Why “no one cares about your business” and how to get PR anyway

By Jim James,

Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of the SPEAK|pr Podcast

Caryn Marooney was the co-founder and CEO of The OutCast Agency, and after that, she was the Vice President of Global Communications at Facebook. TechCrunch released an article recently where she was interviewed by a reporter Lucas Matney, and Lucas says the subtext of Marooney’s comments were that the media really don’t care about your business unless it’s big enough. There is some truth to that, because in order to get into the media, especially tier-one media like the Wall Street Journal, the Times, or The Straits Times in Singapore, one has to have a company that is talking to about two-thirds of their readership. When it comes to the media, there are two business models: one is from subscriptions, and the other is from advertising. So if your business is not big enough to be appealing to enough of your readers, it’s not going to get covered. 

Caryn Marooney say founders need to ask themselves these questions: one, why should anyone care about what their business is doing? And second, is there a purchase order existing for this business? Unless something is particularly innovative or the story is compelling enough, media will have limited interest in a sector, so it’s hard for businesses to get into mainstream media, but this doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world. In truth, most companies are actually not that large. 

Caryn Marooney, Photo from TechCrunch

Companies are not as big as you think they are

In a report by DMDatabases, in America, there are 18,204,679 companies registered in 2018, but 92.47% of all companies are less than 24 people, and 99.63% of all companies are less than 249 people. If you’re a business owner and you’re reading this, how many staff do you have? What kind of turnover do you have? The average earnings in America is around $200,000 per employee, and generally, about three times the employee costs becomes the revenue. But obviously, there are different industries with different multiples on earnings. So, if nearly 100%, all but the last 0.47%, of companies are less than 249 people, the real question is how many customers do we really need? And then more importantly, how much media coverage do we really need? The answer is not that much, and hopefully that is reassuring.

Most business owners find that working with an agency doesn’t give them a return on investment, because they might get covered in the media, but the media is read by a lot of people that are not actually going to become customers. Most companies only have maybe 30-50 customers. Even restaurants and other establishments have a mailing list of a couple of thousand, but in reality, they only have a couple hundred regular clients. This is a reality check on public relations. In the SPEAK|pr program, three different kinds of media relations are highlighted. One is the earned media, which is really what public relations companies and agencies do, which is to get companies into the mainstream media. Then there is the bought media, which is buying, for example, advertorial space. The third is owned media; in other words, proprietary media or media that that we can control. This is where business owners should concentrate their efforts. There are also three audience groups: the internal, the partners, and the external. Public relations is about communicating to people, however, the internal communications and partner relations are often neglected, as people focus too much on the customer-facing or external relations. This isn’t a recipe for a profitable business, because there is a need to get customers, partners, and clients into alignment with the vision of the founder of the business. 

The customer journey: From ignorance to evangelism

In the original comment Marooney made that people should ask themselves why should anyone care and if there is a purchase order existing for this service, once the key customers, key partners, and key staff are you identified, the next step becomes focusing on the short-term horizon of communications rather than always looking into the distance. The aim is to take the customer on a journey from being someone from ignorance to awareness to engagement to participation and finally to evangelism.

Let’s take ignorance. Many may not know EastWest PR exists, so the goal is for you to become aware of this agency and to know that we offer business-to-business consulting across Asia. The next objective would be engagement and participation with the agency, and this is when companies start to get involved in the services provided. They share feedback and give encouragement. And then if they move to evangelism, where they start to tell other people about this business, the business becomes more profitable as less time is spent doing marketing, yet there is still engagement with the existing customers to generate revenue, and through referrals, more clients come in. The same can be said of the internal and the partners. There is a finance company that offers a complimentary service to a legal firm, but they don’t communicate with any legal firms, even though they’re both professional services companies. Why would they not do that? Why would they not make sure that every legal firm in the market would understand them and the services they offer, engage with them, participate and find ways to improve that service, and then promote and announce that this other company has a service of comparable value and quality that existing customers could go to?

SPEAK|pr

Business owners often get so busy thinking about how to get new customers that they forget the people closest to them, their staff. They tend to focus too much on what lies ahead on the horizon, rather than what lies within their control, and that is the owned media channels. In the SPEAK|pr program, there are five stages that are within the control of the business owner. These are Storify, Personalise, Engage, Amplify, and Know. The simplicity of this methodology has been said to be liberating, because it gets the business owners to focus on on why anyone should care, as Marooney says. Also, consider the founder. Before the ‘why,’ there is the ‘who.’ Who is the founder? Why have they started this business? Who were they before they got to this place in their journey? 

Under personalization at scale, everybody is being communicated to with has a message that’s relevant to them. As mentioned, 92.47% of all companies in America are less than 24 people, so how many customers can a business possibly have? How difficult can it be to communicate with each one of those customers? And within the potential database of customers, which may be, say, tenfold the actual customers, how difficult can it be to personalize that message at scale? With engagement, it’s about creating content that’s relevant to those people, so that when they’re reading it, they know it’s for them. They know what action to take.

Amplification is about automation, so that it’s not taking a disproportionate amount of time to send all the audience groups a personal message. Automating the distribution can be done through technology, but also through EastWestPR’s Active Communications Index, in which the productivity levels of the team are measured to ensure consistent communication. Business fundamentally is done on the basis of trust, because consistency shows some kind of reliability. Providing consistent and compelling content over time is the focus of SPEAK|pr. The plan with the Active Communications Index is not to worry so much about the volume of likes or page views, but to ensure that information is consistently being sent out and that there is a complete loop.

Automation (Photo from Agile CRM)

The next part of public relations is ensuring that the actual customer experience is in alignment with the promise from the PR, because some companies on the outside look fantastic but have a disappointing experience. Creating a great public facade is not easy, and anyone seeing the fraudsters at the moment on the internet understands how easy it is to create a public persona, especially with digital. Public relations all the way through to customer service is going to lead to having a profitable business, even if it is a small one. Again, only 1.5% of all businesses are greater than 249 people, so most businesses are small. With the old saying, “Revenue is vanity and profit is sanity,” page views and downloads are vanity, while customers, happy team members, and supportive partners are sanity. The hope, the promise, and the positive message is that there are technologies and tools that are very simple to use to put business owners in control of communications.

This article is based on a transcript from my Podcast SPEAK|pr, you can listen here.

Cover Photo from Online PR Blog

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