4 Reasons Your Startup Should Avoid Large PR Firms

There are so many justifications as to why a startup should hire a public relations firm that doing so is basically a no-brainer. After all, why wouldn’t you look to a team of seasoned experts able to approach what you’re selling from an objective, outside perspective rather than rely on your internal team members who don’t have the same range of experience or ability to overcome myopic points of view enabled by an emotional proximity to a pitch? Not doing so would just be silly.

But when it comes to selecting an agency, some serious thought must go into the size of the organization you choose. Here are four important reasons why a boutique firm is better equipped to handle your startup:

1. Big firms mean less attention.

Would you rather date somebody who already has a wide variety of demanding, high-maintenance significant others or someone who has time for you? Large PR agencies care less about doing everything they can to promote a small client and far more about the giant brands they can bill up to $30k per month. But ultimately, the joke is on them. Because boutique public relations firms know that hitting smaller accounts as hard as possible is what someday turns startups into huge, powerful brands.

2. Big firms have high turnover.

You should never get too attached to your account team at a large PR agency because chances are, they won’t always be your account team. Big firms are a revolving door for young, overworked talent which means these reps never have the time it takes to truly learn your industry. That makes your business their resume fodder. New public relations agents at huge organizations are more concerned with amazing startup launches they can reference during future job interviews than they are with building realistic and sustainable long-term strategies.

3. Big firms can play favorites.

As a small startup represented by a large agency, you’re a little fish in a big pond. And no agent wants his picture taken holding a guppy when there’s a 300-pound Marlin available for the shot. With the scale of clientele it takes to support a big PR firm, there will always be competitive clients on their roster that may be handed media opportunities before you are. Smaller firms are more likely to ensure that each of their clients is getting the available coverage that they deserve, regardless of their retainer size.

4. Big firms face bureaucracy.

One of the best things about small PR agencies is their ability to be nimble, pivoting as necessary to take advantage of breaking news and evolving trends that can be leveraged to promote a startup. But at large firms, anything truly innovative must often go through several levels of approval before it can be executed. Cutting through all that red tape inevitably takes up time that allows fantastic opportunities to quickly pass by.

When it comes to finding the right PR firm to represent your business, be sure to look past the established names and check out smaller agencies that will truly have your best interests at heart. Boutique agencies are not so far removed from the struggles startups face and are more likely to view themselves as a partner rather than just a paid ally of your organization.


Is Content Marketing Dead?

In 2016, winding your way around the World Wide Web feels less like surfing the Internet and more like an acid trip. Once a place where marketers felt comfortable presenting carefully curated content has become an assault of seemingly random sights and sounds driven to virality by the curious enjoyment of consumers. Sure the typical tales of the Kardashians, their romances and their stolen jewelry will likely remain a part of the mainstream media’s messaging, but it’s far more aberrant posts which are rising to the top of trending stories, where they find more staying power than can be bought with millions of brand dollars.

“Content Shock,” or the theory that a person can only consume so much content, is no longer just a scary hypothetical addition to the marketer’s lexicon. It has been with us for quite some time and grows increasingly apparent to those who pay attention to what goes viral. People have become so inundated with communications, be they push marketing or branded content, native or social, that linear ideas and images no longer hold the same magic they did less than a decade ago. These three trends showcase the psychology of social virality in a world where content marketers are dead and “differentiation agents” will have to take their place to ensure impactful messaging moving forward:

  1. Cat Breading: The Birth of Non-Linear Marketing

There are few forces more powerful to marketers than that of novelty and intrigue. Neurobiologists have even found a region of the midbrain referred to as its “novelty center” which responds to unique stimuli by activating the release of dopamine. But despite their best efforts, many advertisers are unable to inspire these emotions in consumers even while heavily investing in creative pieces designed to break the mold. That’s because even their most original offerings are no match for a picture of a cat with a piece of bread around its head.

What began as a Tumblr post in 2011 and became the subject of a South Park episode in 2012 is still available as a Snapchat filter option in 2016, without any sort of branded promotional dollars behind it. Why? Because bread cats are non-linear, if not downright absurd, and for that reason they demand attention and inspire loyalty. Their novelty is intriguing to a population tired of being bombarded by far more purposeful content provided by advertisers. To really be heard, modern marketers need to take a step back from deliberate attempts at established variation, instead looking towards ideas that use confusion to their own advantage by inspiring the strange delight of consumers.

  1. Boaty McBoatface: The Power of Crowdsourced Humor

Super Bowl ads still drive a relatively engaged audience at scale due to carefully scripted, humor-based creative formats with celebrity power baked in at an opportune time. But these expensive marketing efforts can pale in comparison to the amount of earned media that can be garnered by a crowdsourced non-advertisement. Consider the Internet frenzy created in May when a British government agency decided to let netizens decide the name of a $287 million research vessel.

Quicker than virtually any brand-driven call to action could inspire, hundreds of thousands of voters flocked to support the moniker “Boaty McBoatface” and organic virality was instantly achieved, with the naming convention still showing up in nominations for more recent, similar contests. The force at work driving the popularity of this concept is its open-ended, unscripted opportunity for humor. When audiences are allowed to determine the direction the content takes rather than having it forced upon them, they respond. The lesson to marketers here is a deep one. The Internet doesn’t just want freedom of expression. It wants control over the direction the conversation takes. It wants to decide, rather than be told, what is funny and brands may benefit from incredible viral potential by letting it making such choices.

  1. Buzzfeed Basics: The Switch from Bigger Pictures to Smaller Ones

The media has changed in far greater ways than just a shift to digital content. This evolution is reflected not only in how stories are being shared but also by what is being talked about. Today’s most widely circulated news/entertainment websites now offer many narratives driven by random people in unusual situations, with articles like “A Raccoon Stole This Guy’s Phone and The Hilarious Chase Was Caught On Video” enabling Buzzfeed to become the most popular viral site month after month. That so many highly read stories are now quick-fire tales of circumstances with absolutely no relevance outside of an entertaining diversion demonstrates how popular content is becoming reflective of the self-involved generation which is consuming it. To combat this gap between what audiences want and what brands are able to offer, marketers need to realize they will lose relevance if they rely on pushing their clients’ established storylines, instead engaging the media with unique assets more appealing to journalists’ current desire to cover the little things.

Certainly, creating unique content remains an important aspect of a communications strategy, but unless consumers’ needs for authentic virality drivers are taken into account, all of the marketing dollars in the world are no match for the psychology which leads consumers to crave non-linear randomness in what messages they find worthwhile.


Ticketbis sells soccer to America

Ticketbis Sells Soccer to America

Americans love for sports should come as no surprise. Football, baseball and basketball have reigned as the country’s most beloved sporting events and have done so for decades. While these sports will forever be a staple in American culture, recently a new contender has peaked the interest of millions.

Raking in tens of billions in global revenue every year, soccer has long been the world’s most popular and profitable sport. In the United States, the global sport has previously been dismissed as a game for soccer moms and kids – that is, until recently. Ticketbis, an international secondary ticketing platform, recently released a report on soccer tourism that measured international purchases to European league matches. The “Goalnomics” report revealed that a staggering 60 percent of purchases for Premiere League matches were made by Americans. (La Liga followed second with 26 percent of American purchases)

The new found data from the Goalnomics report was so fascinating that we had to spread the news. See what Brian Blickenstaff at Vice Sports had to say about the data from Ticketbis.

5 Golden Rules to Master Media Relations

Five Golden Rules to Master Media Relations

Developing a productive relationship with the media is tough. I have witnessed both publicists and founders go into a complete meltdown over their efforts. In recent years, it has become more difficult to receive media placements thanks to shrinking newsrooms and overwhelmed journalists. However, when done correctly, a media placement can be more effective than any advertising, social media and marketing efforts combined.

To ensure that your story is told by the media, here are the five golden rules of media relations:

  • Build a targeted media list. Building a media list can be extremely time consuming, but it is one of the most important processes in beginning the outreach process. Communications professionals often rely on software to build media lists; however, to really zero in on media relevant to your company, nothing replaces Google News. Search for your competitors to see if journalists found their stories intriguing and pay attention to the coverage they are receiving. Are they releasing data, company culture news or raising funding? These are the journalists you should be targeting as well.

  • Research, research, research. Now that you’ve spent hours building a media list, it’s time to research the hell out of these journalists. Not only should you be reading over their most recent articles, but you should also check out their social media profiles and read their bios.

    Reading every article a journalist has penned can be extremely time consuming. As a general rule of thumb, read three articles to completion, then peruse their headlines to get a feel for what they cover.

    When reading the journalists’ work, take note of the tone in which they write. Are they dry and factually driven? Do they write with a sense of humor? You’ll want to use this information and match their tone when you reach out to them.

  • Focus on the relationship, not the pitch. The No. 1 mistake people make when pitching the media is treating them like they are robots. Journalists are real people — do not be afraid to have a personality when reaching out to them. Before sending journalists a story idea, reach out and introduce yourself and your business, and ask if they would be interested in receiving updates on the company’s achievements. Also ask if they are in need of any information for pieces they are working on. Always remember that media relations is not the same as advertising. Just like in every other relationship in life, it is give and take.

  • Prepare and be prompt
    Nothing will put you on a journalist’s shit list faster than not being prepared or timely. As I stated earlier, journalists are extremely busy people with strict deadlines. If they are doing you the courtesy of including your company in an upcoming piece, you need to respond promptly and have all information readily available. What information, you ask? Have ready any quotes, pictures of your work and employees, a media kit and any other information the journalist may need. Also, you should always be available to hop on a call with the journalist. No matter how busy your day may be, making the time for an urgent 15-minute phone call can mean the difference between a syndicated article in Forbes and praying that people read your company news on your blog.

  • Be prepared to follow up. Sometimes a media list was perfectly fleshed out, you did great research and you crafted the perfect pitch, but you won’t get a response. Chances are the journalist’s inbox was inundated and they just didn’t see your email. Always follow up after a week of pitching to see if the journalist had a chance to read your email. You’d be surprised how many times I’ve scored a placement after following up with a journalist. Just like you, they can miss emails.

While much of what we read is inherently newsworthy or based on daily events, journalists and reporters also heavily rely on news tips and other information. Having the ability to deliver a good pitch and build strong relationships with the media can go a long way when sharing your news. With these tips in your media relations pocket, you will be better prepared to position your company and form long-lasting relationships with members of the media. 

The Niche Advantage: A Call for PR Agencies to Specialize

Imagine you injure your arm in a nasty skiing accident. Naturally, you head over to your general practitioner to get it checked out. While the doctor is giving your arm the once over, he also mentions that he can provide you with some psychotherapy to treat any PTSD that may have been caused by the fall. On top of that, he can perform a mean root canal and give an exceptional sports massage.


Chances are you would run out of the office quicker than his nurse could mouth “quack.” Yet, this same behavior — deemed ridiculous in most professions — is considered the norm across countless public relations and communications agencies today.


This holds especially true for startups, and it is the main reason they are not seeing placements that drive results. To get the full scoop on why niche PR agencies are a must, and what three questions every company should ask before choosing a PR firm, read the entire story written by our CEO Zachary Weiner. You can find it in full on Agency Post.

From Public Relations to Content Relations

It’s time we as an industry evolve. But to modernize simple PR takes more than change; it takes a revolution. And we’re proud to lead the way…


I have an uncle who refuses to use a computer. My family bought him one and he hasn’t taken it out of the box. And this isn’t your crazy uncle Al who has no real need for technology; my uncle builds houses. In fact, he constructs multi-million dollar homes. Now, we all can see why it may be rather important that he owns a computer, or at the very least, an email address. And while he has been wildly successful and I deeply respect him and his profession, resisting change is just bad. But in his defense he is just one man, he is not an entire industry. Imagine if an entire industry resisted change to hold on to the past. Now that would be mighty irresponsible.


Welcome to public relations! Honestly, what does “public relations” even mean these days! It was a term originally defined by Ivy Lee in the early 1900s, and since then has undergone plenty of unsuccessful attempts at redevelopment and revival  by the World Assembly of Public Relations Associations and the Public Relations Society of America. But what may have been relevant in the early 1900s up until late 1990s is simply not today. Companies are looking to “relate” to the public about as much as millionaires are looking to “relate” to the homeless, especially in a B2B marketplace. No, companies want to “relate” to the people that matter to them, which is typically a smaller, more concentrated group and not the general public. Trying to reach the entire population or a general audience is a classic example of resisting change-something the entire industry is guilty of.


Let’s not even get into the fact that there are entirely too many differing marketing buckets, which makes it next to impossible to understand who does what. As Robin Thicke said, it’s those blurred lines. They’re not helping anyone in this already confused industry, where more toes are being stepped on than at a Jay Z and Beyoncé concert.


So, allow us to be the industry’s saving grace as we dub ourselves the world’s first content relations firm. Picture us as the cohesive glue needed to put the fragmented pieces back together and unify disparate marketing silos. Our main goal as a content relations firm is to creatively convey our clients’ messages in a way that will effectively get their products and services in front of those who matter most. Whether that means implementing innovative strategies or analyzing content, our objective remains the same: to turn simple messages into stories, and ideas into actions no matter if the content is earned, owned or paid. And since our prime focus is content, we cannot succeed without creating the most stellar content this planet has ever seen, telling compelling corporate stories in a never-before-seen way.


And while the PRSA may say public relations encompasses this type of focus, we beg to differ. Actually, we just blatantly disagree—respectfully, of course. To us, the traditional definition of public relations does not do our tactic justice, which is why we feel we need to rebrand ourselves and, eventually, the industry.


But small steps, right? For now, we are re-launching our firm under the belief that content is at the heart of media, social marketing, digital, SEO and experimental campaigns that drive action. Content fuels results and an attentive and relevant audience. Story-telling prevails over everything else. So consider this the obituary for public relations. It has died. It ceases to exist in the digital realm. And in its place a new form of marketing has emerged that is larger, stronger and more qualified for the digital world. The digital world encompasses far too many opportunities to stay narrow and traditional. Our clients are always innovating, and so are we.


Rest peacefully public relations. You did good, but all great things must come to an end. Luckily we have something even greater taking your place: content relations.

How Big Data Fits Into Public Relations

I bet you’re sick of hearing about how awesome big data is. I really can’t fault you there, yet the undeniable fact still remains: Big data works! I know, I know—I’m sorry, but we really should talk more about it. But this time, let’s talk about big data as it pertains to public relations.


Yes, big data can be and is used in public relations, and is becoming almost a necessity in the industry. Since a PR agencies key role is to provide their clients with the best coverage and media placement imaginable, we as public relations specialists need to stay current on the best industry strategies and solutions. Big data is a universal development that can be implemented into PR campaigns to better a client’s position. Here are five ways PR firms can use big data to increase media coverage, and equally as important, increase client happiness!



1. Stay Atop of the Trends


If you’re not using social media as a publicity tool, then boy are you behind the times! And if you’re not using big data to better orchestrate your social media campaigns, then listen up! PR agencies can use big data to analyze and track when certain hashtags will be trending based on past triggers, and plan their campaign accordingly. They can also recognize what spurs a negative reaction from followers based on past stats, subsequently altering campaigns to avoid these damaging situations. Furthermore, Big Data can help PR professionals regulate tweets and posts based off trending topics, and more efficiently create interest around client products and offers by evaluating which audiences are best to target first.



2. Numbers Speak Louder than Words


Instead of telling you audience that mobile video advertising is increasing, show them! Whether it be percentages or hard numbers, giving an audience something tangible to see and read goes a longer way than basic, glossed-over statements. Big data can be a tremendous help with this. Whether it’s by using proprietary data that you created or of which you have exclusive access to; data that obtained through a survey or poll conducted by a market researcher or analyst firm; or data from whitepapers, reports, overviews and other publications accessible on the internet, data can open the audiences eyes to the extent of trends and help support client offerings. Big data is everywhere, and using it to your client’s advantage in articles, social media posts and press releases demonstrates the impact their services can have on an industry in decline or expansion. Take it a step further and use big data to show your clients impact on an industry using numbers in an interesting, even unorthodox, way. For example, if you represent an eHealth app, you can use proprietary numbers to demonstrate the apps success in catching cardiovascular problems, while also using a white paper that gives numbers demonstrating why cardiovascular problems need to be caught early. Let big data prove the point for you!



3. Dig and Combine


We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Big data is everywhere! As a PR firm, you should use that to your advantage. If you’re looking for specific data to make a point but the data isn’t all within the same study or white paper, do some digging. Combining data from different sources (while always remembering to site your source!) can give audiences a better look into industry trends. This works especially well if you’re looking for trends ranging over several years, or even ranging over several industries.



4. Collect Your Own Big Data


Social Media is a great way to create your own polls or surveys, especially as the biggest obstacles facing in-house data are price and pool size. Asking a well-orchestrated question to Twitter followers could garner revealing, low-cost information that can in-turn be used to better position a client. Of course the more expensive route is to hire a market researcher to conduct a more extensive survey to gain valuable data points, but if you’re looking for quick way to survey a large audience why not create your own big data? In the same vein, you can use big data to discover how to properly and effectively word certain questions in a company’s favor by looking at past trends.



5. Learn From Your Actions


Let me just say this one more time: Big data is all around you! All those pitches you’ve sent; social media hits you’ve received; and media traffic you’ve created—those all have big data written all over it. By analyzing these points and patterns, your agency can learn from the past and better adopt ways to garner better results in the future. By simply tracking and organizing this data, PR firms can completely transform how they target media for certain clients, as well as how to place certain news pieces to get the best results imaginable.