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Speaker: Surviving Small III: Creating a Profile

19 Responses

  • Russell Brown,

    Righto ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report

  • Paul Campbell,

    I've done a lot of (US) startups over the years and while I've largely been on the engineering side I've watched others do this stuff - getting others - especially your potential customers talking about you, even if they don't know what you're doing yet is so useful

    In my experience what's particularly great is the ultra-cool blow-their-socks-off we-never-expected-that demo at just the right trade show (best of show at CES is good, an Emmy even better) - front page of the distributor trade press is what you want.

    One company I worked for did a particularly good viral campaign when they were hiring their first employees, then clammed up - pretty soon the entire valley was buzzing on the mysterious new arrival - when the time came to announce the press were all over us - this takes real discipline to pull off

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2623 posts Report

  • Alastair Thompson,


    For reference the earlier parts of this Surviving Small conversation are:

    Surviving Small II: Changing Process (Feb 26) - GUEST: Xero CEO Rod Drury on small business strategies
    Surviving Small (Feb 23) GUEST: Alastair Thompson of Scoop

    In response to Rod's post I would observe that the example he provides at the end of the post is very illustrative of the real art of PR or profile building. Creating reasons why your message is newsworthy in the moment. In that case it was done in a clever way which resulted in the payback of the use of his tin tin image (XERO as a rocketship) in Computerworld in an entertaining and interesting context.

    What this illustrates more than anything is the power of cunning and timing.


    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 220 posts Report

  • Richard Cotman,

    Really like the 3 step 'conversation' approach. It's a good way to summarise it. But it is easier said than done.

    Regardless of how canny your PR strategy is, your success with the media depends on the personality of the spokesperson (normally with SMEs it'll be the founder). I worked in the marketing team of a NZ-owned tech company with a very clever & dynamic but 'quirky' CEO. It took us YEARS to get the local journos to take him seriously. Now he's regularly quoted in the press, but we had some fun getting him (and the company) to that point.

    Montpellier (France) • Since Mar 2009 • 4 posts Report

  • Stephen Knightly,

    What many CEOs, especially founders, find hard to do is NOT talk about themselves, their product, their company.

    What Rod did well was find a topic ('thought leadership platform' in PR jargon) that was relevant to the wider public (and therefore business, not just technology, journalists) but also had some relevance to his business (which made him an appropriate, credible commentator).

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 25 posts Report

  • Rich of Observationz,

    I guess one option if (like me) you dislike networking with a passion is to find somebody who enjoys schmoozing to front. That's what I did last time.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report

  • Russell Brown,

    Rod has the considerable advantage of being gregarious and having interesting things to say. For less gifted individuals, I don't think there's anything wrong with purchasing a little media training.

    There are some basic dos and don'ts with getting media coverage. Sure, email your press release to everyone -- but a personal approach and the offer of a clear story angle that not everyone else is getting works wonders.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report

  • christopher brown,

    As a PR professional who has worked with Rod and seen him in action at close quarters, I can say this is advice as good as it gets. It's a template for building a leadership profile in your industry that every CEO of businesses large and small should attempt to emulate.

    Central to Rod's intuitive PR genius are, I think, three core attributes that are worth remembering:
    - relevance: when he talks he has something intelligent to say that makes a constructive contribution to any debate
    - openness: Rod gives a lot to journalists (as he does to many people). I don't think he ever gives the impression he's being guarded or holding something back, which encourages trust in a relationship
    - positivity: Rod's public attitude is always 'up', he always seems genuinely excited about things and excitement is infectious
    Chris Brown sputnik.co.nz

    wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2 posts Report

  • RodDrury,

    People who know me know that I've always had a stutter. So getting out in public was absolutely terrifying for me. (Still is).

    So you actually can learn to get out there. It's baby steps and getting more and more comfortable. If I can do it, anyone can do it.


    Wellington • Since Feb 2009 • 10 posts Report

  • Paul Campbell,

    I'm traveling in the US at the moment on a biz trip, someone made the great point today that (here at least) media buys are cheap compared with a year ago - 40% in some cases - this is a good time to be building a brand (assuming you can afford it)

    Mind you not if you are paying in NZ$ I guess - is the situation the same (yet) back home?

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2623 posts Report

  • RodDrury,

    Hi Paul, I can't think of any any examples of small companies being able to afford to buy brand through traditional advertising spend. We've done newspapers, some radio and have very, very low measurable response.

    We also hear lots of advice that in these times every dollar has to work for you so everything you do should be measurable.

    The reason traditional media is so cheap is that the big boys are shifting advertising budgets from magazines etc to online for measurability.

    So yes there is an opportunity, but going big on non measurable advertising would be very risky.

    I think you can still create brand (which is hard to measure) by being clever rather than spending big.

    Here are some ideas to think about:

    1. PR and doing newsworthy things
    2. Social Media - creating an online conversation (like we're doing here)
    3. Viral campaigns - e.g. 42 Below flash cartoons
    4. Starting a media conversation - e.g. the broadband issue
    5. Becoming a source of expert data/opinion. E.g. TradeMe are often putting out interesting metrics on house sales metrics

    There are smaller sites that you might be able to cost effectively work with to build a long term presence. For example we sponsor http://accmanpro.com an influential commentator site in our industry.

    Any other ideas?


    Wellington • Since Feb 2009 • 10 posts Report

  • Russell Brown,

    Rod, I'd add:

    6. Do a little sponsorship of something that fits your brand and will help bring it to others.

    It need not even cost cash money.

    Eden Coffee, for example, supplies the PA bloggers with coffee, and I know I can call them for pourage at an event (Foo Camp and The Great Blend, for example). They get ad impressions when I have spare inventory, and it works for everyone.

    If you're going to sponsor websites, or organisations with websites, then:

    7. Have a media kit that includes good-looking branding ads in the standard online formats. Saves a lot of bother.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22850 posts Report

  • Alastair Thompson,

    I will second Russell's two suggestions and add two more:

    8. Go through the exercise of formally working out what your branding positioning is and reinforce that in your formal communications. After a bunch of work Scoop has settled on "Home of the National Argument" & "No. 1 Independent Online News Provider" .

    9. Tell a story about what you are doing once a month. Post this to your blog and email it to your customers. You can also do this on MadeFromNewZealand.com and via Scoop.co.nz.

    Getting used to regularly telling your story is a) good practice and b) sharpens your thinking around what you are actually doing. If you have no story to tell this month perhaps its time you did something.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 220 posts Report

  • Sheila Herrick,

    Rod's advice for small businesses to raise their profile through PR is very sound, although as an international PR practitioner for many years, I’d advise against businesses taking a DIY approach to PR. In most cases, business owners don’t have great instincts for what the media wants, or how to position themselves in the media. In most cases, business owners don’t have the time or the understanding of how issues ebb and flow and to be able to put together an effective, long-term media strategy. They don’t have the time to build up the all-important personal relationships with journalists and editors, or to monitor the strands of discussion that might yield opportunities for them. They might be able to score a few hits, but those are a waste of time and money if not part of an ongoing project with clearly defined goals. In addition, most time and resource-strapped most media prefer working with PR companies because they speak the same language and know get what each other wants quickly and cleanly. Businesses trying to muddle through their own PR often aren’t taken seriously. In this market, there is PR advice available to suit all budgets, and most PR people are happy to cut a good deal to companies with growth potential. This allows business owners to focus on what they’re good at – running their businesses, and leaving PR to those who are best at that. sheila@villagemedia.org

    Wellington • Since Mar 2009 • 1 posts Report

  • RodDrury,

    Hi Shelia,

    Yes I'd agree, it is worth spending money on external people for PR. Not just for ideas but access to their networks.

    It's also great fun. Chris from Sputnik is always coming up with great ideas for us.

    We like the retainer model rather than one off projects as I think you need to take a longer term view and bring your PR advisor into your management team for a period. PR is a slow burn.

    Over time you'll build our own confidence and be able to do more yourself but it's still good to bring the experts in every so often.


    Wellington • Since Feb 2009 • 10 posts Report

  • Paul Campbell,

    I guess it does matter what business you're in - my new client is building consumer electronics - but isn't big enough to buy in the traditional market (or rather wasn't).

    You do have to know your customer and how to reach them - Xero isn't going to be buying late night infomercial space - but you might hit CNBC - these guys might choose the opposite depending on their goals for the quarter

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2623 posts Report

  • Don Christie,

    Rich says:

    I guess one option if (like me) you dislike networking with a passion is to find somebody who enjoys schmoozing to front. That's what I did last time.

    Rod has already described his stutter and how that was a barrier. I find networking and speaking in public difficult and am still, at best, barely competent. We (Catalyst) avoiding doing any of this sort of thing for years.

    However, find audiences that you can relate to and start talking. It has to be done. No-one else is speaking for you. No-one can really tell your story better than you can.

    Last year the government CIO told us he didn't think NZ firms had the capacity to deliver to the governments IT needs. I think he was wrong. But it is only by those of us who are at the delivery end of things telling our stories as often as we can that people will recognise us and give the credit where it is due.

    In short, get out, and shout.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1645 posts Report

  • Miki Szikszai,

    So in these challenging times, what is the value of profile? Does it matter to have a profile when no-one is able to pay ?

    I think it's just as important as ever to build and maintain it.

    Some thoughts on what it can and can't do

    It can

    1. Get you closer to the front of the queue to get paid.
    2. Help you get up the list when you are asking the bank for credit
    3. Get you an audience with others with capital if you need it
    4. Get your customers/advocates talking about you to others - no better marketing than that
    5. Substantiate your brand through trust - people trust you enough to buy your product, effectively allowing for irrational or emotional purchase decisions.
    6. Buy you a little time with creditors (although personal experience over the last month suggests this would be days not weeks)
    7. Open up other opportunities for supplementary cashflow - industry commentary

    It can't

    1. Make your bank covenants
    2. Pay your bills
    3. Make other people pay yours
    4. Feed your family (unless you use it to get free veges)

    So what are the hot topics that you could build a profile off at the moment?

    Wellington, NZ • Since Mar 2009 • 2 posts Report

  • Ben Kepes,

    Firstly I've got to thank Rod for using me as an example of someone bulding a personal brand - coming from someone with the personal cachet of him, it's a real compliment.

    Both Rod and Don have alluded to the difficulties in being a public face. Rod due to his stutter and Don due to his unassuming nature. I sympathise with both of them - I also have issues that make it uncomfortable for me to "work a room" or give a presentation and it's something that I'm still not as good at as I could be - but the power of the internet is a real help for issues like there. Before having to speak in public under my guise of "SaaS commentator", I'd put in a year or so of heavy blogging and virtual communication making me somewhat more comfortable in my subject. As don said;

    However, find audiences that you can relate to and start talking. It has to be done. No-one else is speaking for you. No-one can really tell your story better than you can.

    There's no replacement for actually doing it however and I have t concur with Rod's view that you've just got to get out there and say your piece. I've been lashed in public by other commentators and by industry people who disagreed with my viewpoint - sure it hurts when those criticisms become personal - but it's all part of building a personal brand.

    So yeah, get out there and do it... it's never abad as you'd expect!

    Canterbury • Since Mar 2009 • 1 posts Report

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