Interview

19 expert PR tips: interview with Rodney Goedhart

1. What are the keys to success when it comes to PR for startups?

Have realistic expectations, the right contacts, and the right tools. Knowing which reporter covers what topics and how to reach out to them is crucial. PR is not an email game; it’s a sophisticated communication and story-telling game. Having a professional and established PR company solves a great deal of those requirements. I tend to say; you can be your lawyer, but you would need to take years and study law to do a decent job. The same goes for PR.

Having the right understanding of the client’s product, organization, and requirements. If the PR considers itself a contractor, it never would get the messaging right. The PR, whether a full-manned agency or a single agent, needs to have some serious stakes in the startup’s future. 

2. When is the right time to engage a PR firm?

PR begins when the startup has received the seed funding and the product’s road map is put in concrete. You need to get the word out and nurture your targeted audience (whether end-users or investors) in the early stages. 

3. Many founders believe PR is hard to measure, how do you overcome this?

We use tools like TV Eyes, Meltwater, or Coverage Book to show results. Google Analytics and BuzzSumo are also important tools in our arsenal. Ultimately we show them how much impression the content has received and how many visitors that translated to. 

We also agree on specific outlets and their monthly viewership to decide about the importance of an outlet. For that, we use SimilarWeb. Of course, some outlets with fewer viewership numbers play an important role in a specific niche or industry, and that is also a parameter we take into account.

But ultimately, it’s the results that speak. When our clients get leads and customers through our PR work, or when our job assists with their funding or credibility or share of voice, or when we manage to nominate them for industry awards, that’s when they truly appreciate the job we’ve done for them.

4. What can startups do to be a better client?

Tight communication with the PR team is crucial. Many times we’ve been taken by surprise by our clients which leaked a story to the press or on social media, and that just killed top coverage opportunities. Or, we got informed of news at the last minute, which meant we could not prepare ourselves nor give our fellow reporters sufficient time to write about the story, again leading to missed opportunities.

Also, some startups think they know PR when they don’t, and they end up misrepresenting themselves or making minimum use of an announcement that could have landed high with the assistance of a professional PR. If you have something to announce, and if that is important for you, don’t treat PR like a toss of dice.

5. What’s the best way to structure engagements with startups? (KPIs, results-based, etc.)

The most effective way of getting the startup’s name in front of the right set of eyes is through trusted third parties: the media. You start with smaller outlets and you go for the bigger, one step at a time; no matter print, online, or broadcasting ones. 

The goal is to ensure that no door is shut on the founder’s face when they reach out to VCs for A, B, C, etc. funding and you can only get this done when your road map is planned and performed properly.

6. What PR tools do you use in your PR campaigns?

We have our own internal AI system to track reporter activities, social media posts, time tracking on how and when to connect to reporters, detect writing intents and keep track of the conversation so we can write the perfect pitch.

But for tracking coverage, I’d recommend TV Eyes and Brand 24.

7. How do you set realistic KPIs for your PR campaigns?

We mostly focus on media coverage in top tier technology outlets. 

With some clients, we charge based on success. There, everybody can see the results. But that method, while 100% risk-free, also has its downsides. For our retainers, we promise our clients a minimum per quarter, and most of the time set it off when we already have prospective opportunities.

The contents we can produce (paid, owned, social) are very easy to measure but earned media almost has no guarantee. So we promise a quarterly minimum for our clients and aim for crushing those commitments during that period.

8. What sort of metrics do you measure in your PR campaigns?

Mostly, the tier of the outlet matters (i.e. the monthly readership) but we also consider the position of the outlet in our calculation (i.e. what it is worth for our clients).

Sometimes we also measure the number of shares, and when possible, the number of views.

9. How do you communicate and sell clients on these KPIs?

Clients need to trust that you can deliver. For that reason, many of our clients start with the risk-free payment-per-placement model, then switch to retainer once we have proven ourselves.

But understanding your clients and showing them the value PR brings is crucial. Many people we talk to do not understand the value of PR and what they are missing out, and think PR is “nice to have.” That’s far from true, as people cannot go beyond certain barriers in their marketing and advertising without PR (whether they hire an agency or do it in-house).

10. How do you explain the expense of PR to potential clients?

It’s mostly about what PR is worth to them? Many are willing to pay high prices for PR if they see actual returns. The problem is that many PRs cannot guarantee any kind of results, hence they need to charge by the hour and even limit their working hours.

11. How do you help them understand the potential ROI associated with PR?

We share case studies and examples of similar clients, such as how we helped a client become the number one app in their industry, or how we managed to nominate our clients for industry awards.

Live examples of other projects that have succeeded with PR helps, but that is not enough as clients must see what they are missing by not having PR.

12. How do you get clients to buy-in to PR, as opposed to other marketing services that might have a more clear ROI?

PR is complimentary, and an entirely different category. You can buy ads, and you can post on social media, but you can never buy placements on a top-tier outlet. At the same time, you can never brag about your ads, but you can always reshare your earned media achievements in social media or even ads.

We explain to our clients (and most of the people we talk to need little explanation beyond this point) that PR is not just about viewership – more than that, it’s about credibility. You can’t buy that with ads.

13. What do you do when your client’s PR campaign isn’t getting results?

We step up our own writing. Guest post writing is part of our PR package, and we offer one per month. But in cases where we notice we are not getting enough earned placements from journalists, we make the news ourselves. Since we have good ties to editors in top tier media and since we have great authors, we have been successful to publish guest posts or OpEds in many Tier One publications. 

14. How do you explain this to the client?

On day one, when we’re walking our client through PR (the sales call) we tell them that they’re not about to enter a rosy garden. We tell them that unless you are among the FAANG+1 (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google, and Microsoft) no reporter is looking forward to learning about you and you have to do something really special to become news. But we ensure them that we’re going to work with them closely to have a better understanding of their product so we can jump in the news on the best timing. We create a roadmap and nurture the client that we have to build their reputation and start with smaller steps and rise big. We help them when and how to go live with their announcements to get the most buzz. 

15. What methods do you use to build momentum around the campaign, when it isn’t getting results?

Our AI system is constantly monitoring around 18K reporters’ activities on the web to discover opportunities that are matching our clients’ keywords so we can learn it first hand and to become among the first to respond to their needs. We call it “newsjacking”. 

If our reporters aren’t interested in our client’s story/product, our client becomes the story/product. With technical analysis and valuable guest posts with highly educational content, we establish our clients’ position as industry leaders and increase the chance to get their comments/quotes in front of the reporters’ eyes that are looking for credible sources for their pieces. 

16. How important is PR in growing a business?

There is nothing similar to PR. I’ve seen many companies struggle with their marketing and getting leads. PR is like Venture Capital – it’s jet fuel. You can’t succeed without it. Even the best ideas will fail when they’re unheard.

17. How are 7 figure business owners using PR to their advantage?

People who’ve reached that far, don’t need to chase the media, media will chase them. They just need to be creative and come up with new ideas/announcements every once in a while. For them, being public and transparent will do the work. 

18. What are the biggest challenges facing PR pros in 2020?

We work primarily in tech, and many of our clients are from the blockchain and AI space – both heavily buzzed, and both starting to cool down. People are just now getting a realistic grasp of the technologies. We believe 2020 will be a good year for both technologies. The challenge, however, is because the buzz has died, it will be much harder to bring out that unique angle and story which makes the topics worth reading again.

19. What are you doing to overcome those challenges?

Unlike many PRs who have a journalistic background, we have a technical background. We have software engineers and coders who’ve entered the marketing space and thus our in-depth knowledge has enabled us to have a real grasp of our client’s initiatives, their challenges, their market and to be able to foresee their potential for growth. We are helping every client to be able to survive the post-hype era and secure its existence with the power of reputation.

 

 

 

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Rodney Goedhart

Rodney Goedhart is an advertising expert and sociologist which regularly contributes to researches about tech, business and new marketing efforts. He is a PR manager at Innowire Inc.

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