14/05/2022

Why Bots Will Not Replace PR Agencies Anytime Soon

You’ve heard the story again and again. Artificial intelligence (AI) will replace journalists. AI will replace authors. And now, AI will eventually replace PR agencies. But how close are we to a world where automated services can replace everything a PR agency does? Is that even possible?

PR services come down to several elements. Proper PR is about understanding the client and its products and services, working out which piece of news is impactful enough to make a journalist take notice, and writing a compelling pitch and press release. Most importantly, PR is about having a good relationship with those journalists.

It’s true. AI has come a long way when it comes to writing copy. In concert with camera and sensor tracking data, it is already being used to write live sports commentaries that are even peppered with humour and sports clichés. However, this feat is relatively easy for AI to achieve, given it only needs to write a short sentence for each significant activity.

Now and then, there is news about a computer being able to pass The Turing Test. According to Wikipedia, The Turing Test is a “machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human.” But such news has been faked until now. Some have come close, but nothing quite beats the human touch. Computers still make mistakes in language and logic.

In 2016 an AI programme at the Nikkei Shinichi Hoshi Literary Award, a literary competition in Japan, wrote a short story that passed the first round of judging. The shortlisted tale called ‘The Day A Computer Writes A Novel’ wasn’t entirely written by AI; humans had a hand in it too. A team of researchers from the Future University Hakodate gave the program certain words, phrases, and an overall framework for the story.

It proves that such an AI programme is yet not capable of writing stories 100% by itself. Besides, successful stories require much more than just sticking words together.

Even now, tools like Copy.ai, Writer, Conversion.ai, and Sapling.ai exist to help a writer produce copy, not create it for them. The idea that a computer can look at a client’s website or white paper and write a press release—let alone understand what angle might excite journalists that receive anything from 100-400 pitches a day—is still science fiction.

And while tools like JustReachOut exist, the reality is that they are not designed to help you tell your startup launch, funding, milestone, or exciting background story to get written up. They automate the process of getting backlinks to your website.

Indeed, in 2013, Oxford University scientists published a research paper on the future of employment. They researched how susceptible jobs are to computerisation. According to it, PR professionals have only an 18% chance of machines replacing them in the next 20 years. But it isn’t only this research that suggests PR is safe from automation and computerisation for a long time to come.

Of course, several modern marketing automation tools can assist in the process of PR. Prowly bills itself as a “PR CRM” that helps manage the vast number of journalists, publications, clients, stories, pitches, and press releases any sizeable agency needs to stay on top of. Mediatoolkit allows an agency to monitor the results of its work, deal with crises, manage brand reputation, and double down on good press.

Other approaches have included cutting out the PR agency by helping startups hone their pitch and then present them as a web page for journalists to pull from directly. Upbeat, PressFriendly, and Publicize have all entered the fray, each with its way of tackling the problem of “email pitch overload.” Of these, Upbeat hasn’t tweeted since 2018, only a year after it raised $1.5m in funding. There are no details of why it met its demise. While these solutions are interesting, a good PR agency won’t overload journalists with off-topic pitches or stories they know won’t resonate.

None of these tools can automate PR, and here’s why.

Social skills and empathy

While computers can crunch massive amounts of data, they still can’t engage in a proper one-on-one conversation. Anyone who’s ever received an automated reply from a Twitter bot can testify to that. Language is not just exchanging information with the other side. There is a specific dose of empathy involved, along with context, common social background, tone of voice, and implied (connotative) meaning. This is incredibly easy for humans to grasp and yet incredibly hard for computers.

The foundation of human trust

As PR professionals, it is our responsibility to hold to the fundamentals on which our profession is built: trust and storytelling. Marketing and advertising typically assert a brand’s message by explicitly detailing its authentic product and service advantages. Most times, consumers are aware that advertising is a hard sell. But as we know, PR doesn’t apply this same approach; selling an ‘idea’ or ‘story’ is about establishing trust in the very beginning.

Storytelling and emotional intelligence

Trust and storytelling are PR’s two key, fundamental elements that cannot be questioned or overlooked because our client and media relationships depend on them. Sure, AI and automation have undoubtedly made our lives easier and will continue to revolutionise our profession. But at the center of it all, computers cannot automate trust and tell a unique story; it requires a human touch.

Creativity

PR is not only about distribution. It’s also about creative thinking. It takes imagination to find interesting angles on events or clients, more than it takes to write facts and fill out press release templates. Good PR professionals will emphasise some parts of the story and withhold those that might be less critical or harm their client’s reputation.

Instead of replacing humans, AI will continue to make the boring parts of our day less so and give us more time to focus on the essential aspects of our work: connecting with fellow humans and exercising our creativity.

The article was published on PRWeek

25/02/2022

Why Entrepreneurs Should Not Be Their Own PR

Startups should definitely do PR, but doing it themselves may be a bad idea.

A startup, just like any other company, should do PR — it can pay off big by attracting new customers, partners, investors and talents. In general, founders realize the impact of communications on their businesses, but some of them still consider being their own publicists.

Indeed, some entrepreneurs are capable of doing public relations themselves because they understand how communications and mass media work, but they are honestly a rare find. 

Eagerness to implement do-it-yourself PR often rests upon the desire to save a limited budget, mixed with beliefs that “PR is easy” and founders understand how to represent their company better than anyone else. Unfortunately, the outcomes of DIY PR may contradict these best intentions. There are many nuances about approaching journalists that startup founders just don’t conceive of, let alone the fact that PR work takes them off things they really should be doing — operating the business.

What can go wrong

Misunderstanding the way PR works leads to mistakes and unjustified loss of time. The most common problems here are:

  • Entrepreneurs don’t understand what’s newsworthy and what’s not. As a result, they spam journalists with information that has no value and zero chances to get published. One should understand the news to be in the news, and it requires research, experience and effort.
  • They are unaware of how journalists work. Reporters aren’t a ruck of people who do the same things. They are individuals who are interested in particular topics and angles ⁠— even in a narrow field ⁠— and require a thoughtful and personal approach. It’s necessary to take time and familiarize yourself with all the journalists who may be interested in your story and find the right ones among them.
  • Founders have no idea how to pitch correctly. Consequently, theymass email random journalists with hastily written letters and obscure subject headlines. Being brief, clear and to the point is a must for those who want to get noticed by reporters.
  • They aggressively demand publications to be exactly as they want them to be. Sometimes founders mistakenly see news outlets as advertising platforms and insist on adding links to the company’s website, including marketing information and usage of certain words. Not only does it not help to get it published, but it may also spoil an entrepreneur’s reputation among journalists for good.
  • They don’t take time to prepare for interviews if they manage to land one. Consequently, entrepreneurs don’t give journalists what they want and fetch up no publication, or give reporters wrong ideas about the business and its founder and end up with disastrous feature material.
  • They don’t think about the audience of the media outlets. Founders may want to speak about their product only, when in reality it’s necessary to talk about the product in connection with the audience’s needs, worries and problems. You have to adapt to the readership of each media outlet you want to be in. Frankly, PR requires a lot of research, empathy and ingenuity.

The disappointing results and how to avoid them

PR can help a startup grow, bring in more revenue and establish a strong HR brand. But with DIY PR, these benefits are hard to achieve. By becoming their own publicist, founders waste enormous amounts of time and energy while focusing less on their own company. The truth is, no work can be properly done by someone who keeps several plates spinning at once. 

Sooner or later, entrepreneurs become disappointed in the results of DIY PR and turn to PR firms and consultants or hire an in-house PR manager. Good if it happens before the company’s or its founder’s reputation is blown away, because even a highly-skilled public relations expert may not be able to persuade journalists to publish a story about someone they don’t take seriously.

PR is a lot of work. In this field, one should constantly be in the news flow and in contact with reporters, watch out for trends, generate ideas and be alert in case of journalists’ inquiries. By delegating this job, founders are much more likely to get the outcome they want without the probability to lose focus on what they are indispensably competent at — running a company.

The article was published on Entrepreneur

24/01/2022

How PR Can Attract Investors and Add Value to Your Startup

Individual venture capital companies receive more than 1,000 proposals a year and are primarily interested in businesses that require an investment of at least $250,000, as stated in Embroker. However, according to the same source, only 1% of startups turn out to be the next Uber, Airbnb, Slack or Stripe. That is why it is tough to get a VCs’ attention. But PR can significantly increase your chances of getting funded, and here’s how.

PR helps you show off your expertise

Founding a startup doesn’t make you an expert in your field. If nobody knows about your expertise, investors might see you as an outsider. Investing in PR, you are investing in building a portfolio of your public opinions, mentions and columns in the outlets that matter in a startup scene.

Being a guest on a podcast talking about the future of your industry, authoring an opinion column or giving a quote on product innovation will help you build your credibility. Publications don’t publish articles from authors that have nothing useful to say to their readers, and journalists don’t ask for quotes from random people.

Every word you say in the press is your chance for investors to notice you, and see you as an expert who explores daring innovations and has the knowledge and courage to create a fast-growing, successful company.

When the investor’s FOMO kicks in, PR is gold

While you still have to be working on your concept, business plan, MVP and risk management, PR has to be your “significant other” if you are looking for funds. Every investor’s FOMO is to miss an opportunity of catching another unicorn. VCs are constantly looking for the best deals — they open TechCrunch, VentureBeat and Crunchbase every morning to find another potential multi-billion dollar company.

This is why you have to create hype air around your startup using PR:

  • Get articles about your startup published in publications
  • Work on different formats to reveal the best angles of your business (ex. articles, mentions, interviews or commentaries)
  • Focus on what problems your startup solves, and why the world needs it
  • Make it a big deal, give bold statements and provocative quotes to create a buzz around your company.

PR sells you and your vision to investors 

Your early-stage startup data undoubtedly contributes to investors’ decision-making. However, at the beginning of your startup journey, you sell yourself and your vision and not the product yet. Therefore, you have to make sure you are telling your story right, and take your name out in the right publications. Remember that PR is not all press releases and interviews. Secure placements in online media, but grab more innovative opportunities as well, such as:

  • Clubhouse appearances where game changers in your industry hang out
  • Reddit “Ask Me Anything” sessions, where you can participate as an expert and authority on a subject that matters in your field
  • Product Hunt launch campaigns
  • Twitter and LinkedIn chats, where you can create a buzz around your persona as an expert
  • Alexa Flash Briefings

PR helps you stand out

Competition is fierce for venture capital, and budgets are tight. You may have a service or product that is innovative and so needed for your potential customers. But if investors never heard of you, it can be almost impossible to prove that your startup is worth investing in, especially if your market is already crowded. What are the odds of you standing out? 

This is another reason to be active in the press and on socials to get the funds. Seeing you in every major tech publication and on social platforms is a form of proof that you are worth their money and time.

Differentiate your brand and yourself from other startups by strong PR appearances and get the money you need for your company faster.

PR adds value to your company

PR helps you and your business become known for all the great things you and your team do. It increases visibility and raises your company’s profile — everyone wants to use the products and services of the go-to company with a good reputation. Engaging your customers with case studies can build trust and a positive attitude towards your brand. PR drives demand among your customers and helps you build strong relationships with VCs. Therefore, it attracts investments and pushes your business towards new goals, metrics and success.

The article was published on Entrepreneur

24/01/2022

How To Get The Best Results When Working With A PR Agency

It’s not a rare story when a business owner hires a public relations agency or a consultant and, after a while of working together, becomes disappointed in PR as a whole. As the founder and CEO of a PR firm, I’ve found this often happens because of inadequate expectations. Some entrepreneurs believe that PR must drive sales directly; others don’t accept that it’s impossible to get them on a major magazine cover right away. 

Actually, PR can do a lot for a business if used wisely. PR has the power to present a startup founder as an expert and increase their chances of having a company funded. Brand awareness and reputation built by PR can also attract partners and employees, which could ultimately make growth easier. I’ve seen that PR can influence sales in a positive way as well, even if it can’t always be as precisely measured as digital marketing.

Here are five tips on how to get the best results from working with a PR agency.

1. Choose the right one.

All PR agencies are different, so you need to find the one that’s right for your business. First of all, pay attention to see if the agency you are considering has expertise in your field. A clothing brand, for example, should be looking for an agency that has experience with lifestyle media and fashion magazines.

You should also be looking for particular soft and hard skills in the PR team with that you are going to work. From my perspective, PR specialists have to be able to get on well with people and be jovial because their job requires them to be in touch with both the business they are working for and the journalists they are approaching. Creativity, leadership, eagerness to learn, the ability to express thoughts clearly both in writing and speaking, and curiosity are also necessary. 

2. Define your objectives.

Your work with a PR agency should start with setting accurate key performance indicators. Think carefully, and be honest about what it is that you want to achieve with PR. Whom are you targeting? What for? How are you going to measure success? Share thoughts with your PR firm, and collaborate with them to set goals. Don’t hesitate to ask what you can expect from them in terms of results and timings because, sometimes, business owners have unclear and misguided expectations from PR that will lead them to disappointment in the future. 

3. Treat it as a partnership.

A relationship between a business and a PR agency works well only if they both understand it as a partnership. You and your PR firm should become a tandem in which both sides invest time and effort. Respect and trust your PR partner; they’ve got expertise and experience and have your best interests at heart because your wins are their wins, too. 

4. Be straightforward, and provide information.

Provide as much information about your company as possible. Your PR agency needs it to understand your business deeply. It’s the only way they can come up with better ideas on how to approach the goals that you both have set. Be transparent and trust them, even with the information about your weaknesses. If your PR agency works in the dark, they are more likely to make mistakes, some of which may be crucial.

5. Be responsive.

It’s very unlikely that a PR agency is able to carry out its duties to the maximum without involvement from its client. Today, everything moves fast, including communication and media. You should be ready to respond to emails, texts and messages from your PR team quickly because it could be a journalist on a deadline who is seeking to talk to you or get some information. Your PR agency works to provide you with opportunities, but these opportunities won’t become publications without you. Introduce all the key spokespersons in your company to the PR team, and make sure they, too, understand the importance of being responsive.

PR helps business owners build a reputation for their brands, products, companies, teams and themselves. Miracles don’t happen overnight, but you can achieve impressive outcomes if you work with your PR agency effectively and wisely.

The article was published in Forbes

20/09/2021

How PR Helps You to Achieve Your Business Goals

Public relations (PR) is often misunderstood. Some believe it is only about getting the press to write about you. Others think it is more to do with crisis management. But PR is so much more than that and is an integral part of any business that wants to succeed.

PR is about sharing the most impactful information to the right places and people at the right time. It helps build your brand reputation, gain exposure, and build trust with your customers. PR agencies not only help you build your image in your chosen industry, but they also help you promote your agenda. When used appropriately, PR can give you the power to overcome almost any obstacle.

Here are a few ways PR can help you achieve your business goals. Let’s get the obvious one out-of-the-way first.

sanuas / Pixabay

PR will increase the visibility of your products and services

This is the area most people think of when they talk about PR. A PR agency will help you identify the right angle, build a press release, craft an exciting pitch, and send it to the right journalists at the most relevant publications. If all goes well, you’ll end up with one or more articles about your news in significant publications, and the impact of that can be the difference between make or break.

Slack, for example, generated massive exposure and reach with pre-launch reviews from publications like VentureBeat, TechCrunch, and Inc. Slack received 8,000 user requests in the first day and 15,000 by the second week. Only six years later (and several more milestone articles in between), Slack now has 12 million daily active users, and 156,000 organizations subscribe to the app. While its PR campaigns cannot be wholly praised for Slack’s growth, they were undoubtedly an integral and significant part of its marketing strategy and success.

Good PR won’t only land you new users and prospective customers. If you have a business that will succeed faster by forming partnerships, finding ambassadors or affiliates, or two-way business and promotion arrangements, being featured in the press will help make those opportunities happen.

PR will strengthen your brand

PR doesn’t only give you an outlet for your launches and milestones. It helps you connect these stories with your brand’s core messaging and your tone of voice. It not only allows you to paint a picture of what you stand for, but it reflects the way you want to address your customers and partners.

A good PR agency will help you in this regard, either taking your existing tone of voice or helping you develop one. And they’ll work your brand values, messaging, and principles into every pitch and press release. The result? Consistency across the board, not just in your advertising and marketing materials, emails and communications, and website, but in your approach to journalists and the answers you give them to any questions they answer. Some PR firms even run media training sessions to help you ensure that your answers reflect your brand values from start to finish when faced with an in-person interview.

PR adds value to existing clients

One often-overlooked weapon in the PR armory is the ability to tell your clients’ stories – not just your own. Anyone that works on creating great angles, crafting eye-catching pitches, and writing engaging press releases can also work with your customers to tell their story, and craft case studies that keep your prospective clients’ attention from start to finish.

PR helps you raise funding

Getting funded is an art. You need to have everything lined up, including an impactful idea, a fantastic team, the right advisors, initial traction, a compelling story, and more. PR can make a massive difference to whether you get that initial or next round or miss out to another startup.

Firstly, a great PR agency can help you craft a story that captures the attention of your target investor. Then, just as using PR to strengthen your brand, the same storytelling approach can help you make sure every slide of your pitch deck and every word you use to illustrate it will make people sit up, listen, and ultimately give you the funds you need to grow. And, of course, getting an article published in a major online media will go towards legitimacy and trust. Imagine walking into a VC with not only a great pitch but published articles from everyone’s favorite publications.

PR helps you land the best talent

Think about it. You’re looking around the industry for your next role, and it comes down to two target companies. Both have been around for the same length of time. Both have traction. Both are in the same niche. But one of these appears in Google News searches, and the other has no visibility at all. One has unique educational content and thought leadership articles, and the other is invisible. One has consistent, clear messaging, and the other seems to be shooting from the hip.

Which one would you focus on? A good PR agency will show you how to apply everything they help you achieve to multiple areas of your business, and that – in turn – will help you to attract the best talent.

PR helps manage your reputation

PR isn’t all about sending out positive messaging. Sometimes, PR is about crisis management and dealing with significant issues as they arise.

Yum! Brands, the parent company of Taco Bell, was being sued over the contents of its meat. The lawsuit alleged that its “seasoned beef” was only 35% beef. It went on a PR offensive, stating that all claims were false, and it shared its percentages openly and publicly (if you want the details, “seasoned beef” is 88% beef and 12% secret recipe). It also shared the ingredients used in the secret recipe. A multi-platform PR campaign followed, and Taco Bell’s existing consumer base responded positively across every channel. Less than four months later, the lawsuit was dropped.

PR really can help with your business goals

There are so many more ways PR can support your targets, requirements, and needs – way more than we can cover here.

Just remember: it isn’t all about getting press in your favorite publications. PR agencies, executives, and assistants are incredibly well-placed to assist you in many marketing communications and crisis management areas, so use them accordingly.