Early Stage PR

with Julie Crabill

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Spending cash and building community

Julie Crabill

Founder & CEO, PR Expert

Lessons Learned

Do not spend any money on PR externally until you can spend about $3k-$4k per month.

Define your core targets: what do they read, what do they care about, who influences them?

Build community into the DNA of your company. Your community will do consistent & free PR forever.


Lesson: Early Stage PR with Julie Crabill

Step #7 Logistics: Spending cash and building community

In terms of the budget for PR and how you should think about it, I wouldn't spend any money externally to get help on PR unless you can spend at least $3000 or $4000 a month. I think when you get to the point where you can spend $3000 or $4000 a month, you should be looking at sort of a contractor or a freelance type.

And at that point, you should be figuring out, “Do I want to hire somebody who is very senior, who again I'm going to get less hours because those hours are going to cost me more per hour for my pool of money, but I'm going to be able to get them to help me build a strategic plan and create an overall vision, and do a lot of the messaging and branding work, and really help me at a high level. Or, do I have a lot of that stuff either through my advisors or personally I can build it myself?”

If there's some way to get that done yourself, then you could hire somebody who you'll actually get more time from, because they're going to be charging you less per hour, and that person can be more of a tactical executor.

The ideal person there is to find somebody at the mid level, who's really scrappy, really smart, is willing to try to do that stuff and you're willing to take a bet on them. Sometimes that's harder to find, and those people, their time gets eaten up quickly when people figure out who they are. But that's kind of where the starting point is. When you get up to sort of the $7-, $8-, $9000-budget range, that's when you can sort of go into the more boutiquey agencies. There are a lot of agencies that have pure minimums. Sometimes they list them on their website. Sometimes you can call and ask. I think that you should just cut through the crap as much as you can when it comes to that, and call and say, "Hey, do you have a minimum budget that you guys won't consider working with less than?"

And if they do get that number, and figure out if it makes sense for you. If it doesn't, then don't waste your time and theirs having the conversation about it. And then once you get past sort of the $15,000 a month range, that's when you're dealing with sort of the bigger agencies, multi-office, international offices as well. But it can go up from there to really, exponentially to a lot of really high numbers that people spend for PR.

Depending on what you're bringing to the market, you should figure out who your core targets are. So I think a lot of that will be your first-degree targets of who's actually going to buy your product, who's actually going to invest in your company, who's actually going to come to work for you. How do you get to those people, what are the channels that they read, what are the things that they care about, who influences their decisions? So if you're trying to hire a bunch of coders, you might want to go to hackathons and places where these people hang out. If you can't reach them directly, you might want to figure out, “Hey, if I could do some really cool happy hours and get people to come to my office, they would hear through their friends about what I was doing.” It's a little bit of a harder map to draw of where you're trying to go. But I think, ultimately, that's what you have to think about, is how do you reach those people. And then, I think there are the second-order people as well. I might want to be covered in a bunch of different media, even if it doesn't directly result in these peoples’ attention that I really need to get, because I will get broader attention from the market. And then, when I want one of those people to care about me, they hear my name, they're going to search for me online, and they're going to see all of those articles. And then, they're going to have this air of like, "Okay. This isn't a joke. This company's pretty serious. They've been out there. They've already got a product or they've got this great vision, or they've got this really impressive founding team," or whatever it might be. So sometimes, thinking of that as your target, as sort of that second-level target who's going to get that excitement for you is important too.

In terms of figuring out how to reach those different audiences and where they're looking, I think you really have to kind of put yourself in their shoes or tap into people who you know who are of that audience. I have tweens in my life that I will literally text and say, "What do you read online? Is there anything that you actually care about?" Oftentimes, with that tough to reach market, the answer is no. They hear from their friends or they're on Ask.fm and they hear about things secondhand that way.

So I think trying to put yourself into their shoes is really important. And then, I think the learning cycle that occurs when it works. So you might say, "I want to reach moms, and I think that a lot of the moms that I want to reach are the highly productive moms, and I think they probably spend a lot of time on Lifehacker. These are super high productivity people, so let's target them.”

Well, then you get that article on Lifehacker, and you have to look at what happens next. So yes, you should have that moment of celebration of, “We all worked together and we made this happen, and it's awesome. We got the article.” But then, if a week later nothing really came of it, you have to learn a lesson from that and figure out was it because the article wasn't good? Did it actually drive a lot of traffic but that traffic didn't convert? Is there a problem with our website that makes it so that people get confused and don't take the next step? Did it drive a little bit of traffic that converted but that was really high value conversions, because those people are hugely impactful to us in terms of their engagement, in terms of their word of mouth, driving more people to the community, whatever it might be?

Just as you should build your overall ability to tell your story into the DNA of the company from the beginning, you should be thinking about community in the same way. So your community is everything, from the people who work from you, your customers, to the people in your area. If you're looking to sort of be a font of information fir the tech and entrepreneurial community, you need to be part of that. So even if one of the co-founders isn't really interested in that stuff, but you've got somebody on the team who is, make sure that person is given the resources to engage early in those community activities so that you're not going out there and just asking to be part of the community when it suits you. You're actually kind of naturally becoming part of it early on. And I think looking for people who want to get behind your story and the story that you're telling.

Take Uber for instance. Those guys did a great job of creating community because they took a really, really key existing pain point for people of like, "I can just not get a cab when I need one. I can never get where I'm trying to go. This is making me crazy." And they answered that need. So those people became their evangelists from the beginning. So when there were legal troubles or when all the cabbies got up in arms and said, "You can't use Uber, Uber Cab. You can't use that name," whatever it might be, you've got this group of people who you're not paying, you didn't really do much with, but they kind of pushed your story for you because they were so excited about the need that you were filling.

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