🗞 Using PR for start-up success
Interview with storyteller Gregor Fauma - including the 5-sentence model, tips on pitches and successful PR
Hello 👋 My name is Florian Schleicher and this is the FutureStrategies newsletter from FutureS. I'm glad you're reading along 💚 If you want to learn strategic marketing, my Simple & Sustainable Marketing Academy is just right for you.
🤫 I need to confess something to you.
Every day I read, hear and see so much information, have so many conversations that it is often difficult to remember good thoughts for a long time.
But some things I don't forget at all.
They are stuck in my head and I'm happy to always have them with me.
That's how it was for me, for example, with the 5-set model from Gregor Fauma.
I have come to know and appreciate Gregor since he advised us on Too Good To Go as our interview- and media-relations-trainer. So there is a large part of him and his approaches in the success story of the impact start-up.
Then I thought to myself, "Why should I only benefit from his valuable inputs?"
That's why I interviewed him.
💬 What is this going to be about?
In our interview, Gregor goes into
why PR can be an ideal and inexpensive tool, especially for start-ups,
how the ingenious concept of the 5-sentence helps to prepare stories correctly for media,
how we can build relationships with media and journalists,
what matters in the first 20 seconds of a pitch and presentation
and how really successful storytelling works.
Then let’s go:
🎙 The interview
Most start-ups focus on digital communication - but we both have had a lot of good experiences with classic PR. In your opinion, what potential does press work have for young organisations?
If young organizations can also reach their stakeholders via the classic, old media, it would be grossly negligent not to try this as well. Daily newspapers and weekly journals have a wide reach and carry a different weight in reporting than social media. The decisive factor is whether the target group uses these media or not.
If so, then I highly recommend getting to know the main specialist journalists, addressing them and providing them with real stories in a well dosed manner and only occasionally. And even if those media representatives do not accommodate the story in their medium, they are still important multipliers within an opinion-forming bubble. They represent important nodes in any information network, including social media. I would only recommend radio as a medium to position yourself as a specialist – not for a company.
And anyone who makes it onto linear television has a very broad target group in front of them, who are wealthier because they are older. And they too talk to their children, nieces and nephews about what's new on the market, trends and developments. Not entirely uninteresting. And this form of classic press work only costs time. You don't need to spend any money to be prominently published. The ability to do this is to think like an editor, like a journalist, and to prepare the stories accordingly. From then on you are only in competition with other stories for the area.
What makes good press work and press releases?
Good press work means making journalists part of your own network. Journalists do not want to feel patronized, paid or harassed. They would like to use your plays to write their own stories – and they need informants to do so.
You are then also seen as such and should act accordingly: maximum concise information, prepared in such a way that the media representatives do not have to do any unnecessarily complex work if they have to translate the texts/contents into those of their readers and viewers. It is about abstracting and simplifying the information.
The 5-sentence technique can be helpful for this:
Part 1 is a statement, a thesis. Here you create facts with a main clause.
Parts 2, 3 and 4 follow: Arguments, aspects or examples are given here that support the thesis. Also broken down in short sentences and without excess.
Part 5 is the conclusion, in the business case probably the customer benefit to which thesis and arguments ultimately lead.
A made up example:
"(1) With the app better-not-buy you prevent unnecessary consumption. (2) This app scans your goods on the shelf, (3) calculates a carbon footprint and shows (4) that you may have already used up your daily carbon budget. (5) That way, better-not-buy makes a significant contribution to climate protection.”
Such concisely formulated stories increase the likelihood of being heard by journalists.
I would definitely avoid classic press releases, sorry, dear APA, and instead seek direct contact. Saves money, increases the likelihood of being noticed. That's why I'm saving here with tips on how to write a press release correctly. Just google...
Okay, so how can I use communication to build a successful, professional relationship then?
Do ut des: This is Latin and means "I give that you give."
That's how business works. It's not about maximizing quick profits, but about growing together - together, which is successful in the long term. In terms of evolutionary biology, reciprocal altruism has prevailed and is considered an EES, an evolutionary stable strategy.
It was the mathematician Anatol Rapoport, who, with his game-theoretic approach, developed an algorithm that has prevailed against all other algorithms in interscientific competitions: Tit-4-tat.
How does Tit-4-tat work?
Start with an offer of cooperation as part of an interaction with another player, and from there you mirror their moves. If the other player responds to your cooperation offer with cheating, you respond with cheating as well. If the cooperation move comes from the other side, you cooperate immediately. This immediately punishes cheating, but does not show vindictive behavior.
There is no winner or loser in this game of never-ending interaction. Both achieve a maximum of points – real growth. Only when the end of the interaction is foreseeable can you use fraud strategies to make a final, quick profit. This is where the players' willingness to cooperate usually ends.
This happens to employees just before the end of their contract when their colleagues only offer very tired assistance. Home builders are familiar with this when a supplier files for bankruptcy shortly after paying a large bill – before delivering. And vice versa, the first offer of cooperation is quite common: the first hour of advice is free in many professions and an invitation to cooperate as the next move. Say making a deal.
The request for a down payment also corresponds to the request for "Please start with an offer of cooperation", to which you can then cooperate back yourself. Safety plays the essential role here. The certainty that the other side wants to cooperate.
What does that mean for day-to-day business? Don't ask what you get, but offer your willingness to cooperate as the first move. From then on the game is open. Online funnels work exactly like this, btw.
On a different but related topic, pitches are important in most organisations to land projects or secure support. What is important to make these pitches successful?
I see two aspects as crucial in advance: attention and credibility. The product or service should attract attention because of its uniqueness. This usually works via the final purpose that this innovation has.
Here most people think past the final purpose and bore with any intermediate use. What will the product make better, simpler, cheaper in this world? At the end of the day, who benefits specifically from this innovation? How does your innovation change my life? This is where most of them fail when working out this content.
In terms of credibility, I experience unparalleled drama. The presenters already lie to their target group when they greet them by saying some phrase that appeals to emotions, but where there are no emotions behind it: "Welcome, I'm very happy that ..." It makes you cry when you sees the little things that lead to failure.
Be real! Tell me how you are! Out with it! We are all, really all, reasonable.
We are the offer when we present a product - and people will only believe us if we only communicate honestly and openly. We humans have an incredibly fine sense of whether someone is sincere or just putting up a facade. That was and is an evolutionary necessity. Without that honest/dishonest sense, we would have exterminated each other long ago.
So: Just don't pretend, be naked and vulnerable, flawed and modest - and be competent in the matter. We don't need a fancy suit to sell an app. We don't need fancy language to get investors on board. We have to refrain from any bauble that is only a prettification - and thus suggests to the other person that something needs to be prettied up. This backfires.
Once you have gained the attention and credibility - and I'm talking about the first 20 seconds of a presentation - then you can start to control your impact and present your innovations with a basic dialogical attitude. Also proud and full of joy.
In your opinion, what is the future of communication? Do you think a lot will change due to digitalisation and new virtual realities?
What is new today is already old tomorrow. It is a self-satisfied misconception to assume that innovations have not constantly determined communication in the last few centuries - and that only the current decades are the game changers. New developments literally explode in one direction.
Here there are mostly epigones who think they are at the forefront of this development and see their purpose in life in selling this development as a new future. Others look at it calmly, knowing that there will always be a countertrend that will not change direction, but will change intensity.
Or, as the saying goes: the soup is not eaten that hot. Short, barrier-free technologies (like ChatGPT) will have to be legally captured quickly - as has already happened for genetic engineering and partly also for deep learning-based AIs. Transparent, democratic sets of rules are absolutely necessary to make new tools usable without hesitation. That just takes time.
A lot will change, yes, but this is nothing new, it determines the nature of homo sapiens.
3️⃣ Last Questions
Finally, here is my short question-and-answer session with Gregor:
Which book have you just read and would you like to recommend it?
Sie nannten sich Der Wiener Kreis - Exaktes Denken am Rand des Untergangs, from Karl Siegmund
I love the history of science, especially the interfaces between philosophy and the natural sciences. This work by the world-famous biomathematician reviews the time from Boltzmann and Mach to Schlick and Wittgenstein, deals with all great minds from these fields (Gödel, Popper) and presents the revolutionary way of thinking of the logical positivists and their circle, the Vienna Circle.
Which brand do you think is doing successful marketing right now?
SONY has very cleverly positioned its digital cameras, especially the Alpha series, and FE lenses over all bloggers. The product is good, but the marketing is even better.
The future of storytelling is …
their gentle, thoughtful use.
Too little and too much are fools' goals. Yes to storytelling, where it has its place. No to abundant use on every occasion. But in principle it works better than all arguments. We humans depend on storytelling, because the compulsion to exchange stories was at the beginning of the development of our intelligence and language (read Robin Dunbar if you want to know more). You also have to be able to do it: different speech melody, different posture, etc. …
〜 end of the interview 〜
👀 At a glance
The 5-sentence model has changed and facilitated my way of communicating with media.
I also find Gregor's thoughts on the omnipresence and transience of trends and developments beautiful, relaxing, and appropriate.
And yes - from my point of view, authenticity is the key to any successful communication. It's no use pretending.
Otherwise, the feelings won't get through, and neither will our messages.
Thanks for reading along!
Univ.-Lekt. Mag. Gregor Fauma studied biology in Vienna and Rome and specialized in human behavior. With this knowledge, he works as a presentation, speech and media trainer and holds keynotes on the topic of monkey behavior in the workplace. As Head of Marketing & Sales at a training agency, he had a certain proximity to the topics 😉
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PS: You can also read this posting in German.