear business attire in the picture or people may not take you seriously. Make sure the same professional photo is used across all social networks for consistency.

5. Set up a website and get social! People will not take you seriously without a website and social media presence. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Google+ are all the main places to be. Pinterest and Instagram are important in some markets, for example, if you are selling clothes, Pinterest is important.

Pick a couple of social networks to focus on at first but put a profile on all of them.

6. Network a lot. Meet-ups work well and are usually cost-effective. Join for free through Meetup.com. When you are not helping clients, you are networking. Meeting new people face to face to get business works! A popular one is Idea-to-IPO in the Silicon Valley.

7. Have a positive attitude always. Meet regularly with people who support what you are doing. Note some people may never support your plans. That’s okay.

8. Define exactly what you will do in your business and stick to it. If you keep adding services or changing the definition of your value-add, you may confuse prospective clients. When they are confused, they will not hire you.

9. Be a LinkedIn stud. Speak at an event and list it on your profile. Get several quality references and make sure they are on your profile. You are not on LinkedIn? You better get on it today then. Everyone in business is on that social network. Also make sure you have references in your line of business.

People will research you online before hiring you for a service so strategic references are gold.

10. Consult with mentors as much as possible. In addition to pointing out mistakes and boosting your morale, mentors can bring new business by referring you to others.

Good luck!
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Michelle McIntyre is the president of MMC PR, director of marketing communications for SV-IABC, and on the executive team for TEDxSanJoseCA. Follow her on Twitter at @FromMichelle. [Photo credit: iStockphoto.com]

8 Notorious Mistakes Made in Naming Start-ups

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.

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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.