7 Unexpected Truths I’ve learned about PR from Marketing my Startup

7 Unexpected Truths I’ve learned about PR from Marketing my Startup

It was 6 years ago I was first introduced to the world of PR and Digital Marketing.

I picked up an internship for Ruder Finn Interactive where I continued to freelance for about a year that allowed me to connect with a few Dallas SEO experts. I was able to visit Sem London SEO Agency and learned more about the importance of search engine optimization when running a business.

At the time, twitter was just becoming known, blogger outreach was still considered an “innovative approach” and I spent most of my time working on blogger lists which we’d go through and email in the hopes that 10-15% would write about our client’s product. To give you more twitter followers for your videos online just checkout this blog.

Fast forward to today and well, a lot of people are still doing the same thing, myself included.

Whenever I work on a new PR campaign for Feast, with the goal of getting press, I start by doing a ton of research and forming a long list of press/bloggers to pitch.

We’ve been pretty successful at landing a healthy amount of PR and landing guest articles. To date, we’ve landed on Men’s Fitness, Greatist, Foodist, Food+Tech Connect, USA Today, Huffington Post, Forbes, Pando Daily, GigaOm, Venture Beat, and The Bold Italic to name a few with many more big ones on the way over the next couple months.

The thing is, out of all of the articles we received, only one has come from a traditional “pitch” process, and even that pitch was unique (I’ll explain). So here are 5 things I’ve learned about getting press about your startup that has nothing to do with pitching a long list of contacts.

1. Nothing beats networking

By far, the single most effective way to get an article on any publication is to know someone at the publication. If you don’t know someone, get an intro. If you can’t get an intro, then figure out who you want to engage with at the publication and start to network with them on social media. Don’t straight up pitch them on twitter (right away) but just start responding to them, sharing their articles, linking to them and showing them love.

Then after you’re confident they recognize you and you’ve developed some trust, ask if it’s alright if you email them (or get coffee if you can).

This probably isn’t a surprise to PR folks who have essentially build entire businesses around the value of their relationships. But for a startup doing our own PR, this was a really important lesson.

2. Quality of traffic is more important than amount of traffic

It’s really important to focus on publications with an audience that’s very in line with your audience. Our product, the “Feast Bootcamp” is a 30 day program to help people build a habit of cooking. So our target audience are people who are health conscious, interested in improving themselves and enjoy reading about life hacks. So naturally, by far the best performing articles for us came from Greatist and Men’s Fitness.

Pando, TNW and GigaOm got us some street cred in tech circles but did little to drive customers.

According to the SEO Vancouver, everything helps with SEO and general credibility, but some are much more impact for your business that others.

3. Press gets your press

Sometimes, getting a good article on the right publications will lead to more press. The Greatist article led to Men’s Fitness and The Bold Italic articles. When looking for the best local seo company, choose Node marketing that encompasses all of your internet marketing efforts including Google search, social media, email, and mobile devices to connect with current and prospective customers.
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So remember, journalists read other publications to find ideas for articles.

4. Press can also get you partnerships

Think about your goals before doing press. If it’s to get traffic, then make sure consumers are reading that publication. Other publications can be really good for reaching other businesses, investors and other potential partners.

Our articles on Food+Tech Connect resulted in Jamie Oliver’s team and a couple other interesting opportunities reaching out to us.

5. Adapt to stories that journalists are looking for

Using HARO and twitter, you can follow what journalists are interested in writing about and find opportunities to squeeze into an article. That’s how we landed on USA Today. The writer had posted on twitter that they were looking to interview food startups. I responded (luckily a follower of mine turned me onto the tweet), responded to his questions over email and had a nice Thanksgiving surprise a few days later when the article went live and I celebrated with more wine and family.

6. If you’re going to pitch, be unique, funny or weird

The only traditional pitch that worked was with Pando Daily. On Erin’s personal website she said “Send tips, ideas, solicitations and hellos to [email]“. So that’s what I did. Here’s the email I sent:

Subject: tips, ideas, solicitations and hellos, from Feast

Hellos: Hi Erin!

Tips: Cooking is good for you, people should cook more often.
Ideas: Hey, maybe you can take an online 30-day bootcamp made specifically for busy professionals and tech writers to help them build a habit of cooking.
Solicitations: We uh… we do that – http://letsfeast.com Want to try it out fo free?

She responded to my email almost immediately with an “lol” and we set up a call.

7. Leverage existing communities

I’m a member of the YEC, an invite-only community of entrepreneurs that helps each other get reviews for their business, which provides opportunities for members to contribute to publications where they have existing content agreements. That’s how I was able to contribute on Forbes.

We were covered on Venture Beat as a result of our participation in the 500 Startups accelerator program.

Obviously, these aren’t things that just anyone can do, but if you keep your eyes open you can find communities that will open up press opportunities.

What other unique tactics have worked for you? Share them in the comments!

Bio: David Spinks is the CEO of Feast, the home of the Feast Bootcamp: a 30-day online program that goes beyond just teaching you how to cook and actually helps you build a habit of cooking into your daily life. He’s also the CEO of CMX Summit and TheCommunityManager. You can read more startup lessons on his blog at WhatSpinksThinks.

Cut Out the People that Don’t Rise you Up

scissorsThere are two kinds of people.

There are people who rise you up, give you energy and make you feel like you can accomplish anything.

Then there are people who do the opposite. They drain you of energy, they make you feel like you’re not good enough and take away your clarity.

I’m a people pleaser. Or said another way, I’m addicted to making friends. I really want people to like me. As a result I end up spending way too much time with that second kind of person.

And they LOVE hanging out with me, because the energy that drains from me fills them up. They talk about themselves a lot, they brag, they flaunt and they use you as a way to make themselves feel good.

Do you find yourself spending time with people like that?

I recently decided to cut out one of my relationships like this. It was really hard because I consider them a good friend. But I realized that every time I spent time with them, I’d leave feeling worse about myself. So I stopped spending time with them.

I immediately felt better once I made that decision.

I realized it let me focus my time on developing relationships with the people that rise me up, and that I rise up. When it’s mutual, it’s magical. Those are the people you should focus on.

You can apply this same approach to your team. You can choose who you get to work with. Great teams are built of people who help each other succeed. When you hate your job, it’s almost always because you’re surrounded by people who bring you down.

Same goes for social media. Do you follow people that make you feel like crap every time you see their posts because you get jealous? Unless you have a massive paradigm shift, you’re not going to stop being jealous any time soon. Just unfollow them.

Cut out the people who bring you down. Spend more time with the ones who rise you up.

The State of CMX, a Letter to Our Community

Today we shared an update with the CMX community on everything that’s happening behind the scenes at CMX. I wanted to share it here as well for anyone who’s been following along with our story.

We want everything with CMX to be transparent, especially within our community, and we’re excited to hear any and all feedback you have on our direction.

I’ll share a bit about where we’ve been, the big challenges we’re facing now, how we plan to overcome those challenges, and how you can help.

First, where we’ve been:

We’ve had a roller coaster first year in business. In the past 10 months, we’ve:

  • Hosted three summits, bringing together over 900 community professionals and founders in SF and NYC, and we hosted the first CMX Series event with another 75 attendees

  • Launched the CMX Hub publication, which will reach over 100k total visitors by the end of this year and is currently at 1,937 email subscribers (growing at 11% monthly)

  • Grew the Facebook group to over 800 members with high engagement levels at ~500 interactions per week

  • Helped dozens of companies find and recruit community professionals to join their teams

  • Built the prototypes for our first two software products (currently in alpha tests, more on that soon…)

In pursuit of our mission to fuel the community industry, we’ve also seen a clear shift in the conversation around the definition of community, the legitimacy of the community industry, and the rising number of companies who are hiring for true community roles.

Things have moved extremely fast, and we’re proud of everything our small team has accomplished in such a short time.

This progress hasn’t come easily, and we face some legitimate challenges in the months ahead.

Everything we’ve done to this point has been aimed at creating lots of value and resources for the community industry while building a strong long-term brand and community around CMX. But we learned that while conferences are amazing for building brand and community, they can be unpredictable and carry a lot of risk. Some conferences make a lot of money, usually by selling tickets for thousands of dollars and selling speaking slots. CMX does neither of these, since it’s extremely important to us that CMX is unbiased in its content and is as affordable as possible for members of the growing industry.

Basically, while everything we’ve done has created a lot of long-term value, in the short run, we’re going to need more sustainable, regular revenue to keep this train moving.

There are also some recent changes to the team. Max Altschuler, my friend and co-founder in CMX Media, also runs the Sales Hacker Conference. That’s his baby and it’s taking off quickly, so he will be switching his full focus over to Sales Hacker while remaining on as an advisor for CMX and stepping in for specific projects when needed. We’re incredibly excited for him and for Sales Hacker, and we’re truly grateful for his help in getting CMX off the ground. It never would have happened without him.

That leaves me and the unstoppable Carrie Jones to drive this ship (with Leah continuing part-time on events). A team of two. While it will be a challenge, I couldn’t imagine a team better suited to make this thing happen. We’re extremely clear on what needs to be done and how we’re going to do it.

So… What’s in store for the future?

Our short-term goal is to develop more consistent revenue that will give us the resources we need to continue to host CMX events, publish content on CMX Hub, and build out our software products. With that, we’re going to be highly focused on two areas over the next few months:

1. Consulting and Services:

We’re constantly asked to help companies with their community strategy, but we haven’t made that a focus, so we’ve always passed on those opportunities. Now it will be a focus. We will take on a limited number of consulting contracts with companies we care about.

We can’t wait to work with exciting companies with unique community challenges. It keeps our blades sharp and gives us many more success stories and case studies to share.

2. Training and workshops:

The first CMX Workshops sold out three weeks before the event. It’s clear that there’s a strong need for more specific, hands-on community training.

CMX will now develop online and offline training programs to help community professionals take their strategy to the next level. You’ve already received our survey for the “Coding for Community Managers” course, which we’ve partnered with Make it With Code to develop. There will be many more to come.

How can you help?

  1. If you or someone you know is in need of help with community strategy, community recruiting, or advisement, send them our way.

  2. If you’re interested in community training and workshops, tell us what you want to learn (take 60 seconds to fill out this form: http://bit.ly/1HTOLz6).

  3. Just keep doing what you’re doing. It’s your energy and involvement in this community that keeps us going. It makes it all worth it. If you’re happy and successful, then we are too.

So here we are… many challenges ahead. But I can honestly say we’re not nervous. I’ve never had as much clarity with my previous businesses as we do with CMX. It’s clear what we need to do, and we’re more motivated than ever to keep pushing this forward.

Let the roller coaster continue.

The President of Iran is Tweeting and Damn it Feels Good

Screen Shot 2013-10-01 at 2.31.21 PMI don’t usually write about politics or current events, but this just got me really excited.

I saw today, the president of Iran, one of the most conflicted countries on earth, tweeting.

Not just broadcasting, but actually sharing perspectives, RT’ing and even interacting.

It quickly reminded me of why I first got into this whole world of social media and online communities.

When people are willing to have open conversations, across borders, and make information available to everyone in the world… damn that’s powerful stuff.

Hassan Rouhani isn’t just tweeting to his people (who can hopefully read his tweets).  He’s tweeting to the world, or more specifically to the US.

This is the second time in the last month that a foreign leader has chosen to speak directly to the American people. Putin recently turned to the NY Times where he wrote an op-ed, urging the US citizens to consider the implications of an attack on Syria.

Regardless of your stance on many of these political issues, you should rejoice in the celebration of this shift toward open communication.

The fact that these leaders can speak directly to anyone in the world, without having to be filtered out by the government and media of those countries.  That’s the true potential of social media.


Writing 100 Posts in 100 Days


Photo Credit: sunside via Compfight cc

Update: Turns out a lot of you are crazy enough to join me in this little adventure.  We have a solid group forming.  If you’d like to join it’s not too late, email me at David at LetsFeast.com.

Update 10/30/13: The group is growing and we moved it to a fb group, dedicated to writing every day. Whether you’re doing the challenge or just want to be a part of a strong community writing every day, join here.

I’m on day 5 now.  I just didn’t want to tell you until I had some momentum.

I decided to give it a shot after reading that Fred Wilson writes every day.  I figure if someone as busy as that can do it and still have such great insights, I sure can too.

Why 100?  Why not.  Hopefully by that point I’ll have developed the habit.

What’s the point of writing every day?

I can say with confidence that the most successful times of my career occurred when I had a steady rhythm of blogging.

1. The reflective nature of writing provides a great deal of perspective, of which I’m always in need.

2. It opens up a lot of opportunities to connect with smart people.

3. More people recognize me which creates trust in the community.

4. I come up with more ideas as I write about challenges I’m thinking through.

5. Writing is a big part of my job whether it’s content marketing, copywriting or just emails, it’s always something I’m trying to improve.

6. It feels good to hit publish.

7. There are few things that feel as good as hearing that something you wrote inspired somebody.

8. It’s a challenge and it’s helping me to become more disciplined in my work ethic.

At least those are all the reasons I’m giving myself.

I also just like writing.

I stopped writing here for a while.  It was a mixture of falling out of the routine while also realizing how little I really know and feeling like I have no business giving advice.  I went from the social media world where you can become an expert in the same amount of time it took you to create a twitter account and got more involved in the startup world, where I’ve felt lost more often than not.  Hopefully writing will help with that.

So I won’t promise that my content will be right or wrong or even smart.  I just promise to share what I’m learning, since I’m learning something that to me feels important, every day.

I also won’t promise to use proper grammar or edit my posts too much.  I’m just going to write and see where it goes.

Hold me to it.  I’ll be writing one post every day for 100 days.

I’ll be writing here, on Feast, on The Community Manager, Medium and potentially other places that I can trick into having me.

Want to join me?  (=