Why Business Leaders Need PR

I recently had a call with a Founder/CEO of a multi-million a month company who complained of the need to constantly prove himself in first introductions with major industry players.

This surprising admission came after we had discussed his background – from serving his country to founding a business that quickly grew to #4 on the Inc 5,000 list a couple years after launch – this CEO not only had a great American success story but was also frequently invited to Washington D.C. to weigh in on the benefits and pitfalls of ecommerce before Congress.

Yet. When meeting with future partners in the supply chain, he found himself explaining who he was and why he was important enough to warrant the meeting. One hundred percent of the time his self-sales pitch never failed to impress, and the decision-makers would proceed with the deal eagerly. Great, right?

Not so much. He asked me “Why are these other companies who are marketing-over-profits (and maybe never will turn a profit) getting all the attention? Their CEOs are prominently featured in every WSJ article and invited on Squawk or Mad Money and they aren’t proven viable!”

The answer to his question is as simple as it is intangible. In the ecommerce world of data and customer conversions it’s often easy to roll your eyes at PR. If your stuff is selling and you can track what’s working, why invest in PR? Afterall, everyone knows you can’t really measure it.

I won’t get into all the benefits of PR in terms of the sales-marketing funnel. Way more people have written better pieces on the topic, but I will breakdown why even a small local business owner should invest in PR.

  • Reputation, like branding, is all about perception and, as with branding, you can and should build your reputation strategically. It may feel awkward to hire a PR firm to literally build your local/national/international reputation through calculated communications strategies and thought leadership PR but your competitors are doing it and they are taking your place at the table.
  • Life gets easier when people know you by reputation. They are asking for meetings and interviews, not the other way around. There is no more need to explain who you are and why you’re important (one less thing, right ūüôā
  • You have an automatic platform for your company news. Guess what? When no one’s heard of you or your company it’s hard to get media or consumers to care about your news. When you’re well known, it doesn’t matter how small your news, it will be shared and celebrated.
  • You attract employees. If you live in a rural area, you can actually boost the local economy by attracting and hiring fresh transplants.
  • You get awards. You get on business 500 and 5,000 lists; you get named Entrepreneur of the Year and make your employees proud (‘I work for the Entrepreneur of the Year!’)
  • This one is most important in my humble opinion. You inspire people. You accept the award because you’ve earned it but be sure to let people know it’s possible for them to be in your shoes one day. Explain your failures and hardships. To me, that ability to propel people forward filled with hope and admiration, is the true power of PR.

To wrap up, I want to share a quick success story about one of our longest client partnerships (indeed since 2011).

When we started working with the founder of an organic baby food brand she had just pulled off the feat of parlaying her baby food offering from her local farmer’s market to a huge national retail chain with absolutely no retail experience (or experience running a business with employees and partners).

She had to learn fast and at the same time she recognized the value of being the face of the company. She was a real mom who wants to feed her babies real food that she would eat herself and took action. Within a year she was featured in every parenting and business magazine, in all the national daily news sites, in the popular blogs and on morning shows. She guest judged on Dragon’s Den, mentored startup founders at a competitive accelerator, got paid to speak internationally to tell her story and her company made many millions because of the trust from one mom to another.

Today she is CEO of three brands – from baby to teenager – and has helped inspire many would-be entrepreneurs by not sugarcoating the bumps in the road, speaking honestly about the hustle needed, and the power of humbling herself to all our PR advice ūüôā

The difference between a Publicist and a PR Professional

I had a call the other day with a leader in an emerging industry, one set to legalize in a few months ūüôā and she asked me an excellent question as we went over the ins and outs of building her thought leadership campaign: what is the difference between a PR Professional and a Publicist?

Perhaps, surprisingly we don’t get this question very often. Usually it’s more along the lines of “what is PR?” “How is it different from advertising?” “Why is this not newsworthy?” My response to her was brief: a publicist works with someone who already has a achieved some notoriety whether it’s Doug the Pug or a celebrity. Unlike PR Pros representing brands or thought leaders, a publicist isn’t normally tasked with stalking media to make their pitch, they are more in the business of shielding their famous client from being stalked by very interested media. They are in the business of killing stories; giving their clients the heads up if a negative story is set to break or if someone from their past is writing a tell-all book. Potentially, if the celebrity happens to be outspoken, opinionated, intoxicated (you get the picture) Publicists get to do a lot of media training and crisis management as well.
While I’ve never actually worked¬†as¬†a publicist in my prestigious and storied career, I have worked alongside them on behalf of brands; even more so now with the rise of the influencer. One of my first opportunities to work with a publicist occurred back in 2008. I had a client whom manufactured longboards and made a stick to ‘land paddle’ with (think SUP but on pavement). They wanted a super fit celebrity to basically validate the new sport category they created. So, I called Matthew Mcconaughey’s publicist. Just googled her and called her right up. I explained a little about the the sport – it helped that SUP was really starting to take off – and she casually said “yeah, sure, send it over to me and I’ll make sure he gets it.” Fast forward a couple days and sure enough there was Matthew Mcconaughey on TMZ land paddling shirtless. Then all the celebrity focused weeklies and online blogs followed suit! I still feel pure love for that publicist.
In the future I wouldn’t be surprised if the lines between the two professions didn’t blur as our Instagram Famous society makes celebrities out of¬†cats with eyebrows¬†and the adorable little Evan from¬†EvanTube¬†(um, 3 billion channels views?! – I bet this kid not only has a publicist but is also hit up by PR Pros daily)

Questions Every Social Enterprise Should Ask When Embarking On A PR Campaign

 

My team has had the pleasure of working with Chicago based social enterprise Bright Endeavors for several months as part of a larger partnership with REDF, a San Francisco based non-profit dedicated to investing in double bottomline enterprises. Bright Endeavors employs at-risk young moms in candle production and aims to break the cycle of poverty through job training.

Over the months, I’m proud to say we’ve successfully garnered a fantastic media mix of product reviews (Earth911,¬†Inc.com,¬†Business News Daily, ) and social good company profiles (Christian Science Monitor,¬†Forbes, Unite:4Good)¬†resulting in increased site traffic and sales. Because REDF has many non-profits which could benefit from Public Relations, our campaigns must wrap after several months’ time to spread the opportunity throughout the portfolio. Recently I received the following list of questions from Bright Endeavors’ Sales & Marketing Coordinate, Allie Sundet on how to best continue to leverage the momentum created by Remark. I’m sharing these here as I believe these are questions all social enterprises should be considering when looking towards towards a building or maintaining a PR campaign that is both effective and manageable.

  1. How does Remark determine the appropriate news outlet/type (blogger, influencer, online magazine, gift guides, etc.) to reach out to? About how many/week?
  2. How do you divide your time between reaching out to the various outlets, is more time spent on bloggers than another source, for example?

  3. What are some tips for building a media database?

  4. What tends to be an initial ‚Äėpitch‚Äô or ask? Do you have any tips for creating an engaging story that will hook the influencer/publication?

  5. How many times do you typically follow up after the initial pitch? Are product samples necessary for each outlet?

  6. What are some tips for creating a successful PR strategy?

  7. How do you measure success of this strategy?

  8. How much lead time do outlets typically need to ensure timely publication? For example, when is a good time to start pushing stories for the holidays?

      9. What are some strategy ideas around promoting our candle rental service in the spring/summer        months?

Social entrepreneurs, taglines and reflection

At Remark we realize how lucky we are to do the work we love with inspirational clients and thought leaders in one of the greatest cities in the world. Recently our team was asked by Ardice Farrow, founder and director of NET Effects, to help come up with a remarkable (see what we did here?!) tagline for her company. NET Effects, is built on championing disenfranchised women in Cambodia Рemploying and training women who have been disfigured by land mines, blinded and are hearing impaired Рand paying them a fair wage to create beautiful bags and totes. In fact every 15-20 pieces sold in U.S. provides fair wage for one month for a woman in Cambodia.

The branding assignment got us thinking: how do we succinctly convey what NET Effects stands for? Do we focus on the fact that the brand provides a net to a family in need with every sale? Do we focus on the women creating the beautiful accessories who have lived hard lives and are prospering because of conscious consumerism? Do we take the zero waste angle because NET Effects repurposes remnants and end pieces of agricultural and industrial netting for their bags?

This exercise resulted in a healthy dose of reflection. We’ve always believed in the importance of giving back. Remark has worked with many deserving clients on a pro-bono basis¬†and felt especially fortunate we are able to do so. More importantly we get to work with clients who are truly leaving the world a better place.

We are fueled knowing our success will help sell bags and ultimately allow Ardice and NET Effects to hire and train more women in Cambodia and supply nets to reduce the spread of disease to families around the world. And that is something our team can be proud of.