5 Tips for Startup Founders Like Be Nice and Work with Friendly People

Here are five premium pieces of advice offered by the speaker at my tech startup founders Meetup this morning. Alastair Hood, Ph.D., CEO, the founder of utilities analytics startup Verdafero had a unique angle to share. Founded in 2009, the company is web-based software that helps businesses more smartly manage their utility usage. 

What was unique was that Mr. Hood often peppered in comments about being nice and working with friendly people. I liked the tone of that and believe that I was hired several times as a PR consultant because I simply got along well with the marketing or PR leads or founders. 

Here were five key takeaways:

  1. Don’t take money from investors if you can help it. Their vision might not be yours. I’ve heard this time and time again. But my two cents is to scale big time after you gain a bunch of customers, you may need to take money from a trusted source.
  2. Always be nice to people, especially when bootstrapping. You may need a favor from them later. He shared that he ran into Mark Zuckerberg once.
  3. Don’t fall for the Silicon Valley bullsh– story. I believe what he meant was don’t think that starting a company is all glamour and big payouts. You have to work hard, meet with many customers and prospects and take risks.
  4. Look for other avenues to generate revenue while you are developing your solution. Perhaps a customer prospect would be interested in your consulting services while your software as a service or saas software product is being finalized.
  5. Work with people you like. You will spend a lot of time with them. Along the same theme, he added, hire a friendly attorney. I asked if all lawyers who work with startups require a major retainer and the response was, no.

It was seriously refreshing to hear about the importance of collaborating with nice and friendly folks. 

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Michelle McIntyre is the founder of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC, an IBM vet and Silicon Valley PR diva. She loves to garner big attention for large and small companies including VC firms and has achieved 11 awards for outstanding results. @FromMichelle on Twitter

Worried About Ageism? Here are 2 Job Hunting Tips from PR Experts

Fifty year public relations industry Vet Gerry Corbett hosted a PRSA-SV talk today called “Ageism in the Workplace is Getting Old” with guest speakers and PR Practitioners Patti Temple Rocks and Scott Monty. 

Patti Temple Rocks is the author of “I’m Not Done. It’s Time to Talk about Ageism in the Workplace.”

Here are stats and advice that was shared: It mostly revolved around applying for jobs.

Ageism is Worse During the Pandemic

Ms. Rocks says that ageism is worse now because companies are cutting budgets during the pandemic; one way to do that is to get rid of the highest paid most experienced people. She added that ageism is rampant in tech and at PR agencies.

The following statistics which come from the website Builtin.com were shared by the moderator. Only 10 percent of people ages 65-69 work. Half of people 55-64 are employed, and half notice ageism when they enter their fifties. 

How can seasoned professionals rise above being viewed as too old?

First, when you look for a job utilize your network. Cold calling a company probably won’t work. In fact one speaker believed that sometimes artificial intelligence algorithms weed out older workers’ applications automatically. If you contact people who know and like you, you’ll have a way better chance. Another speaker commented that even young people get ignored because they didn’t use a friend at the company to get an interview.

Secondly, tailor your resume for each opportunity. This makes sense because if you have been working 20, 30, 40 or even 50 years you have done a whole heck of a lot. Instead of listing everything, choose things that showcase activity and results that are relevant to the job you’re applying for. It’s hard work figuring out what to say and not say but it pays off. And you don’t have to list things chronologically. 

The speakers agreed that ageism at the workplace is common but there are ways around it. Be smart when you reach out to companies for work.

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Michelle McIntyre, the founder of Michelle McIntyre Communications, is a seasoned PR industry pro who helps tech companies and their VCs get attention. She has worked at IBM and three PR agencies including WE for Microsoft. @FromMichelle @PRSASV on Twitter

7 Online Event Tips for Marketing and PR Professionals

Here are seven easy to follow video meeting best practices designed to massively improve your next online event. This will also boost the quality of your everyday remote work. The first one will take you “back to the future.”

Ethernet Wire Internet Connection — I first heard of using an Ethernet wire instead of wireless during my son’s freshman year at University of California Berkeley in the dorms. Amazingly, this was just last year. Ethernet is from the 1990s! This Back to the Future-type trick leads to faster and more reliable internet. Then I heard it again from a VLAB volunteer. VLAB has brought their emerging tech panels from in-person to online.

Back to the Future film photo credit: Alamy via BBC

Headset for Audio — Headsets or earbuds bring a microphone closer to the participants mouth. Make sure a headset is charged before an event. 

If Video Quality Fades Switch to All Audio or Phone — Immediately switch to all audio or turn off the online chat and dial in by phone if there is video disruption. Thanks Cisco Webex for this tip.

Shift Your Schedule — Join a video meeting five minutes early. This may mean setting your last meeting to end 15 minutes before the hour.

In Your Face Light Source — Webcams work best with a lot of light. It’s important that it not come from behind the participant like via a window. If there is a window there, close the curtain or shade. A lamp behind a laptop will help brighten a face evenly.

Focus on Eyeline — Placing your webcam at eye level looks best to viewers. Stack books underneath your laptop. This brings the camera more directly in front of the eyes as opposed to below. 

Work Outside the VPN — Turn your virtual private network or VPN off for higher quality online meeting or event service. I found this tip on the Webex website. They are known for security among other things so I’ll take their word for it.

Good luck with your next online meeting. I encourage you to share your tips with others. Thanks go to VLAB Volunteer Ms. Avery Hudson and Cisco’s Webex Collaboration website for these tips. 

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Michelle McIntyre is a Silicon Valley tech PR diva, IBM vet, founder of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC, and a long time community volunteer. She’s the media relations lead for the Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Council of Boy Scouts of America and has served on several executive boards including district PTA. 

5 Ways To Stay Motivated as an Entrepreneur

Here are five tips to stay motivated from a Meetup called Bootstrappers Breakfast, a group that fosters early morning entrepreneur discussions. There were ten of us in the Zoom chat the other day: We all participated equally with the discussion led by Sean Murphy.

The challenge as stated was how do you motivate yourself to pursue new clients when you are busy serving old ones? It’s like networking for your next job when you are happily employed. That activity often falls by the wayside.

Here’s what participants had to say.

First, to stay motivated stay organized. Make a task list. One person put his in a Trello board. Another swore by his e-calendar and put all to-dos there. 

The second tip had to do with networking goals. Set up a weekly goal each week, e.g five meetings. Additionally aim to keep catch-up chats to 20 minutes. Super busy people will be more likely to say, “Yes” to 20 minutes instead of an hour.

The third piece of advice was to find a work buddy. Set up a Zoom chat and work together with your friend. State what you are trying to get done and they can ask, how is it going? 

The fourth tip is to attend a peer accountability Meetup. The one the Bootstrap Breakfast participant said he goes to regularly is for entrepreneurs. This reminded me of my book writing class at Stanford. We reported our progress to the instructors and classmates each week. I did finish my book draft by the way.

Tip number five is about reading books on developing good habits. The two recommended were Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and Atomic Habits by James Clear. If a habit to spend a certain amount of time each week drumming up new business is formed then there is a much higher chance that goal is achieved.

In summary, find your own personal formula for staying motivated to look for new business even when you have clients. Then you’ll have way less downtime as a consultant or entrepreneur.

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Michelle McIntyre who wrote this story is the founder of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC. An award-winning IBM vet and social media microinfluencer, she invites you to follower her on Twitter @FromMichelle

State of Communications 2020: Leaders Report It’s Not Business as Usual

The Silicon Valley Public Relations Society of America Silicon Valley chapter held its Friday Forum today with a panel offering timely updates on the state of communications departments and agencies.

In-house and agency pundits commented on the benefits of PR consulting help that’s fully remote, lack of diversity in the communications c-suite, 2021 spending priorities and mental health challenges.

There were varied answers in response to, how has business changed in 2020?

Jocelyn Breeland, Stanford said there have been communications staff cuts and hiring freezes. She has lost administrative support. A+ for transparency, Ms. Breeland.

Scott Thornburg said a PR leader now wears many hats and many plans went on hold. Now it’s time to rebuild.

Shaun Fletcher, PhD summed it up nicely, “We can no longer move forward as business as usual.”

His main concern seemed to be the added mental health challenges of people of color. He asks, can we do a better job as communicators telling those particular challenges and stories?

2021 spending priorities 

Ms. Aarti Shah who has been reporting on the communications industry since 2007 for PRovoke, formerly The Holmes Report discussed survey results released in August about 2021 spending priorities. 

The top five spending areas communications leaders in house will focus on are first corporate reputation, followed by second place public relations. Social media, in particular organic, was third on the list. Content development ranked fourth followed by employee engagement/change management. 

Lack of c-suite diversity

Shah was clearly bothered by the lack of diversity and people of color in the communications c-suite. Others chimed in on that topic. Jazmin Eusebio said when she started at her current communication job, she was shocked to not find anyone who looked like herself: “There were a lot of white faces. But now we have made huge strides.”

Syreeta Mussante seemed the most frank about lack of management diversity. She said that in her experience San Francisco firms have done a better job at employing and promoting nonwhite males than San Jose companies. 

Mussante mentioned that some agency managers clearly frowned upon female workers having children. (I’m pretty sure she was talking about a previous job.)

A representative from Highwire PR mentioned that they were hiring more diverse candidates. 

On remote work

Curtis Sparrer who runs a PR firm that’s been remote from its inception said that right now publicists are more accessible than they ever have been. He added that the high touch fluff activities mostly have gone away: there is more time to focus and be attentive to clients. 

Sparrer seemed the most positive of the bunch maybe because he was already remote, which I can relate to. I’ve been a remote PR professional for well over a decade. When Covid hit, I thought, it’s almost business as usual for me.

Although I’ve been remote a while, I do miss the in-person networking. I fondly remember sipping wine with PR friends at Santana Row pre-Covid.

Besides Fletcher mentioning the special mental health challenges of people of color, most PRSA-SV panel participants did not dive deep into the topic.

To sign up for the next PRSA-SV panel, visit the group’s page on Eventbrite. Go here to join PRSA.

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This story is by Silicon Valley PR Consultant Michelle McIntyre. An IBM vet and Eagle Scout mom, Ms. McIntyre serves as the volunteer media relations lead for the Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Council of Boy Scouts of America. @FromMichelle on Twitter

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21 PR Tips For Stunning Results in 2021

Here it is. My annual public relations tips advice story geared towards technology startup founders and public relations practitioners. Times have changed with press interviews and events going online and ongoing industry consolidation. Most of these tips are evergreen so if you are reading them in 2022, the majority will still apply.

  1. Use listacles and other evergreen content marketing tools often. Listacles like “3 ways to Be a Better Boss” and “10 Tried and True Methods for a Smoother Digital Transformation” share better on social media than say a software product update. 
  2. Add product reviews as part of your PR tactic repertoire. My favorite B2C technology media outlet is CNET. I placed a few reviews over the years including one for PumpUp community fitness app. CNET has great reach and the staff members are respectful.
  3. Write exceptional press releases. Don’t make them too long and fight the urge to include meaningless drab quotes. If your CEO is asking you to insert jargon like “mission critical” explain why you should not.
  4. Build new relationships with journalists. Try to find ways to connect a bit on a personal level but in a respectful normal manner. Maybe you ask an authentic question via Twitter. Don’t try this with the cranky ones though. Warning. Most people hate Twitter DMs.
  5. Create a tight smart media list. I was hired as a consultant by a Silicon Valley PR agency that pulled one of those big 100 item lists from Cision. I quickly identified 10 key writers I liked from the big list, and confirmed they were still in their roles via their Twitter profiles. I scheduled an interview that same day. It was with Venturebeat and the story was excellent.
  6. Identify your best story angle. Is the company the first, best or biggest at something? If yes and you use the angle, make sure you have a credible source backing up the claim. 
  7. Pitch the story at the right time of the day. You can sometimes find a comment from a writer online about when they loved to be pitched, e.g. 4 to 5 pm their time. If you have news to release and want to reach the East Coast folks first thing and you are in California, consider working super early morning your time to reach out. 
  8. Keep in mind diversity and inclusion (D&I). Edelman PR which has 95,000 Twitter followers has consistently only spread messages that push “D&I” in the past week. If you are reading this months or years from now, it’s the middle of September 2020.
  9. Read PR news and trends websites at least monthly, e.g. Ragan’s PR Daily is highly regarded. I like Ragan’s different sections like writing. I just figured out The Holmes Report is now PRovoke. A little tricky to say and remember but catchy.
  10. Secure your brand name across all social media platforms. If you are starting out in PR consulting and pick an LLC brand name, e.g. mine is Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC then immediately take “ownership” of the Twitter profile with that name if possible. 
  11. Do proactive PR so your image is built before an image crisis hits. When there is a scandal e.g. employee lawsuit or patent infringement complaint and those are common in tech, if your company already has a good reputation you may do better in court.
  12. Track what’s being said about your company and competitors. Google Alerts is the least expensive way to do this. It’s also very good. If you want to supercharge your efforts, pay some bucks for Meltwater. That system gives you a nice overview of almost real time of how much attention you’ve garnered.
  13. Have a company policy about what your employees can post online. When I was with IBM social business business unit, the company was the first in the industry to set up community posting guidelines. 
  14. Read inspirational writings like books by Guy Kawasaki. I’m a fan of Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global site. She always pushes the unique message that getting enough sleep will make your life much higher quality. My PR friend Libra White at Lam Research always touts business books via audio. She can listen during long drives.
  15. Know how you compare to the competition. Use a spreadsheet if needed. Don’t say, “We have no competitor.” That’s annoying. Does anyone have no competitor? Once you know the competition you can do better PR for your company.
  16. Be present on Twitter and make people can find you there. Build up minimum 100 followers. I recently met with a PR director of a tech company. I could not find him on Twitter. Respect was lost as a result.
  17. Be aware of other major news at the time you are pitching yours. I just read a months old posting by Lumina PR about a webinar that featured speakers like Eric Savitz from Barrons. The topics which were always present at the time were coronavirus, racial unrest and the upcoming presidential election. By the way, now in September it’s still true. Question for tech PR buddies: have you ever done a product launch on Apple Computer announcement day? That’s always “fun.” Tip: pick a different day than Apple news day.
  18. Take a PR-related class every couple of years, e.g. through Coursera, which is free learning. The one I’m looking at now is from Ivy League school University of Pennsylvania. It’s on influencer marketing. Apparently I’m a ranked influencer in future of work, number 89 out of 100 on social media (Onalytica 2018 report: download the report to see my name.). Now I’d like to learn more about doing some influencing for pay beyond what I’ve done with Microsoft’s former agency not too long ago. I blogged on their collaboration website working for 1000Heads. They post my stories with Microsoft Teams adds. They paid me for writing.
  19. Do PR for yourself once in a while. If you are a PR pro working for or consulting for a company, get some press for yourself too. Personal branding is good for your CEO and your own business and/or career. I’ve worked late nights and weekends on my own press and have built up a few nice stories, e.g. I made a list in a Ragan story by Frank Strong. It was on the top underrated PR professionals to follow on Twitter. I was number three out of 50.
  20. Always subscribe to a top business journal; and change up subscriptions once in a while. I like to switch from Wall Street Journal to New York Times, like, one year get NYT and the next subscribe to WSJ. Note that people who work for PR agencies or big corporations with deep pockets can subscribe to many. As a freelancer it’s hard to budget for all of them. I like that Business Insider is online only.
  21. Update your headshot photos. Schedule a new headshot for your CEO and yourself if you haven’t done that in the past five years. Paul Sakuma is a quality Silicon Valley photographer for hire. He used to be the local Associated Press wire photographer in San Jose. Also I’d like to thank Paul Sakuma for donating a bunch of time to nonprofit VLAB a while back. I’m VLAB’s main blogger and he took some awesome executive headshots for us. Mark Hundley is also one of my favorite photographers. 

Read this PR tips list every once in a while to refresh your PR game. Despite life’s roller coaster ups and downs right now which include California fires and pandemic office closures, if you work smartly and stay flexible you’ll do quite well in your career. 

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Michelle McIntyre, founder of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC is an IBM vet and award winning Silicon Valley PR diva. She’s the volunteer media relations lead for Silicon Valley Monterey Bay Council of Boy Scouts of America and ranked 89 out of 100 on Onalytica’s 2018 Future of Recruiting influencers list. She was named 2017 VLAB volunteer of the year. Follow her on Twitter @FromMichelle.

PR Advice for Tech Startup Founders With One of A Kind Products

by Michelle McIntyre

As a seasoned public relations professional, I’ve enjoyed many productive and passionate discussions with genius technologists who want their “one of a kind” startup product covered by the media.

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Here’s a tip for inventors. Quality feature stories are written because something is societally relevant, interesting cocktail conversation fodder or a unique problem solver. Journalists do want to know, how will this change the world?

During an initial consultation with a founder usually I start out by asking what is different about their new product or service.  Sadly 75 percent of the time the answer is, “There is no other product like ours.” And it’s hard to respond without objection because  99 percent of the time that’s not true. Usually I can find an example of several similar products via a simple internet search.

The secret to a company getting coverage is simple. Leave the ego at the door. Quit thinking a product is the only one of its kind and ask others like an experienced PR professional what is really interesting about your story.

One founder I met with was finalizing an app that tracked a child’s to-do list. I searched and found another app that made the exact same claim. They in turn switched to a communications plan that made more sense having to do with showcasing their expertise in productivity instead of touting its uniqueness. It had a beautiful interface by the way.

Another tip is when you share information with the person you have assigned PR to don’t hold back on the good stuff. One founder I worked with waited a few weeks to disclose he was born with a serious medical problem and had several surgeries to correct it. Through diet and exercise he overcame it. His online fitness community he created was partly born because of this rough start in life. As soon as he told me, I told a Business Insider writer. She liked this angle about the founder and wrote a feature about him and his co-founder.

This app was also quite unique though. It weeded out bully comments automatically. That in fact was an impressive feature and resulted in nice coverage in TIME. But when you start with a claim, that a new product is super unique, unless you have a third party expert saying it, it’s usually a turn-off to writers.

To quote Journalist Dean Takahashi via a story he filed on PR tips in Venturebeat a few years ago, “What I love is finding something unique and interesting to write about. I want to find something magical, and I think most journalists, even the most cynical of the bunch, share the joy of discovering something really cool. Sometimes the real story isn’t the game itself. It’s the person who made it.”

I don’t mean to call out a founder who is a hard working, award-winning and an obviously smart inventor. The point is be very careful about telling someone your product is one of a kind. It probably is not.

I worked with a brilliant technologist with an artificial intelligence startup who wrote a celebrated technical paper years before the formation of the company. The technological phenomenon discussed in the paper was “in” iPhone’s Siri. When I pitched a writer I started with that detail, its impact on technology that tens of millions of people use. (Last I checked around 41 million people used the Siri voice assistant.)

This business reporter filed a story soon after. And that story focused on the startup solution, the funding and its venture capitalist. But the hook was the impact of what was in that paper.

In summary, journalists get pummeled with hundreds of pitches and press releases a day. Make sure you leave your ego at the door when talking to them: test your story line or pitch on a friend or family member to see if they say, “That’s interesting.”

Let others decide what’s interesting about your startup story, trust their feedback and go with it. Be careful going down the path of saying it’s a one of a kind product. It likely is not.

Photo: Shutterstock

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Michelle McIntyre is the president of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC, a seven year old tech PR consulting firm. She’s the recipient of 11 awards for outstanding results mostly from IBM. She’s held numerous nonprofit executive board positions focused on enhancing the lives of children. @frommichelle on Twitter

 

I’ve Been A Remote Worker for 20 Years: Here’s A Prediction

It’s interesting to hear everyone go ga ga over doing a Zoom business meeting or cocktail party. To me online meetings are no big deal and after many meetings from my home office for the past 20 years, I’d rather just make a phone call. People are inviting me to meet via Zoom as if it’s super special or a game or something. I appreciate it but it’s not special or fun to me. It’s business as usual. I’m not going to glamorize it. And be careful what you talk about using the free services. Your security may not be so good unless you pay for a pro version.

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However, regarding birthday celebrations, yes, it is a nice gesture to see everyone’s faces on the screen. That’s different and is nice if you live in different countries or states. I would rather see the “drive by parades” instead if your buddies are close enough to do that.

I’ve been a remote worker both for IBM and for myself for the most part since 2000 when my son was born. He is finishing up his freshman year at University of California Berkeley right now. He turns 20 this year. He’s been around as long as I’ve been a remote worker!

I say I worked from home “for the most part” because when I was West region PR manager for  IBM I had a sweet office in Mountain View, which I think is now owned by Google, as well as a guest office at IBM Almaden Research Center. But I mainly worked at home. And by the way my son went to daycare while I did that. It would have been a bit dangerous for him to wander around the house as a baby or toddler during my super busy IBM days.  (Remote work parents of toddlers: be careful.)

Here’s my prediction about what’s going to happen: in the next 18 months we will all need to be able to turn on and off remote work. I don’t believe everyone will “turn remote” permanently though. I think schools will still be around. Offices and work buildings will still be around. So don’t get rid of your printer-copiers, desks or chairs.

After listening to numerous interviews with medical doctors and data scientists from places including Columbia and UC Berkeley, I have a strong opinion about what might happen.  I believe that almost all businesses will have both an in person and remote work option.

During the next year people will go back to school and to the office. But at some point, they will told to go back home. For example, they could go back to school and work in August but be called back home for a few months in December or February. These are made up months: the exact day will depend on what happens with the COVID-19 curve. But a UC Berkeley PhD said today during an online teleconference that COVID cases could very well start to increase again during flu season: that’s when people may be called home again.

Whether students and workers go out or go home will depend on if people are getting sick from something that isn’t very treatable. So if the COVID-19 numbers go up we go home. They go down, we go to the office. Therefore my prediction is that we’ll have this back and forth lifestyle for at least one and a half years. Then maybe there will be a vaccine and things might go back to normal again.

What problems will occur? This will put more stress on college students who go to schools far away from their parents’ homes. They have to decide, will they stay at their college apartment when they get called back to online school or move out and go to mom and dad’s? Will landlords give students a break if they move out back home for three months? One of more vocal parents from the UC Berkeley Cal Parents Discussion Group Facebook page suggested simply asking landlords to put a special clause into the leases. If you move out, maybe you can get a break that month.

Regarding K-12, poorer kids will need to get laptops and WiFi supplied to them. One school district representative from New York said just this week that around 20% of their K-12 school children don’t have technology or bandwidth at home for online learning. And they have figured out how to solve about 10 percent of this problem but are working on the rest of it. Business, schools and communities: let’s work on solving this digital divide problem as a team.

My advice is simple: go with the flow and stay flexible. Flexibility is the name of the game moving forward. But wait, there’s more.

Help someone and you will get a favor back at some point: I’ve already experienced that. I bought hand sanitizer for a stranger and got a much needed essential item literally gifted to me soon after.

Try to stay healthy because if you get sick you will recover faster.

Good luck and happy online meetings everyone. I wish you all long lives with much toilet paper. And sorry if I missed your fun Zoom party. It reminds me too much of work.

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Michelle McIntyre is the founder of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC, a tech PR consulting firm in Saratoga, Calif. She’s an IBM vet and also a future of work influencer. Follow her @FromMichelle on Twitter.

 

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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Succeed In 2020 With These 9 PR Tips

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To succeed in public relations and marketing communications you must stay on top of the trends. Here are 9 timely tips from the experts designed to help startup founders be successful in 2020. They cover keeping it personal, conveying timely messages, using visuals that pop, how to stick with a writing goal, the importance of content marketing and  teaming with other PR professionals.

Here are my favorite PR tips for 2020 and the expert associated with each:

1) Use easy-to-understand visuals that pop when storytelling.

Who’s the expert? @LouHoffman of @Daily Brew aka #IshmaelsCorner blog

The first tip comes from Lou Hoffman, head of Hoffman Communications. Hoffman loves incorporating visuals when conveying a message. More specifically he advises, “Dress up the company timeline as a storytelling vehicle.” And do this in an easy to understand attractive way. I particularly liked his advice to not make infographics too busy or overly complicated. A company timeline could become a bear image if not managed right, for example, don’t make someone tilt their head sideways to read a timeline. Hoffman has done a decent job establishing his agency as a top one in the Silicon Valley with a very strong presence globally especially in Asia. He’s also a really good speaker.

2) Be timely in your PR messages. 

Who’s the expert? Melissa DiMercurio @StantonComm

This tip comes (indirectly) from Stanton Communications a PR firm serving corporations, industry associations and not for profits globally. As I was looking up hot PR trends online I came across a super timely December blog post by Melissa DiMercurio on the Stanton website with the headline, “Iced Holiday Beverage, Peloton Backlash, Baby Yoda and More.” I was impressed they just blogged about very current image related news hitting all of the key words and saying intelligent things. A lot of time people blog about something more evergreen or out of date. They were quick and smart enough to write something that was timely that day and get it published fast. Nice.

3) Add a human element to your PR campaign.

Who’s the expert? @Jalila as quoted in @AdAge

Jalila Levesque of a company called FF said in a recent blog post, “In a world that’s becoming increasingly ruled by algorithms and robots, PR strategy must be driven by emotion and have that human element to be more meaningful and lead to a growing focus on expert, local and enthusiastic micro-influencers, instead of macro-influencers.”

Yes, we keep hearing that PR needs to focus on analyzing results using digital tools and incorporate more AI, yadda yadda yadda and so on. But behind all the digital activity that might include Meltwater, Sprout, Cision or Hootsuite tools, keep the human touch alive.

4) Share knowledge with other PR professionals.

Who’s the expert? Hailey Johnson of @ThreeSixtyEight

Hailey Johnson recently said in a 2020 AdAge trends article, “PR professionals and marketers working together and sharing knowledge is the new trend.” She adds that if a PR pro has a specific capability you don’t have, hire them to help.

I agree. I reviewed all of the ways I got new business since I became a consultant: surprisingly a significant portion came through key PR contacts either via referral or through directly hiring me for a project. Stay in touch with your PR friends by joining @PRSA or inviting people to lunch. It’s also fun hanging around your PR peers.

5) See PR as part of the big marketing campaign.

Who’s the expert? Vicki Ho, Movement Strategy 

Vicki Ho of Movement Strategy a “social-led creative agency” said recently in an AdAge 2020 trends story, “One of the most important trends I’m seeing within public relations on the agency side is the value the industry is placing on our strategic role within a larger marketing campaign, rather than just being valued for the end results.” Her firm has done campaigns for Party City, Netflix, Under Armor and others. I’ll add, think about how you fit into the whole picture and create ideas from that perspective.

6) Use a thesaurus when writing.

Who’s the expert? Laura Hale Brockway via a Ragan @PRDaily quote

Laura Hale Brockway likes to write about writing. In mathematical terms she’s like writing squared. Her recently story caught my eye that listed 50 alternatives to the word “excited.” This is a great headline because marketing and PR people use “excited” as a default in press release quotes, e.g. “Our two awesome companies are excited about collaborating on this project.” Ugh. Don’t do this.

credit_ Canva

Hale Brockway says, “A thesaurus can come in handy when crafting a press release, especially when using the same old words. Here is a list to help strengthen your pitching vocabulary.” I agree. Shoot down those overused starting-to-sound-meaningless words in favor of more expressive writing like “eager,” “thrilled” or “animated.” This takes risk so my other advice is to be brave.

7) Content marketing will be the queen bee of 2020.

Who’s the expert? Michelle McIntyre MMC PR @FromMichelle

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Content marketing is going to be the queen bee in 2020. It’s the top way to garner attention for your business. Here are some ideas about how to do it. Blog about advice related to your industry.  Blog about trends in software as a service, AI, quantum computing, future of work, collaboration, printer security, or whatever problem your company helps solve.

The problem is wanna-be bloggers have trouble with headlines and deadlines. Headlines are what you are going to write about. A PR expert can advise you on that. But, how do you achieve deadline goals? We all know it’s smart to write on a regular basis like six or 12 times per year. Simply set up a reward or hammer system. If you write six blog stories over six months reward yourself with a monthly subscription to a new streaming video channel like Hallmark or Hulu.

A hammer is more of a self-punishment. Laura Hale Brockway advises how to achieve writing deadlines via hammers in her Impertinent Remarks blog. She said if you don’t make your writing deadline get creative, for example, force yourself to donate to a political campaign you are against. That’s innovative for sure but on this end I will stick to rewards.

8) Become a thought leader in your industry on something specific.

Who’s the expert? @WendyMarx, Author and President of Marx Communications

Wendy Marx says be a thought leader on something specific in your industry to garner attention. She elaborates in a LinkedIn story, “At first, many people make the mistake of claiming expertise in everything. But realistically, it’s just not possible. Especially in the beginning, it’s important to focus on one main area.”

She’s right. From a PR standpoint if you stand for everything and are all over the place no one knows why they should buy your product, hire you or interview you for a feature story. Tell a prospect, “I offer a freemium consumer app that tells you the least expensive parking space available now in San Francisco” instead of “I make busy people’s lives easier.”

9) Public relations are personal relations.

Who’s the expert? Warren H. Cohn, @WarCo1 of @herald_PR via @Forbes Council

Warren H. Cohn who started a couple of communications firms elaborates on keeping communications personal in a recent Forbes Council post: “For PR specialists to thrive, they must research their target audience and deliver personal messages.”

He’s right. Spray and pray PR pitches often fail. In a world where everyone depends on technology to communicate, break down digital walls to keep business personal, and your results will reflect your efforts.”  As a side note, even though Forbes Council stories are paid content, some of the advice is quite good.

I agree with this especially in this age of “automate everything.” Yes, I believe in digital transformation and incorporating tools like artificial intelligence, but not at the expense of developing relationships with people.

In summary, some of the PR trends to utilize for success in 2020 include visual storytelling, hyper personalizing, more content marketing, seeing PR as part of the big picture and being specific in your thought leadership message.

What trends do you see?

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About the author: Michelle McIntyre is founder of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC, a seven year old Silicon Valley public relations consulting firm. An IBM PR vet, she holds 11 awards for outstanding results. @fromMichelle on Twitter

Photo credits:

2020 Road image: Shutterstock

Thesaurus image: Canva

Michelle McIntyre image: Michelle McIntyre