March 29, 2023

Episode 206: The PR Power Play - How Twitter and Elon Musk Took Over the World with Free Exposure

Episode 206: The PR Power Play - How Twitter and Elon Musk Took Over the World with Free Exposure

You'll discover the secrets behind the massive global exposure and recognition achieved by companies like Twitter and individuals like Elon Musk. Our guests are two PR experts, Bob and DeAnna. In this episode, we take a deep dive into the...

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You'll discover the secrets behind the massive global exposure and recognition achieved by companies like Twitter and individuals like Elon Musk. Our guests are two PR experts, Bob and DeAnna. In this episode, we take a deep dive into the strategies and tactics used by these industry heavyweights to captivate the world with their brands. From understanding the importance of PR in building a strong brand image to mastering the latest techniques, you'll gain valuable insights and inspiration that you can apply to your own PR efforts. Whether you're a business owner, marketer, or just someone interested in the world of PR, you won't want to miss "The PR Power Play: How Twitter and Elon Musk Took Over the World with Free Exposure."

Links and Resources:

If you are interested to read the book, Lean Customer Development: Building Products Your Customers Will Buy by Cindy Alvarez, it's available on Amazon https://amzn.to/40qfGzC

I'm reading this amazing book named Lean Customer, and one of the common problems that we see over and over and over again is that most Nors Start a business... based on their idea, and they're not necessarily solving a problem that the public actually has. There's a completely different mindset that you want to employ when you're thinking about starting a company.

There's a really valuable story in the book that I wanted to just outline for you really, really quickly, and that story is about a business that sells milkshakes. So right away when you're thinking about milkshake sales, you're probably thinking about textures and flavor. Maybe ingredients. And that's exactly what this company did.

They asked their customers to describe their ideal milkshake. Those recipes and ideas were gathered, and they started making those exact recipes that their customers said they wanted. And guess what? Sales didn't budge at all. They then discovered that 40% of their milkshake sales happen first thing in the morning.

Remember, you want to solve a problem with your business. So rather than asking customers to describe their ideal milkshake, they ask customers what job they hired the milkshake to do. That question is important because it shifts the customer's focus from the product itself to why they actually purchased the milkshake in the first.

So after reframing that perspective, the customers would tell stories about having a boring hour-long commute, how they weren't yet hungry yet to order food, but they wanted something that could hold them over until noon. Most of them were in work clothes, so they didn't want to worry about making a mess, and they only had one hand to be able to use to eat whatever it was that they wanted to.

So think about the difference between each of those goals. Originally, our goal was to sell more milkshakes, and there are only so many ways that you can do that. But when you approach the problem from a problem-solving perspective, just think of how many more opportunities you're able to reduce the pain of your customers who are hungry, bored, one-handed people.

Who doesn't want to make a mess of their clothes, you can branch out into all kinds of other opportunities like smoothies or any food that can fit in a cup holder and be eaten with one hand.

On Invest in Sqft, we help business owners invest passively in multi-family real estate. My name is Matt Shields and my mission is to help all of you entrepreneurs out there grow and protect your business the way that the wealthy do. Today we're gonna be talking about PR and the impact that it can have on your business.

Obviously, companies like Twitter and people like Elon Musk use PR to generate massive, massive global exposure and establish themselves as household names. If you're trying to build a powerful business, obviously PR plays an important role in building a strong brand image and capturing the world's a.

Today we have the founders of a trailblazing PR firm from Chicago named Bayer Icebox. Together, Bob and Deanna's clients have been featured in some of the largest publications in the world, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Lifewire, and Crunchbase, just to name a. They've helped international brands grow and establish their US presence.

They've catapulted startups to new heights and even reinvigorated a tired old nationwide company to become a thought leader in their industry. If I asked you what you thought would be better working with a smaller PR firm or a huge PR firm, what would be your answer? You're going to learn that and so much more on today's episode of Invest in Square Feet.

I feel like a lot of people may not necessarily. Know what the difference is between a PR firm and a marketing firm. Um, can, can you elaborate on what the differences are there? 

Including sometimes clients, right?? Yeah. Yeah, exactly. I'm sure they're like listening.

I don't wanna No, it, it's, it's okay. It, the way I describe it is like, marketing is sort of a broad category. Uh, PR is sort of, uh, is, uh, a function of marketing, although, I'm gonna contradict myself. PR can also sort of be the quarterback that drives everything too. So the way that I look at public relations is, and the way we look at it, is, uh, really anything that you're doing that's gonna be public-facing, whether it's the thing people think about, or news releases or articles in, in publications or video interviews.

Uh, you know, podcast appearances. That's all public relations. But also a lot of what we do for our clients is a strategy around how they're gonna message important things both internally and externally. So, uh, that, that's something that, that the bigger an organization gets, the more, you know, important it is to have that message when you've got, you know, we've gotten applied, uh, clients that have an employee base of a thousand plus or several thousand employees.

They need to do PR internally. Like they need to figure out how we're gonna communicate this change to our employees. Um, you. We're fortunate that our clients aren't doing this, but as we look ahead to 2023 of people thinking about potential hiring freezes or layoffs, how do you communicate that effectively?

Because what you're saying internally can become external very quickly. We saw with that C E o, I think it was from better, where like he had like the zoom mass firing. I can't remember if it was better or not, but that became a viral story where like, wow, he really handled that poorly. 

It's interesting and I'm actually glad that you brought that up. I'm, I'm curious what your perspective is, right? So obviously Elon just took over Twitter, and when he took over the same thing. You, you saw these mass, uh, layoffs and, and you know, quite frankly, you know, kind of crass way of laying people off, like, you know, here's a picture, you know, in your email, you're fired.

Right? That's like how some people were reporting. And, um, you know, when you, when you think about it, right? You know, from a delivery stand. The wrong way to do it, right? Yeah. But from. Uh, from a pr, from a, from a, you know, making a wave and making a push out into the market, like that's the stuff that people are gonna be talking about.

And, you know, again, Elon knows that everybody has a phone or has access to social and all of that, so the more that he can get people talking Yeah. The, you know, the more he's gonna be out there. And, and I, I, I guess I'm, I'm curious what your perspective is on that and, and, You know, is, is there a, I know there's a thing, obviously, we're going through the whole FTX thing.

There's a certainly mm-hmm.  a, a negative, um, you know, bit of news or, or, uh, a negative way of doing things. But at the same time, you know, is there, like, again, that that sort of, there is nothing as negative publicity or something like that, right? Does that, does that make sense? Yeah, no, I think it's spot on.

Outside looking at it, it is an interesting case study in like, you know, different types of communication.

And, and the reality is we don't know the internal numbers, but from what Elon is saying, people are using it more than ever because it's out there. Like, Hmm, i, I, you know, people wanna see what he's gonna do next. , it's obviously impacting people's lives and you know, unfortunately, people are out of jobs.

But you're right from a pr, like a, like a, a media perspective, he is getting a ton of press for Twitter way more than we, than we got, than, than they would've gotten, like, you know, over the last 12 to 18 months. So, um, as a PR pro, I err on the side of, you know, I think it, it, you know, we're representing clients, so I think.

It's almost like a lawyer where it's like, we can be really aggressive or we can sort of be really, really, um, conservative in our approach to arguing this case. We have the tools and the toolkits, like, how aggressive do you want to get, you know? Mm-hmm. , and I think that's the key is like, I'll have that conversation with clients.

If we wanna be edgier, we might get more pr. The trade-off is we might get some Article headlines that we don't love, but we're getting pr, you know? And, I think that that's a conversation, just a double edge sword. Yeah. We had that conversation earlier though, because, um, we can get aggressive.

I mean, we, you know, we're, we're following those types of stories and trends, but. Um, it's really the client's comfort level that you've gotta be okay with. And I, again, I keep going back to like a lawyer where what's your comfort level? How aggressive do you wanna get when we argue this, you know?  I think the reality is like you.

There's no PR professional that knows exactly how the public is going to respond to something. Mm-hmm.  and in an era of social media, everything's so heightened that you are kind of rolling the dice when you go public with the messaging. But again, the trade-off is nobody knows who you are. Right. So I always say like, either, you know, if you're not out there in the public space, then, then you're, yeah, we have, we have friends who are like, I'm not even on Twitter and me.

Reading and, and, and I'm thinking about getting an account now just to be in the note. Right.

Um, and so to, to see that there are people who, a, haven't been using it. And now this is the only reason why you're interested in it. 

Gotta be some endgame in his head, you know? We don't really know it yet, but there's some sort of end 

I feel like PR is a tool that has helped build amazing wealth for countless companies over the years, but at the same time, it's a tool that is relatively misunderstood, I feel, by a lot of company owners. What would you say is one of the biggest uh, I guess misconceptions? A lot of people may not necessarily understand about pr.

 yeah, I think the wrong way of looking at PR is that you're gonna have a definitive.

ROI on this article or this news release, this piece, or this mention. And unfortunately, there are people out there that are looking for that and I always kind of tell them like, if it's not possible, right? Like it's, you're creating a broader awareness, broader buzz. You know, the things that you know, I think you should be looking for in an agency is like, do they have experience in your industry?

Um, do they have experience telling stories? About companies like yours. Um, even if they don't have industry experience, I think they have to have some sort of understanding of how to create a campaign for like, we do a lot of stuff in manufacturing and supply chain logistics. We've had clients in that space that helps us.

But even if we don't have a client in direct space, I think it's like, you know, we try to tell prospects, like, you know, in our experience it is something that can be recreated. So, uh, we. We find that like, um, understanding a client's voice, working with them to identify that, and then figuring out the channel.

So it might be news releases if we have something that's relevant. One thing I wouldn't say is like, uh, and I'm seeing brands do less of this, is like, don't put on a news release every month because you feel like you have to, like, if they're not news, don't, don't. Otherwise, it just feels like, you know, a boy who cried wolf and there's not really anything there.

Um, I think one of the things that. Must be doing is, especially like we, we primarily work in b2b, but like having a LinkedIn voice, not just for the corporation, but for other thought leaders in, in the, in the, uh, brand. Um, doing contributed articles in publications is super valuable. Doing podcasts like this, I think is super important.

You're creating content you can share on LinkedIn in emails that you can share in, you know, with prospects. The, the, the, what you wanna get out of an agency is the momentum to create the kind of content across different channels that you can, uh, package and, and amplify your voice. Mm-hmm. And it's the energy that agencies give.

So we don't, you know, we, we have some clients worked with for six years. We have some clients, we do a, a year-long campaign, six months. But it's that energy that you get for a third party whose sole focus is getting you awareness, whatever channels make the most sense for you. Yeah. 

 I, I do believe that the creative side of what a PR agency can do. Mm-hmm.  for you is important too. I mean, you can hire someone to write a blog for mm-hmm. , your LinkedIn, your website, um, you know, but, but what are you really doing? With this information that can be, you know, beyond like, it, it has to be, you know, uh, what's the word I'm looking for?

Like, not e evergreen. It, it, it has to be long lasting. Yeah. E ever e evergreen content. You're right, Dee. I mean, I think the, the, it's not necessarily we do tasks for our clients, but it's really more, um, The consulting part that I think clients find the most value in mm-hmm.  is like, what have we done?

What's it worked over the years? Uh, what do we have, what kind of crazy ideas do we have? Um, you know, cuz when you're, our, most of our clients are marketing directors, chief marketing officers, communications directors. They're busy day-to-day with the minutiae of being internal at a company, or if they're CEOs or founders, they're even more busy, right?

Yeah. Mm-hmm. So I think., you're not hiring somebody to take things off your plate. You're hiring an agency to, try to push you and be, be bolder and bigger. Yeah. Yeah. 

What are some of the things that people, I guess, should be bringing to the table if they're, if they're looking for a PR firm?

You know, is there, are there materials or things that you know, they can bring or, or that they should have, you know, when they're looking to hire a PR firm to be able to, you know, again, communicate their voice, their message, there, you know, whatever it might be. Um, like what are some of those assets, I guess, that they can bring to the table, to help you guys do your jobs better?

Mm-hmm. , if that makes sense. 

Well, we look at ps, it's a two-way street. Mm-hmm.  at the end of the. Um, and what I mean by that is there has to be some back-and-forth communication. So what clients can bring to the table, whether it's, you know, the C M O or communications director, is time to actually give us the information that we need.

Mm-hmm. , we can run with it, but a lot of times reporters. They, want to hear a voice. They, they, they just, they, you know, email interviews, those are definitely happening. Um, but sometimes they, they, they want to hear it from straight, from your mouth. And so to be able to dedicate that sort of time where even if you just give us a recording where we can have your information, um, directly.

You about your brand and what your vision is and what your goals are, and what you do, who you serve. All of those kinds of questions are really important. So, I think time is probably the most important thing. If you don't have the time to actually apply yourself or engage with your agency. Um, good luck.

Yeah. Yeah. You're not gonna get that my time is important, even before that. Yeah. So making sure you've got dedicated. But then, the biggest thing is like giving us all the materials we need, which would include, like, we have a client that gave us access to their intranet right away. And so we can look through case studies and comb through sales materials and training and everything.

Are we using all that stuff? No. Like, we're not sharing that with media, but we, we, we are doing a crash course and who they are, what they do. So from there then we can have interesting ideas because we already know the foundation of who they are and what they're trying to accomplish. Um, sometimes, especially with clients who've never worked with an agency, it's like they feel like if they tell us something, we're gonna like go to a journalist right away and share all their secrets, you know?

Mm-hmm. ,  and I'm like, just the opposite. We wanna know all this stuff. Um, you know, we're your counsel, like tell us everything. And. We will, will use our discretion, and work with you to figure out what we wanna share. But yeah, the more we know the better. And so, that also includes time putting those things together.

Mm-hmm.  and the clients that don't work out. And we've had this over the years where it's like, you know, can you guys just, um, Just draft something? Well, we can, but if we draft everything, it's gonna sound like a PR agency wrote it. You know, like we, we need to Yeah. Need to sound like a, there there's a human element, you know, the public relations part.

Yeah. Of what we do. Um, I'll also throw in there that, that sometimes going through the information and, you know, you're digging, you're researching, you're gathering it all. You might even discover pain points. Mm-hmm.  that. Organizations didn't know they had mm-hmm. , you know, where your material actually isn't getting the message across because of what you're saying to me right here mm-hmm.

is different than what you're putting on LinkedIn. Yeah. Interesting. And so going through that information, and, and again, the, the, the time to talk through these things, you can, you can actually learn a lot about what clients are missing out on. And you say that one word or you know, you evoke that one emotion, and all of a sudden people.

What I found is cross departments, like bigger companies, well, we say it this way, we say it that way. There's like no synergy or, you know, um, an across messaging. And so to Deanna's point, that might not seem like a big deal, but if it's like playing a game of telephone, if it's too, you know mm-hmm.

dispersed across and, not accurate like it's, you know If you have a challenge internally, or externally, your message is probably not getting conveyed in the right way either. 

Yeah. Yeah. That's really interesting. I never really even considered, you know, how, how, how powerful that can be to just get everyone, you know, sort of aligned and in that, uh, and, and all speaking, you know, that, that same direction.

So looking at some of your past clients and past relationships that you've helped grow, does anything come to mind when we talk about challenges or things that people or companies were trying to overcome, whether that might have been a miscommunication or P problems, either internally or externally? I'm trying to hone in and get people to think of it.

What types of problems have been solved using PR that maybe they might not have necessarily thought of before in the past?

I think one company comes to mind. Um, we worked with them, you know, we, we, we remained close to there, their former president, but it was a, um, it was a big franchise. There was an acquisition. They basically were bought out a year and a half ago. Um, had been a 35-year franchise business, you know, but when they came to us, uh, one of my first sort of full-time clients in 2017, and, um, really what she said is we had, we had done some pr.

Over the years, but really the last 10 years have done kind of nothing. So I thought it was an interesting challenge because there was like, everything was kind of like stale, what was out there. They needed a refresh and they chose to work with me because like, you know, she's like, we're gonna get the attention from a small firm that we wouldn't get at a bigger firm.

So we, for them, our challenge was to get, you know, immediate exposure for her as a thought. Um, and to also continue to generate buzz for these new franchises they were selling. Um, ultimately, you know, it not to say like, you know, p uh, uh, you know, this, it was because of our campaign solely, but like over a three year period, like with a lot of buzz and energy, um, you know, they got the attraction of from a, a large in investor and we're acquired, right?


And so that's the kinda example of like, you know, getting the word out. When, when you're a brand looking to be acquired, let's say, um, you know, obviously those companies are doing their due diligence, checking you, your financials, but there's also like an emotional element. Like if this brand is out there in the public sphere, I'm seeing articles about them.

I'm seeing 'em in the New York Times, the Washington Post. We're hearing those. It's like that can help when you're packaging your brand to something that really has value beyond just, the p and l sheets. Yeah. So, yeah. 

I would say, you know, over the last probably year and a half, we've seen quite a few of our clients, um, go through acquisitions, which is really interesting.

Um, you know, for, for me, someone who's, and it's bittersweet cuz sometimes, well, and sometimes the, you know, it's, they get fired and they're like, oh, this out. But, you know, we, we still feel like, again, building up on these stories and. Building up, the, person. People trust people. Mm-hmm.  people buy from people.

Mm-hmm... And so when, when you can be not just a thought leader, I mean, that's a lot of what we do, but it's almost like, I don't know, I, I think of like your insurance guy. Okay. We know him on a first-name basis. We, I can picture what he looks like. Um, because there's, there's a person you're not, Going with whoever is the top one.

Like you, you connect with the person. And so yeah, I think what we do a lot of, a lot of calls and a lot of conversations with our clients, um, it pays off when the person comes through. Mm-hmm.  and all of this messaging mm-hmm. , um, we can, you know, Bob's a, a great writer. I sit next to him sometimes and I'm like, you just put that out in like two seconds.

Like, how did, how'd you do it? Writing is one thing, but you can't develop a whole personality. Like you, you have to build that up over time. Mm-hmm. And so I think the value of what we do and what we've seen with many of our clients is that that personality comes out and that's where people are finding the strongest connection.

Mm-hmm.  and, and that as you're defining it, you know, personality. It could also be, you know, a combination of everything, you know, for a company. So that company creates, you know, is, is creating that personality, if you will, that feeling, you know, you can kind of know or expect what you're going to feel and get when you interact with that company.

Would, would you agree with that? 

Yeah, I mean, the biggest compliment we get is like we've, uh, we've got a couple of clients where like our team member. They, they'll just be like, you know, they'll forward something over and like, uh, you know, our agency can write something, right? So they realize that we've understood their personality, their identity, and sometimes we have to be like, is this really in scope

You know, but, um, but yeah, I think the point is like the, the, the company has a personality and a brand. The best one that I see out there, one of the better ones is like, on Twitter, going back to Twitter is like, um, this is like an iconic example, but like Wendy's Twitter brand is just great, right? It's a, it's a personality.

It's funny, it's edgy.  and I think a lot of brands are trying to try to like recreate Wendy's on Twitter. Just you can't really, you know, yeah. Can't do that. You gotta have your own personality. But I think that you're spot on. Um, you know, brands have. Identities too. And personalities, man. Yeah, 

At what stage should someone start thinking about reaching out to a PR firm again, like, you know, when's too early? When, you know, when, obviously, you know, you, you said that someone hadn't really, Done any PR in the last 10 years. , but, but when is, when is the right time, I guess, to be able to reach out?

Like, and again, you even mentioned like, don't feel like you have to put out news, you know, every day. Like there any examples of like, these types of things that you should be going through that you should be experiencing or trying to communicate? Um, and, you know, those would be the right types of things to do a press release or, you know, hire a PR firm to be able to communicate those types of.

Yeah, the first thing that comes to mind is probably cuz we're working with a handful of brands in the space, but like when you've got private equity money and you're looking to grow quickly and maybe you're looking to acquire brands, it's great to have a PR agency because you're, you know, you're gonna have some news that's just like hard-hitting news that's, that's coming up.

Um, that's a great example. Mm-hmm. , I think also, you know, sort of on the flip side, if you're like a startup, Looking for more VC money, or maybe you're in sort of series B and you're looking to expand another great reason to, to get PR awareness. Um, but really I'd say in terms of the stage like you gotta have a product to market, I think.

Yeah. The times when it doesn't work is, and over the years we've taken clients like this and we kind of realized, you know, trial and error, right? It's like If you don't have a product ready for the marketplace, but there's only so much we can share with media, right? Mm-hmm. , there's like not a story there.

Mm-hmm. , you know, you can only say it's coming only so many times. Yeah. So, and I think as media wants to see what kind of customer base you have, what kind of revenue you have, what kind of, you know, how many employees do you have? So I think like, I think there's a bit of excitement with, you know, brains that are just starting mm-hmm.

and they think PR is gonna really get us there. And, you know, the, the missing link in that situation is a reporter's gonna say, Hey, can I test the product? Yeah. Mm-hmm. , can I see your website? Um, and if it's not ready, they're moving on to the next story. Yeah. Um, and then there's, or giving a bad review.

Right. Bad review. 

Um, but that's probably another reason why you might want a PR agency. Um, you know, if, if there is something negative out there, um, yeah. You know, whether you made a mistake in saying something or, you know, there's the situation last year of the, the C E O who apparently made her staff work at the factory, um, during the hurricane.

Oh yeah. And you know, that was a situation. , I immediately was like, there's gotta be more to this story. You know, I don't, I can't believe, a person would say, Nope, you have to come to work during these dangerous conditions. Um, and, the more I read, I was like, oh, that facility was actually safer than some of their homes.

So there's a way where that story just got, The wrong message about that got out, I think, in my 

opinion, when perhaps there wasn't a PR council kind of helping. Well, I think bridging that along. So there, there are situations where, yeah, you might want someone to come in and help actually explain what happened.

You know, tell, tell your story about a situation. I don't wanna say cleanup messes because, you know, if you made a mess, you sometimes do have to own it. Mm-hmm... Um, but yeah, startup brands, that's, that's a little bit more difficult, I would say. If you're starting a brand and you're really excited, um, there are definitely some things you need before pr.

Now, one thing I would say is if you're an established company, starting a new division, or a new product launched, then it makes sense to have somebody on, you've already got revenue. Looking to expand the industry. We also have clients bring us on if we're looking to expand in a particular vertical. So one of our clients is really making a push in warehouse automation.

Um, and, you know, we, we have experience in that field, so like, They're engaging with us to really sort of expand in 2023 beyond what they've been doing. So, yeah, I, I, I think that, hopefully, that answers your question, Matt. Yeah, no, 

That makes perfect sense. Yeah. And, and, and Deanna you kind of touched on this too, I guess the, uh, the, the intended outcome of.

Of PR is to essentially get other people interested in whatever you are doing, you know, other reporters or other bloggers or what, whatever it might be, uh, so that they start, you know, reaching out and, and asking you for more, so they kind of just spiders out. Is that, is that basically correct 

One, of the reasons that people would want PRS to get the exposure.  and exposure in, in most cases can lead to web traffic, sales, um, you know, acquisition. Mm-hmm... Um, in, in some cases the c e O really wants to be the expert. Mm-hmm.  at this thing. Mm-hmm. , um, sales and everything will, will follow, but I want to be the, the person you think of when you think of automation or, you know, whatever their industry is.

Mm-hmm. , so that's, that's also something. That folks look for. Yeah. There's a bit of a, yeah. Maybe a healthy ego sometimes PR, right? Um, yeah. But I, I think, I think you're spot on D Yeah. 

All right, so we learned exactly how important it is to decide if you want to work with a small PR firm or a very large PR firm. Your experiences are going to be completely different depending on the size of the company. If you're interested in reaching out to Bob or Deanna, they can be reached@bearicebox.com.

So that's B E A R icebox.com and both of them are available on LinkedIn as well. And that's Bob or DeAnna Spoerl, S P O E R L. We also have one. Amazing piece of information from Bob and DeAnna, and you can only get that in our newsletter. So make sure to head over to Invest in SqFt (Invest in Square Feet)  and subscribe to that newsletter so you don't miss a step there.

And of course, subscribe to Invest in SqFt (Invest in Square Feet) on whatever podcast platform it is that you use.