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.

 

10 Timely PR Tips To Not Ignore Right Now

[This story by Michelle McIntyre originated in the Huffington Post.]

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Wow, it is hard to get press coverage these days. However, the results I’ve secured for my tech clients have been decent. How did I do it? I’ve had to constantly think hard, be creative and stay on top of things minute by minute to make stories happen.

Strategic outreach resulted in fairly recent stories in Business Insider, Bloomberg, FITNESS, Teen Vogue, TIME, Wired, Network World, Baseline Magazine and a few deep industry outlets like EBNOnline, EdTechDigest and Manufacturing Business Technology.

Here are 10 tips to keep in mind when doing press outreach in the second half of 2017. These guidelines help me daily.

 

1. Know when the journalist’s big conference or vacation is happening. Are they mostly looking for stories related to a conference they are attending? Conference-related news will be more likely get noticed at that time. I usually see vacation plans on Instagram and trade show comments on Twitter. An interview during your CEO’s West Coast press tour won’t likely be set up during a journalist’s honeymoon in Greece.

 

2. Don’t try to target too many media outlets at once. The best pitch is written for one reporter. Keep in mind that journalists like scoops. Some news campaigns will involve outreach to more people but if it’s not major news, be careful. Tom Foremski of ZDNet and Silicon Valley Watcher infamously says he doesn’t like press releases because they are “anti-scoop.”

 

3. Check the most recent contributed article guidelines before submitting an article. For example, TechCrunch published a story in early 2017 saying it’s now invite-only for new contributed writers. There are three ways to pitch Forbes: send a story to the editor; pitch an already successful blogger as a regular contributor; or pay a sponsorship fee for a monthly spot in “Community Voices.” How did I become a Huffington Post blogger? They invite people sometimes. I signed up during the last window. I also had a lot of blogging experience before signing up. I was syndicated by Business2Community before asking to be a Huffington Post blogger.

 

4. Beware of hiring SEO experts saying they know PR. I read a dozen PR trends stories to find new inspiration for this article; sadly two thirds were by search experts trying to look like PR people. The other third were real press relations experts. One of my favorite PR bloggers is Lou Hoffman. He’s an experienced PR guy who has a decent amount of knowledge about search engine optimization and content marketing. He’s not an SEO person claiming to know PR. A skilled PR person needs to know journalism. If they know about search too, that’s a plus. But many search experts don’t have a clue about journalism.

5. Make sure the spokesperson’s title is appropriate for the outlet or opportunity. There are many top B2B “IT” writers who like to interview CIOs or CEOs but no one else. So don’t pitch them a case study and interview with a controller or market analyst. Here’s a specific example. IDG Contributor Network is accepting bloggers right now; they don’t like writers who do product development or work directly with customers. They prefer CIOs, IT managers, and people who recommend technology. Folks who work at analyst firms or standards bodies would are okay.

 

6. Skip the “unpitchables.” There is a Forbes contributor named Louis Columbus who writes quality stories about analytics and enterprise software trends but is likely unpitchable. Why? His bio says he works for Ingram Cloud. Why would someone from Ingram Cloud accept an interview with most companies they are not targeting from a business standpoint? Note that a “light” note introducing the blogger to a client is not a bad thing in this case. But don’t expect much in return.

 

7. Write like a journalist. Is the pitch falling on deaf ears? Did you leave a message and send a follow up email? Have you not heard back? Did you know that many popular tech writers receive 400 emails per day? Make sure there is something interesting or surprising in the pitch. Continue to improve …

 

For the rest of the tips and the full story please visit Huffington Post at this link.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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This article was written by Michelle McIntyre, founder of MMC PR, executive member of TEDxSanJoseCA, VLAB 2017 Volunteer of the Year, IBM PR vet, and award-winning Silicon Valley technology publicist. Join 5,800 others and follow her on Twitter @FromMichelle

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

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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