Selecting the Right PR and Marketing Agency: Is Bigger Better?

Selecting the Right PR and Marketing Agency: Is Bigger Better?

When it comes to finding the right PR and marketing agency, is bigger better?

It depends who you ask.

Early in my career as an agency leader, I was surprised that it was Amendola’s largest Fortune 500 clients who most clearly understood and could articulate the benefits of working with a smaller, boutique agency. As time passed and a few comparatively smaller clients switched to a bigger agency (often in response to reaching a major growth milestone) and subsequently came back, I realized that the larger, more well-established companies simply had the benefit of experience. They’d previously worked with one or more large corporate agencies, and already understood the advantages and drawbacks.

So why do many of the world’s largest, most successful healthcare and technology companies prefer to work with smaller, highly specialized agencies? It’s a fair question, and the answer can help healthcare/healthcare IT companies of every size find their ideal agency fit.

Depth of understanding is even more key in a complex industry

Many of Amendola’s largest clients voice frustration with the inconsistent levels expertise at big agencies, especially those that don’t focus exclusively on healthcare and healthcare IT.

As one Fortune 500 client said in our initial conversation, “We don’t feel like we’re getting any value from [large corporate agency]. They understand tech in general, but don’t really have a clue about healthcare IT. And they don’t seem to have any of the media relationships we need.”

Another prospective client put it more wryly: “We spend half our time explaining value-based care, and the other half reminding them to stop talking about it like it’s brand new.”

To be fair to larger agencies and the hardworking folks who make them hum, it’s all but impossible for anyone to be an expert on multiple complex industries. Especially if one of them is healthcare. In fact, that’s why Amendola serves only healthcare and healthcare IT clients, and has since the outset. There’s always something new to learn in healthcare, and always something on or just over the horizon that will impact the industry in unexpected ways. If you don’t eat, sleep, and breathe it, how could you possibly keep up?

Still, I can understand these clients’ frustration. If an agency needs constant coaching on what’s happening in healthcare, the best case is that the relationship becomes more time-consuming for the client.

The more realistic case? Missed opportunities, muddled messaging, and even missteps in the market.

It’s harder for large and multi-industry agencies to develop strong healthcare/healthcare IT media relationships

Clients also often mention that a larger agency they worked with was unable to secure high-quality (or even very many) media opportunities. I’m never surprised to hear it. After all, any junior PR professional can pitch journalists all day every day every…but how effective can they be if they don’t really understand the story they’re pitching?

Yet inconsistent expertise isn’t the only contributing factor. The fact is, large agencies have several things working against them when it comes to healthcare/healthcare IT media relations.

Imagine you’re a healthcare reporter. You’ve just been assigned a 1,200-word article about how healthcare organizations are screening for unmet social needs and addressing SDoH, especially within their high-risk/high-cost patient populations. Your editor would like to see you include perspectives from at least three different organizations. Either vendors or providers, but at least one of each. Oh, and it’s due tomorrow. End of day today would be better.

Now ask yourself who you’d reach out to:

  • The comparatively junior contact you have at a big corporate agency—you know, the one who keeps pitching you out of the blue about the same one or two clients.
  • The comparatively senior contact you have at a smaller, healthcare-specific PR agency—you know, the one with a diverse client portfolio who can probably be your one-stop shop for all three of the interviews you need to conduct.

Actually, any chance you could turn the article around sooner? It’d be great to get it out on social ASAP.

The hotter the topic and the busier the news cycle, the higher the demands on journalists’ time and attention. During the weeks preceding HIMSS, it’s not uncommon for a healthcare reporter at a top-tier publication to receive well over 200 pitches a day. From a purely practical standpoint, the only way they can wade through the noise is to focus on their most reliable agency contacts (who, by the way, have been regularly pitching and checking in on HIMSS opportunities for months, not weeks).

How much of a difference do strong media relationships make? Consider the Fortune 500 client I mentioned earlier.

In our first month working together, we secured more media opportunities for them than their most recent large corporate agency had secured over the course of three years.

Now, did our agency-wide expertise in healthcare and healthcare IT enable us to craft higher quality, more sophisticated pitches and thought-leadership content? Absolutely. Did we also do a better job targeting the right reporter/editor/publication with the right pitch at the right time? You bet your bylines.

But the wealth of opportunities we had to choose from were partly a function of a fundamental truth about healthcare/healthcare IT PR. As a boutique agency exclusively serving healthcare and healthcare IT clients, we hear about opportunities that larger and less focused agencies don’t—because healthcare journalists’ lives are already hard enough.

Another key difference: Who’s *really* doing the writing?

The complaint I hear most frequently from prospective clients is the amount of time they spend rewriting the content their current agency produces. The shared sentiment is, “in the time we spend rewriting everything, we could have just drafted it ourselves.” And that isn’t just an idle thought for many companies—when I spoke with a large publicly traded company last week, they explained they use their current agency for media pitching only, having brought all content creation back in-house after years of constant rewriting.

Obviously, any agency of any size can hire bad writers. And, at least conceivably, any agency with the resources to do so can hire good writers.

So where’s the breakdown?

First (and this is the last time I’ll mention it), lack of expertise plays a role. If the writers assigned to the account aren’t strong on healthcare/healthcare IT, there’s no covering it up. Especially if they’re writing based on input from deeply knowledgeable subject matter experts.

Second, depending on the agency, even a reasonably large healthcare or healthcare IT company might be comparatively low-priority when it comes to resource allocation. The bigger and less healthcare-focused the pond, the more likely that other accounts or client-types will be seen as the truly big fish. And the big fish gets the worm, which in this modified idiom represent the more senior writers.

It sure would be nice if there was a just a checklist of what to look for in an agency

Wouldn’t it? I’ve always thought so. So here are consolidated insider tips and key questions you can use to streamline your search for the perfect agency.

Expertise – Do they know your space? Do they understand the lingo? Have industry connections? Will they have senior level executives on the account, or will you be delegated to a junior team? Check references and make sure the agency is everything they actually say they are. If you’re making your decision partly based on writing samples, make sure you see the samples of the writers you’ll actually be working with.

Range of Services – Do you need a PR firm only, or are you looking for an integrated marketing communications firm that can handle all of your marketing needs? If the agency only handles one service line, do they have partner agencies for other areas?

Team – Make sure you ask to meet your team. Very often with a big agency, the high-level execs you met at the presentation aren’t the team who will be working on your account. That’s unfortunate, because experience and compatibility matter.

Ideally, at least one of the people who would be on your team will also be at the initial presentation. If they are, chat them up. Are they someone you would enjoy working with on a regular basis? Remember—this is going to be a close relationship, so comfort and rapport are key!

Budget/terms/scope of work – Be sure to compare apples to apples when assessing services and quantities/deliverables. Are you going to engage in an annual retainer program or project work? Will you be billed by the hour or by scope of deliverables? Based on my experience, the latter will get you more value. Teams won’t be clocking out the second your hours for the month are used up; instead, they’ll work tirelessly to successfully execute your campaigns with no limit to the time they put in. And don’t get caught in the trap of assuming a higher retainer equals better service, especially if you aren’t going to be one of the agency’s largest accounts or if they don’t specialize in healthcare or healthcare IT.

The fit matters

Once you’ve narrowed the field of potential agency partners to a fully vetted top five, you can reasonably assume that any of them are capable of handling the nuts and bolts of PR and marketing. That’s why I recommend focusing on the fit to help you make your final decision. Does it feel right? Is this the company and are these the people that you want to serve as an extension of your own team? And where do you fit in their agency world—or to put it another way, what’s the pond look like?

Ultimately, every organization has to decide what’s right for them based on a host of factors. Understanding how agencies differ beyond the simple metric of size will help ensure the strengths of the PR and marketing agency you do select align with the work you want them to do and the results you want them to deliver. In some cases, a bigger agency can be better—but as many of the largest healthcare and healthcare IT companies already know, it isn’t always best.

Going from Serviceable Company Spokesperson to Media Rock Star

Video: Going from Serviceable Company Spokesperson to Media Rock Star

At one point or another we’ve all sat and marveled at an amazing company spokesperson. You know the type. They get on-camera, or go behind a microphone, and they just look or sound comfortable.

For some, it is without question a natural ability. Surprisingly, however, for many others it’s actually an acquired skill, learned through many hours of practice. After all, do you really think Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos started out as cool, calm and credible company spokespeople?

Anyone who knew them before they were famous can tell you that wasn’t the case. They had to get past their natural tendencies in order to help promote their companies and ensure their visions for the organization were fulfilled.

The same is true for many other corporate executives. They made a conscious effort to learn the skills and techniques to be able to deliver their corporate messages in a way that encouraged others to listen.

In this video, Amendola Communications Media Relations Director Joy DiNaro shares some thoughts on what it takes to be a great company spokesperson/media interview – and how even inexperienced executives can acquire the necessary skills.

Trade SHows and Events: Four Ways to Improve Your ROI

Trade Shows and Events: Four Ways to Improve Your ROI

Whether you personally believe trade shows are the land of opportunity or merely a relic of a bygone era where primitive being skulked through the aisles without the benefit of a smartphone, there is no question that they are still a fact of life for many of us. In fact, some (such as, oh, I dunno, HIMSS?) are not merely a minor blip on our radars but a huge disruptor to the otherwise semi-orderly flow of our lives.

Trade shows can be a time-sink as well as a budget-sink, so if you’re going to make that type of investment, it’s critically important that you be sure the organization gets something out of it. Something more than “exposure” and free leftover pens, tote bags and the kind of hard candy your grandmother gives you when you come to visit, and that you only eat when there is absolutely no other choice. Love you, grandma!

Toward that end (getting something out of your trade show investment, not getting hard candy), Amendola Communications CEO Jodi Amendola has written a blog post in her role as a member of the Forbes Agency Council. “Trade Show ROI: Four Ways to Make the Most Out of Industry Events” offers some great suggestions for ensuring marketers get a pat on the back rather than a kick in the backside for the results of their organization’s trade show efforts. The four tips include:

  • Ensuring you have a well-honed elevator pitch that carefully walks the line between proper and over-the-top self-promotion
  • Making Twitter your go-to social media platform for engaging other attendees
  • Hosting a reception for clients and prospects
  • Being sure you do something with all those leads you capture

Obviously there’s more to it than just those four bullet points, so it’s well worth giving the post a full read. You can do that here: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2019/02/08/trade-show-roi-four-ways-to-make-the-most-out-of-industry-events/#17e432e9174f

Whatever your personal feelings about trade shows, however, they still loom large in many industries – especially healthcare. So if you’re going to do it, do it right.

Take the time to prepare properly, and then maximize your time on the floor – whether you’re in front of the counter or behind it. It will pay off in the end.

The Science of Marketing and Public Relations

The Science of Marketing and Public Relations

You got approval for a $3 Million marketing budget from the C-suite.

While that may sound small to some and exorbitant to others – the one guarantee is the marketing team will be required to “prove their value” after the money is spent.

Unlike some other departments who can say we bought 100 widgets at $1 instead of $2 – saving the company $100 – as marketing has grown more complex over the years, it has also become more difficult to show the return on investment at the end of the day.

But, we all know that saying “it’s difficult to measure” or even worse “we don’t know what value we got from that byline or advertisement” is not an acceptable response to leadership. The C-Suite, rightly so, wants to understand what they are getting for their money. Likewise, we wouldn’t pay thousands of dollars on a car without expecting it to work every day and last for several years. We want to know we got our money’s worth.

Marketers and public relations experts must learn the data and science of the profession. So, how do you measure a byline, a press release, an email campaign, social media, or an advertisement?

Step 1: Know the goals

Do not skip this step! Before embarking on an extensive marketing strategy that the team spent weeks putting together, know your company goals. What are leadership’s short-term and long-term plans? Is it a start-up needing more brand recognition or is it in a growth-stage needing quality lead generation?

Understanding where the company is today and where leadership is heading will help drive your marketing strategy. Share your marketing plans with the leadership team to get buy-in and agree upfront on the metrics that you plan to measure.

Step 2: Set the metrics and know the terminology

Now that you know the goals, it’s time to set your success metrics. How will you know if your plan is successful? Depending upon your strategy, you will use varying measures for different tactics. Below is a subset to consider.

  • Share of Voice (SOV): Measure the percentage of coverage and mentions of your brand in the media compared to your competitors.
  • Coverage: Track the number of times your brand is mentioned in the media along with where it is mentioned.
  • Website traffic: Google Analytics is a very useful tool to monitor unique page views, bounce rates, conversion rates, average session duration, and referral sites.
  • Domain authority: A term coined by Moz – your domain authority ranking will compare your overall website, including SEO and keyword rankings, to give you a number 1-100. The higher the number the great authority your site holds within your industry.
  • Social Media: Track beginning and ending metrics including followers, likes and shares. Determine which content and messaging provides the greatest engagement with your audience.
  • Impressions and click-thru rates: With advertisements you will want to view not only the number of people that saw your ad but more importantly, how many clicked on your ad.
  • Conversion ratios: The percentage or ratio of people that clicked on an email, ad, or social content, etc. that then completed a call-to-action. This includes downloading content, completing a form for a demo, and even registering for a webinar.
  • Open rates and click-thru rates: When delivering emails or drip campaigns, you can monitor their success based upon the number of people that opened the email and the number of people that then clicked on a link within the email.
  • Cost-per-lead (CPL): To many in leadership, if you start speaking in terms of CPL – you’ll be speaking their language. Calculating the costs of your activity divided by the number of leads you gained will give you the CPL.
  • Marketing qualified lead (MQL): While this one is probably one of the most important, the definition often varies from company to company. Typically, this is a lead that has a business need, understands what you offer, and has an interest in buying your product or service.

The metrics you choose should align appropriately with the tactics you will produce and the goals of your company. Putting these in place upfront will help avoid confusion at the end of the year.

Step 3: Make sure you have the right tools

While many marketers did not get into marketing to become data analysts, the move toward digital marketing requires a successful marketer to understand and use data wisely. Fortunately, many companies have developed tools to help analyze marketing results and prove value. There are many free or relatively inexpensive tools you can use to monitor your metrics.

Most marketers will start with free tools, and depending on the complexity of their business may purchase additional tools. Due to the overwhelming number of tools on the market, make sure you understand exactly what you are getting and any feature restrictions or limitations. In addition, make sure you use all the benefits of your marketing tools. Often you may purchase an email marketing tool without realizing you can also create landing pages, deliver social strategies and even host your webpages.

The key is not to get overwhelmed. Know what you need to measure and select the tools that are right for you.

 

Reverse Engineer Your Story-Telling

Reverse Engineer Your Story-Telling

A couple of years ago, a client of mine who launched a health IT startup, marveled at the number of healthcare entrepreneurs who came up with a cool idea and then went in search of a market for it. In most cases, he told me, this approach found them struggling to find a toe-hold. The smart play was to study the market first, identify and understand the core challenges of the market’s customers, then develop a solution to overcome those challenges.

This very same problem afflicts many health IT companies when pitching the media. A company’s marketer or PR pro will identify a story—about the company’s leadership, success with a client or the development of a new innovation—then set out to find a reporter to write it up and publish it.

More often than not, the results leave much to be desired.

For sustained PR success, your content needs to fit the contours of whatever narrative or story journalists and editors are focusing on—and that requires an ability to reverse-engineer those stories to match the priorities of the target journalist.

While you may believe that the story you want to tell is important, people outside of your organization probably don’t feel the same way—at least, not without some modifications. It’s a hard lesson to internalize, I know. I have been fortunate to work with clients who I really believe in, but the inherent risk of that positive sentiment is an inability to look at a story from outside the four walls of the organization that wants to tell it.

While it’s tempting to jump right into the pool with a pitch, it’s often tactical and short-sighted. Even if you do generate a few quality media hits, they’ll be quickly pushed aside by the next piece of content—and the one after that and the one after that.

When it comes to story-telling, I always start by asking my clients what results they want to achieve, then reverse-engineer a strategy to accomplish those goals. A friendly download will help set priorities and ensure that you are pursuing the right story-telling strategy.

For example, a company that wants to make a big splash at a massive conference like HIMSS should probably focus more on sponsored content buys for the main course, and use earned media as an extra side of gravy.

When earned media interviews and placements are the main prize, I like to start with a deeper, more granular narrative that aligns the client’s story with broader industry trends, research and compelling statistics and is collated into a pitch ‘bible.’ This resource contains the ‘main plot’ of the story the client wants to tell, but also includes a number of subplots and alternative narratives that allows me to cast my pitching net much wider.

It’s an extremely useful tool, because it allows you to quickly customize pitches based on a journalist’s priorities and beats. (You want to spend enough time on the front-end, so you can be quick and nimble on the back-end). It also allows you, as a marketer or PR pro, to see the forest for the trees; developing second and third wave pitching that will sustain over the course of weeks and months. This strategy also allows you to seamlessly align with other content developers, including marketers and social media managers for targeted outreach and creative amplification.

The writing of this broad narrative coincides with research into the target journalists and publications. What have they covered? Where are the logical places they will take their story-telling next? What specific hooks can I create that will convince them that my story is worth the time and effort to write?

Critically, how does all that research change they way I am telling my story—and do those alterations still align with the client’s desired results?

In today’s environment, it’s no longer enough to have a story. Health IT is one of the most hyper-competitive industries around. Sustaining traction, much less enjoying inbound inquiries, in an ever-shrinking media environment is a constant challenge for all but the most well-known tech brands.

By identifying the challenges and desires of the media, you can reverse-engineer a story to meet those challenges and find enduring media success.

Why Are You Reading This?

Why Are You Reading This?

News Flash: There is a lot of written content on the web. That means it is challenging to grab a reader’s attention and even more difficult to hold it. One study, from way back in 2014, found online readers generally click away after 15 seconds. Five years and billions of smartphones later, it’s probably closer to 12 or 11 seconds.

That’s why when creating PR or marketing content, we constantly need to consider the reader first. Certainly, companies have their own goals for every content piece they create, but the reader’s experience, what’s meaningful to them and their goals for reading your content must be the first priority.

Here’s how to grab a reader’s attention in written content and hold it to the last word.

Identify your reader

This is the most important question. Whether crafting a thought leadership article, email blast or white paper, it needs to be laser-focused on who the reader is because as soon as they sense a piece of content isn’t relevant to them, they’ll delete, click or scroll away to something else. It’s a tougher question than it appears. If you set your sights too narrow, you risk alienating a lot of prospects; if you aim too broad, you risk being ignored by everybody.

Headline and lead paragraphs are the most important

What did you think of the headline for this blog post? Did it pique your curiosity? If so, good, because that’s what headlines need to do. Readers typically decide to continue an article after the headline and first few lines, so these two introductory elements are perhaps the most important parts of the content in most writing.

Style matters

The type of content will often dictate what style you use for your headline and lead as well as for other writing choices. A blog post, like the one you’re reading, allows for a little more causal headline, lead and language, but regardless of the style, it needs to be relevant and easy to read. Longer pieces, like white papers, should also move the reader along, even if they are written in a more formal style.

Tell the reader why they should stick with you

There are many ways in those lead paragraphs to encourage the reader to keep reading. Options include presenting a common, pressing problem that they want to solve, asking a provocative question that they will want to answer, or enticing them with ROI. For example, in B2B (and even in B2C) dollar signs always grab readers’ attention. Obviously, if the content has no financial element, then that’s not feasible, but sharing quantifiable numbers automatically establishes interest and often relevance in the reader.

Make every paragraph meaningful

Keep the reader engaged through the entire content piece by putting information in every paragraph that they care about or include actionable data they can begin applying today. The overriding goal of PR and marketing content is, of course, to attract prospects, but writing about only your solution is a turn-off, even presented in a vendor-neutral fashion.

One size does not fit all

I was going to title this subhead: “keep it short,” but one study shows that a 1,600-word length for most pieces is ideal, even for blog posts. Other research contradicts that finding. For a white paper, eBook or byline, that length or longer seems appropriate, but with blog posts, we say keep them shorter and then drive the reader to download the longer content piece.

What nearly all the research says, however, is if it is quality content, the reader will stick with it, regardless of length. In healthcare B2B PR, which is where we at Amendola Communications live, quality content means relevance to the reader, their job or their business. Stay on that track and you’ll have them reading to the last word, which is what I hope you’re doing right now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time to Spring Clean Your PR Strategy

Time to Spring Clean Your PR Strategy

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the flowers and trees are blooming. It’s that time of the year when I think about Spring cleaning, especially living in Atlanta where everything inside and out is covered in pollen. As I was dusting my entire house last weekend trying to rid it of the fine yellow dust covering EVERYTHING (the struggle is real y’all); I started thinking about how to spring clean your PR strategy and what would benefit the most from a little extra attention.

Media Lists

The media landscape is constantly in transition.  Journalists change positions, beats, contact information, etc. They might have altered their interest in specific topics. Throughout the year, we try to keep our press lists up-to-date, but spending some extra time going over your media list, updating the notes based on feedback from pitches and researching new media outlets can be a great use of time.

Messaging

This is a great opportunity to review your business’ messaging and assess if it needs updating. Perhaps you’ve announced new products in the last six months, or perhaps the industry has developed a new acronym for your niche, or maybe there is a new piece of healthcare legislation that is key to what your business does that should be mentioned in your messaging. Maybe you’ve learned more throughout the year about what your key audiences want to hear. Now is a great opportunity to take another look at your key messages to make sure they are conveying what you want them to and effectively reaching your target audiences.

PR Coverage

With a fresh look at your media lists and messaging, it would also be timely to review your coverage.  Where have you received the most placements? Are any angles played out at this point? What outlets have you not gotten coverage in that you want to be in? What angles do you need to push harder?  Are you actually reaching your target audiences with these outlets? A review of all of this will help you spring forward to make your coverage blossom even more.

Events

We PR people like to develop our annual plans generally at the beginning of each year.  But so many details for events such as conferences and tradeshows are updated throughout the year.  Determining which conferences you plan to attend, submit a speaker application to or want to include in your content strategy is a key component to any PR campaign. Take this time to update your events list with deadlines for speaking and any other promotional activities.

Review and Set New Goals

With a fresh perspective on where you’ve been and what you have to work with, it is also a great time to review the progress you’ve made in achieving your goals and updating them or maybe upgrading them. Utilize the S.M.A.R.T. goal format as a best practice.

Some of these recommendations take some ongoing maintenance but think of this time as a chance to really dust off what you are doing with your PR campaign and apply a fresh strategic approach to it. So, before you grab a vacuum, go grab a pen and review your PR strategy to help your business make the most of its PR activities.

 

It’s not you. It’s your brand. Is brand ambiguity stunting your sales growth?

Over the last fifteen years, I’ve participated in more corporate messaging workshops than can be counted. Inevitably, at a certain point during the workshop, the facilitator will ask the collective group: “Who ARE we?” Typically, the marketing leaders are quick to reiterate the company’s vision or mission statement, while sales leaders rattle verbiage from their elevator pitches, and executives state messages similar to those they give investors on analyst calls. Turns out, answering “Who ARE we?” is not that simple of a question after all.

Is your brand suffering from a bit of ambiguity? Try this simple experiment the next time you’re riding up the elevator with colleagues. Ask the folks standing beside you, “Who is {insert your company name here}?”

I’m not a gambler, but I’d wage a bet you’d get limited overlap in responses. Why? Perhaps because your organization hasn’t fully invested the time and effort into crystalizing their brand positioning and brand purpose for all employees, customers and stakeholders.

No longer reserved for consumer-facing brands, it has become essential for business-to-business organizations to not only create and develop a brand but also define their position and purpose. Why?

Not only will it separate your brand from a sea of sameness among competition, but it can elevate your position in the market. If we as marketers can prevent our sales team from being asked “So who are you, again?” we’ve done part of our job.

I’ve worked on branding and rebranding initiatives for companies of all sizes – and what do they all have in common? An aligned purpose to create a great brand.

But what does it take to go from good to great? Well, good brands merely fulfill a need. They provide a service, or a product, based upon an expressed need.

But a great brand? A great brand anticipates. How? By truly understanding their customers. Talking to them. Asking questions. Reading about them in the news. Thinking about their current and future needs.

And while it may be unpleasant, or downright excruciating, asking your customers where your brand falls short can be one of the first steps towards creating a brand people trust. After all, people want partners, not vendors.

Sometimes the most important part of creating and maintaining a successful brand is simply realizing that just because something isn’t broken doesn’t mean it’s working. In the last year alone, we’ve seen notable brands take inventory of their brand presence and come to the ultimate realization that their current identity is no longer aligned with their future state. Let’s look at three notable examples:

  1. Dunkin Donuts ditched the donuts and debuted a short name – Dunkin – along with a modernized look and feel to test stores around the country earlier this year. The company is investing $100 millionto update their stores and “better meet the evolving tastes” of their customers, which will include new equipment and dedicated drive-through lanes so people who order drinks on their phones (hello, Starbucks!) can pick them up easily. They realized the market demanded more than coffee and donuts to stay competitive, and they’re putting their money where their mouth is.
  2. Unlike Dunkin’, Slack kept their name but instead chose to revamp their original (dare I say iconic?)logo. This move caused an onset of conversation around the decision to ditch the beloved hashtag in favor of a simpler visual identity. Why? They felt it was time to evolve. Beyond the unexpected logo swap, Slack’s rebrand came in advance of a direct public offering expected later this year.
  3. Earlier this year, WeWork announced their rebrand, informing the market that they will now be known as We Company. This strategy was likely designed for both investors and customers in order to broaden their aspirations from places to people. The announcement also came with a sweet perk – to the tune of $2 billion in investment from SoftBank Group.

Taking inventory of your current brand and determining whether it aligns with your future growth is no easy feat. In part two of this post, we’ll review the main drivers that help indicate when a logo refresh is needed, a repositioning workshop will do, or when a full rebrand makes the most sense.

We’ll walk through logical next steps, including how to get it done. Using your brand as a springboard to add colorful depth to your offerings can easily change the conversation and help your sales team create meaningful relationships to not just power the sales cycle but build the funnel at the same time.

 

So you just landed a ventrue capital investment and want some media coverage

So You Just Landed a Venture Capital Investment and Want Some Media Coverage

Closing a venture capital (VC) investment is a big deal for any young company.

After all, less than 1 percent of all U.S. companies receive VC money. A VC investment represents market validation. An experienced group of industry veterans has decided that your company holds the promise and potential to make them (and maybe even yourself and a few of your employees) rich. They think you have an innovative idea, and their cash will serve as the catalyst sparking that growth.

Sounds great – and it is. Landing VC money is a huge accomplishment for any company that is able to make it through what is generally an ultra-competitive process.

It’s also a great opportunity to generate some media coverage, which for many young companies, will represent their first introduction to the market and first occasion to share their stories with potential customers, partners, acquirers and other investors.

The only problem? Announcements of VC investments happen all the time, so the media is not lacking in coverage options. To make sure your announcement about obtaining a venture capital investment gets noticed, keep these four integral principles in mind.

Do not withhold the dollar amount: If you’re looking to create media interest at all, I cannot stress enough the importance of including the dollar amount of the investment. This is a very important point for reporters who need some way of assessing the gravity of all the funding announcements they see. Obviously, $50 million will look better in headlines than $5 million, but $1 million looks a lot better than nothing. In my reporter days, when I saw a funding announcement without a dollar amount, it immediately went to the bottom of my queue of potential upcoming stories. Don’t fumble away this valuable opportunity by failing to get approval from your investors to include the dollar amount.

Describe how you’ll use the investment: All reporters expect that you’ll use your recent cash infusion to drive “growth,” but they’ll want more specifics than that. What are your key measures of growth? If it’s customer acquisition, what type of customers are you looking to acquire? If it’s employee headcount, how many are you looking to hire? (BONUS: Including potential jobs numbers in an area can help you get into local media AND aid in your recruiting efforts.) If it’s revenue, by what percentage are you hoping to grow revenue in the next year? Obviously, you don’t want to reveal any secret strategies to competitors, but your investment announcement provides an opening to begin shaping your company’s story and the way it’s publicly perceived. Do that by articulating a clear vision for the future that describes exactly what “growth” means to you.

Make sure executives are available for interviews on the day of the announcement: For the chance to pose questions like those mentioned above – plus plenty more – reporters will be interested in speaking with a top company executive, preferably the CEO. After coordinating key talking points with the CEO, be sure to coordinate schedules. As important as a funding announcement is, it’s not realistic to expect an executive to block off her entire day for interviews. But one or two decent chunks of time on the day of the announcement isn’t too much to ask.

Be sure to include investor and customer quotes: A VC investment serves as an important representation of market validation, and the funding announcement is a chance to shout that validation from the rooftops. A quote from the investor is a must, explaining why the VC firm thinks this company is one to take a risk on, why the market will ultimately choose their technology as a winner and what type of growth potential exists in this particular market niche. For bonus points, include a customer quote explaining (preferably with quantifiable outcomes) exactly how your technology helped them address a significant business problem.

Yes, it can be difficult to gain media coverage for venture capital announcements due to all the stiff competition out there. But it is possible to get journalists’ attention.

Drafting an announcement that follows the key principles above will help your announcement stand out while giving journalists what they want and need – a good, complete story to tell. And the same story that helped you win the investment in the first place.

 

Think of Your Upcoming Summit as the Next Blockbuster Release

You’ve invested substantially in your upcoming trade shows, congresses, conferences or summits (collectively referred to as “summits” in this blog piece). Speaker submission forms. Sponsorships. Booth-install, technology and set-up. Videos. Meeting spaces. Air fare. Hotel blocks. Meals and entertainment. Just to name a few of the common and worthwhile expenses.

But, how do you make your speakers stand out from the others? How will you pique interest and draw attendance? How can you show target audiences the value in your solution and engage with them?

Think about your upcoming summit as if you were bringing a new movie to theaters—building anticipation and excitement for your specific offering, making sure your audience gets an entertaining learning experience and then—at the end—leave them wanting more.

1. Coming Soon! (Build Anticipation)

You should begin preparing months in advance of the summit. If possible, make sure the save-the-date goes out to key audiences (including internal sales and marketing teams) during the previous year’s summit. If that isn’t possible, then send out the save-the-date as soon as your appearance at a summit—or a speaking opportunity—is secured.

During the months leading up to it, create talk tracks for sales and account teams to help drive attendance to the summit. Talking points can also be used in emails to clients, customers and prospects. Develop landing pages and digital flyers with information about the summit and speaker.

Something to keep in mind is, if you’re securing speaking sessions or educational forums, make sure they offer continuing education credits. This helps to build interest in your key audiences and leads to better attendance.

As the show draws closer, supply your sales and account teams with social media posts that they can easily post and share. These take only minutes to compose and can be a simple push to their Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram accounts.

2. Showtime! (Creating a Meaningful Experience)

From the time the summit opens, you should be taking advantage of opportunities to engage your appropriate audiences. There are various media and formats to create a dialogue and draw attention to your company and solution offering.

If it’s allowed, during keynotes and other speeches, you could consider live-streaming them for your customers, clients and prospects who are unable to attend. This is also a great way to create a “pull” and desire to attend the show in the future.

For social media, make sure that you have an ambassador who is taking pictures and writing recaps of sessions that link to next year’s save-the-date for the show. Include something in the social post like, “Reserve your spot NOW for next year’s summit!”

If you have clients on-site, help them share their stories through testimonials. You can also have a videographer, who is visible to other attendees, grabbing people in the hallway or aisles and asking them about their conference experience, what they’ve learned and their most important takeaways. This is an excellent way to create buzz and get people talking. It also provides content for a recap video to promote future conferences and can be an amazing tool for digital campaigns.

Be sure to have a booth or pop-up in the vendor display area. In addition to having a space to demonstrate your solution, this gives you a meeting area for clients to discuss their successes and prospects to ask questions and sign up to learn more. And, make sure that sales and account management teams are taking notes so they can conduct proper follow-up opportunities. To keep attendees engaged and returning to your booth, consider some sort of raffle or giveaway.

If you have speakers and clients presenting, create polls during the sessions. This gives another chance to engage the audience and gives you statistics and material to post on social media. Build in an appropriate time for questions and answers—those, too, can be posted on social channels. For future material, assign writers to record the sessions and create bylines or post-session articles to add to your marketing content pipeline for months to come.

3. Now Streaming! (Post Show Tactics and After Effects)

As soon as the show ends, issue a press release with a recap of any important announcements, how many people attended, a list of organizations that attended (if it’s impressive) and any awards that may have been given to your customers or clients. Be sure to include client quotes…especially those related to your product or solution.

Create a virtual summit, in a webinar format, with a series of the best sessions. You may need to fill out forms and work with the show’s continuing education people, but it may be possible to offer continuing education for the virtual summit as well.

For those who attended the summit, consider creating a gated microsite, with links to all materials from the show’s sessions, and a link to the next year’s save-the-date. You can also include links to the virtual summit schedule, registrations and the media recap session that was produced during the show (or post-show) as well.

Finally, email your target list to keep them engaged! Develop a cadence of one-a-month, with key takeaways, follow up materials and calls to action.

To get the most from the investment you’ve made in summits, have a strategy and devote the time to plan, execute and follow-up. Remember that the latest big blockbuster movie had many resources devoted to its preparation and release, as well as continuing its popularity after it left theaters. With the tactics in this blog, hopefully you, too, will have a summit that’s a hit for a long time to follow and attracts audiences to many sequels.