The single biggest PR/marketing mistake made by startups

At 451 we regularly work with startups and so I’ve witnessed many of the most common startup mistakes first hand (we are often brought in to help with the clean up). Recently we met with a select number of finalists in the MassChallenge and I’m reminded how relevant these issues remain. I posted the question “What is the single biggest PR/marketing mistake startup companies most often make?” to the PR and start-up categories in LinkedIn, to get additional buy-in from peers, and the consensus on the #1 offense is…..

1. The ostrich effect – Most startups are so focused on developing their products/services that they ignore marketing completely. Here’s the problem: you’ve spent so much time with your head in the sand building out your offering that when you finally pop up for air and are ready to start marketing efforts you quickly find out your target demo isn’t as excited as you are. In fact, many times they ignore you completely. I’m not advocating spending a significant chunk of your seed money on marketing early on- that would be a mistake too. But like all things in life, balance and preparation are key. You can have the most brilliant, valuable product in the world, but if you don’t have a solid go-to-market strategy and messaging in place, no one will ever buy it because they either won’t care or won’t know about it. This leads nicely into the second biggest startup mistake…

2. Drunk on Kool-aid – We get it; you drink the company Kool-aid. And you should, nothing’s more attractive than a passionate CEO. However, the rest of the world didn’t spend the last three years in your mother’s basement or in the MIT labs growing to love your offering. The most successful startups have a multi-faceted, segmented, messaging strategy in place. Have you developed profiles for each of your customer types? You should. You need to identify the pain points for each unique buyer and customize your benefit message to address each individually. By doing this work early on, you’ll be set to easily craft a targeted media campaign down the road, when you are ready for PR.

The first two mistakes identified here are the most common, egregious, startup offenses. Following up these are: failing to find and exploit your niche, not maintaining brand consistency across media channels, targeting too many markets (hint: pick a vertical, demonstrate success and show it’s repeatable- investors will love you), over-promising to potential customers or press (product timing, availability, etc.), thinking you don’t need media training, and missing the opportunity to position yourself as an expert in a specific area of your business.

Are you a startup that’s made one of these mistakes? How did you recover? If you are attending WebInno27 in Cambridge, MA on Sept. 13th and would like to discuss this topic in person or have other PR questions, please reach out to me so we can met up there! @karynmartin You can read all of the LinkedIn contributor responses here

Tips for Promoting Your News via Twitter

Recently the 451 team listened in on a free Business Wire webinar titled “Press Releases and Twitter: What to Expect When you Tweet Your News Release.” Experts on the call were Monika Maeckle and Joseph Miller with Business Wire. As an agency specializing in blending PR, social media and search marketing  for integrated campaigns, the 451 team is practiced in using Twitter to promote client news, but webinars like this one almost always provide a few useful tips. Business Wire polled the audience listening in, and we were surprised to learn that 25% of those polled weren’t on Twitter and out of the 75% of listeners using Twitter 65% of them use as their primary Twitter application.

Here are a few more key takeaways from the webinar:

  • The most Retweeted content is “news”
  • Thursday afternoon is the best time for tweets; Friday is the best for Retweets
  • Hashtags are very important – they extend the reach of your news
  • It’s not just about the amount of followers you have, but more about providing content to those who are most relevant (
  • Use trending topics in tweets to help gain exposure
  • helps you find out what is trending on Twitter and why
  • Social Media and Twitter guru advises, “Don’t be negative. Always say please. Don’t follow more people than are following you.”
  • Useful tools for finding journalists online include and
  • Interesting Twitter project: Measuring User Influence in Twitter: The Million Follower Fallacy –

Do you tweet your news? What best practices do you swear by for expanding the reach of your announcement?

-451 Team

How exactly do they do it over there? 451 shares international PR insights

Last week I spoke to a group of Boston University students in the Center for English Language and Orientation Programs (CELOP). Most of these students are in their 20s and 30s and are looking to perfect their understanding of the English language. Many are enrolled in the program by their employers or looking to make themselves more attractive for hiring. The class I spoke to had a majority representation from Korea was focused on studying American business acumen and culture. I shared with them tips on how to interview successfully when transitioning from school to the corporate world and discussed current U.S. marketing/PR trends.

Their responses were fascinating and I learned a great deal of just how different- and similar we are. Here are the highlights:

1. The importance of “the team” – American PR agencies most commonly service accounts in teams. This concept resonated well, as the class shared their companies run the same way. However, they take the team concept to a new level. Seniority is taken very seriously. One woman shared that she was a vegetarian until joining a new company where her team dined on either meat or seafood everyday at lunch. Since she was junior to the team she gave up her vegetarian habits to fit in- as expected.

2. The challenge of managing your personal brand – The class was surprised to learn about the challenge many American students launching into the corporate world face today- managing all the information they’ve shared about themselves online via social media tools. Too often college grads have to wipe the online slate clean to remain attractive to potential employers. The class was unfamiliar with the term “social media,” many were on Facebook, but few had profiles on LinkedIn. Some shared that they have struggled with the “friend or not to friend” issue when dealing with employers or clients. Their solution was to establish two accounts on each site- one personal and one professional.

3. Still a boys’ club – The class shared that the PR teams at their companies work mostly at night, because they are busy taking reporters out for cocktails. We discussed how this was more accepted in the past in U.S. culture, but largely today reporters are too busy and often have editorial policies in place that prevent them from accepting meals or gifts from PR folks.

4. Transparency is in the eye of the beholder – When talking about traditional PR pitching, one man volunteered that it is typical for reporters to ask for and then print word for word as an editorial article content provided to them by a company. I shared how this is less common among U.S. press, with contributed articles disclosing the company author being more acceptable.

Overall, it was clear that while there are great similarities with the international concept of PR and marketing, there are significant differences in how practitioners in other countries achieve the same end result. What international PR practices or trends have you noticed?

Journalists and Social Media

As PR professionals, we’re constantly looking for ways to connect with reporters and to secure placement for our company and clients in the most relevant publications. It can be difficult (that’s why we have jobs), but the following study gives us some interesting results that could potentially help us do our jobs more efficiently.

Middleberg Communications and the Society for New Communications Research last month released a study titled, “Media in the Wired World.” The research team surveyed U.S. journalists regarding their social media use and the study found some interesting results:

  • Almost 70% of journalists are using social networking sites, which is a 28% increase since the 2008 study
  • 48% are using Twitter or other microblogging sites and tools, a 25% increase since 2008
  • 66% of the surveyed journalists are using blogs
  • 25% of those surveyed are using podcasts
  • 48% of journalists are using online video
  • Over 90% of journalists agree that new media and communications tools and technologies are enhancing journalism to some extent

According to the study, reporters are embracing social media and are active on various social networking sites. This is great for us because we can build relationships with reporters and connect with them in real-time. Here at 451, we use Twitter and LinkedIn to follow media contacts. Both tools are useful to see what reporters are writing about, and to watch for potential opportunities to pitch our company and/or our clients.

Do you connect with reporters and journalists through social networking sites? Have some success stories to share? Let us know!

Using Ustream for Business

Tomorrow morning I’m going to film our “Building a PR Campaign for the Digital World Workshop,” and I plan to post the video on Ustream when I get back to the office.  I know people generally use Ustream to live stream discussions, events, meetings, and etc., and, eventually, I plan to do that as well. I haven’t used the service yet, but I’m excited to learn!

In the mean time, I’m wondering what you think about using Ustream for business purposes. How are you using Ustream for your business? In any unique ways? What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of the service? Do you prefer a different service? I’d appreciate your feedback!