Category Archives: leadership

The Second Pillar Of Successful Start-Up Communications: Relationships

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Part one of a two-part series outlining the two pillars of success in start-up communications. Read part one.

Relationships should be just as much a part of your brand strategy and business plan as your basic production model. These relationships form both internally and externally and require a keen emotional intelligence:

External Relationships

Don’t let the first time you contact a journalist, blogger or influencer be when you’re sending a pitch. Follow the reporters, bloggers, thought leaders and influencers in your industry on social media and read their work. This will help you craft personalized communications when you reach out to start a conversation. Personalization will help you cut through the noise. When you develop relationships before you need them, you keep the process more organic and less transactional—a sentiment that will translate to the work they will later produce for you. But remember, it is a working relationship. When you get too close, you can forget to include all the details in the midst of socialization. Assume that anything not explicitly discussed will not end up in the finished piece.

While keeping a functional distance, you must also be careful not to burn bridges with the media either. You can avoid this in a few key ways: by giving exclusives sparingly, not making things personal and respecting their work. Favoring one reporter or outlet over another with exclusives will damage relationships with others. In today’s media landscape, with traditional and online publications and new, viral blogs launching each day, you want your story spread as far and wide as possible, not promised to any one source—assuming you could even avoid a leak long enough to work with a single outlet. When stories do get written, you will not like every word of every piece. It is important to not make this a personal vendetta with the author. Writers remember to whom they like and don’t like talking. Instead, keep it about the facts and use it as a way to leverage future conversations. And when you do get time with a writer, respect their work by knowing what “off the record” and “on background” mean, and know when to use them without taking advantage of their power.

Internal Relationships

The media needs you, your customers need you, your investors need you, but your employees do too. You are responsible for managing expectations, setting goals and developing company culture. When you get your messaging right, create a brand voice and messaging document and make sure everyone at the company has a copy and understands its full intent. Your idea for the company cannot exist solely inside your head. Your team cannot market something they don’t understand, or speak in a voice of a company language that is not yet developed. Your brand’s identity and voice have to be clear and tangible so your employees can learn them, adopt them and reflect them in their individual focus areas. Established companies will have their identity set and their voice practiced, while start-ups are still creating theirs, thus changing the learning curve for employees and agency teams entirely. It takes time and patience, open and frequent communication, receptiveness to the process and empathy to the growing pains that come with it.

It is important to nurture careers and personal relationships with your team, because they are entering on the ground level with you. Your company is such a part of you that it can be a real challenge to let go and allow your team the room they need to work. Ask for a passion and shared vision from your team and then respect their expertise. Accept the areas where you are not the expert. Remember why you hired them and let them do their jobs—believe in them so they might believe they have a true place in the company’s success. The beauty of a start-up is the buy-in, the accountability, how close each employee can feel to the mission, the work and the successes of the company. This is a symbiotic relationship between you and your employees. After all, you win together and you lose together.

Lindsay Cosner is an account supervisor at Gotham PR.

The Two Pillars of Successful Startup Communications

startupBy Lindsay Cosner, Account Supervisor, Gotham PR

One might say we are living in a new era of entrepreneurship, with bright minds seeping out of the traditional workforce to launch their own businesses, fueled by hard work and an undeniable, unrelenting passion. However, sources of record like Fortune note that the number of startups has fallen from representing 14% of all businesses to only 8% over the last 30 years. What is the reason for this sharp decline? The Economic Times lists 10 reasons why startups fail, but chief among them is a lack of understanding of the importance of communications—both internally and externally.

With startups growing and, oh so often, failing fast, it is more important than even that ingenuity and passions are partnered with PR prudence and a tight communications strategy. There is a plethora of advice to be sought on this subject; however, it all seems to boil down to two major thought pillars, under which all-else falls: messaging and relationships. Understanding how to create a message and have the relationships that will make your message matter are the foundation to creating a successful communications strategy at a startup.

Once you know whom you are talking to, you know how to focus your message to their needs, concerns, and personalities. Every customer matters and in today’s modern, media world, one voice really can be heard everywhere.

THE FIRST PILLAR: MESSAGING

With startups growing and, oh so often, failing fast, it is more important than even that ingenuity and passions are partnered with PR prudence and a tight communications strategy. There is a plethora of advice to be sought on this subject; however, it all seems to boil down to two major thought pillars, under which all-else falls: messaging and relationships. Understanding how to create a message and have the relationships that will make your message matter are the foundation to creating a successful communications strategy at a startup.

When creating your message, there are a series of questions to ask yourself and your team:

What Are You Talking About?

This should seem obvious— you’re talking about your product, your company, and your value proposition. But no matter how well-crafted your messaging, or how in-sync you are with your media team, your product must always be put before publicity.

It is important to get your product, user experience, and customer service right because even great coverage and marketing cannot sustain success when there is a flaw in the core business model. You cannot expect your marketing and PR efforts to make up for issues with operations or the product itself. If demand comes in as a result of a great placement, review, or social media post, be ready to fulfill. The best messaging needs to be backed up by action, a good product, and even better overall customer experience.

Loop communications teams in from the early stages of development so they can contribute their unique perspective, begin to build excitement, develop the brand voice, and nail the identity and positioning of the product and company. This is a process, not a light switch— all the time spent on development, the trial and error that went into creating the product itself, will likely also be reflected when it comes to creating the larger brand identity.

What Are You Saying About It?

When crafting your messaging, remain objective and control the subjective excitement that you have about your product— remember the consumer and the problem you are solving and keep your value proposition simple and specific. You must find your place in the market and then focus your voice.

Seek opinions from each segment of your team, your marketing team, your investors, your development team, etc. and ask them each to define the company, the product, and the problem they are solving. All answers given are important; craft them into one narrative— even if, in the end, the answer looks a little different than what you originally had in mind.

When creating your messaging, resist the temptation to use analogies to define your business. Saying, “It’s like Angie’s List, but for all things baby,” is instructive, but it takes away from your brand. An analogy is an oversimplification that will leave your audience with an understanding, but you won’t stand out as a unique product, instead you risk being simply an adaption of someone else’s more original idea.

You can avoid this branding trap and still maintain customer comprehension by starting off at the heart of your brand. Reduce your message down to its very nucleus, perfect that, sell that as an idea, and then add layers of dimension and functionality to your definition over time. You have worked on this idea, this product, for years and it’s only natural to want to share everything that’s great about it all at once, but you must walk before you can run and so must your message.

How Are You Saying It?

You’re used to talking about your product, living and breathing your product, but talking to the media and the public about it is an entirely different conversation that will stretch you outside of your usual circles and the people who are already evangelized to your message. Now you’re talking to “outsiders,” and you need to be accessible and genuine.

Your great idea may have gotten you to where you are and you may think it’s the best and only true option in the space, but seeming at all patronizing will only distance you from potential customers. When positioning your brand in the competitive landscape, negativity never wins— know your competitors and how to differentiate yourself without trash talking.

Brooke Hammerling, Founder of Brew Media Relations, points out another critical messaging directive for start-ups when she said, “If you’re a huge company, sure you might be able to pull off being snarky or sassy, but as a startup, all you should be is respectful of your competition.”

She went on to advise that you should pivot the conversation to speak instead about someone similar who has done it right and draw a parallel to them— what this does is creates a correlation between you and your brand and the success of a giant in your space. Remember when speaking about your company and your competitors that you are all part of the same community and always try to bring the conversation back to you.

Don’t get carried away when speaking about your company or the competitive landscape—avoid broad, sweeping statements or generalizations like, “we’ll do it in half the time,” or “we’re the only responsible option.” Not only will you have to live up to these statements once you make them, but you risk alienating your potential customer base. If they are using the competition now, insulting their intelligence or compassion by obviating the need for and superiority of your product will only alienate them and cause defensiveness that might push them the other way. Negativity in messaging doesn’t work— inspiring a potential customer that they can be or can do even better is a stronger message.

You must also be steadfast with your promises— promises to the media, to your investors, and to your customers. If you make a deadline for launch, or fulfillment public, you must not miss it. As a new company, you do not have a public track record to fall back on— you are creating it. So make your communicated deadlines achievable by planning for delays and educating your decisions by talking to your team to inform work from all angles.

Who Are You Saying It To?

In a crowded marketplace, the only way a business can cut through all the noise is by having something of value to say to an individual costumer. A customer should feel as though they are being spoken to one-on-one. But how do you speak to a customer one-on-one when you hope to have hundreds, thousands? It’s easier than you think, but requires a deep understanding of “whom you are talking to.” A deep dive into audience segmentation, demographics, and psychographics is required to create personas that will represent the faces of your customer base.

Once an effective message is created and adopted, it is the relationships you have forged internally and externally that will make that message matter.

THE SECOND PILLAR: RELATIONSHIPS

Relationships should be just as much a part of your brand strategy and business plan as your basic production model. These relationships form both internally and externally and require a keen emotional intelligence:

External Relationships

Don’t let the first time you contact a journalist, blogger, or influencer be when you’re sending a pitch. Follow the reporters, bloggers, thought leaders, and influencers in your industry on social media and read their work—this will help you craft personalized communications when you reach out to start a conversation. Personalization will help you cut through the noise. When you develop relationships before you need them, you keep the process more organic and less transactional— a sentiment that will translate to the work they will later produce for you. But remember, it is a working relationship—when you get too close, you can forget to include all the details in the midst of socialization. Assume that anything not explicitly discussed, will not end up in the finished piece.

While keeping a functional distance, you must also be careful not to burn bridges with the media either. You can avoid this in a few key ways: by giving exclusives sparingly, not making things personal, and respecting their work. Favoring one reporter or outlet over another with exclusives will damage relationships with others. In today’s media landscape, with traditional and online publications and new, viral blogs launching each day, you want your story spread as far and wide as possible, not promised to any one source—assuming you could even avoid a leak long enough to work with a single outlet. When stories do get written, you will not like every word of every piece, it is important to not make this a personal vendetta with the author— writers remember who they like and don’t like talking to. Instead, keep it about the facts and use it as a way to leverage future conversations. And when you do get time with a writer, respect their work by knowing what “off the record” and “on background” mean and know when to use them without taking advantage of their power.

Internal Relationships

The media needs you, your customers need you, your investors need you, but your employees do too. You are responsible for managing expectations, setting goals, and developing company culture. When you get your messaging right, create a brand voice and messaging document and make sure everyone at the company has a copy and understands its full intent. Your idea for the company cannot exist solely inside your head. Your team cannot market something they don’t understand, or speak in a voice of a company language that is not yet developed. Your brand’s identity and voice have to be clear and tangible so your employees can learn them, adopt them, and reflect them in their individual focus areas. Established companies will have their identity set and their voice practiced, where startups are still creating theirs— thus changing the learning curve for employees and agency teams entirely. It takes time and patience, open and frequent communication, receptiveness to the process, and empathy to the growing pains that come with it.

It is important to nurture careers and personal relationships with your team because they are entering on the ground level with you. Your company is such a part of you that it can be a real challenge to let go and allow your team the room they need to work. Ask for a passion and shared vision from your team and then respect their expertise. Accept the areas where you are not the expert. Remember why you hired them and let them do their jobs— believe in them so they might believe they have a true place in the company’s success. The beauty of a startup is the buy-in, the accountability, how close each employee can feel to the mission, the work, and the successes of the company. This is a symbiotic relationship between you and your employees— after all, you win together and you lose together.

View the full article via Bulldog Reporter, here.

This piece was contributed by Lindsay Cosner, Account Supervisor at Gotham PR in New York and London with clients in 25 cities globally. In 2017, the agency celebrates its 15th year in business. It represents Gotham Public Relations’ ongoing published series of articles and forthcoming book focused on Client and Agency-side challenges to provide evolving solutions inside the global workplace.

Client Relationship Perspectives: How to Hire and Fire a PR Client

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By Courtney Lukitsch, Founder and Principal, Gotham PR

September represents new beginnings in the world of PR and marketing around the globe, an exciting time for repositioning brands, launching new ventures and kicking off seasonal event series.

Many an annual retainer campaign is initiated in the month of September, for obvious, quarterly fiscal planning reasons. Leading up to and in tandem with this exciting timeframe, is the need to advance assess how and when to hire or fire an agency client.

This may be conducted through a system of reverse engineering and analysis based on desired outcomes for both the agency and the client and can be broken down into the following considerations:

  • Monthly Planning
  • Daily Communication
  • Weekly Parameters for Success
  • Tools to Achieve Goals
  • Defining Results

The smartest firms will budget accordingly—based upon billable hours and the inevitable over-servicing that goes into making most campaigns successful from a Marketing, PR, and new business development standpoint.

According to Growth Force, it is more cost effective to hire an agency, client-side. Likewise, it is most cost effective for an agency to fire a client rather than hire a new team member to carry the added workload.

The relationship is 100% correlated. The benefits can be measured on a 1:1 ratio. In fact, the impact a good PR partner will make can drive the business client-side for years, through high profile press coverage and marketing and partnership introductions, not to mention leads pre-identified toward new business development that result in contracts.

Conversely, when communication begins to deteriorate between client and agency, usually around the 6-month mark, it is time to evaluate what each team wishes to accomplish beyond that juncture—assuming there is an annual contract in place. It is important to frankly open the dialogue in meetings, rather than try to manage it over email communication. Given the intense pace of most workplaces, nuance, meaning, and tonality are often lost, unless the agency sits down with C-level executives or Principals client-side.

According to experts at both Entrepreneur and PR Daily, the 7 reasons PR professionals should fire a client include:

  • Micromanagement by a client that results in reductive agency outcomes
  • The PR team develops a visceral reaction to a mention of the client’s name
  • Clients never ask your professional opinion, even though that’s why they hired an agency
  • The agency-client relationship is not based in a mutual respect
  • Playing the blame game when it relates to budget when the issue usually stems from the client over spending, or not having a viable PR budget to begin with
  • The client is unresponsive for weeks, even up to a month, and then claims— via email rather than in person or by telephone—that the agency is “checked out” of their responsibilities or deliverables
  • Agency begins to hesitate when promoting the client’s service, product, or point of view with national media—due to lack of belief in client’s integrity or actual ability to deliver on results

As many agencies wisely plan their annual calendars long in advance, prospective clients are often surprised to learn, for example, that the following year’s roster is already confirmed four months before the new year. The smartest PR firms are highly selective in the manner they interview, pre-qualify and hire, or sign new client contracts. Clients are vetted in advance by an agency in the same way the agency must prove its merits, beyond reputation, for offering the highest level of service, value-add network of professional contacts, and global media coverage to the perspective clients.

It also comes as news to clients that they will need to dedicate a serious number of hours conducting positioning audits to help drive new business and storytelling strategies, hiring in-house talent, as well as undergoing media training and lengthy editorial interviews, photo shoots, and video work on camera.

This is to underscore that the Marketing PR relationship is a full time job, not an outsourced vendor relationship. A red flag scenario is one where a prospective client, that has not pre-researched a given agency’s specialization, calls to say, “We need your media contacts and will do the rest.” That is never true. If the skill set is already there, why would they have need of an agency in the first place?

Interesting insight is offered by First Round Review and an entrepreneur that heralds experience with 50 PR firms throughout her career. She hones in on the pressing PR concerns of today’s client looking for an agency partnership: finding the right firm and strategy to tell your story and drive the perception of the overall business.

Her knowledge and experience denotes criteria to consider when identifying and prospectively hiring a PR agency might include the following:

  • They are the right size for where you are today as an organization
  • The firm knows your industry and are deeply passionate about it
  • They have the ability to secure specific types of press
  • The firm’s locality is right (city, state, country, time zone)
  • The firm’s overall temperament and team personalities are a fit (this cannot be emphasized enough)
  • You both know what success looks like first (this goes back to reverse engineering)
  • Once you narrow your decision, client and media references support your decision
  • You are willing and able to collaborate with your PR team to establish metrics for success

An established and emerging mix of global clients on roster for 15 years allows us to offer the above insights from both the agency and client perspective. The art, or real “magic,” of the collaboration emerges when the relationship is healthy. Getting results is the easy part, the people management that happens in between is where the communication skills and educational value-add, truly reside.

View the complete article via Bulldog Reporter, here.

This piece was contributed by Courtney Lukitsch, founder and principal at Gotham PR in New York and London with clients in 25 cities globally. In 2017, the agency celebrates its 15th year in business. It represents Gotham Public Relations’ ongoing published series of articles and forthcoming book focused on Client and Agency-side challenges to provide evolving solutions inside the global workplace.

COURTNEY LUKITSCH: FOUNDER, GOTHAM PR

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My NativeAdVice:

Bio:

Courtney Lukitsch is the principal and founder of Gotham PR, which was founded in 2002 and is a boutique Marketing PR firm based in New York and London, with a roster of high profile clients in 25 global markets.

How did you get into the industry?

I started my career working for USAID in development, transitioned to academia abroad and then again to retail technology with Zara in Spain. In New York, my first agency job was as a senior account supervisor for IBM, then at Peppercom for a thousand tech start-ups and following that, as a VP for business development and strategy at Rubenstein Public Relations, the country’s first and oldest PR firm. I started my own practice Gotham PR in 2002 after 9/11 and 14 years later, am working in 25 cities globally.

Any emerging industry trends?

I’ve run a multi-disciplinary firm from day 1, I see that the market has caught up client-side. However, Gotham PR is the rare exception that provides services for Marketing PR and intense business development in tandem, for very high profile clients

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

Firms are investing in rebranding, repositioning, strategic media training, new websites, portfolio/case studies, awards, speaking engagements and marketing collateral in a way I’ve not seen in 10 years.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for Gotham PR?

We’ve always matched the best creative talent to business opportunities and global awareness, hence the name GOTHAM

What’s next for the Business in the near future?

We have expanded or tripled our new client campaign roster for 2017, going into year 15 of the business, pretty major

Your key initiatives for the success of Gotham PR?

Creativity, Strategy, Integrity, Ambition, Value, Profit, Legacy

Your most difficult moment at Gotham PR? (and what did you learn?)

Every day and every week, month year pose unique challenges that respond to global market forces – not least of which working with creative temperaments and realistic timelines/expectations – I literally learn something new with each passing moment

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

Increased awareness, reputation and profit

How do you motivate others?

Mentor, coach, guide, create a network in a very direct manner at the agency – writing and publishing a book on this topic early 2017

Career advice to those in your industry?

Tenacity, research, show up early, be smarter and more prepared than the client — will always be PR 101 #1 rules to follow

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How to Manage Client Expectations, Timelines and Future Goals

happyclient2October 13th, 2016 –This piece was contributed by Courtney Lukitsch, founder and principal at Gotham PR in New York and London, with clients in 25 cities globally.

It represents Gotham Public Relations ongoing published series of articles focused on Client and Agency-side challenges and evolving solutions inside the global workplace.

Read the full article posted by PRNewser, here.


The prophetic writer Maya Angelou says “people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
This wise insight, when applied to the world of PR, experiential and digital marketing, sales and ongoing business development, lends credence to the fact that emotional intelligence and keen understanding of the client and customer will always win.

Gotham PR has recently published widely on the topic of EQ, emotional agility and the ability in marketing parlance to ‘read a room’ within a business context.

Clients will always recall the experience of whether expectations were met, their timelines respected and their goals achieved. As INC.com suggests, managing expectations continues to be one of the most underrated and underutilized skills there is, however if done properly can be one of the most advantageous.

It is the job of the seasoned strategist to create a roadmap of weekly and monthly goals, to report progress and to manage what is feasible based on a strategic and creative relationship in tandem with the client.

Shoot straight, no one has time for sugar coating, and both the Client and Agency Team respects rolling up their sleeves and getting down to actual business.

If the client is accustomed to binary ways of communicating, the agency presenting very lateral concepts might not hit a bulls-eye in terms of style or substance.

Assessing a cultural fit in tandem with an agreed upon set of goals within a fixed timeline helps to manage expectations on a regular basis.

Never assume, instead guarantee through these critical assets that the Client-Agency relationship is healthy. If anything, over communicate these ideas until they are embraced at the C-level. Fostering this open communication channel is essential to the success of the client / agency relationship. Interestingly enough, according to a poll conducted by PR Daily, the number one issue that faces modern PR Pros is in fact, managing client expectations. Thus, through accurate communication comes proper expectation management.

Achieving a Clients buy-in to a collaborative working style is key from the start, with a point person or brain trust committed tasked with meeting agency expectations for visual, strategic and creative collateral upfront. Wired brilliantly highlights the vitality of managing these client expectations upfront, largely through showing them that you care and are indubitably committed to implementation of their goals. In other words, work to accurately create a shared vision and understanding so that there is never a discrepancy in what both parties believe is being executed.

If mistakes or miscommunications occur, it is the Agency’s job to rectify, as well as to anticipate that they not occur in the first place.

In terms of timelines, realistic parameters about what can and cannot be achieved in terms of press, new business and measuring success are essential to a viable, ongoing partnership between Client and Agency.

It’s important not to coddle but to set healthy boundaries between each set of deliverables. Finish an agreed upon big goal then move onto the next.

When working multilayered Marketing PR programs, maintain a checklist that both teams adhere to and sign off to achieve daily and weekly success. As Hubspot wisely advises, there should be a detailed outline of all projects, giving the client a tangible framework of outputs and timelines throughout the process.
Managing up and holding a Client to deadlines helps to ensure success by the Agency to reach monthly, quarterly and annual results that drive not only awareness but also profits. Forbes alludes to an inevitable truth within the world of PR. Reputation is everything. The need for consistently positive relationships should never be undermined because the impressions made today, determines future relationships. Here’s to launching successful new campaigns into 2017 with expectation management at the forefront.

Courtney Lukitsch is founder and principal at Gotham PR.

Gotham PR: PR Professionals as Leading Entrepreneurs

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PR pros’ jobs today are both multidisciplinary and business oriented; thus requiring essential entrepreneurial skills.

To grow as an entrepreneur, PR pros need to learn business development strategies, including cultivating a culture of innovation, fostering decision-making acumen, mastering client-side negotiating and sophisticated communication skills, training emerging PR pros through mentorship, and promoting the industry as a whole.

A boutique PR agency located in SOHO, Manhattan, Gotham PR has developed some insight as to how PR professionals should think strategically as entrepreneurs in 2016 and beyond.

To see the full article about how to succeed as a PR entrepreneur, please visit PR News here.