Public relations – growth driver or a waste of money? Join PR guru Laura Field from Publicize.co – learn the tips and tricks about using PR to effectively scale your start up. (Hint: It takes more than just a press release – and quizzes can help.)
Welcome, everybody to this episode of The Quiz Makers. My name is Mike Hawkins and I’m one of the founders of riddle.com; we’re super big into all things quizzes, marketing, and everything else. And because of that, I’m really excited to have Laura Field on the call.
Hi, Mike, nice to meet you.
Welcome, Laura! So Laura is a super-savvy PR professional. And she’s been helping us out with getting the word out about Riddle. But as an ancillary benefit of all things, she knows a lot about quizzes and marketing and everything else. So welcome, Laura.
Thanks very much.
And you are based out in Colombia…
Based in Medellín, Colombia? Yes.
Okay. Of course, because I live in England, I have to ask… How’s the weather in Colombia?
It’s better than England, I can tell you!
Actually, it’s kind of rainy season here in Medellín. So last night, for example, we had one of the biggest thunderstorms I think I’ve ever experienced anywhere. But for the most part, Medellín is known as the city of eternal spring. So that tells you everything.
Yes. And so again this for the people listening. This is mid July, and I’m in Manchester, England… and it has been rubbish weather for pretty much all of June and July.
But anyways, Laura has graciously been shanghaied into being on this podcast, because you’ve been doing so many interesting things from a public relations background – actually, you transitioned into PR, right?
Yes. So I my bachelor’s degree was in Languages and Literature. So I love the written word, the spoken word, translation, communication, and I think I was I was never sure what I wanted to do afterwards.
After graduating, I actually moved to Dublin, Ireland… obviously, huge tech hub. So it’s kind of impossible to not work in tech when living in Dublin. And I worked in a number of kind of different roles, one of which was a contractor at Google in one of their recruitment teams.
But I was really kind of soul searching and kind of figuring out what I really wants to do. PR popped up because it comprises so many things. So I’m a real fan of the news and current affairs. I’m nosy. I’m curious. I like to know what’s going on. As I said, I love communication. I think people interact with each other and internationally. You know, as a linguist, I find that really interesting how we communicate in different ways on different continents.
Plus, I love writing and editing, getting to know people in the media relations side of it, and meeting journalists. But also businesses and helping them to spread the word about what they’re doing.
And so all of these random things, you know, come together really nicely for PR – and that’s why I decided that that’s what I’d like to work in.
Fantastic. So again, in the interest of transparency, we’ve been really happy working with you. I guess it’s been about 18 months now.
Yes, I think actually less than that, but it feels like the 18 months.
It’s been really fascinating because you’ve been able to quickly suss out what we need, and start to come up with some really interesting but also ‘out of the box’ ideas.
For people who are listening, Riddle is still quite a small lean team. Business owners and start up founders often kind of have this idea of PR. “Oh, we’ll just do some PR. That’ll be fine.” As if it’ll be this magic button how you can grow the business.
You work with a wide range of clients, right?
What advice would you give to small to medium companies who are looking to grow their profile through the mystery of PR?
Yes, this is the perennial question with PR, I think because in many ways it can be intangible.
Unlike something like paid ads, you know, when you put the money in, you see exactly what’s happening.
What I do, I’ve always done – and my colleagues do is we set PR goals. And we obviously want to make them realistic, but if you’re ambitious and make it possible to measure them, we will always match these two business goals of the company because ultimately, PR is part of the comms marketing mix. The aim is to boost business to aide growth.
So, I think it’s always really important for a business to have very clear business goals of the figures they want to reach this by a set time. We then align our PR goals with that.
I’d say a second thing is really knowing your target audience – who you’re trying to speak to you at any given time. And this can be a different audience at different times. Sometimes maybe you’re trying to attract people to download your app, or it could be looking for investors at another time.
Obviously, they might be different people with different profiles. So really honing in on who they are – their demographics with as much knowledge as you have about your target audience, the better.
That then helps us in our PR efforts of working out which channels to go to, which media outlets and journalists who are going to be covering topics and speaking to your target audience.
Okay, so it sounds like (and I’m basing this on my experience from having shepherded a couple of startups through the growth phase), but the client essentially needs to say, “Hey, here’s our rough goals and a rough audience”, and then you guys back out a strategy from that.
Yes, what’s so great about PR is, there are so many elements. As you said, the phrase is to ‘do PR’, and it seems that people kind of think of it in that way. I mean, there’s so many elements to it, you know. It could mean things from attending or applying to be a keynote speaker at a conference, to helping to look at your social media and what your messages you’re putting out there on your own media. And of course, looking at earned media, it’s obviously a big part of PR is getting that coverage in relevant publications.
Sure. So, Laura, you work with Publicize, and we’re big fans of you guys. I think it’s been about two years or 18 months, I always forget the exact time.
But we really like your model because for small to medium companies who are starting out, they don’t have the big budgets to put an agency on retainer and pay them a flat expensive fee every month. Could you explain a little bit about your guys’ approach, your business model, and how that might help startups in the space trying to get the word out?
Definitely. Sometimes you can joke about PR people being known as Spin Doctors and charging huge fees. But Publicize’s ethos is the idea that we do PR for startups.
Primarily, we want to help startups grow. And we understand that obviously startups have varying budgets. So we have quite clear, transparent packages that communicate very clearly at the start, how many things we can be running at any given time. That helps us structure what we’re doing and helps us our clients understand what we’re working towards, as opposed to, as you said, bigger agencies with huge retainers. They might have all sorts of going on, but it’s kind of hard to track everything. So, we pride ourselves on having clear, clear packages that reasonable realistic prices for startups.
So that’s actually worked out for us – both from a budgetary perspective, but also from a time perspective. And that leads to my next question. The other thing about PR, there’s also a big time commitment from the startup or the small company.
So you have to know that you can actually support the PR folks. For example, I’m the subject expert. And you can get the word out, but there has to be a meeting of the minds.
What are some of the bigger mistakes you’ve seen startups make? You don’t have to mention names (especially please don’t mention us)?
I definitely won’t.
I think timing is important for PR. And it’s difficult when you’re an early stage startup, there are some cool things that you need to have, like a website, some social media channels, what we call social proof, say, of the co founders. Because ultimately, as a PR professional, I’m a curious person, but journalists and the media will be even more curious than me. And likewise, consumers. You know , you know what you from PR is essentially what someone sees when they Google you.
Especially on page one, you know?
And that’s why PR is linked to digital marketing and SEO, it all kind of comes together. And so I think there are some some cool things in your tab.
But you’re right about the time commitment; it really is something to watch for. Obviously, our job is to research and come up with ideas and work them out. I kind of think there’s sometimes a matchmaking service between our clients and the media.
It’s about timing. It’s about ideas. And it’s about making the two parties click basically, and the more ideas that our client has, or the more they know who they want to speak to, the better.
Obviously, that’s really helpful for us and gets the client engaged. I’d also say, time and skill for writing can be really important because we all aim as the PR agencies to get media interested in say, receiving a guest article from our clients. Obviously we can provide that service, but if the client doesn’t want to do that or doesn’t have the budget for it, then they need to allocate time to write an article themselves, which takes us all longer than we think.
Oh, yes, absolutely. You are being very diplomatic though. You will not mention any classic mistakes from startups. It could just be misconceptions or…
Oh, okay. Yes, misconceptions about what PR is, I think is a really classic one.
Sometimes, when we get interest from a media publication about having a guest article written, they want to be self promotional, and mention their product name and how and why it’s great.
That’s the tricky thing. You know, if it’s earned media, if it’s an editorial piece, you cannot be promotional, because the editor is not going to accept it at the end of the day. It comes across as sales-y and sleazy; it comes across as an advertisement, they would end up charging me. The idea of PR and earned media is that we’re putting you forward as an expert, and as a thought leader in a particular industry or particular area. And so pushing and plugging a product comes behind that.
Right. No, so that’s something you had helped us out with as well. Initially, we were like writing all our drafts around “Riddle’s really good!”.
So that was been a very nice learning process on our side that’s been super cool. Public relations with earned media, you’re going to discover your potential consumers if you segment and put yourself in the right media outlets, etc.
They should almost encounter you in the wild. And that actually kind of ties in a little bit with quiz marketing, because that’s our approach as well, where you’re not flogging people to “check this out, check this out, check this out”. People are naturally discovering you, hopefully.
Absolutely. And I think, as I’ve told you before, I stumbled across a Riddle quiz on the BBC that I was sent by friends without even knowing it, and then seeing that it was powered by Riddle underneath. And to me, “hey, I work with these guys”, it’s a great coincidence.
But I think you’re absolutely right that the quiz marketing that Riddle offers is in many ways linked to PR. It’s about a two way street to being able to market something and to generate leads, but it’s also about having the consumer giving the consumer something in return.
So with PR and an article, you as the expert in quiz marketing at Riddle, or giving them knowledge about the marketing industry in general, or whatever the topic may be. And likewise with the quiz. You know, if I’m a consumer taking a quiz, I can find out what type of personality I am or what if I’m a kinesthetic learner or whatever it may be.
And it’s a two way street, it’s much more subtle, and you’re not plugging anything overtly, which I think always works better.
Yes, absolutely. I know just for myself, my guard and defenses go up when I’m being heavily pitched. It’s almost impossible to make a sale with me.
But if I discover something on my own – I think “Oh, this is really interesting…” I’m obviously naturally more enthusiastic, etc.
I’m going to wrap this up, because we like to keep these pretty short, just like quizzes. So I always like to end with with this question, a bit controversial, but what is your biggest pet peeve? And it can be about PR, it can be about clients…
Okay, it’s one that’s going to make me sound terribly British and it’s kind of across the board in my personal and professional life . My pet peeve is lack of manners and rudeness.
I think there’s always a way to give someone feedback, it can always be constructive. I know that we Brits are probably too easily offended sometimes. And we beat around the bush too much, which can be irritating to you, I totally understand.
But I think if you’re waiting in a queue for something and someone jumps the queue, I find that really rude, not considering others. Whether if it’s in an email or you know, a message with friends. So it’s a very subtle, picky British one, but it’s definitely a pet peeve of mine. Fair enough.
No, it’s very interesting to watch. Because if you’re listening to our podcast, we’re actually doing this as a video podcast as well. I love watching our guests’ reaction – you got really fired up about this. I’m with you. Living in England, queue jumpers just drives me absolutely off the wall.
And also, this is very English or British, but they’ll say like, “Oh, how was the meal?”
And a typical British response would be either “It’s fine”, but it wasn’t really fine. Or they’ll say “It was a bit… something.”
Now I know, that’s really bad. Whereas as to an American, they would think “Oh, they’re just tiny bit offended.”
Absolutely. And that’s why I know we Brits can be annoying with that, as we were not direct enough often. But “a bit (something). A very bad thing to hear from a British person.
So for all of you listeners out there, if you’re doing any work with British folk, definitely don’t jump the queue and be polite.
And if they ever say “That’s interesting…”, you could be in trouble.
So, Laura, thank you so very much for taking the time to join us.
Thanks very much, Mike.
Yes, well, enjoy the good weather in Medellín and I will enjoy the rain in Manchester.
Thank you. Yeah. Sunny British summer.
Great. Thanks, Laura!