Posts tagged: PR

How not to fail at PR

By , October 13, 2012 9:54 am

Image provided by Shutterstock

In a recent blog post by a PR firm, their primary research determined that the top three reasons a company’s PR efforts fail are:

1.       The budget was too small
2.       The client had no significant point of differentiation from their competitors
3.       The client or their contacts weren’t available or were uncooperative

I’m sure whether you’re a PR or marketing firm or a client, you’re able to identify with at least one of these situations.
Kudos for Bridge Buzz for their valuable research and articulating the problems.

Here’s what my team does to try and avoid these situations (with the caveat that PR is not foolproof and sometimes efforts fail):

1.       We warn the client upfront that there is only so much we can do for any particular budget.  If they want a particular result, and they are not budgeted for it, we state that upfront and clearly.  In some cases we have the client sign off on the statement to make sure that when the effort “fails” they understand that they contributed to their own failure.

2.       We tell the client immediately if their story is newsworthy and how newsworthy it is.  We perform our customer-focused primary research which gets all representatives of the customer stakeholders into a room at once and we find out what messages will be successful for all of them. The issues  of value proposition and competitive differentiation can be solved in the research as well.    The bottom line of customer-focused market research and marketing is that the messaging speaks to the customer in their own words which will have an immediate emotional impact on them.  I have never seen it not work.

3.       In Lies Startups Tell Themselves to Avoid Marketing (pp 63-64) we talk about a local hospital that hired a PR firm to get press. The firm  convinced a feature editor of a large local paper to write a story that focused on this organization. The PR person told the marketing person to be on the alert for a call from the paper.  The editor called the manager repeatedly.  The manager never returned the calls.  Guess what? The PR firm had done such a good job of selling the story, that the editor ran the story anyway, only he featured the hospital’s largest competitor because that marketing person made themselves available. So here’s a perfect example of shooting yourself in the foot by paying for PR for the other company.

Sandra Holtzman teaches CEO 035: Licensing.

She is the author of Lies Startups Tell Themselves to Avoid Marketing.

Retail Forecast: Christmas 2012

By , October 12, 2012 10:08 am

Christmas 2012 Retail Forecast

More proof of why you should speak to your customer BEFORE you market!

By , September 15, 2012 10:09 am

Image provided by Shutterstock

Virginia Dominguez, a consultant, responds to “How come no one wants to speak to the customer BEFORE they do marketing” with this case history/anecdote:

“This is a good point…I was just watching a video, last night, where Jack Canfield (Chicken Soup for the Soul) pointed this out…He illustrated this with a story about a Chiropractor that wanted to set up his practice in this new town. So, he went to the town officials and asked a few questions, to which he was told that the town did not need another chiropractor, because the town already had one servicing the people. This negative reaction did not derail his ambition, so he set out to prove them wrong. He did this by doing some pre-marketing before opening the business.  He set out to go knocking on hundreds of doors and asking each individual and potential customer, how they would feel (together with other service related questions) about a new chiropractor in town. He not only proved the town officials incorrect, but he was able to make tons of money when he established the business. A year or so later, one of those people he interviewed was on this big event seminar, when the above story about the Dr. was told, the interviewee got up and said, “I remember him!” She was asked by the event coordinator, how was this possible and she said, “I remember him, because he came to talk to me!” She also used his services.”

The power of communicating directly with your customer/audience is amazing…when you do it. And the best part about this process is that it doesn’t have to be expensive. The ROI in terms of business, branding, establishing yourself and your business in the community is exponential.

Try it.


Sandra Holtzman teaches CEO 035: Licensing.
She is the author of Lies Startups Tell Themselves to Avoid Marketing.

Are You Really Ready to Succeed?

By , March 3, 2012 12:21 pm

I recently finished a PR job for a small client. They wanted to get the word out about a new product and hired me as the external PR person on a very limited budget. In addition to me, they used internal staff as well as a freelancer. We are all smart, I have an incredible resource of contacts, and we reached all the movers and shakers in this client’s sector. But sales and response was still low. Here’s why and what you can do before embarking on a PR, marketing or a sales push.

You have a brand and communications platform BEFORE you do the marketing and PR on a specific project.If you don’t, then your audience is doubly confused. First, they don’t know that much, if anything at all, about who is sending the message. Not good. Second, because of the first point, the message holds less weight and is more likely to be ignored.

There’s enough budget to get the job done. This client didn’t have it. If you don’t, then no matter how smart your resources are, they can only take you part of the way.
There’s infrastructure in your company so that everyone knows where they belong and who they report to. This could change on a job by job basis. That’s ok. What’s important is that everyone knows where they fit in on any given project.
Give someone, preferably internal, responsibility for the project. If no one person is a project manager, then the separate elements will go their own ways, miss deadlines, forget to do the job and basically not understand the importance of the job. This applies to companies of all sizes. I have three or four-men jobs and there’s always a project manager assigned.

DEBRIEF AFTER EVERY JOB! Get feedback from your team. What went well? What can be improved? Surprises along the way. Give everyone a chance to speak freely.

It’s better to save your money and do the job right than waste it doing only part of the job.


Sandra Holtzman teaches CEO 035: Licensing.
She is the author of Lies Startups Tell Themselves to Avoid Marketing.


By , January 26, 2012 7:00 am


Guerrilla Drawing by Arthur Winters

Drawing by Arthur Winters

You say Guerrilla, I say Viral, he says Flash Mob, and she says Crowd Sourcing … Maybe we should say: “Let’s call the whole thing off”? But, the proverbial genie is out of the bottle and we can’t stop the race launched forward by social networking and all things experiential.

1. MISSION MINDING – Minding the brand mission now means paying continuous attention to communicating the brand mission clearly, especially through social media. Here’s where you learn “what-now” is the brand’s story in consumers’ minds, and to use this to create new breakthrough creative strategies.

2. BRAND RECRUITING – Recruiting an army of customers who can enlist consumers is now a prime marketing objective. Instead of a movie star or celebrity athlete telling the brand story, guerrilla marketing strategies are created to encourage loyal customers to communicate “what-nows” to recruit other consumers/customers/users.

3. AWARDING BRAND BRAVERY – Tactics for awarding products or services to customers who create interactions of their own to win consumers to their favorite brand: A mission-driven brand should search for, recognize and reward those who have made that brand mission their own.

4. POSITIONING SPECIAL FORCES – Guerrilla marketers recognize that their approach to marketing needs to move toward the front lines. They use “what-now” breakthroughs rather than relying on past strategies, tactics and executions for positioning power. Creative strategies can encourage loyal customers to create stronger referral maneuvers.

It’s one of the realities in today’s brand management that guerrilla marketing is an ongoing reinvention of what works now in social media, public relations, e-tailing and customer experience. “What’s –now” must precede an ongoing what’s next. Largely due to the predominance of social media, branding strategies can be about giving your loyalists an incentive to enlist others in the brand wars.

Creative guerrilla marketing wins over potential customers who come in contact with this brand’s story – Big Pilot Watches. The breakthrough strategy places the product/brand onto a person’s wrist while they are on an airport transport bus. Also a good city transit campaign that works to defeat the competition in the watch ad battle for attention.

Arthur & Peggy Winters co-teach SXB 200 Brand Marketing Communications for Image & Meaning and SXR 050 Intro to Branding: The Art of Customer Bonding.


Putting the Press to Work — Part 3

By , January 21, 2012 9:15 am

This post will focus on the third level of the Press Pyramid — General Business Media.    As I explained in my earlier post The Press Pyramid (see below) depicts different levels within the press community and shows how they influence your audience and each other.

The General Business Media includes such outlets as Business Week and CNBC. Fashion and business reporters in all media will look up the pyramid for newsworthy angles, the latest trends, and background about a particular area or industry they are covering.

This group won’t be the first to report on your company or product. However, they are a very large group which means two things. The good news — if you can grab their attention, the media coverage you receive will be enormous since their reach is fairly extensive. The bad news – it’s going to cost you time, effort and money to grab their attention because there’s a lot of competition vying for media space in this group.

My next post will deal with the bottom of the pyramid, the General media.

Chart and content from my book, Lies Startups Tell Themselves to Avoid Marketing

Sandra Holtzman teaches CEO 035: Licensing.

Putting the Press to Work — Part 2

By , January 14, 2012 8:13 am

This post will focus on the second level of the Press Pyramid — Analysts and Traders.    As I explained in my last post The Press Pyramid (see below) depicts different levels within the press community and shows how they influence your audience and each other.

Analysts and Traders speak to the investor market and your customer base.  The people in organizations such as META, Gartner, and Forrester (in the tech world) put out highly regarded reports, research market evaluations, and stock market predictions which companies pay a lot of money for.  These products in turn, influence investors, your stock price, and the value of your IPO stock or your company (for fundraising purposes). These people will ultimately be purchasing your product, or service as direct customers, stockholders or investors. Included in this category are blogs such as Network World ( Catching their attention will yield significant results in moving your company, product or invention forward.

Analysts and traders are a larger group and therefore more expensive to reach than the top of the pyramid.  However, they are still tightly focused and their opinions highly sought after.

Chart and content from my book, Lies Startups Tell Themselves to Avoid Marketing


Sandra Holtzman teaches CEO 035: Licensing.

Putting The Press to Work — Part 1

By , January 7, 2012 8:00 am

I’ve previously discussed how to target your customer market by adopter groups. Here’s how to reach those targets by using the press more efficiently.

The Press Pyramid (see below) depicts different levels within the press community and shows how they influence your audience and each other. This post will focus on the top of the pyramid — #1 – Newsletters.

By newsletter I mean authoritative opinion pieces and cutting-edge publications put out by thought leaders in specific industries. This is the smallest group and the most economical group to reach. It’s also the most knowledgeable about your product and industry. Because newsletters are respected for their expertise, they have enormous influence. Readers sometimes pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for a subscription.

An example of a newsletter in this category is Esther Dyson’s 1.0. A magazine that fits into this category is Technology Review (MIT’s Magazine of Innovation).

These sources provide high-level information by extremely knowledgeable people who tend to be ahead of the curve and actively seek out newsworthy technologies, products or advances in your industry. These people will often identify the next new trend and tout it to their readers. Sound like the Early Adopters in the Adopter Pyramid? This is the press equivalent. Others in the industry seek out their opinions, and they are often asked to speak about topics related to their expertise. Because of the intensity of focus, getting your product or service covered in an authoritative newsletter can efficiently deliver your message – and have wonderful consequences for you.

My next blog, Part 2, will focus on Analysts and Traders

Chart and content from my book, Lies Startups Tell Themselves to Avoid Marketing

Sandra Holtzman teaches CEO 035: Licensing.

Volunteering Can Be Good for Business

By , December 3, 2011 1:02 pm

The holiday season isn’t the only time to think of giving back. In these hard pressed financial times, it may be easier to give of your time than to make a cash donation. Have you considered being a volunteer? For those of you thinking, what’s in it for me? I have one word for you plenty!

Where do you find volunteer opportunities? A good place to start is the website By putting in a location (NY, NY) and trying out a few different key words such as fashion, sewing, retail business, small business and the word intern, numerous volunteer opportunities were displayed around the NYC area. These included working in public relations, IT, media/communications, event planning and web development/web design. These opportunities appeared at a myriad of organizations including the Japan Society, Dress for Success, the Police Museum and the International Hostels.

Remember the question, what’s in it for me? Being a volunteer can help to answer one of the most common questions I hear from my students. How do I get a job as an intern? It’s a great way to gain experience and lead to a paying job in the future. (Sometimes where you were a volunteer.) And, living in the NY area, the second most common question I hear from people I know… how do I meet people? You get to spend time with like-minded individuals giving of their time for a cause or organization that means something to them. It’s one of the best ways to network and meet people that I know.

Jill Youngerman teaches CEO 008: Marketing Techniques for Promoting Your Business.


By , October 27, 2011 10:20 am

…Fashion Brand Communications Debates BUZZTALK

In a world with changing economies, it could be time for more meaningful fashion talk.  Fashion Buzztalk is often attention compelling, but inconsequential… as well as not really being understood for personal meaning.

Some examples from the past and present fashion vocabulary might include:

Illustration by Art Winters


  • Fashion first
  • Fashion must
  • Fashion trend
  • Fashion right
  • Fashion casual
  • High Fashion
  • Retro Fashion
  • Fashionable
  • Fashionista


A fashion brand that does more than buzz in its message content, attempts to communicate relevant values to its target customers.  Fashion buzztalk may be an attempt to simply attract attention when there is evidently nothing to say.

So in these “Occupy Wall Street” times, how does a fashion brand avoid buzztalk and deliver doestalk that will give the customer inspiration and information they want and need?  Here are a few guidelines for applying some fashion brand doestalk:

  • Don’t try to sell a fashion brand by only creating your own new language for it.  Instead, try to tell/show customers what a fashion will do for them.
  • If the brand’s styling makes your customers look their best, to themselves and the people they value, that’s a brand does selling message.
  • Fashion solutions that save the customer time and money are more important than ever.  Communicating these savings is more valuable and meaningful than empty buzztalk.
  • Fashion and textile technology and innovation provide benefits of interest and value to your customers – worthy of doestalk.
  • Fashion brand communications can be of great value and satisfaction.  If the brand offers feasible solutions to its target audience that make sense in their lifestyles and life stages.

The best doestalk’s job is to present value not meaningless words.  The best information for customers is not “dressed up empty words, it is to communicate the brand’s values as they match the customers’ values.

Arthur & Peggy Winters co-teach SXB 200 Brand Marketing Communications for Image & Meaning and SXR 050 Intro to Branding: The Art of Customer Bonding.

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