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Sometimes the value of PR is just about closer parking

PR, like any industry, is rife with experts throwing around definitions and best practices about how to do it, when to do it, and what success looks like.

It’s easy to get caught up in the complexities; killing ourselves as we attempt to jump on the next bandwagon as the pundit of the day makes proclamations like:

Value of PR: Print is Dead“Traditional media is dying.”

“News doesn’t matter only opinions matter.”

“Social media is the most important component of PR.”

And my personal favorite: “The press release is dead.”

Well, no, you idiot, it’s not dead. It’s just taken on a different form, and will continue to evolve.

PR today is not like the PR of yesteryear. But at the same time…it is. While the modes and distribution methods have certainly changed, how we should think about PR – meaning, the ultimate goals – have not changed.

In 1985, Steve Jobs famously said:

“Good PR educates people; that’s all it is. You can’t con people in this business. The products speak for themselves.”

This still holds true today, and is even more important as a barrage of startups attempt to push crappy, boring, untested products into the marketplace. It’s a simple statement, one often forgotten as we get caught up in the whiplash of a rapidly changing media landscape.

Well, as I’m sure Dave McClure would say: “Calm the fuck down already.”

What I know he would say about PR (because I asked him last week) is this: “PR is about telling good stories, differentiated stories.”   Continue reading…

Startup advice: Four or five things, who’s counting?

Every day I have the paradoxical pleasure of sitting across from two extremely brilliant technologists: Raj, our CTO, and Patrick, our Data Scientist. The paradox is, frankly, that while I can [hopefully] absorb their genius merely by osmosis and/or covertly listening in on conversations, it has the downside of also making me feel like one of the dumbest people on the planet.


There I am – banging away on emails, organizing media dinners, talking up the product to anyone who will listen thinking to myself “I’m the bees knees” – and then someone asks me a technical question. Up to the point that I joined AirPR, “java” was another name for coffee and “ruby” was associated with red slippers. And don’t even get me started on exponential regression or coefficients because last time I checked Algebra 2 was about as far as this girl took it.

This is not a company secret. In fact, not long ago while at a team lunch Patrick quipped that perhaps I should let someone else figure out the tip, as 20% may end up accidentally around 7%. It was, as Tina Fey calls it, a “joke-truth.”

So, being the extremely tolerant team player that I am – who is well versed in passive aggressive behavior – I thought it would be fun to turn the tables on Raj and Patrick and kindly ask them to WRITE a blog post. Ha!

The assignment: 4 things to know about working with a startup

In no particular order, here is the startup world according to Raj and Patrick. Just for fun I have not made any edits and note their clear disdain for periods 

#1 Wearing multiple hats (besides engineering):

  • Designer: designs won’t be completely specced, you will make decisions about look and functionality
  • IT: when your computer breaks you have to fix it yourself
  • CEO: make on the fly decisions about features / bugs prioritization as they affect product and users
  • Operations: Keeping track of server load / setting up performance monitoring systems / deploy procedures
  • Facilities: moving/setting up desks, buying equipment, food, etc

#2 Specs don’t really exist:

You will know the goal of a feature, but rarely be given directions on what to do or how to do it. This can be a big change from larger companies Continue reading…

How to avoid being a networking doooosh

It’s hard to remember a time the name Heather Meeker wasn’t synonymous with the burgeoning L.A. tech scene and the network required to get through its door. In fact, when I first started dipping my toe in the tech PR world she was on the “Top 5 people you should meet” list of nearly everyone I spoke to regarding the subject.

PR, at its most fundamental core, requires a fair amount of networking prowess. Not only does a valuable PR pro bring writing skills and media relationships to the table, but his or her ability to connect the dots  – sometimes between products and sometimes between people – is one of the most important aspects of the job.

So as I’ve generally done when Ms. Meeker is around, I will digress and let her do the…ahem…talking. Or is she networking? More likely she is doing a combo of both with a little bit of education on the side.

The art of networking: 3 dos and don’ts to guide your efforts

By: Heather Meeker, Partner, MeekerQuinn

Returning home from SXSW — always such a treat. Between the sore feet and the SXSars, you almost wonder if all the trekking around, events, parties and networking was worth it. Yah, it was.

This was my fourth time at SXSW, and every year I learn something new and valuable. Sure, some folks may have said it’s the year of Grumpy Cat, but with another 3500 folks projected to attend the show this year compared to 2012, there’s another big issue at hand – how in the world do you meet new people and make meaningful connections when confronted with masses of people?

When it comes down to it, networking is an art. However, it’s undervalued and hard to measure. I mean, saying “I met xx reporter or xx entrepreneur” – what does that lead to in the near term? Probably nothing unless you foster a long-term relationship that is beneficial for both parties.

To build those golden relationships, there are ways to navigate conferences and events in a meaningful way — as well as pitfalls to avoid. This is based on my experiences and also from those I would consider “pro networkers”. So without further adieu… here are my “Do” and “Dont’s” for networking:

Pro networkers (L-R) Gregarious Narain, Ginger Wilcox, Ken Yeung, Brian Solis, Maria Ogneva and Andy Kaufman. Guy in the back:??? Photo courtesy of @thekenyeung

1. Don’t interrupt someone for lengthy amounts of time when they are in the middle of business: I see (and experience) this all the time. Person A is sitting in the lobby or convention center working. It’s obvious that they are on the computer or in the middle of an important conversation. Then someone comes up (usually clad in a startup t-shirt) and goes in for the kill. #Fail.

In the past, there was one way to connect with someone: in person, unless you had their landline phone number or pager. Today, there are many ways to get someone’s attention: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email, cell phone, etc. I know you think if you don’t talk to them now,  you’ll miss out. Not true. Instead of your planned elevator pitch, how about a quick acknowledgement that you know who they are, respect their work, and then leave a card behind. Say: “Hi XX- see you are busy. Loved your (insert post, book, whatever relevant work here). I’m going to send you a quick note later about something I think would be of interest to you.” Guess what? That took all of 10 seconds. And they can get back to work knowing you respect their time. #Win.

2. Do go up to someone you want to connect with even if you aren’t prepared: Fret not. I am the queen of never having business cards and running into folks at inopportune times. Make these moments an opportunity. Sometimes I’m running through an airport and see a person I’ve been meaning to connect with. Or maybe I’m at Starbucks in a strange town. Whatever. I could be a total mess and not remotely prepared but there’s always a reason to say, “Hi!”  Continue reading…

Give a good story (or get edited out)

Today we continue our series of guest posts from industry leading, best-in-breed PR Pros. Enjoy this insightful piece from Metis Communications’ Director of Content Services, Rebecca Joyner. You know any article written by someone with this title is going to be worth the read!

Give a good story (or get edited out)

Letting a customer tell your story is a great way to hook an opportunity – as long as that customer thinks your product or service is a key player in its success. Good journalists don’t care who funded the pitch; they care about the angle, so the one you give them better be relevant, timely and clearly linked to your company. Want to make sure your organization’s name doesn’t get cut during the editing process? Follow these tips:

1. Look for your best customer evangelists. Ask the sales team to identify satisfied users and repeat customers. Monitor your social media networks for positive feedback. Ask your audiences to self-identify by putting out a call online, through the sales force, or in a company newsletter.

Once you have a pool of candidates from which to pick, narrow down the list to those customers who best exemplify the kind of work for which you want to be known. Look for customers who had a problem that your product or service solved and who can cite measurable results.

2. Qualify your customer spokesperson thoroughly. There are some logistical questions you have to ask right up front. (e.g., “Will your company allow you to speak to the media?”) Beyond that, interview potential customer sources to get a feel for whether their experiences will be of interest to reporters, whether they can share those experiences in a compelling and articulate way, and whether they are likely to mention your company as a key player in their stories.

“Story” is the key term here. In a story, there are characters, conflicts or challenges, and resolutions. Your job is to help your customer spokesperson get comfortable talking about all three – and remember that your company or product is one of the characters.

Ask your would-be customer spokesperson:

  • Tell me more about your organization in your own words.
  • How did you develop a need for my product or service?
  • How did you address that challenge before, and why did you decide to make a change?
  • How does your company use my product or service, and what benefits are you seeing?

Be sure to also ask questions that flush out any negative feelings the customer might have about your business. Continue reading…

5 Journalist Pet Peeves To Avoid

I met Jeremy Seth Davis approximately five years ago. Well, technically I “e-met” him when he shot me a very kind, never-before-experienced, email applauding a news release headline I had recently written. He had caught a glimpse of it when breezing through his hundreds of daily, oft irrelevant, emails and actually took the time to […]