The ultimate guide to PR | Emilie Gerber (founder of Six Eastern)

The ultimate guide to PR | Emilie Gerber (founder of Six Eastern)

Emilie’s background (00:00:00)

  • Emily Gerber is the founder and CEO of Six Eastern, a PR agency that has worked with over 100 tech companies.
  • She previously worked at Uber and Box, where she focused on product communications and partnership announcements.
  • When crafting your pitch, focus on finding a unique angle or "nugget" that makes your story interesting.
  • Avoid getting too caught up in your own messaging and instead focus on creating a straightforward and compelling pitch.
  • When reaching out to reporters, personalization and building relationships are key.
  • Introductions from mutual connections are not as important as you might think.
  • Consider pitching to podcasts and newsletters, which can be more effective than traditional media outlets.
  • The cost of working with a PR agency can vary depending on the size and scope of your project.
  • It's important to factor in the lead time required when working with a PR agency, as they may need time to build relationships with reporters and develop a strategy.
  • Good pitches are clear, concise, and highlight the unique aspects of your story.
  • Bad pitches are often too long, lack focus, or fail to provide enough information.
  • Analyze successful pitches to learn what makes them effective and apply those principles to your own outreach.
  • Your product story should be clear, concise, and focused on the benefits of your product.
  • Avoid using jargon or technical terms that your audience may not be familiar with.
  • Make sure your product story is relevant to your target audience and their needs.

The value of press and second-order effects (00:04:56)

  • Press coverage can provide third-party validation and credibility, especially for early-stage companies.
  • For B2B companies, press can aid in sales outreach, attracting candidates, and establishing credibility.
  • For consumer companies, press coverage can be a major growth driver, particularly for products that are easy to understand and use.
  • Organic press can suffice for consumer products with a low barrier to entry.
  • Storytelling is crucial in B2B PR, as reporters tend to focus on the entrepreneur's journey and company culture rather than the product itself.
  • For B2C businesses, press coverage can directly lead to significant growth.
  • Affiliate marketing is a common practice where publications receive a percentage of sales generated through product reviews or recommendations in their articles.

When press is not worth your time (00:12:57)

  • Fundraising announcements are rarely worth the effort unless they are truly impressive.
  • TechCrunch is the most likely publication to cover funding stories, but they only write a few each week out of the many that happen.
  • To increase the chances of getting coverage, Founders should be clear and concise in their pitch, highlighting the key details of the funding round and why it matters.
  • Follow-up respectfully with new information if the initial email does not receive a response.
  • When pitching to publications, it is important to tailor the message to the specific reporter or publication.
  • Research the reporter's interests and recent articles to find common ground and make the pitch more relevant.
  • Be clear and concise in the pitch, highlighting the key details of the story and why it matters to the publication's audience.
  • Follow-up respectfully with new information if the initial email does not receive a response.

Different publications and their suitability (00:17:01)

  • TechCrunch is suitable for fundraising announcements and some product news, but not for health tech or martech companies. It offers additional coverage opportunities through TechCrunch Disrupt, the Found podcast, and the Equity pod.
  • Axios is strong in the healthcare sector and covers funding, partnerships with a monetary component, and small acquisitions, but not product announcements. It has recently launched local editions, providing opportunities for region-specific stories.
  • Business Insider accepts pitch deck stories for companies struggling to pitch their funding stories, with the option to redact financials and growth metrics. This provides an opportunity to share core messages directly with readers.
  • TechCrunch, Business Insider, VentureBeat, Fast Company, and Forbes are commonly requested and realistic publications for startups to target for PR.
  • The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal are more challenging for early-stage startups to get coverage in, but it's possible with a crisis, regulatory issue, or significant valuation and revenue metrics.
  • Building relationships with relevant beat reporters can be helpful, but they likely won't write a feature without sharing valuation and revenue metrics.
  • CNBC targets people interested in public markets and focuses on companies that will soon be at the public company stage with its CNBC Disruptor 50 list. CNBC and Fast Company are not suitable platforms for early-stage companies.

Avoiding negative stories (00:25:36)

  • Reporters are not employees and have editorial integrity, so founders and spokespeople cannot control what they write.
  • Founders and spokespeople should be educated to understand that they cannot change a story's angle or messaging.
  • If there are factual inaccuracies, they can be corrected.
  • Spokespeople should be well-prepared before talking to reporters and reiterate the desired messages repeatedly.
  • Providing clear briefing materials can help influence the reporter's perspective.

Finding aligned podcasts and awards (00:27:23)

  • Identify the target audience and vertical of the podcast or award.
  • Conduct a qualitative analysis of the podcast:
    • Check if they have vendor CEOs or executives on their show.
    • Ensure the podcast is actively producing content.
    • Listen to an episode to assess the quality and alignment with your brand.
    • Review the past guests to see if they are peers you want to be associated with.
  • Ask your customers about their media preferences through casual conversations or surveys.
  • When reaching out to podcast hosts:
    • Research and identify the host.
    • Send a casual note expressing your appreciation for the show and inquire about guest opportunities.
    • Keep the initial message brief and friendly, avoiding a lengthy pitch.
    • If the host replies positively, discuss potential guest ideas.
    • If the host is not interested, they are more likely to respond to a friendly message than a formal pitch.

Advice for reaching out to reporters (00:30:55)

  • Warm connections to reporters are not as crucial as many believe; cold outreach, done well, can be just as effective.
  • Building relationships with reporters is more about being helpful and providing value than socializing.
  • Nurturing relationships with reporters is important once established, as they may be more likely to come back for future stories.
  • Use a multi-platform approach when reaching out to reporters, including Twitter DMs, LinkedIn, and email.
  • Keep subject lines clear and concise when emailing reporters, stating the goal and reason for the email.
  • Keep your pitches concise and to the point, ideally three sentences long.
  • If an initial platform doesn't work, try another one, but always be respectful and human in your approach.
  • Point out gaps in the publication's coverage and offer a unique perspective or controversial opinion to stand out from other pitches.

Controversial pitches (00:37:23)

  • To get attention, consider taking a critical or contrarian stance on a popular topic.
  • For example, instead of praising a company's decision to cancel recurring meetings, an op-ed could critically examine whether it truly addresses the issue of wasted time.
  • This approach can make your pitch more interesting and newsworthy.
  • When pitching a story to a reporter, be direct and concise.
  • Clearly state what you're offering, such as an exclusive launch story or an interesting trend.
  • Keep your pitch to three sentences or less.
  • Include a link to a relevant story or background information about the company you're pitching.
  • This helps the reporter understand the context and potential significance of your pitch.
  • However, avoid sending links to similar stories that were recently published by the same publication.
  • Show empathy and acknowledge that the reporter's inbox is likely flooded with emails.
  • In follow-up emails, gently remind the reporter about your pitch without being pushy.
  • Research the publication's recent coverage and identify gaps or trends that your pitch could fill.
  • This demonstrates your understanding of their editorial needs and increases the chances of your pitch being accepted.

Avoiding category creation (00:41:16)

  • When pitching to reporters for PR, avoid positioning a company as a category creator.
  • Reporters prefer companies that can explain how they are doing what a well-known company does but better.
  • Using a well-known company as a frame of reference helps reporters understand the solution quickly.
  • Avoid using marketing phrases that create new categories, as they are not effective in PR pitches.

Examples of pitches that have worked well (00:43:26)

  • A great pitch positions a company as a category creator or disruptor, even for seemingly mundane product announcements, increasing the chances of media coverage.
  • When pitching a product announcement, focus on a unique angle or narrative that sets the company apart from competitors and resonates with the target audience.
  • Identify the most compelling aspect of a company's work or initiative and emphasize it in the press strategy.
  • Tie the company's news to broader industry trends, social issues, or macro stories that capture the attention of the media and the public.
  • Use visuals and interactive elements to make your pitch more engaging.
  • Keep the content concise and to the point, avoiding long essays or blurbs.
  • Include customer testimonials or user quotes to add a personal touch.
  • Bullet important information, such as investor names, for easy repurposing by reporters.
  • Consider creating a video from an investor explaining their investment instead of using a quote.
  • Public relations (PR) is about building relationships with the media and other stakeholders to create a positive image of a company or organization.
  • PR professionals use various tactics to achieve their goals, including writing and distributing press releases, organizing press conferences, pitching stories to journalists, building relationships with key influencers, and managing social media accounts.
  • PR is important because it can help companies and organizations increase brand awareness, generate leads, build credibility, manage their reputation, attract investors, and recruit top talent.

Pitching to Lenny (00:52:35)

  • Lenny's podcast has a unique focus on tactical lessons rather than product launches or entrepreneurial journeys.
  • To identify potential guests, Emilie Gerber suggests analyzing the topics covered in past episodes.
  • Thorough research can reveal trends and preferences, making it easier to tailor pitches accordingly.
  • Gerber admits to occasionally making mistakes in her pitches, such as suggesting CEOs when Lenny prefers non-CEO guests.
  • She emphasizes the importance of understanding a publication's or individual's preferences before reaching out.

Effective pitching strategies (00:55:42)

  • For hard news like funding or startup launches, pitch to 1-6 reporters on average.
  • Stagger pitches to avoid having to retract exclusives.
  • For general outreach and relationship building, use a numbers game approach.
  • Start with a brief note asking about guest ideas to gauge interest and save time.
  • Prioritize quality over quantity and target the right audience.
  • For every 20-30 pitches, expect 1 opportunity.
  • Avoid blasting media and focus on customizing pitches for the perfect target.

Improving pitch announcements (00:57:44)

  • Avoid jargon and buzzwords that may confuse readers.
  • Clearly state the product or service's purpose, target audience, and customer base.
  • Read the press release aloud to identify unclear or confusing language.
  • Simplify the language and remove unnecessary words to enhance conciseness.
  • Focus on the key points and avoid over-explaining or over-indexing on specific details.
  • Public relations (PR) is crucial for businesses to gain visibility and credibility.
  • A well-crafted tagline can effectively communicate a company's value proposition.
  • Traditional press releases are less relevant as reporters rarely check news wires for story ideas.

Press releases (01:03:01)

  • Press releases are not helpful for getting eyeballs and require a marketing-style of writing.
  • Blog posts can include all the same news elements as press releases but are more flexible in style, shareable on social media, and encourage people to visit your website.
  • The SEO benefit of press releases is questionable, and they may signal a more traditional company than a blog.
  • Press releases are still useful for public companies and when required by regulations.
  • Avoid disingenuous growth statistics in press releases. Instead, provide specific and realistic growth metrics.

Crafting a compelling story (01:07:06)

  • Most of the companies Six Eastern works with are at a stage where they haven't reached mass awareness yet.
  • Entropy is a technical tool that Six Eastern has leaned into the founder's personal story to pitch.
  • The founder's personal story is powerful and connects back to the publication that cares about these sorts of personal stories.
  • Six Eastern got the founder to speak at Money 2020, which was useful for speaking abstracts.
  • It's more successful to pitch a conference session with multiple companies than just pitching yourself.

Traditional press vs. newsletters, podcasts, and social media (01:09:41)

  • Newsletters and podcasts are now an essential part of any PR strategy.
  • Social media is a different ball game and requires a lot of effort to do well.
  • If the spokesperson is willing to push the limit on opinions and be bold, investing in social media can be worth it.
  • Social media posts can tie into traditional media strategy as reporters may use and quote them in their articles.
  • Investing in social media for corporate channels alone may not be as effective as also including executives.

Building a social media presence (01:12:43)

  • For effective PR on social media, focus on the people perspective and have executives or key personalities tweet and link rather than the company as a brand.
  • Consistent posting on social media can generate inbound clients and candidates, even if it doesn't come naturally.
  • Avoid overthinking and getting caught up in making every social media post perfect.
  • Learn from successful individuals like Erin for insights into effective PR practices, such as commenting on news events, taking interesting stances, and capitalizing on opportunities.
  • Value press and invest time in briefings for beneficial PR.
  • The CEO of Box's natural speaking style and engaging Twitter presence contributed to the company's PR success and revenue generation through ad sharing and views.
  • Getting featured in Morning Brew is a potential tactical media opportunity.

How to get a Morning Brew feature (01:17:54)

  • Morning Brew has a series called the Morning Brew co-working series for different verticals like Tech Brew, HR Brew, CFO Brew, and marketing.
  • To get featured, fill out a Google form with interesting and fun answers (avoid self-promotion).
  • The success rate for getting executives featured this way is around 50%.
  • It's not necessary to be a CEO; the goal is to provide readers with insights into the day-to-day life of professionals in certain jobs.
  • Consider working with a PR agency when you need help with:
    • Developing a communications strategy
    • Creating and distributing press releases
    • Pitching stories to journalists
    • Managing media relationships
    • Responding to media inquiries
    • Handling crises
  • Look for a PR agency that:
    • Has experience in your industry
    • Understands your business goals
    • Can provide you with a customized plan
    • Is transparent about their fees
    • Has a good reputation
  • You may not need a PR agency if:
    • You have the time and resources to handle your own PR
    • You are a small business with limited resources
    • You are not ready to invest in PR

Advice on choosing a PR agency (01:19:32)

  • Don't assume bigger agencies are better. They may be used to working with large brands and have reactive strategies.
  • Find out what the first month of working with the agency looks like. Avoid agencies with a long ramp-up cycle.
  • Ask for recent writing samples to assess their writing style.
  • Meet the actual team that will be working on your account, not just the agency founder.
  • Avoid extensive RFP processes as they require a lot of free work from the agency and may weed out the best players.
  • Start looking for a PR agency 3-6 months before a big event or launch.
  • This gives the agency enough time to develop a strategy and build relationships with journalists.
  • PR budgets can vary widely depending on the scope of work and the agency's experience.
  • A good rule of thumb is to allocate 8-10% of your marketing budget to PR.
  • For startups, a minimum budget of $5,000 per month is recommended.

Timing and budget for PR (01:22:25)

  • It's recommended to start PR six weeks before an announcement to ensure sufficient time for preparation, including blog writing, media training, media outreach, and coordination with various parties.
  • Flexibility in timing is crucial to secure the best coverage, as prioritizing the reporter's availability can lead to better outcomes compared to adhering to a strict announcement date.
  • The budget for PR services can vary depending on the agency or consultant.
    • A small boutique agency's rates typically start at $15K per month for Series A companies.
    • For startups that have gained significant attention, the budget should not exceed $30K per month.
    • Some agencies charge between $50K and $60K per month, but this is uncommon.
  • For a one-off project, such as securing a single story, the budget can range between $10K and $20K, with some consultants offering services for as low as $8K.

Lightning round (01:25:31)

  • Emilie Gerber, founder of Six Eastern, recommends the book "How to Change Your Mind" by Michael Pollan for its insights on changing neural pathways and shifting perspectives.
  • Gerber enjoys post-apocalyptic and survival-themed entertainment, with "Walking Dead" as her comfort show and "Yellow Jackets" as a recent favorite.
  • Gerber's favorite interview question tests both client relations and critical thinking skills by asking how to handle clients convinced they have a press-worthy announcement when they don't.
  • She recommends using Apple Vision Pro and Perplexity for PR and marketing purposes and emphasizes the importance of pushing the envelope and getting ahead of conversations in PR.
  • Gerber's favorite life motto is "strong opinions loosely held," which encourages being opinionated while remaining open to changing one's mind.
  • Six Eastern's website and email are six and hello6, respectively.
  • Emilie Gerber's newsletter, "On Background," provides media moves, reporters working on stories, and open awards.
  • Six Eastern is hiring PR professionals with B2B experience, startup knowledge, and a hands-on approach.

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