Kathleen HanoverStartup Marketing, PR, Positioning & Crowdfunding

Which expensive, startup-killing marketing mistakes do you need to avoid? How do you plan and implement a successful, brand-building Kickstarter campaign? How do you find just the right angles to earn local and national media coverage? How do you position yourself, your product or service against established competitors? What is your brand? Your USP?

Entrepreneurs, inventors and startups are attracted to me because they want no-BS answers to these questions, and more. They appreciate a non-judgmental, objective opinion from a marketing and PR expert with over 25 years of experience. Most appreciate working with a copywriter who's trained in psychology, hypnotherapy and NLP, and knows how to market directly to the lizard brain. Some are jazzed up about the media coverage and web traffic I help them earn.

How did it all start? Cash-stuffed reply envelopes burst out of the too-full post office box, falling like autumn leaves and covering my shoes with hundreds of dollars in donations. It was 1986. With my first-ever direct mail campaign, I had raised twice as much as any previous campaign in a fraction of the time...ultimately enough money to keep myself employed.

Fresh out of college, I was working at the local arts council, promoting gallery openings and running the grant program. Recently-announced budget cuts meant I was getting the axe at the end of the fiscal year. So, as the token writer on staff, I was elected to write a fundraising letter to our in-house list of 5,000 or so painters, sculptors, musicians, actors, filmmakers, dancers and their patrons. My goal? Replace about 75% of our current budget with new donations. (No pressure, Kathleen.)

I wrote from the heart, person to person. No B.S., no hype, just a reminder of how the agency made our community a better place for artists and the arts. I asked for money, and explained the tangible and intangible benefits the reader would get in return.

Without any formal training--without even knowing what a “copywriter” was or what “direct response” meant--I had discovered that people would send you money (or buy your stuff...or cover your event...or run your press release) if you just asked them the right way and explained what’s in it for them.

I’ve been persuading people to do my bidding (er, my clients’ bidding) ever since.

At the turn of the Millennium I was invited to fill in for a vacationing copywriter at a direct response agency (learning two new words for the price of one, and discovering what I was really supposed to be doing with my life.) For seven years I soaked up DM wizardry from the best mentors in the business, earned scads of awards, and helped our clients generate millions of dollars in revenues and media coverage with my benefit-drenched copy.

Now I work directly with clients and causes I believe in, wielding my superpowers as a Force for Good. (My superpower is "Spreading Good News That Improves People's Lives." What's yours?)

I'm not sure what you'll like most about working with me. Why not give me a call, and we'll find out?

Recent Answers

You typically get what you pay for when it comes to backlinks. Especially if you search for "high PR backlinks." You may have had a bad experience if you've hired vendors based on that term. Google discontinued its "PageRank" ranking tool several years ago, so that concept no longer has any meaning. Today, Google looks for contextual links from high authority sites that are relevant to your "money site." If a vendor is still advertising "high PR links," they probably aren't any good at SEO in the first place.

I am not recommending this particular vendor, because I haven't worked with them before, but if I were to buy links, I would look for the level of detail you see in this person's service description: http://www.konker.io/services/2906?affid=245f87 They have an understanding of the current state of SEO.

If you have any questions about your SEO strategy, I would be happy to give you an SEO reality check. Just give me a call.

The answer depends on your goals. Do you want to generate stories online? In broadcast (radio/TV) media? Print media? Industry publications? Or maybe you want to position yourself and/or your company as a leader in your field? Or drive traffic to your website or create an SEO boost for your site? Or meet financial disclosure regulations?

I'm going to assume your goal is to generate news stories. The best way to earn media attention is through very specific targeting of your press release to individual journalists who cover your beat (the subject area your press release is about, such as business, or womens' issues or motorsports, for example) AND the topic of your specific release. I don't know of any press release distribution services can promise that (even the paid ones). Their targeting is not very narrow, and most don't have the ability to target recent related stories.

Most public relations pros like me subscribe to a media database service that allows us to do this granular level of targeting. Unfortunately, if you're interested in free distribution, the fees for these databases are probably out of your range. However, you can identify journalists manually by making Google News your friend and searching for recent stories about your topic. Most online news outlets post journalists' email address or Twitter handle, or offer an online form for contacting them.

Most free online press release posting sites have gone the way of the rotary phone. Google used to look favorably on links in press releases for SEO purposes, but that's no longer the case, so there are few left to choose from. The best way to find one is to search Google for "free SEO press release distribution 2016."

Then, to make sure the site's releases are picked up by Google News, search for the site at https://www.news.google.com. Let's pretend our distribution site is called FreelancePR.com. In the Google News search bar, you would type the following, without the brackets: [site:freelancepr.com] (yes, there's no space after the colon) and look for anything that seems to be a press release. Make sure to narrow your search results down to items posted in the previous week (because free press release sites are often de-indexed.)

If nothing from the site shows up in Google News, it's probably not worth trying. It's not there because Google doesn't consider it to be an authoritative source of content.

I'm not currently aware of any truly free PR distribution sites that are indexed by Google News. As others have said, you will probably have to pay to post your news online.

My credentials: I've earned coverage for myself and clients in hundreds of international, national, local and niche publications and blogs including the LA Times, Washington Times, Wall Street Journal, Popular Science, CNN.com and many more.

Once you understand the mindset of the folks who work in the media, you'll know the answers to all of your questions. You have to understand that newsroom staffing has dropped dramatically over the past several years. Editors and reporters have even less time to do their jobs, and shorter deadlines, and the PR consultants who earn coverage for their clients are often the ones who do most of the journalists' work for them. This includes finding the angle, writing the press release to Associated Press standards, supplying relevant quotes, background information, and anything else a journalist needs to cover your story.

Stories appear in a newspaper (or any other media outlet) for one reason: to increase readership/viewership so the newspaper can charge money for advertising. The more readers, the more they can charge.

Keep in mind--these media outlets do not care that you have a new website. Their readers don't care. They only care about "what's in it for me."

So your job is to convince the editor and/or journalist that your news is incredibly relevant and appealing to their audience, and (ideally) has the potential to become a viral sensation on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.

This means you really have to intimately know your target audience so you know what they're interested in, and find out what publications and websites they to go to get their news.

Other folks have given you good advice about finding contact information. However, you may also want to consider working with a freelance PR consultant who can purchase a verified media contact list tailored specifically for your niche. This may seem pricey, but you are far more likely to reach the correct contacts than if you try to distribute your releases through generic contact forms on their websites. It will be a huge time-saver for you as well.

A freelance PR person can also help you find the newsworthy angle to present in your pitch (and yes, you have to do this yourself.) I find this is the area that my clients struggled with the most before coming to me for help.

In ten years of helping entrepreneurs promote their online businesses, I have never found a single one with a "newsworthy" website. But I managed to earn media coverage for virtually all of them by creating the right PR strategy.

I just recently helped a client position his website as the leader in his category in New York City, one of the most competitive media markets on earth. We did it--and he was thrilled with the results--but we didn't promote the website per se. I created a PR campaign for him that was newsworthy by itself, and the website got significant traffic and media exposure as a result. It was a very cost-effective campaign, and accomplished his goals in only about six weeks.

There's a lot more advice in my article, "When (and why) should you send out a press release?" available on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140403192525-3482913-when-and-why-should-you-send-out-a-press-release?trk=prof-post

Best of luck to you with your new site. If you'd like more personalized and specific advice, please don't hesitate to schedule a call.

It's hard to evaluate a tactic (equity crowdfunding) without knowing if your business strategy is sound. That said, the equity crowdfunding platforms I'm familiar with are far different than the typical Kickstarter-type, rewards-based platform you may have used initially. On Indiegogo or Kickstarter, you truly are marketing yourself and your product(s) to a crowd, and most projects make their money from the small donations of many, many individuals. On a site like Fundable.com, you're generally dealing with a handful of accredited investors who are expected to pony up tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars each.

A successful crowdfunding campaign can be as valuable for the publicity it generates and the tribe you build as for the money you raise. Whereas an equity fundraise may be done entirely behind the scenes, so you don't really get any PR benefit until and unless you meet your goals and announce your new partner(s) or owners.

Once you decide what's most important to you (control, independence, cash flow, distribution channels, SEO issues, publicity, etc.), you'll get a better grip on equity crowdfunding as a fundraising tactic and whether or not it's right for you.

If you'd like to brainstorm or reality-check with an independent outsider who has experience in both kinds of crowdsourcing, do consider me a resource.

I'm not an immigration attorney, but I have made trips to Canada to find clients, and this is my understanding of the laws.

If you are a Canadian citizen or permanent resident, you do not need a visa to come to the United States as long as you will not actually be working and receiving payment from U.S. businesses or employers while in the U.S. For example, you can visit the U.S. to attend trade shows, meetings, conferences, etc. without a visa.

Here's a publication from the U.S. State Department that may help: http://travel.state.gov/content/dam/visas/BusinessVisa%20Purpose%20Listings%20March%202014%20flier.pdf

The best way to find freelancers may be to ask for referrals. But if you're not in a position to do that, Elance may be a good place to start looking. I've been working via Elance for seven years. Once I hit the Top 10 in the Writing category, I started to get a lot of referral work from my Elance clients, and became significantly less active on the site (So, Dave was right.) Nowadays, most of my copywriting and marketing strategy work comes from word-of-mouth, but I still do an occasional project via Elance because their escrow feature can be handy.

As to the portfolio question — let's say you're a mortgage broker and you've just paid a copywriter to create a $10,000 sales letter for you. Would you want that writer to share your letter with the next mortgage broker who comes down the pike? Of course not. That's why most clients insist on non-disclosure agreements. That's why I can't share most of my portfolio with you (as much as I'd love to!)

You may be more likely to get samples if you ask to see work that's unrelated to your niche. That way the freelancer has some confidence that you're not just going to steal the content and use it for yourself (this is an extremely common scam on sites like Elance.)

It doesn't have to be in your niche to be a good source of information. When you're trying to evaluate a copywriting or design sample, you need to know who the target audience was, what the business goal was, and what the results were. That's true for any niche.

When I'm hiring someone, I put a lot of stock in testimonials and references. As a freelancer, I actively solicit them from clients, because they're so much more effective than any marketing copy I could write about myself.

I hope that helps. If you need more tips for screening applicants on a site like Elance, or need help writing the kind of project description you need to attract top talent, please don't hesitate to give me a call.

Generally, a marketing consultant or strategist is the person who can help you define your brand, discover your unique selling proposition, understand your target audience(s), define your positioning, etc. The strategist can help you decide which story you want to tell, and why you should tell it. The strategist can work on the "whys" (why we were founded, why we do things this way, why you should hire us instead of the other guy, etc.)

The copywriter can take that story, and those "why" statements, and wordsmith them in a way that supports your brand identity and marketing strategy.

It's not unheard of to find both a crafty marketing strategist and a compelling copywriter inside the same body, but it's relatively rare. You will likely pay more for this breadth of service than you would for just a copywriter.

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