CC035: Kim Jefferson and Lydia Beechler of BLASTmedia // building a holistic PR strategy for startups

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Kim Jefferson 0:00
We look at these programs in a way that’s not just a one and done release. Because if you listen very closely, you can hear a press release go out every second on a wire. Anyone can do that your grandmothers could put out a press release on a wire, pay for that. That is not PR, that is just a piece of the puzzle. So putting together a release and a full strategy around what the thought leadership looks like is how we look at programs.

Jay Clouse 0:29
The startup investment landscape is changing., and world class companies are being built outside of Silicon Valley. We find them, talk with them, and discuss the upside of investing in them. Welcome to Upside.

Jay Clouse 0:57
Hello, hello, hello and welcome to the Upside podcast, the first podcast finding upside outside of Silicon Valley. I’m Jay Clouse, and I’m accompanied by my co-host, Mr. Classifieds himself, Eric Hornung.

Eric Hornung 1:08
You know, Jay, I think that sometimes people don’t want to advertise on a podcast for weeks and weeks at a time. I think sometimes they just have one announcement that they want to get out there to the world. And we haven’t, to date, had a way to let those people advertise here on Upside. So what I’m saying, Jay, is we are making money moves.

Jay Clouse 1:29
Making the money moves, another brainchild out of the head of Eric Hornung, here I like it. I like the opportunity to give the underrepresented even more ways to be represented, whether that’s because they have a short term sort of announcement, like you’re talking about, or if that’s because your budget doesn’t lend itself to a month long podcast sponsorship. So we’re bringing the classifieds to you. And this is the first episode that you’ll hear that.

Eric Hornung 1:57
Well, here’s the thing, Jay, I think that the way that podcasting is set up, you need to have these long term sponsors that are constant earworms to listener that…like our friends at Taft are constantly providing value here on the Upside podcast. But then then sometimes you just want to say one thing, one place, and you don’t need to have this whole year long podcast sponsorship. I think that here on Upside, we’re all about accessibility. And, you know, you gave me credit for this, but I stole this straight from Techmeme Ride Home. Like I love this idea as a way to allow small creators or organizations that are just doing one event, put out some real content on the Uupside podcast and get distribution for a rate that makes sense for them.

Jay Clouse 2:46
I agree. And so listener, if you want to be a part of the upside classifieds, you can go to upside.fm/classifieds, and you’ll hear the first Upside classified in this episode between the interview and the intro of this episode, which is our typical spot for these classifieds. It’s a great place to get PR, Eric.

Eric Hornung 3:07
Wow, it’s a great…Would you say this is a good PR strategy?

Jay Clouse 3:10
I think this is a great PR strategy. And to learn a little bit more about PR strategies, today we’re talking with Kim Jefferson, the Vice President, and Lydia Beechler, the Director of Accounts at BLASTmedia. BLASTmedia is a highly specialized, national PR agency that takes a holistic approach to PR. They’re the only PR agency in the country dedicated to B2B SaaS, and from top to bottom all account team members execute media relations and thought leadership campaigns for their SaaS clients. They’re based in Indianapolis, Indiana, and have been operating for about the last 15 years, Eric.

Eric Hornung 3:46
Should we ask them point blank if they would advertise on the classified section?

Jay Clouse 3:50
We should we should ask them that point blank.

Eric Hornung 3:52
If I get cold feet, Lydia and Kim if you’re listening, will you advertise on the Upside classified section? Please?

Jay Clouse 4:00
What I really liked about BLASTmedia and their model, Eric, is something I saw on their website that on average, only 50% of their stories is derived from news, and 25% is thought leadership or contributed content, and another 25% being interviews and executive quotes. When I think about PR, I think most often about things like funding announcements that we see in TechCrunch, this company reads a series, raise a series A, or this firm just launched a $30 million fund. I don’t think as much about thought leadership and contributed content. And that seems like it might be unique for BLASTmedia.

Eric Hornung 4:34
Yeah, I would agree with that. I think, when you think PR you think here are some facts that happened. Let’s get those facts to be spread as far as possible.

Jay Clouse 4:42
Alright, well, without further ado, let’s just jump into our interview here with Kim and Lydia. Eric, what do SaaS companies, autonomous vehicle companies, cyber security companies, blockchain companies, and consumer marketplaces all have in common?

Eric Hornung 4:58
They’re all companies.

Jay Clouse 4:59
They’re all companies, and they’re all companies who have hired our friends at Integrity Power Search to help them fill their talent needs. Integrity Power Search is the number one full stack, high growth startup recruiting firm between the coasts. They partner with venture capitalists, private equity groups, and CEOs to build amazing teams for the world’s most disrupting companies that may be SaaS, autonomous vehicles, blockchain, consumer marketplaces, Insurtech, robotic process automation. Eric, they can do it all.

Eric Hornung 5:25
They can do it all, and we’ve seen them do it all. They are impressive.

Jay Clouse 5:28
Over 600 searches since 2012. More than 200 happening just this year in 2019. Their clients have collectively raised over $2.5 billion in venture funding. If you want to hear how Integrity Power Search can help your team for your talent needs, go to Upside.fm/integrity and get started.

Eric Hornung 5:47
Integrity Power Search: Who you gonna call? That’s their slogan, right?

Jay Clouse 5:50
I don’t think it is, but maybe it is now.

Eric Hornung 5:52
All right. You’re welcome for that one. Caleb.

Jay Clouse 6:01
Kim, welcome to the show.

Kim Jefferson 6:02
Thanks for having us.

Jay Clouse 6:04
And Lydia, welcome to the show.

Lydia Beechler 6:06
Yeah, thanks for having us.

Eric Hornung 6:07
So on upside, we like to start with a background of the guest. And we got two guests on today. So we’ll start with Lydia, can you tell us the history of Lydia?

Lydia Beechler 6:16
Yeah. So prior to diving into the world of SaaS PR, which we’re going to talk about today, I worked in both publishing and nonprofit PR, so kind of a different background than SaaS PR, but all leading into what we do today. So here at BLASTmedia, I lead strategic direction on everything from announcement strategy to building a well-rounded executive profile for clients in industries from marketing to artificial intelligence.

Eric Hornung 6:44
And then Kim, can we get a little background on Kim?

Kim Jefferson 6:47
Sure. So I’ve worked in B2B PR-Journalism and marketing for about 12 years. I graduated college thinking I would be a journalist. So I worked at the Indianapolis Business Journal, really wanted to be a writer. And then I figured out that that is not the best life for me personally, I didn’t want to move across the country to find the best jobs. I wanted to find my niche in Indianapolis. So I’ve been with Blast for nine years doing B2B PR, lead campaigns for startups, scale ups, public companies, all to gain exposure for the companies that matters to them. So that journalism background helps me on the media relations side to kind of understand what journalists need.

Jay Clouse 7:31
Lydia, what drew you into PR in the first place?

Lydia Beechler 7:35
Yeah, so I had a background in writing, which I really enjoyed. And I knew I didn’t want to lose that in whatever field I went into. But I also wanted to make sure that I wasn’t just stuck behind a computer screen, writing articles all day long without any human interaction. So PR was kind of the perfect intersection of getting that exposure to companies and their executives and really leading that strategic direction for them while also being able to work on the content side and help them develop those stories in writing as well.

Eric Hornung 8:08
What does strategic direction look like?

Lydia Beechler 8:10
So a lot of that for us looks like strategizing around, what are they going to say next? And why are they going to say it? And who are they going to say that too? So if they have an announcement coming up, what does that announcement look like on the larger scale and not just that immediate second of, you know, we have this thing coming out, and we want to make sure people know about it. We want to make sure that our clients have a well rounded story that they’re telling. So not just, like I said, that immediate moment of things, but making sure that we’re telling a larger brand story in terms of who the company is and who those executives are.

Kim Jefferson 8:48
So our first 30 days with a company, we just asked a lot of questions, and we try to learn where are you trying to take the business. So are you, are you series D and you’re trying IPO? Are you at seed and you’re just trying to desperately raise your next round? Trying to understand where they are as a business, and what their focuses are, so we can plug in. If you’re super focused on customer acquisition, then we’re going to want to talk to your customers and learn their stories and pitch the customers’ stories to media. If what you really want to do is raise money, then that investor-facing PR, you want to be in VentureBeat, you want to be in TechCrunch, that more larger scale business publications or tech will be the right audience for that. So just kind of understanding where our clients are trying to go and how we can get them there versus, like Lydia was saying, just issuing press releases based on what they tell us they have.

Eric Hornung 9:42
Who’s telling you where the client wants to go? I assume that you have like a CEO, you have someone who’s focused on marketing, I mean, depending on the size and stage. But like, who are you sitting down with at these companies who’s, like, this is the direction we’re taking?

Kim Jefferson 9:55
Yeah, our main contact is typically a marketing leader. Depending on size and organization, we might also work with a communications leader, so a director of com, something like that. But in that first 30 days, we want to have a conversation with the CEO. We often have conversations with board members, with investors. just to kind of understand all the opinions of where the business is going. But that, our main conduit of information typically seems to be somebody leading marketing, and their seat at the table helps us understand what we need to know.

Eric Hornung 10:30
What do you do when there’s conflict from those different parties? When you’re saying the board members want to go this way, the investors want to go that way, the CEO wants to go this way, and the marketing person’s like, we got to get in TechCrunch.

Kim Jefferson 10:41
We have that all the time. So we try to be open with everyone about what we heard from everyone else. So if we’re having a conversation with a marketing leader, and we say, oh, boy, we we got the opposite feedback from the CEO last week. What do we do here? We try to have that open communication to squelch that as much as possible. In the end, sometimes we’re just building PR plans that try to do multiple things. So if the CEO says, all we need is customers, and the marketing leader says, yeah, but we need ground cover on brand awareness, we’ll build a plan that has customer facing PR — say they’re in retail, will try to get retail publications. And then, to satisfy the marketing leader’s goals will also try to get in the Wall Street Journal retail section to try to get those big logos.

Jay Clouse 11:32
So it sounds like a company is coming to you that may be past series A, if you’re talking about all these different stakeholders? How far do you span? Do you work with — how young of a company have you guys worked with and to what level of scale?

Kim Jefferson 11:48
Yeah, so we have a startup program specifically built for those seed and series A companies. They tend to be six month projects. So we start, we onboard quickly. And we get as much done in six months as we can for a super affordable budget so that they can kick off, have that credibility at the beginning of a business that they can build on. But we also have clients that are series D, public companies that want a different kind of PR, and those are typically longer term engagements. And our agreements might also include things like speaking opportunities for their CEO or awards for the company like Best Places to Work, things like that. Influencer programs for, say we have a client in HR, their HR podcast, for example, where that person maybe runs a podcast but is also an influencer and will work with them. So there’s a huge breadth of who we’ll work with and it really for us depends on are your goals clear? And can we help get there with PR? If you’re completely judging us on how many leads come in the door based on clicking through an article, we’re probably not going to work together because there are more cost efficient ways to just get leads than PR. If you’re going to work with us, you need to believe in the process that we are part of a bigger marketing picture.

Eric Hornung 13:16
How does BLASTmedia think about PR for itself, and who does PR for BLASTmedia?

Kim Jefferson 13:22
We usually use that term, the cobblers kids have no shoes, where we do not do enough PR for ourselves. We have in the last couple years really turned on our marketing a lot more because we’ve niched into SaaS in the last four years. So we’ve been in business for 15 years, and we’ve always done a B2B PR, but SaaS has really become our niche the last few years, so that has made a lot of sense for us to market. We spend all of our time doing PR for our accounts, and we have a couple people internally, another of our VP that focuses on our marketing. But, boy, we are that example of people not focusing on ourselves and focusing on our clients.

Jay Clouse 14:05
Besides having the niche of B2B SaaS, what do you think is the Blast differentiator when it comes to PR firms?

Kim Jefferson 14:14
So I would say that’s the first is we can’t prove ourselves wrong that someone else is completely focused on SaaS media relations. If you guys can prove us wrong with Google, let me know. But I would say our biggest differentiator outside of that is that we are all doing a media relations. So a lot of agencies that we go up against for new business are big agencies that have a lot of offerings. They’re doing web, they’re doing pay, they’re doing social media, they’re doing a lot of things under one roof. And we are very focused on media relations. So we’re all doing the same thing. Our Slack channel is just filled with opportunities from journalists that we get and share with each other. So we’re kind of like our own little newsroom of PR opportunities, where other agencies we go up against might have huge projects with clients where they’re building their website, they’re running their social media, they might be doing a little media relations, and they’re doing a big speaking and award program where ours is only one part of that. So we have to really show our value there. We can’t, at the end of the month, say, but look at this beautiful website we built you. We don’t have that to fall back on, we have to have media results.

Lydia Beechler 15:28
Yeah. And I think you made a really good point about bringing up the Slack channel that we share opportunities. That’s not something you see a lot at those agencies. It can be pretty competitive in terms of client to client, but we really tried to share opportunities and contacts that we’ve built relationships with personally throughout the agency so that it can benefit everyone. Because in the end, you know, hoarding those relationships and opportunities are only going to hurt our clients.

Eric Hornung 15:56
How do you get clients? Like what’s the referral mechanism for client attraction?

Kim Jefferson 16:01
Yeah, so more than half of the clients that we get on an annual basis are from referrals. So it’s people that we’ve worked with in the past, and they go to a new company or someone that, in their network, somebody just asked her a PR firm and they were for us. So wouldn’t you been in business 15 years, you get a lot of referrals, I guess, if you’re good at it. So we also do some outbound that’s very specific. So we do cold emails to very specific companies that we want to work with and get meetings off of it. So our greatest asset is the work we’ve already done. So we use our case studies and the results that past clients have seen the page in our proposal that people like the most usually are all of our exits. So we have about 15 companies that have seen exits from working with us, and we see that as a big proof point of our work. So oftentimes, somebody will exit, they’ll get acquired or sometimes IPO, and in those instances, especially on the acquisition side, we might actually do our jobs so well, we get fired. But it is the best case scenario for our clients to see that success. And then our contact will probably go work somewhere else in a couple years, aend then we’ll get another.

Eric Hornung 17:19
Let’s put some like specifics to this. You mentioned case studies and these exits. Is there something you can walk us through from, this client came on, here’s what happened, they exited that you can kind of give us something to, something tangible.

Kim Jefferson 17:33
Yeah, we might be able to come up with different ones. But one that comes to mind is we worked with a company Bella Strada…

Lydia Beechler 17:40
That’s the one I was thinking of, too.

Kim Jefferson 17:42
And they actually worked with us for probably six months?

Lydia Beechler 17:46
Yeah, 6-9

Kim Jefferson 17:46
And they worked in the data migration space. And we did a campaign with their integration with Google and spent a lot of time on that. And then we we’re working with them through their acquisition by Google. So to be able to build that campaign and that awareness of their partnership and integration, see that all the way through to them actually getting acquired by the company we were talking about in the media was really cool.

Jay Clouse 18:17
Something that — maybe we can append this to this case study question here — something that stuck out to me on the website, was that your coverage is not dependent upon press releases. 50% of these stories are from news, 25% is thought leadership, 25% is interviews and executive quotes. Can you tell me a little bit more about that other 50% of thought leadership and interview quotes and why that’s part of the overall strategy?

Kim Jefferson 18:42
Yeah, so that media mix was actually born out of looking at our reporting for a year and seeing what the natural output of that was. So when I first started looking at that data, we actually weren’t focused on creating that as the ideal media mix, we were naturally doing. And then we saw that successful data. And then now we are trying to drive our programs to have that mix. So half of that being news is not only product announcements or funding announcements, but it can also be owned data. So a lot of times our clients can pull data from their platforms and see trends. See that sales people that use software to record calls, see this much increase in closed one. So things like that, putting together data reports, and then we release that to media that we also call news. So that other half, thought leadership, is what we think is special about SaaS PR, because people want to buy B2B software from people that know what they’re talking about and know how to talk about their industry. So when we place a byline article on Crunchbase about why cold calls are dead and why you should only call warm leads, that shows sales people that might buy a sale software that we’re looking for that that company knows their industry and cares about them, it’s going to help them do their job better. So that’s what we always tell our clients about that other 50%, is it may seem strange to go to media with a message that’s not pushing your software. But what you’re trying to do is make your buyer have a better outcome at work. So make their job easier through the content you’re providing them.

Jay Clouse 20:33
So this campaign with Bella Strada that talks about the integration with Google, is that an example of a thought leadership piece, or is this like announcing a new integration and that was kind of the kickoff of that project?

Lydia Beechler 20:45
So there were kind of two different aspects to it. One was the announcement side of things. So really talking about the specifics to Bella Strada and Google and what that relationship meant right there and then. But we also paired some thought leadership it talking about why migrating to GCP was important for companies and taking a look at it from a more vendor neutral standpoint versus saying you need to use Bella Strada to migrate. So there were kind of two different aspects to it. And I think that was a big factor in the success that we saw.

Kim Jefferson 21:20
And that’s how we look at programs generally. So if a client tells us, we have an integration coming up, we have an integration with Drift coming up. How can you support that? Well, Drift has a really cool brand, and we want to support that. Drift also doesn’t really want to do the standard press release. They have a cool brand, they want to do different things. So often we’ll work with the integrations PR team, and we’ll say what can we do, let’s do a blog, we’ll do a guest blog on your blog, and we’ll promote them both. We can pitch to media without a release. And then we also do a thought leadership piece that’s like why your chat box needs to integrate with your sales loft, or whatever that is. So we look at these programs in a way that’s not just a one and done release. Because if you listen very closely, you can hear a press release go out every second on a wire. Anyone can do that your grandmother’s could put out a press release on a wire and pay for that. That is not PR, that is just a piece of the puzzle. So putting together a release and a full strategy around what the thought leadership looks like is how we look at programs.

Jay Clouse 22:34
If I’m an early stage founder, and I haven’t begun thinking about my PR efforts yet, at what point should I really be sure to take advantage of some natural opportunity for the growth or lifecycle of my company?

Kim Jefferson 22:49
I think there are a lot of moments like that. And you have to feel as a founder when it’s right for you to invest either internally or externally for PR. We often say that any kind of funding is a moment for that because even if you’re getting seed money, the people on the other side of that want to see that you’re making good on it. So that first announcement of a seed round, a series A round shows your ability to execute, your ability to promote your ability to tell a story, all things that matter to someone that’s investing in you. So we say whenever you’re taking in money, that’s a moment to start PR. Also, there’s a chicken and egg, taking and funding and having customers. And so trying to build a customer base, It’s very hard to do that if you’re making cold calls, people Google you, and your company is a ghost. So building up that customer base through even a few links online really helps with credibility. So that is why we have an affordable program for startups because you do have to build a base. And you might be able to turn off PR for a while. You can have an announcement, get a few customers, build a base, you might be able to turn off until you raise a little bit more money and can do a full court press. It’s that foundation layer that is really necessary to make good on investments and be able to talk to customers in a way that gives you credibility.

Eric Hornung 24:28
How do you define, like, if someone came in with the first page of Google all about their company, is that a good foundation layer? What makes a good foundation layer?

Kim Jefferson 24:39
Well, we would use that media mix that we talked about earlier as as the right foundation. So we would say you need some news. So whether that is you took in funding, you have a product update announcement, you have some integrations, you made a big hire, so you found someone to be your VP of sales from some other cool company or competitor. Some kind of foundation of announcements, and then thought leadership that reaches the customer. So if you are a company, like I said earlier in retail, and you want to go after those retailers, you’ll want to be in marketing publications and retail publications. There’s trades that you guys probably don’t read, like Total Retail and Martech series and specific publications that are made for those audiences. So getting thought leadership and those alongside that mix of announcements.

Eric Hornung 25:33
How do you think about podcasts in that space?

Kim Jefferson 25:35
Yeah, we’re actually really excited about podcasts. Our clients really like to be interviewed. It, it makes you feel, I feel very important right now. It makes you feel very important to be interviewed. And podcasts are a great opportunity for that. It’s a lot lower barrier to entry than us having to write an article and get it placed. You can set up an interview, and people can have a great conversation, and then you can get a piece of coverage out of that. Well. It’s hard for us as PR people honestly is finding the metrics for podcasts. So being able to tell, what is the listenership of this podcast? Does it make sense for our clients? We have to trust the people on the other side of podcasts that you’re giving us real listenership numbers and that your audience information matches what we want for our clients. And even finding the contact information for people that run a podcast can be difficult. So it’s not something that we have a built up base of from 15 years of doing PR because a new podcast pops up every day, just like a new SaaS company pops up every day. So we’re super excited about the opportunity. It’s kind of difficult for us at this point to measure the success of being on a podcast.

Lydia Beechler 26:44
Yeah, and I would say that on our client side, they’re getting excited about it too, because even I would say even two years ago, people were hesitant to want to go on podcast because, just what Kim was saying, how do you know what their real listenership is? You know, is this an actual audience? But I think now that podcasts are more mainstream — I mean, I listen to podcasts on my way to work every single day — people are more excited, I guess, to get on podcasts and really get out there because they know that that’s a channel that they can start to leverage now, outside of just the written communication and the written interviews that they’ve been doing before.

Jay Clouse 27:19
I want to do a little good client, bad client here is the segment that I’m coming up with on air. First, let’s start with Misguided Mike. What does Misguided Mike get wrong about PR, and what is he saying when he comes to you guys that is showing that he’s not set up either for good timing or for success in a PR relationship?

Lydia Beechler 27:39
I think my biggest thing would be people think that PR is instant. And we have to remind people a lot. so Misguided Mike might think that PR is going to happen overnight, and he’s going to get a Wall Street Journal feature the day after, you know, he signs on with BLASTmedia, and that’s just not always the way that things work. We would love if that was the way that things work. But, like Kim has been saying, we have to build up a base of that thought leadership and of product announcements, funding announcements to really build the legitimacy of a person and a brand before those larger publications are wanting, wanting to go after them. So I think it’s just good to keep in mind that PR isn’t going to be instant, that it takes time. But if you are willing to give the time and willing to dedicate resources to it, which could even be your own time, that it’ll happen eventually.

Jay Clouse 28:35
What does that say about timing then? Like, if I, if Misguided Mike thinks that things are instant, does that mean that people are coming to you when they have a funding announcement coming out like tomorrow, or when they want the funding announcement tomorrow? What does that mean for timing?

Kim Jefferson 28:49
That happens a lot where our first engagement with someone is because they have news that they want to get out, not because they’re thinking about building a long term PR program. And we can do that. We would rather not just try to turn on in one day. Our ideal onboarding is at least a couple of weeks so we can talk to all those stakeholders, we can understand the story of the company, we can pre-pitch. I think a lot of times our clients don’t understand that when a press release goes out, when it crosses a wire, it’s almost old news at that point. So when we have a story that is big for a company — use funding as an example — we want at least a week to pitch that to media under embargo. So giving them the information and asking them for a gentleman’s agreement not to post it before a certain date, but having that time for them to digest, to do interviews, to understand the story, and then write about it, the release, the day the release goes out.

Lydia Beechler 29:52
Yeah, and I think, like Kim said, we can do those announcements one off and we are great at getting coverage for those because we have relationships. But it’s taken time for us to build those relationships. So I think that’s something that companies need to keep in mind when they’re working with a PR agency is, yes, maybe they can execute an announcement right away. But the timing of that is only because those relationships are already established, and people know who we are, so they trust that what we’re giving them is legitimate information. So in terms of timing for if you’re going to do it in house, you’re going to need a lot more time than just jumping on an announcement with an agency.

Kim Jefferson 30:32
I think the relationship piece is also another part that we should talk about for Misguided Mike because he often comes in thinking, if you’re a PR firm that has relationships with Forbes, then you should be able to get all your clients in Forbes whenever they have news. And that isn’t a relationship. A relationship with a journalist is someone that will answer you, will give you feedback, will help you understand what they do want to cover, and if you’re giving them something that they don’t want to cover, maybe they’ll introduce you to someone else that might want to cover it. So a relationship with a journalist doesn’t mean they’re just going to post whatever you tell them to post. That’s not actually a journalist. I don’t know who those people are. But that’s not people that we work with. So that Misguided Mike coming in and thinking, well, I’m hiring a PR firm because they have relationships, and then they better get me in Forbes every time, is not reality.

Jay Clouse 31:28
What does that mean for you guys, then, with some of these journalists you have relationships with, you have a client who says I want to be in Forbes, and you have that relationship, but you just don’t feel like it’s a fit? How do you guys have to think about and consider your pitches to people you have a relationship with when you feel like it might be a reach?

Kim Jefferson 31:43
Right.

Lydia Beechler 31:44
Yeah.

Kim Jefferson 31:44
And I think it really depends on the contact. Like, for example, we work a lot with Alex Conrad who works at Forbes, he writes about software. And we know from working with him that he’s not really going to cover around if it’s under 10 million. So we’re probably just not going to pitch him rounds that are under 10 million. If, for example, we’re working with someone that he’s covered in the past, so the founder was at a previous company, but this is the founder’s seed, and it’s smaller than that, we still might pitch him, but we’ll explain why we’re pitching. Hey, I know you don’t cover under 10 million a lot, but you’ve covered this person before. So you might be interested.

Eric Hornung 32:22
I think that there’s a good amount of medium articles and stuff written about how to pitch a journalist or if you don’t have a relationship, how to cold pitch a journalist. But how does a pitch look like when it’s a warm pitch?

Lydia Beechler 32:35
I would say just digging into the more personal side of things that only you can know because of that relationship. So for example, I have a journalist I work with often that I know he is obsessed with Chipotle, and he actually counts the burrito bowls that he eats every day. And I know that, and so if there’s any way that I can tie that in, or how real conversation about that, or just dumb little aspects like that, that I know from my personal relationship with them, I’ll tie that in, I’ll see how they’re doing, I’ll see, you know, what kind of vacations they’ve been on recently that I know have been coming up. So taking that more personal approach to it. And then also really taking the more personal approach to the actual topic that I’m pitching. You can’t just give someone, hey, I know we worked together in the past, so will you cover XYZ. You got to tell them why they need to care about it, and why you think they would care about it. So I think just tying into your past relationship with them and the past things they’ve covered for you and why they cover those things. I always try to ask for feedback around why somebody thinks an article or a topic is interesting, or why they don’t think it’s interesting. And then that always gives me really good fodder for my next follow up with them or my next pitch to them.

Eric Hornung 33:53
How many of these kind of publications or journalistic or any kind of distribution mechanism, how many relationships does BLASTmedia have? Because I feel like there’s not that many of them.

Kim Jefferson 34:05
I definitely can’t answer that with a specific number. There’s probably more than you think. So there are trade publications for every type of vertical. We have clients that makes software for the oil and gas industry, and there’s five oil and gas publications. And there are, at Forbes, for example, there are Alex whom I talked about is on staff, but there are hundreds, I don’t know maybe thousands of contributors to Forbes who have day jobs, but they write for Forbes. So we can work with the breadth of that. And reaching into podcasts like you mentioned before. Sometimes we also work with other software companies and their blogs. So for example, HubSpot’s blog is a publication in itself. We also do PR for Ma’s, their blog is a publication in itself, people actually pitch us to be featured on Mas’s blog. So while in journalism, the industry feels like it’s shrinking because you see layoffs of journalists constantly, publications closing, like the daily newspapers of the world closing, that gap is closing, but what’s widening is what constitutes as media. So there can be blogs of just experts. There’s an expert that we work with who runs a blog called Martech Zone, and he’s a consultant, and he has a blog, and it has a great domain authority, and it gets a lot of traffic, and we work with him for him to post about our clients technologies, even though he’s not a staff writer for The New York Times.

Lydia Beechler 35:46
Yeah. Even sites like Medium we’re seeing come up, you know, they’ve hired an editorial staff. And so we’re seeing those more traditionally blog platforms rise up as real media outlets now, that we, we’re able to dive in and leverage as, you know, true coverage for our clients.

Jay Clouse 36:04
So I imagine you guys must have some sort of back end, pretty awesome database, right?

Lydia Beechler 36:11
Mmhmm.

Jay Clouse 36:11
That’s awesome. Sorry, Eric, and I haven’t geek out on databases lately. I want to talk a little bit about trends, and is there any type of content that people that you guys pitch to seem just really hungry for lately and not getting enough of?

Lydia Beechler 36:26
Well, I will say this right now, because it’s top of mind, but predictions. People cannot get enough predictions for any and every industry. We have a thing here at Blast that we like to call prediction season, and it runs from you know, October through February every year. People are trying to write about what’s coming up in the industry next and what they can perceive for the future. And that’s the perfect place that we can insert our clients into those conversations to make bold statements about their industry and really talk about what matters to those audiences that their trying to reach.

Kim Jefferson 37:01
Yeah, I would say predictions plays into this, but the biggest thing that we see publications asking for is, we really need this to have a point of view and say something. So anybody can write a 500 word piece on their industry. But if there’s nothing in it that is contradictory to previous beliefs, or brings something forward that someone hasn’t thought of before, then the publication will just move on to the next person that wants to contribute. So we have a pretty good relationship with someone that actually edits contributed content for Fast Company. And we’ve gotten a few pieces place recently for our clients that are willing to make bold statements. Headlines like, ‘why Silicon Valley is a place that women go to fail,’ but the body of the copy is about how a woman can succeed. So it’s not there might be kind of a controversial and negative headline to draw in the reader but what you’re actually giving them is actually take aways that they can do something with.

Jay Clouse 38:01
Do you guys ever pitch a story and have it get picked up, and then the journalist writes it in such a way that is actually negative or is not serving the goal that you’re looking for?

Kim Jefferson 38:12
Oh, yes, unfortunately.

Lydia Beechler 38:14
My nightmare.

Kim Jefferson 38:15
Yeah, those are the ones that keep us up at night. We’ve had a client that had a pretty negative story in TechCrunch. And it just won’t go away. You know, it’s tough, because TechCrunch does have that super high domain authority, it ranks very high in search. Anytime someone is considering applying at their company, they could see something negative. So what we do in those instances is, if there’s something factually inaccurate about the piece, then we really work with the journalist to get that fixed. And that’s what we did in that case, there were a few things that weren’t, she didn’t have the right information from her source, and we could get that fixed. But it’s a journalist job to write about the space and we obviously can’t get it taken down or completely changed to be positive. So then our goal from there is to just get positive news to bury that eventually. So all we can do is create the positive side of us to eventually drown out the negative.

Eric Hornung 39:14
So Jay started a game earlier called good client, bad client, and he really just focus on the bad client. So I want to focus on the good client who we are going to call Properly Prepared Paula, Yeah, three P’s. And thank God I have a pop filter on this thing. What could Paula do in her own capacity, tactically, to be a great client as she’s getting onboarded?

Kim Jefferson 39:39
I’m answering for Paula, all the Paula’s out there that are listening. We want our clients to understand that we’re going to need their participation and buy in. So what Paula can do is get stakeholders internally excited about PR, and we can help her do that by having conversations with them, by getting some early wins, but we need people to approve content with their name on it, to make time to take an interview to care about PR, because we can’t do our job in a silo, where we need the experts in the industry to be available to connect them with journalists. We, were experts in PR, we are not going to have more expertise in our clients than the industries they’re in. So we really need their participation. And Paula can help us do that. We also really need that direction, so that why PR and why now, we need a real answer to that question. Are you paying for PR because you think it’s a faucet you can turn on and the leads are just going to start streaming in the door? Because we need to know that up front to set expectations. But if Paula can let everyone internally air what they want from PR, what they want PR to do, and us to understand all stakeholder opinions, then we can go in with a clearer picture of what we do from there.

Lydia Beechler 40:57
And on top of that, I would say just trust our process. You know, when you start working with a PR agency or an in house PR person, it’s easy to feel like you know what’s going to work best for your company, and you know what story you want to tell. But a lot of the time, it takes a lot of teamwork to figure out, you know, what story is the right story for the audience that we’re trying to hit at a specific publication, and how do we need to tell that to make it impactful for that publication and of interest to that publication. So just know that for the, for the Paula’s out there to trust the process and be prepared that it’s going to take some brainstorming, it’s going to take some teamwork, but you’ll get there eventually, if you’re willing to do that.

Jay Clouse 41:43
I want to end with a quick lightning round of, if someone were to go this alone, whether they didn’t have the budget for a BLASTmedia or they weren’t prepared, what types of things should they prioritize in trying to get their own PR as a founder?

Lydia Beechler 41:58
I would say in terms I have an announcement and specifically a funding announcement, I would say leverage your network, prioritize your VCs, and prioritize what they have to say about the round and their network that they can get it out to. So just make sure that you’re leveraging them in terms of media conversations that you’re having. See if they have media relationships that are, that are stable that they want to reach out to, because that’s going to be a big one for you when you have that name associated with your VC.

Kim Jefferson 42:29
Yeah, pre-working with an agency. I’d also say getting your marketing house in order, especially from a content perspective. So get a blog up, get some pieces out that are more industry facing, as well as software upgrade type stuff. So start your thought leadership with your own content, and start building up your social media presence for both your company and whoever you want your thought leader to be. A lot of times when we start pitching CEOs that don’t have a Twitter or have a very low following, the podcasts of the world are more that influencer type interaction might not want to talk to him because they know he’s not going to promote their piece once it’s live in a way that makes sense to them. So building up your own marketing foundation before working with PR. We don’t have to have that, but it makes our jobs easier.

Jay Clouse 43:20
This has been awesome, Kim and Lydia. If people want to learn more about you or BLASTmedia after the show, where should they go?

Kim Jefferson 43:26
They should go to BlastMedia.com.

Jay Clouse 43:31
Hey, listener, have you ever wanted to get a message in front of the Upside audience but weren’t sure how to sponsor the show or weren’t able to do a long term sponsorship? Well, now you can just go to upside.fm/classifieds, and let our audience know anything that’s going on in your world, whether it’s an event, an application, a special coupon or deal, or just letting them know who you are, what your company does. All you have to do is go to upside.fm/classifieds, and you can place an ad on this show. That’s upside.fm/classifieds.

Eric Hornung 44:11
All right, Jay, we just spoke with Lydia and Kim from BLASTmedia. Let me hear those hot takes, what you got?

Jay Clouse 44:18
Here’s my hottest of takes: B2B SaaS, not the sexiest domain area. And so I’m going to assume a company that focuses on getting media attention on an inherently less eye popping domain area probably knows their stuff when it comes to PR.

Eric Hornung 44:36
I love that they niched down. I think that whenever we find people who have picked a niche and are really going after it, they tend to be more interesting as interview subjects and have more depth in terms of their answers than people who are going for broad.

Jay Clouse 44:52
Something that struck me a lot is hey talked a lot about timing and the inherent time it takes to make things happen. I see this time in time again with the stuff that I do, and I’ve predominately tried to do my own PR. And when I fail, it’s because I did not have enough lead time. Granted, I do have a lot of the relationships here locally that I try to communicate with. So that’s a positive. But usually when I fail to get something placed in a publication locally, where I have a relationship, it’s purely because of timing. And so, to the Misguided Mike’s out there, you’re going to want to get ahead of timing a little bit on the things you’re trying to get PR around, as Kim and Lydia pointed out.

Eric Hornung 45:33
Makes a lot of sense to me. I think great strategy, whether it’s PR or financial or marketing or distribution, takes timing and thought. And I love the fact that this agency kind of serves as a sounding board for multiple parties around the company who think they’re heading in the same direction, but sometimes they just aren’t.

Jay Clouse 45:55
I really, really liked the insight we got of trends on predictions and having a point of view. I’m seeing more of that in the headlines. And it’s also the most interesting stuff that I read is something that is making a prediction, partially because it’s taking a point of view, anything that is taking a point of view is inherently more interesting to me, because to take aside means that there has to be another side. And it almost begs the question of what is the other side and what if we’re wrong? So I like I like putting some validation behind what I’m kind of subconsciously experiencing.

Eric Hornung 46:32
What, what predictions do you have for 2020, Jay?

Jay Clouse 46:35
Just in general?

Eric Hornung 46:36
Sure. I’m putting you on the spot. What do you got? What you got that’s controversial? Exciting?

Jay Clouse 46:40
I don’t think the Browns are gonna make the playoffs.

Eric Hornung 46:42
Ah, that was a dagger. That’s all you came back with, too, just one dagger.

Jay Clouse 46:48
The dagger? No, but if you got put me on the spot here. I think we’ll continue to see…

Eric Hornung 46:53
Are continuations controversial? You’re already going down the continue path.

Jay Clouse 46:57
Okay, so you want something totally fresh, fresh predictions for 2020. Here we go. I think you’re going to see more specific podcast episode headlines geared towards very specific SEO and keyword research.

Eric Hornung 47:14
Do you think there will be a new leader by the end of 2020 in that top tier of podcasts based on this prediction?

Jay Clouse 47:25
New leader in terms of a new show?

Eric Hornung 47:27
Mmhmm.

Jay Clouse 47:28
I won’t say a new leader in terms of show because I think that the history is really valuable in this space for shows that are already market leaders and have a lot of history. I do think it will give a springboard to some small handful of shows who pick it up quickly and really run with it for educational-based podcasts. I think it is a really good potential springboard to follow this Google trend of transcribing and searching the actual content of episodes, and I think that headlines are going to be where you see that intention manifesting first.

Eric Hornung 48:03
So the headline I got from that is Jay Clouse Predicts in 2020 Education Podcast Will Overtake Joe Rogan for Top Spot.

Jay Clouse 48:14
I’m not saying that. That sounds like you’re setting me up for failure.

Eric Hornung 48:18
Jay, I always set you up for failure.

Jay Clouse 48:20
On my side of the aisle, I’m thinking about the Misguided Mikes of the world that are coming in, I think this idea of the foundation of a company or the foundation of a founder is super interesting. And I tried to get a more defined definition of what a good foundation looks like. But if I were to go to BLASTmedia as Upside, our foundation is incredible. We have great SEO, if you search upside on the App Store or the podcast app, were, if not the top one or the top one of two — thank you Kevin Hart and Bryan Cranston — and we just have a lot of, like, foundational layers. But then what I think is interesting about our show is a conscious decision we made early on to have founders who are underrepresented in all capacities. that’s geographic, but it’s also media based. I was going through, in preparation for this interview, our podfolio, and just doing quick google searches about them on podcasts or in blogs. And something like 30 to 40% of the companies we’ve had on this podcast, we are their only podcast or their only blog post that’s not on their own site. So it is definitely a problem that there is this lack of foundation, and I understand it because the founders are focused on building their own businesses, not on showing up elsewhere. All that being said, I had a conversation with a venture capitalist a couple weeks ago about this idea of the signal and the noise. And so often around tech ecosystem specifically outside of Silicon Valley, there’s these tech darlings. And these tech darlings are, if you search them on Google, every articles written about them. They’re in Inc, they’re in Forbes, they’re in this, they’re in that. But then when you peel back the layers of the onion, and you look at their actual traction numbers or their growth, it turns out, they’re just really, really good storytellers. And there are companies that are financially way more successful than them. So I think that PR can be the story that leads you to being able to have traction but can also be the story that just keeps your business alive if you’re a really good storyteller. So I guess all that to say, PR serves a really good function for really good founders. And I think it’s akin to the, if you have both, and you have a great business model, that’s the perfect world, but PR can hold up a business that is still trying to find itself as well.

Jay Clouse 50:52
Alright guys, we’d love to hear your thoughts on this episode. You can tweet at us @upsidefm or email us Hello@upside.FM and we’ll talk to you next week. That’s all for this week. Thanks for listening. We’d love to hear your thoughts on today’s guest, so shoot us an email at hello@upside.fm or find us on Twitter @upsidefm. We’ll be back here next week at the same time talking to another founder and our quest to find upside outside of Silicon Valley. If you or someone you know and make a good guest for our show, please email us or find us on Twitter and let us know. And if you love our show, please leave us a review on iTunes. That goes a long way in helping us spread the word and continue to help bring high quality guests to the show. Eric and I decided there were a couple things we wanted to share with you at the end of the podcast. And so here we go. Eric Hornung and Jay Clouse are the founding parties of the Upside podcast. At the time of this recording, we do not own equity or other financial interest in the companies which appear on this show. All opinions expressed by podcast participants are solely their own opinions and do not reflect the opinions of Duff & Phelps, LLC, and its affiliates, Unreal Collective, LLC, and its affiliates, or any entity which employ us. This podcast is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a basis for investment decisions. We have not considered your specific financial situation nor provided any investment advice on this show. Thanks for listening and we’ll talk to you next week.

Interview starts: 6:00
Debriefs starts: 44:11

Kim Jefferson is the Senior Vice President and Lydia Beechler is the Director of Accounts at BLASTmedia.

BLASTmedia is a nationally recognized PR agency that concentrates on B2B SaaS media relations. With 15 years in the industry, BLAST works with different staged companies and focuses on more than just news, often including thought leadership content into the media as well.

Kim Jefferson and Lydia Beechler, who both have a background in writing, discuss the deliberate process that make successful relations and the different factors that lead to good media. They also give some insight into the BLAST PR startup program specifically designed for seed and series A companies.

We discuss:

  • AD: Improved methods to sourcing talent and finding new colleagues (4:49)
  • Strategic direction and starting with a company at BLAST (8:08)
  • Conflict in media expectations (10:30)
  • PR startup program (11:32)
  • Gaining and losing clients (14:05)
  • Media mix strategy (18:17)
  • When to use PR? (22:34)
  • Podcasts as PR (25:33)
  • Timing and relationships in PR success (27:19)
  • Current trends in PR/media (36:15)
  • Bad press (38:01)
  • What makes a great PR client (39:14)

BLASTmedia was founded in 2005 and based in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Learn more about BLASTmedia: https://www.blastmedia.com/
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This episode is sponsored by Integrity Power Search, the #1 full stack high growth startup recruiting firm between the coasts. They partner with venture capitalists, private equity groups and CEOs to build amazing teams for the world’s most disrupting companies.

Learn more about or get in touch with Integrity Power Search: https://upside.fm/integrity