Here’s How PR Can Be A Startup’s Secret Weapon


As a startup, you may not be able to afford a full-time, dedicated PR team quite yet, so you opt for contractors, outsourced agencies, or part-time PR pros. There is some great ad-hoc talent out there that you can add into the startup mix, but just be sure that you start with careful planning first.

There are many ways to cut corners for a tighter startup budget, but starting with PR fat trimming shouldn’t be one of them. Without a great PR strategy and team, a business has a higher chance of failing because potential customers and investors won’t see what’s so great about your goods or services. The PR strategy is essential for targeting and understanding your audience, studying the competition, and crafting the most relevant campaign messaging.

The Best Time to Hire a PR Team is When A Business is About to Launch.

You only have a small window of opportunity to debut your company with a bang, so there needs to be a PR team to plot, plan, and create a strategy for optimal growth. While they may not be miracle workers, their talent, acumen, and experience can help you pull off a successful launch for your startup.

The Good and Bad of Hiring the PR Crew

Hiring your PR team can be intimidating, especially if any of your colleagues have shared some of their horror stories. However, bear in mind that not all PR teams are created equally, and these stories often have a subplot that explains why it ended badly. It could be that it was just a bad match, a mediocre PR company, and/or a business that just didn’t do their research. Your business won’t mesh with all PR firms and vice versa. This should be a mutually beneficial relationship, and it’ll take some time to separate the weeds from the top potential fits.

Your number one focus should be on making sure the PR team you hire “gets” your message, including what makes your goods or services so different, and the learning curve should be pretty short. Your mission, philosophy and vision should excite them. Once this happens, they can become a natural extension of your company, communicating just like you would. In addition, they will be lightening your load, taking care of everything from speeches at events to media relations. Since your PR team essentially becomes the face of your business, it’s vital that you choose wisely.

What You Need from Your PR Partners

How do you make sure your goals are aligned with a PR agency? You’re both on the same page about demographics and brand representation. A great PR company will already know which media outlets are the right fit for features. However, as a startup, these outlets may not be ready to hear your startup story. That’s why you need to find a professional who will target and goal set with you, not against you. In the long run, working with “small press” provides more consistent exposure for startups, so a PR company shouldn’t only go after the big dogs.

You also need that PR firm to be accessible at any time. Startups work around the clock, and they need a PR firm that works the same non-stop schedule. This doesn’t mean you should be able to call your PR rep at 3a.m., but, within reason, they should be readily accessible or, at the very least, reply in a timely manner.

Finally, it’s likely the head of the PR firm won’t be your direct point of contact even if they met with in the beginning. Instead, you will most likely have an account executive in charge of your account that you will need to mesh with so you can partner on campaigns and other publicity tactics. Meet with this point of contact a few times before signing on that dotted line so you can feel each other out to determine how – and if – you can collaborate effectively.

Diversify Your PR Strategies

Since you are more than likely to be on a limited budget, don’t assume the PR firm you hire has to do everything. You can also use other types of tools to gain traction for your startup as you ramp-up for launch. In this way, you can start building the buzz before the PR team comes on board to get more bang for your buck.

For example, there are online partners available that offer a way to get the benefits of advertising but only having to pay if it generates a lead or a sale. Clickbooth is a Cost Per Action (CPA) network that does just that, expanding your reach without risking your already stretched budget. As part of your PR strategy, you can develop or leverage campaigns with Clickbooth, which has the largest base of affiliates that deal in all types of traffic so you can gain more customers while spending less money. This tactic within your PR strategy can integrate well with whatever your PR firm develops and implements for you, furthering all publicity efforts.

Plan-Ahead PR, Not Panic PR

While it’s true that many businesses scramble to hire a PR professional when they’re in the midst of a crisis, this decision might only make matters worse because you don’t know each other, but you’ve been thrown together to handle some negative press. Usually, that approach only creates a new horror story to add to the collection. Instead, plan ahead and take the time to do the research, interview and assess, and try the PR firm out first so you can introduce your startup to the media and your target audience in a thoughtful way.

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Here’s How PR Can Be A Startup’s Secret Weapon

Let Me Tell You About IZEAfest And Why You Should Go This Year


Six years ago in 2009 I went to IZEAfest in Orlando. It was an incredible event which occurred during the height of the birth of social media. It was one of the best conferences I’ve ever been to.

Well, IZEA Founder Ted Murphy is bringing it back in late October at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort.

If you want to know what it was like in 2009, read this article and this article. Together, they sum up two days of conference awesomeness.

Yes, we were all younger and crazier back then but that just made everything more awesome.

This year, the speaker line up is incredible. If you go, you’ll hear from PayPal Head of Social Media Dave Peck, Discover Head of Brand Partnerships Jake Lestan, Kellogg’s Social Media Manager Justin Godley, The Economist Director of Content Strategy Heather Taylor, WOMMA President Suzanne Fanning, IAB Director of Industry Initiatives Susan Borst, So You Think You Can Dance Season 10 Winner Fik-Shun, Vine Celebrities Rajiv Dhall and Andrew Bazzi, MOMables Founder Laura Fuentes, SimplySadieJane Owner Sadie Jane and so many more.

Oh and let’s not forget headliner Extra TV Host Mario Lopez.

And just like the 2009 event, the speakers are just part of the fun. There will be an opening party at Disney’s Atlantic Dance Hall, a takeover of Disney’s Hollywood Studios where attendees will have free reign of the park and, if you like, to attend the Creator’s Choice Awards. There will be a closing party at the Swan & Dolphin Lake Terrace and on the last day, a chance to attend the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.

It was personally the most fun I’ve ever had at a conference as well as an incredible learning experience.

If you’re interested, check out the conference at

I wasn’t paid to write this but Adrants is a media sponsor and I’ve been offered a free pass so, technically, you could say I was/will be paid. But, honestly, it was a great event the first time I went and, no doubt, it will be great this time around!

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Let Me Tell You About IZEAfest And Why You Should Go This Year

Top 10 Online Invoicing Tools for Advertising Agencies


Invoicing has quickly become a major time-consuming task that seems to takes away from the work that you actually get paid for doing in the first place. Now, added to the regular invoicing duties is the tracking of these same clients for various campaigns and projects, tracking new clients to fulfill their needs, tracking the slow-to-pay, all the while working on your personal touch with clients (this begins to feel like it is growing distant and sometimes lags.)

It doesn’t have to be that way if you take advantage of the growing toolbox full of online invoicing tools designed to help your advertising agency stay focused on the core business. Here are the top 10 online invoicing tools to consider:

Due is a free online invoicing tool that offers many time tracking capabilities to account for all your time on each ad campaign. It also has customizable invoicing templates so you can brand the invoice to reinforce your advertising agency’s image in the mind of clients. These professional invoices provide a consistent way to deliver invoices straight to a client’s inbox while providing multi-choice arrangements for the client to pay as they wish, such as paying directly with a credit card or some other payment portal. Even if your clients are in other parts of the world, works effectively with over a hundred different currencies and tax systems.


This free invoicing system offers unlimited clients and invoicing capability. You can send customized estimates, invoices, reminders, and acknowledgements through the custom branding features. You can also add in discounts, taxes, and other costs like shipping. The invoices can be sent via email or as a downloadable PDF and include an option for accepting online payments. Other features and users can be added for small monthly or yearly subscription fees to help you when you are growing.

Invoice Machine

This online invoicing tool helps you pump out customized invoices in seconds with options for currency, taxes, languages, and notes. You will be able to see what has been paid and what is still outstanding. The tool is free for up to three invoices and estimates per month for one user. If you need to send more invoices, the next plan is $12 per month and allows for 30 invoices, 30 estimates, and two users. As you grow, you can opt for the $24 per month plan for 300 invoices, 300 estimates, and 10 users.


This free online invoicing tool has an easy-to-read dashboard that puts all the information about your clients right in front of you with charts and reports that cover what has been paid and what is outstanding. You can access this tool from anywhere through an iPhone, iPad, or Android device. There are no limitations on the account that would require fees. Although each invoice will say, “Powered by Invoiceable,” you can opt to have this removed by paying a one-time fee.

Simple Invoices

This free, open source, and Web-based invoicing tool that was created by and continues to be enhanced by a community of developers that understand the invoice process. Since it is a browser-based application, it can be used from anywhere that has access to the Internet. The online invoicing tool is packed with features that provide a way to customize your invoices to what represents your company as well as send the invoices as a PDF. There are no monthly fees or subscriptions required to use this convenient and professional invoicing tool.

Zoho Invoicing

This online invoicing tool offers a time tracker with timer, customizable invoices, automatic payment reminders and acknowledgements, and online payment gateways. It is part of a larger solution that covers all types of features, such as email integration, project management, sales and marketing and more, which can be added on to create a larger customized solution for your business. If you are just looking for the online invoicing, Zoho is free for up to five customers and one user. You can select the next plan at $7 per month for 25 customers and one user or the $15 per month option, which allows for up to 500 customers and three users as well as recurring invoices and multi currency support.


Squirrel away that time you will save by using this free online, cloud-based invoicing tool, which offers significantly more in terms of the project management functionality that is included. Not only can you track time and produce an unlimited number of branded estimates and invoices that can be sent as a PDF or in Word, RTF, CSV or PowerPoint, but you can also use this platform to collaborate on projects and work. The free plan allows for two users, two companies, one active board, and one guest. For $14 per month, you can have two users, 10 active boards, and unlimited customers and guests as well as more storage.

Fusion Invoice

This is a self-hosted invoicing system that requires you to only pay once to purchase it and have it installed on your server. From there, all updates are available at no cost. There are unlimited clients, users, features, and more. Everything can be customized; data can be imported; multiple currencies can be offered; and recurring invoices can be set. Clients can view and pay their invoices online with built-in Stripe, Mollie, and PayPal integrations.

Invoice Ocean

Dive into convenient online invoicing with this tool that is designed with a cloud-based, intuitive interface that is accessible anywhere and learns as you invoice to provide an enhanced service. It provides for four different user accounts with variable features. You can issue receipts as well as use multiple languages and currencies. It is free for three invoices per month with unlimited clients, and email invoices. For $9 per month, you can upgrade to unlimited invoices and clients.

Wave Invoicing

Known for its accounting and payroll software, Wave now offers a free cloud-based invoicing tool that allows you to create branded invoices from anywhere while accepting credit card payments. Other features include multiple templates, automated reminders, recurring invoicing, multiple currencies, and the option to email an invoice or send it as a PDF.

Final Thoughts

These ten invoicing tools are just the top of a very long list of online tools now available, with many more options out there that might fit your specific requirements. With so many choices for invoicing, there is no excuse not to update your agency’s invoicing process to simplify, advertise while invoicing, track all things trackable, and speed payments.

Let one of these systems do the work for you so you can focus on the creativity, ideas, knowledge, and services that define your ad agency.

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Top 10 Online Invoicing Tools for Advertising Agencies

Study: 98% of Real-Time Marketers Report Positive, Measurable ROI


Social media intelligence and marketing company Wayin conducted a study of 200 director level and higher marketing professionals who are currently practicing real-time marketing.

Real-time marketing has matured since Oreo dunked their cookie in the dark and has become an integral component of a brand’s marketing strategy. In fact, 98% of respondents report positive return on their real-time marketing efforts; 89% of respondents have fully tied their real-time marketing efforts to measurable business goals; 56% believe real-time marketing help build customer relationships; 59% plan to increase their real-time marketing budget in the next year.

But, 40% of real-time marketers do not take action around timely news and trends regularly and 60% execute social media content creation on their own social channels rather than, in addition, via other marketing channels indicating there is room for improvement.

Download the report to get an overview of the real-time marketing landscape, find out which strategies tactics and tools successful real-time marketers are employing, learn what percentage of real-time marketers’ budgets are being spent on the practice and how well-versed real-time marketers are measuring the impact of their efforts and how they are calculating ROI.

Download here.

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Study: 98% of Real-Time Marketers Report Positive, Measurable ROI

5 Ways to Improve Your Influencer Marketing


Influencer marketing is becoming a standard in brand marketing strategies as more brands are beginning to see it as a viable consumer acquisition channel with low costs and strong returns. Brands are also realizing how influencer marketing improves campaign reach by allowing marketers to target niche consumer groups with native ad content that resonates more deeply and drives quicker conversions.

However, with all of the fanfare around influencer marketing, many brands still struggle to measure return and qualify the results in order to justify the ad spend. This will change as the industry building around influencer marketing is becoming more tech driven.

I look at the phenomenon of influencer marketing as a three-wave evolution that began with the birth of the social media influencer. This first wave was sparked by consumers, who first- and perhaps coincidentally- demonstrated the viability of native advertising on social media by sharing new products, trends and brands with their friends and fans, thus introducing these brands to new audiences.

The second wave was marked by a grand awakening where brands realized this marketing potential and began flooding to social media with intent to leverage new found influencers and engage and convert new consumers.

Now, with influencer marketing on the rise and all hands (i.e. brands, consumers and influencers) on deck, we’re entering into the third wave where brands, consumers and influencers are all looking for more measurable return on their investment into social media. Brands want more consumer conversions and measurable results, consumers want more deals in return for giving brands attention and influencers want more money and opportunities for extending their networks.

In this next wave, automated technology and intelligence will play a bigger role than ever, supercharging influencer marketing strategies to meet this growing demand for results.

Here are a few benefits of integrating more smart technology in influencer marketing:

Identifying Consumer Behaviors

Understanding consumer behaviors is one of the main objectives of analyzing advertising. Where traditional advertising was limited in identifying consumer behaviors, today’s tech platforms are better equipped to make sense of data to address consumer concerns and target them with relevant advertising. In fact, companies that use marketing automation are three times more likely than companies without automation to track and attribute their content-marketing efforts to multiple touchpoints.

Social media tech platforms can identify what photos generate the most likes or comments, what time of day is best to post and which influencers are driving the most engagement. In essence, what would take months of research and analysis at the hands of an internal marketing team can be outsourced to a single technology platform almost instantaneously.

Matchmaking Brands with Influencers

When venturing into the world of influencer marketing, a key concern for brands is understanding which influencers to partner with and what kind of campaigns work best. Facilitating this process manually can be very labor-intensive as some influencers are difficult to reach through the flood of inbound inquiries- that is once you’ve sifted through the tons of influencers accessible on social media.

Digitizing this process helps both influencers and brands identify who to work with on what campaign, making it easier to vet opportunities to find the best fit. In fact, roughly 70 percent of influencers recommend working with a network. Key reasons are that results can be broken down according to followers, reach, geographic location, vertical, price and more, enabling brands and influencers to clearly understand the budget, skillset and expectations before entering into an agreement.

Decreasing Workload

Managing influencer marketing campaigns can also drain resources and be very time-consuming. Everything from crafting the campaign to organizing content into distribution channels to evaluating performance requires a lot time and effort. We now have the technological means to automate every step of this process, thus decreasing the workload of campaign managers and freeing them up for more opportunities.

A 2015 study analyzing the benefits of automated marketing platforms revealed that automating the marketing process reduced human error and took repetitive tasks out of marketers hands, allowing them to focus on new and more exciting projects. They were able to direct their attention to monitoring the overall results in line with campaign initiatives versus facilitating and managing each task.

As technology improves and results become more consistent and transparent, brands will become more comfortable with the idea of relinquishing these heavy duty tasks to a programmatic system.

Producing Monetary Returns

There are a lot of ways to measure ROI, but arguably the most important is tracking revenue. Brands and influencers are in the influencer marketing business for the same reasons anyone is in the ad business- to make money, regardless of whether or not that is the key motivation or the end game. Technology platforms using intelligence to automate influencer marketing increase monetary ROI for marketers as the manual workload is decreased.

A study analyzing lead generation of general marketing effectiveness revealed that 78 percent of successful marketers credited automation systems as most responsible for improving revenue. Another revealed that companies using some sort of marketing automation see 53 percent higher conversion rates than non-users, and an annualized revenue growth rate of 3.1 percent higher than non-users.

Ideally, more advanced programmatic technology would be able to quickly identify what each consumer responds to, select the most relevant influencer and type of content and then immediately push that content out to the appropriate channels to maximize return. I believe we’re on the cusp of this.

Finding New Deals

Finally, it’s all about the new deal. According to a marketing automation trend report, the #1 benefit of marketing automation among B2B marketers, is generating more and better leads. However, brokering deals the traditional way is cumbersome. It requires extensive research, legal expertise to facilitate contract negotiations as well as administrative and support teams just to get the ball rolling. In an industry where things are moving at light speed, there’s little time to waste structuring the next opportunity.

It’s not that our current string of tech platforms aren’t equipped to handle every phase of marketing, but rather that marketing teams aren’t quite ready to put such responsibilities in the hands of automated systems. Nevertheless, we’re certainly moving to a space where as the technology becomes more efficient, reliable, transparent and continues to produce desired results, we’ll rely more on automated technology to do the heavy duty work of much of our in-house operations.

We’ve outlined the benefits, have done the research and have current working examples of how a future with automated marketing will play out. All that’s left to do is support and trust the technology we’re building and keep track of its performance.

This guest article was written by Francis Trapp, CEO of Berlin-bred influencer network Brandnew IO, an influencer marketplace which connects influencers with brands like Coca-Cola, ESpirit, L’Oreal, Nissan, Ford, Asos, Guess and others.

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5 Ways to Improve Your Influencer Marketing