A few months ago, over on the Silicon Alley Insider, Jason Calacanis wrote a phenomenal post On How To Get PR For Your Startup: Fire Your PR Company. It’s the post I probably should have written for Part I of Blogger Relations. It’s that good.
Jason Calcanis, who has the best, and shortest PR philosophy I’ve ever read, says that you just need to be amazing. be everywhere. be real. It’s the last two words in particular that get my attention. Be Real. A PR firm with a lackey parroting a press release is not real. A media monkey with some sound-bites who cares more about your monthly cheque than your product is not real. A voice who never wavers from a script is not real. And, if you haven’t guessed already, I don’t give a r@ts-@ss about press releases (don’t ask me where you can put them — just don’t), sound-bites, or scripts. I care about products. I care about solutions. I care about results. And, above all, I care about openness, honesty, and a commitment to the customer. If you don’t have that, in all honesty, regardless of the size of your corporate bank account [and at this point I know I should be sticking both feet in my mouth or shooting them off with a shotgun], I don’t give a r@ts @ss about you either.
This blog is about innovation. If you’ve got that, and want to talk about it, you’ve got my attention. As Jason says, You don’t need a PR firm, you don’t need an in-house PR person and you don’t need to spend ANY money to get amazing PR. You don’t need to be connected, and you don’t need to be a “name brand.” You just need to be out there, open, honest, and willing to make a connection. That’s it. And if you don’t get it, Jason has 10 tips that you can use to do PR at your startup — or — small company, that I will summarize (and then elaborate on as it pertains to this blog), but I still strongly recommend you read Jason’s post. (Just reading it will improve your credibility factor!)
- Be the Brand
Us bloggers are overworked underpaid masochists who survive on caffeine, adrenaline, supplements, and sheer stubbornness. If you’re not in love with your brand and inspired by your brand’s mission, and if you don’t *really* believe in your product on a deep, intrinsic level, it’s going to come across *immediately* to the bloggers you’re pitching and I’m going to use the call time as nap-time.
- Be everywhere.
Talk to people outside your company regularly. CEO also stands for Chief Education Officer. You’re the face of your company, so show it!
- Always pick up the check — always!
As Jason notes, PR Firms … who, in my view, do nothing for you … cost $5,000 to $15,000 a month. Buying dinner for a group of people at a conference ten times a year will cost you about one month’s worth of PR … and those bloggers will remember an inspired face and a dynamic voice, not a PR drone from the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation. And remember, even those of us that make a few dollars from sponsorships are still relatively poor — every hour we devote to learning and spreading knowledge is another hour we’re not working or looking for work. (I’m sure I could go back to a CTO role and make twice as much. And my fellow blogger could probably make considerably more as a partner in a large consulting firm.) Just remember … we want to spread the word, but we can’t go broke doing it.
- Be a Human Being
Journalists hate PR people and they hate being pitched. It’s the only thing I hate more than a company who raises the drawbridge and arms the guards. Just tell me what you’re doing, why, and what you hope to achieve … and I’ll ask the questions that need to be asked.
- Form a Bond
Realize that journalists and bloggers are constantly getting banged by lazy, clueless PR folks who fire first and don’t understand what the word “aim” even means. Take the opportunity to cut to the front of the line by spending just 30 minutes researching the journalist or blogger you want to pitch. Not only is it courtesy and good manners, but it helps you understand what the journalist, or blogger, looks for and how to best convey your story … often in less time than it would take to convey your PR drone’s script! (And I make it easy for you. Check out the About post and the What Does the doctor Do? post and then a sampling of random posts.)
- E-mail a Journalist in Your Voice
Journalists and bloggers are very busy and PR people are, by and large, considered an inefficiency in the system by them. (And that’s putting it nicely. I’m more likely to label them a clog.) If you say “Let’s do a call about your blog and interests and I can put you in touch with the right person …” I hear “blah blah blah … I’m a moron … blah blah blah“. If you won’t talk to me, why should I talk to you? So talk to me, and when you do, say something (intelligent). (And get bonus points if you get to the point quickly.)
- Speak to the Journalist Intelligently
And find out his preferred way of getting quotes if he wants them. Call recording? Good old-fashioned note-taking? Or a (follow-up) e-mail interview where you can respond to direct questions in your own voice. Make it easy for the journalist/blogger, and chances are you’ll get preferred coverage in the future.
- Invite People to “Swing By”
Your office. Your trade show booth. The lobby of the hotel you’re staying at for a business meeting. Relationships help. More than any PR Firm EVER will.
- Attach Your Brand to a Movement
Welcome your competitors to the race, because no one is going to tune into a one-horse race. In other words, don’t tell me you’re the only company with a solution for X when I know damn well there are at least five other companies out there that have a solution for X. It’s okay to have a unique take on X (and if you don’t, I probably won’t cover you), but acknowledge the market you’re competing in. Bloggers HATE B.S. (Well, good bloggers anyway … )
- Embrace Small Media Outlets
Jason makes two very, very good points:
a) Small publications have more time for you
b) Big publications troll the small publications for stories
To which I’ll add one more, that might shock you:
c) I am personally familiar with a number of companies that have gotten more press, more leads, and more sales as a result of a single post on Sourcing Innovation than they got by sponsoring an Analyst white-paper, than they got from buying a booth at a trade-show, and than they got from taking adds out in magazines like Purchasing. (So for all you marketing types out there, imagine for a second how well my blog, Illumination, and white-paper sponsors are doing. Just imagine.)
Niche publications like Sourcing Innovation are the future.
The sooner you accept it, the better off you are.
In other words, if you care about your future, keep it in your hands.