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I'm Tamar Weinberg, professional hustler extraordinaire. I'm a mom and author of The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web, which was published by O'Reilly Media in 2009. I've worn a lot of hats. I've worked in marketing, sales, customer success, editorial, public relations, business development, analysis, and overall strategy. I was even a private eye once. These days, I'm at AddShoppers, which has incredible technology for online retail stores. I help with social customer experience at Namecheap. I also define strategy at Small Business Trends. Ask me anything. :) Oh, and some shoutouts for follows: @AddShoppers | @Namecheap | @smallbiztrends

  • MB

    Morgan Brown

    over 4 years ago #

    Hey @tamar thanks so much for doing this AMA. You've said in the past that PR pros are mostly professional spammers. Which I totally agree with.

    How should startups go about approaching media folks to get coverage, build relationships and not be annoying?

    • TW

      Tamar Weinberg

      over 4 years ago #

      Hey Morgan - thanks for the question. I suppose you mean startups approaching the media, though? ;)

      This is a big challenge for many startups. They have an idea, they want to get the word out--but they don't want to *study* the publications to get the word out. And that is key.

      At the end of the day, if you're a startup representing a sports product for young children, you may go after a mom blog because "she's a mom!" and not realize that the mom blogged about her daughter's aversion to sports because she has severe autism. Just going after someone "just because they 'seem' to fit" is the wrong attitude. You need to learn who they are, what they do, and most importantly, what they write about.

      It's all about reading and identifying with the writer. Find a hook for your pitch, and show that you care. Media professionals in the past tell me they are also receptive to the startup being part of the community. It's how you get noticed.

      I'm really passionate about The Shelf, the influencer platform I work with, because it helps you identify those influencers like a fine toothed comb. For example, with its current focus in fashion, you can speak with a blogger who covers Barney's brand products who also has written about Ikea Hacks and who focuses on discount/inexpensive products--and who lives in the UK and has more than 5000 followers on Instagram. Pretty cool stuff. If you did that manually, you'd spend at least 15-20 minutes just to get the basics down, not to mention the need to read through possibly hundreds of posts to find out what they cover and how they feel about it. That's one tool taking 30 seconds, versus spending months/years figuring out who the influencers are and what they're all about.

      • SE

        Sean Ellis

        over 4 years ago #

        How do you recommend reaching out to these targeted bloggers? Via press release or personal message? Should the goal be to get a meeting or are you making the full pitch in the initial outreach? Finally do you recommend working with a PR firm to do this? Or is it better for startups to reach out to the targeted blogger themselves?

        Sorry for so many questions in one, but each question seemed to lead to the next. Thanks!

        • TW

          Tamar Weinberg

          over 4 years ago #

          Hey Sean - I didn't write this but it's an amazing read on how The Shelf's cofounder Lauren Jung dealt with the struggles of building awareness for her startup: http://www.theshelf.com/the-blog/2015/2/25/your-first-time-doing-a-blogger-campaign

          I recommend a more personalized pitch. Press releases read like they've been blasted to thousands of people--and they probably have. If you must have a press release, do me the favor of writing a personalized message first.

          I know startups may be strapped for time, so I don't always go after the meeting approach. It all depends on their end result. Would a meeting add additional value that a press release cannot accommodate? Then yes, a meeting makes sense. Right now, in selling the products I work to get people to use, it's all about the meeting. I can rave about the feature offering, but you will not be sold on it until you see a demo--and once you do, wow, I'll just say, you'll be blown away.

          Finally, your PR question: there are pros and cons to in-house vs. outsourced labor. I recommend in-house for two reasons:
          1) People like to hear from startups--sometimes.
          2) You're far more passionate about the product than someone you hire would be.
          But the outsourced labor has something you don't: contacts and relationships. So it depends on what you want to do. As a startup, if you're strapped for cash, do it yourself. If it fails, go and get some help. It's up to you.

  • MB

    Morgan Brown

    over 4 years ago #

    Hey @tamar, another question for you:

    How should a startup think about making PR a sustainable growth engine instead of just getting random one-off hits here and there?

    Thanks again!

    • TW

      Tamar Weinberg

      over 4 years ago #

      Another good one.

      I guess I can mention my failed startup here. I built a site called appsylum.com (still alive, but I'm looking to either find a partner who can grow this thing, or sell). It was conceptualized in 2010 after the birth of my firstborn, and I bootstrapped (entirely!) to build out this amazing iTunes appstore engine.

      Well, a few things went wrong: I was truly passionate about the idea but the developers took a LOT of time to develop it! And I had some older connections with the media who said they'd cover it when it was a concept--but by the time it was live, they reneged on the offer. I got some coverage, but yeah, one offs don't work for a sustainable growth model.

      So what did I do? Honestly, nothing--and that's why the startup failed. (Mind you, it was also a side project. ;) ) The flame was extinguished. I didn't have the passion in building it out as well as I could have.

      If I could've done it differently, I'd have taken on a partner to help realize the vision. Maybe investment too. I'd have focused on content marketing to a much larger extent. I'd have focused on partnerships with other startups. I'd have focused on general outreach in a sales or business development capacity. I'd have focused on being a resource to the audience I cater to (developers and end users). At the end of the day, marketing needs to be more than just PR. It's social. It's paid media. It's SEO. It's affiliate marketing. It's word of mouth marketing out of creating an amazing product. And you know--it's a lot more than just that.

      One needs to focus their startup on much more than focusing on the media. The media alone won't give it the growth numbers they need.

  • SE

    Sean Ellis

    over 4 years ago #

    Hi @tamar, I used to think total immersion was really important for building a strong marketing and growth engine. Now increasingly I’m seeing people that are effective marketing leaders involved with several companies simultaneously. Looking at your LinkedIn profile, you seem to be taking this approach. Do you have any advice for effectively leveraging yourself to provide value at multiple companies?

    • TW

      Tamar Weinberg

      over 4 years ago #

      Hey Sean, good question! First, I don't consider myself a consultant. In general, I want a full time role (and am looking!) that allows me to manage side projects. I wrote about how I work on a post I made sure went live right before this AMA: http://www.techipedia.com/2015/whats-your-work-ethic/

      As a mom (my youngest is four months old), I sort of *need* to be near my children, especially as I don't live in the center of it all (suburbs outside NYC). So I juggle -- and the way I do that is by prioritizing my day and working everything into proper chunks that make sense for that schedule. I start my day at 7am or so, reading emails and working toward Inbox Zero (which, by the way, I hit everyday: http://www.techipedia.com/2011/email-overload-inbox-zero/). I may address my kids' needs in the morning. I go back to work. I focus on the day. I take assignments as they come in and make sure to finish everything before bedtime. That also means that at 11pm, I could still be working. But usually I look for a fit that I can be truly passionate about so that a 11pm email or phone call isn't the bane of my existence :)

  • AA

    Anuj Adhiya

    over 4 years ago #

    How'd you get into the private eye biz (so random/so cool!)?
    Were there any learnings from that experience that you've been able to apply elsewhere?

  • LS

    Logan Stoneman

    over 4 years ago #

    Hey @tamar now that it's been over 5 years since "The New Community Rules" what would you add, subtract, or change about the tips & rules you detailed?

    And what do you think the future of social communities will be, with real-time apps like Meerkat sprouting as of late?

    • TW

      Tamar Weinberg

      over 4 years ago #

      Ha, that's a great question, Logan. I'd probably kill the entire second half of the book ;) It's all about online services and how to be top users on them - and it mentions Digg and Mixx, both of which don't exist in their current form. Many other sites mentioned are completely kaput.

      But I do think the takeways of social media marketing remain: it's all about relationships, baby.

      I also think social communities are evolving with a bigger focus on video. People are definitely more receptive to it. I'll admit I'm a visual holdout (I cared about video two years after it was a "thing") so I can't even predict what we're looking at, but the cool Samsung VR video of the father witnessing his son's birth (http://www.slashgear.com/samsung-gear-vr-allows-father-to-see-sons-birth-in-real-time-15373760/) shows that this is going to be a more "tangible" type of experience, and it's clearly possible thanks to technology.

      As far as my book is concerned, if I were to write a sequel, the focus would be on social customer experience, a big focus of mine at Namecheap. It's all about nurturing perceptions publicly and addressing communications in real time. Doing things right by your customers makes them passionate about you to the tune of wanting to share that with their friends. I wrote about this here: http://www.techipedia.com/2014/customer-service-social-marketing/

      • LS

        Logan Stoneman

        over 4 years ago #

        Alright @tamar that video is incredible....no need to make me teary eyed over VR this early in the morning :) I completely agree that social customer experience will be the forefront of company success. Nowadays it almost seems like a requirement.

        It's also truly remarkable what services like Yelp (through their social community) have done to keep businesses accountable to providing awesome service 24/7, and with the addition of real-time video I don't see it slowing down any time soon.

        • TW

          Tamar Weinberg

          over 4 years ago #

          I'm waiting for Google Maps to include a "live feed" of what's going on inside of business storefronts.

          One can wish, can't they? ;)

  • DL

    Dylan La Com

    over 4 years ago #

    Thanks for doing this @tamar!

    Do you have examples of recent companies that have grown primarily via PR?

  • RS

    Rob Sobers

    over 4 years ago #

    Hey @tamar - what would you say to a CEO who asks, "How do we measure the return of our PR investment?"

    Do have any success metrics that you can link directly to your PR initiatives that you could share?

    • TW

      Tamar Weinberg

      over 4 years ago #

      Hi Rob, normally, it's about quantifying the value of a post. Find out how much a standard paid post would cost. Then, you can say "I just received $2,500 of free media from this [publication name]."

      Also, as an extension of this, take care to note the amplification of the post. How many tweets did it receive? How many impressions can you say those tweets generated? How many Likes did it have? How many comments? Your PR investment is not just about the post itself but the outcome of those posts. Another thing: if you can attribute a signup to your service directly to that post, you're getting where you need to be and there's value in quantity of leads/sales/traffic/etc.

      • RS

        Rob Sobers

        over 4 years ago #

        I think this is where it's hard to convince many analytical CEOs that PR is valuable, because oftentimes we won't be able to tie it back to visits/leads/sales like you can with a PPC campaign or a blog post.

        • SE

          Sean Ellis

          over 4 years ago #

          I think if you look at PR holistically you can essentially say "what did we invest in terms of time (and money if PR agency)?" and then compare that to the value of the people that are acquired via press. Of course for offline press you'll generally need to use surveying or trend correlation.

          Using this approach we determined that PR was our best customer acquisition investment at LogMeIn. That was about 8 or 9 years ago, so I wouldn't necessarily read too much into that today (besides the process of triangulating on ROI).

          • RS

            Rob Sobers

            over 4 years ago #

            > the value of the people that are acquired via press

            This is what's hard to determine. We have 2 PR teams (one for the US, one for Europe) and they've gotten us some great mentions in Forbes, WSJ, etc., but typically those articles don't have links in them, so it's hard to tell how many people are actually finding us as a result.

            And it's hard to measure the effect of people who see those placements and then don't visit right away.

            We also do video and audio interviews, HARO type rapid responses, and awards. All very hard to track.

            When we first hired an agency they kept saying "PR is sort of a soft thing...can't really measure it." I though it was a cop-out, but I'm finding it to be sorta true. :(

            Thanks Sean!

            • TW

              Tamar Weinberg

              over 4 years ago #

              The same applies for any word of mouth mentions. It's not quantifiable.

              But you can also look at it in a historical context. Are you getting more leads as a result of a certain mention in a certain publication? Did everything else stay the same? You can naturally attribute that to the PR.

        • TW

          Tamar Weinberg

          over 4 years ago #

          If there's a link, you can. If there isn't, you can't. But with The Shelf, if someone comes to us and we don't know where they're from, we make sure to ask. Don't be afraid to reach out and find out. It also helps you build relationships with your customers!

  • MK

    Mani Karthik

    over 4 years ago #

    @tamar Since you help with social customer experience at Namecheap, what are some of the biggest challenges ensuring better customer wins? Do you guys use traditional helpdesk software to integrate social - if yes, how effective (or not) has it been?

    • TW

      Tamar Weinberg

      over 4 years ago #

      Awesome question, Mani. Believe it or not, I do it all through HootSuite. I monitor our brand, mentions of our company, etc. We also use traditional helpdesk software for tickets and live chat (per your LinkedIn message :) ) but it's not tied to social. I am singlehandedly the only employee who handles social support. Thankfully, our entire global team is online, so if I don't know the answer to a support matter, I can contact one of my colleagues. We're all required to be online when we're on shifts, so if someone has a question and I need to follow up with a support team member who just answered a chat (or even when they're doing a live chat in real time), I can grab ahold of them. The Namecheap system is awesome. I want to do this with more companies and feel that the real time social experience is not a priority yet. But when these companies do, I want to talk to them.

      For better customer wins, it's all about the real time personalized experience. It's also about really humanizing the business, and really going above and beyond to give the customer a positive experience.

      I realize I can't do that all the time, so I add empathy into the mix when I can. For example, one of the biggest issues we've encountered is when a domain name expires and hasn't been reactivated for almost 4 weeks after expiration. We have a larger than-the-cost-of-a-domain name reactivation fee at that point, because the domain name isn't owned by us (we hold onto it for 27 days and allow customers to reactivate at cost). And I say that. "We would love to lower the cost, but we have to pay to get it back! Trust me, if we could lower it, we could." I can't win *everyone* over with this human mindset, but it works, and people appreciate that we try and give them the understanding of the inner workings of us as a business.

      • MK

        Mani Karthik

        over 4 years ago #

        Thanks Tamar,

        That is pretty awesome (and scary) knowing that you're doing it all on Hootsuite.

        Didn't know that Namecheap would hold on to domains for 27 days and have to actually buy to let owners renew them.

        • TW

          Tamar Weinberg

          over 4 years ago #

          Yes, only after expiration. We try to be nice about it--you may have missed the 5 emails about pending expirations, but we have your back! :) However, once we lose it, the window is gone.

  • ZT

    Zetong Teoh

    over 4 years ago #

    @tamar, just peeked at your linkedin profile and saw that you took on roles for two new startups in the last three months, on top of two other marketing and strategy roles you already have, I thought that's quite insane.
    So, how does your average day look like? And for the most part, do you dish out advices or you get your hands dirty doing the hard work for those companies too?

    • TW

      Tamar Weinberg

      over 4 years ago #

      woot! I was waiting for someone to broach this topic. :)

      None of what I'm doing right now is full time. They're mostly "consulting" or advisory. I'm hoping to revisit that for one company and am hoping they take me on (or if they don't, I'm looking for something new--know anything? ;) ), but the rest of them are a few hours a week if that.

      My average day is unpredictable! Usually, I spend the morning reading and responding to email, and continue with that through the day. I can shift my mindset away and back to work pretty quickly. I sometimes give demos. I follow up with clients/customers and respond to problems. I advise on strategy. I write articles for relevant publications (and beyond that, I also write for my local paper). I cold call--sometimes. It all depends on what's needed. I loved that it's not boring at all for me.

  • AS

    Adam Szabo

    over 4 years ago #

    Hi @tamar!
    What would you say a blogger or journalist is looking for other than a "cool story"? What are the key ingredients a PR pitch should contain?

  • TW

    Tamar Weinberg

    over 4 years ago #

    How come no one is asking me about being a private eye? :)

    • SE

      Sean Ellis

      over 4 years ago #

      Missed that! Would love to learn more. Did you find that marketing skills transferred well to a private eye? Surprisingly I've found that marketing skills transfer well to youth soccer coaching (money ball type stuff).

      • TW

        Tamar Weinberg

        over 4 years ago #

        Glad you picked up on that! :)

        So I started off as a private eye BEFORE I had the marketing experience. My focus there was trademark research, specifically with brand names of products. I'd do a lot of research about trademarks that were filed that big brands would want to use (or shut down).

        I found that I'd have to do a lot of cold calling and a lot of report writing. I had to do a lot of analyses as well. All of that was helpful for what I ended up doing now.

        Interestingly enough, I didn't write for Mashable but I helped with the legal stuff when we were smaller, because I had some experience. And I always identify with trademark issues that I read about on the tech blogs because of my past experience as a PI.

  • MO

    Mark O'Neill

    over 4 years ago #

    And here was me thinking that as a private eye, you were sitting in a car with a camera, catching cheating spouses. Oh and wearing the sunglasses of course. :-)

    So none of that, eh? Meh.

  • AF

    Amit Fisher

    over 4 years ago #

    Hi @tamar ,
    We are a Bay Area startup in bootstrap mode and about to launch our new beta in the next few weeks. We are developing an exciting mobile consumer app that will completely distrust the world of online reviews (where today Yelp, Tripadvisor etc. dominant the market). We believe it is an amazing domain, but also very broken one and we have found a way to fix it and make it awesome. We are aiming for a beta in the Bay Area (mainly millennials at SF), with a target of 1K active users that will allow us to gather some feedback and generate basic metrics.
    My questions: who are the right people we should work with for successful beta? What are the profile/skills? Any best practices/recommendations on Dos and Don'ts? Thank you very much for your advice!

  • TC

    timur csillik

    over 4 years ago #

    Hey @tamar !
    I am currently working at a starutp http://nimbusmarket.com
    The acquisition of users is pretty hard because it is a crowdsourced website which connects travellers to people who would like to buy stuff from abroad and we have to target two groups at the same time. Can you suggest me ways to reach them? I have tried different approaches, but none of them worked effectively, I would be helped out a lot with some advices.

    Thanks!

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