LOS ANGELES — Public Relations and startup industry veterans converged at the Olympic Collection’s Regency Ballroom on December 4, 2012 to discuss best practices for startups interested in telling their stories in interesting ways. The panel — part of Business Wire Los Angeles' "Media Breakfast" series — featured a diverse mix of speakers with experience representing international brands and engaging hyper-local communities in Southern California.
The recipe for marketing success presented by the panelists was multi-pronged, with the first ingredient being a story worth being told.
"It’s all about taking big data and turning that into an infographic that tells your startup's story in a compelling way," said Dena Cook, who is a managing partner at Brew Media Relations.
"Infographics present key facts and statistics (in a visual way that written content can't)."
Cook's advice was complemented by a tip from Kevin Winston, who has successfully engaged LA's technology and entertainment sector communities for several years through frequent events hosted under his Digital LA imprint.
"I think there are three key things that make an infographic shareable: it is relevant, novel and can be understood within ten seconds," said Winston.
“For me, the litmus test is always 'was it interesting enough to share with someone else?'"
TechZulu columnist Kyle Ellicott — a serial entrepreneur with several startups under his belt — brought a journalistic perspective to the table when the panel shifted to media relations, another crucial ingredient for marketing success.
Ellicott said that startup founders hoping to receive coverage from journalists should get to know them as people rather than being in a rush and sending them a generic press release when interacting with them for the first time. Press releases sent by publicists who haven't made efforts to nurture relationships with journalists have become less favored (and replied to) by the latter; Ellicott explained why.
"In today's age we are blasted with information from every direction...The one thing I advise is to build a relationship with the person (who writes about your industry) rather than asking for press coverage from the very beginning. Offer to have a coffee with them and build that relationship; this will help you build a good long-term rapport," said Ellicott.
The panel's moderator Emily Scherberth — who creates PR strategies for early-stage startups as CEO of her PR firm Symphony PR & Marketing Inc. — also reminded the audience that being innovative was crucial when it comes to branding.
"It is best to have a voice. It makes you more interesting if everyone is 'zagging' and you're 'zigging'...Don't try to be like everyone else," said Scherberth.
Connecting with communities
Though media coverage received much attention, the speakers — whose Twitter handles were shared by Business Wire on the tables of all audience members — also highlighted the power of social media when it comes to speaking directly to communities.
Winston added that one of the best ways for startups wishing to grow their audiences was by building relationships online and on the ground at any of the various networking events hosted in Santa Monica and other startup-centric communities.
"There is an event going on every day in our community. If you're not at any of those, that's a problem," said Winston.
The panel ended with critical advice for entrepreneurs revolving around finding a voice and expressing it through online blogs. Dana Block — who directs the Technology and Consumer Technology practices at PR firm Allison+Partners — explained how the most interesting talking points often are easy for startups to find through dedicated research.
“I suggest researching your data and using it to build blog content around what your company does, while tying it into the bigger picture (of the industry). The startup culture is a lifestyle and each startup has to have its own personality and voice in order to thrive," said Block.
Winston, who pointed out that "LA needs more infographics and information about what's going on," ended the panel by highlighting the need to tell an interesting story in order to achieve one of the most important goals: funding.
"LA is a town full of storytellers: everyone loves a good story here...You're a startup because you're doing something interesting that nobody has done: that's why you are (hopefully) going to receive funding," said Winston.
"The big question is 'where is the data that tells the story about the unique things your startup does?'"
Elias Kamal Jabbe is a Los Angeles-based Journalist and PR Specialist and the Founder of Multicultural Matters, an online media outlet focused on multiculturalism and international entrepreneurship. Feel free to connect with him via LinkedIn or Twitter.com/Elias213 for more information.