Tag Archive | "hiring"

How Startups Can Get Media Attention Without Hiring a PR Agency


In my last post, I outlined four reasons why early-stage startups shouldn’t hire PR firms. There are exceptions to just about every rule, but I stand by that advice for the vast majority of cases, reports Forbes.

Still, that piece lacked actionable guidance for startups to get press on their own. This post will provide that guidance.

In simple terms, startups have two options when ultimately choosing not to hire a PR firm:

1.) Hustle it out on their own.

2.) Find cheaper, non-traditional help.

If you’re considering these options, I recommend sticking with the first. Finding high-quality, non-traditional PR help is very hard for anyone to do, but it’s particularly hard for startups. The freelance PR market is fragmented and opaque, with plenty of dubious actors who can point to a couple minor successes, amidst a history of failures, to lure new clients. 

And as a population largely lacking in the chops to effectively evaluate PR professionals, startups are easy prey for bad actors. You’ll likely spend a long, long time trying to find one of the few high-quality freelancers out there, or end up getting fleeced in the process. My recommendation is to instead spend that time making headway on your own.

I’ll outline just how you can do that.

Gut and Relationships

In simple terms, you hire professional PR help for two reasons. First, they should provide a finely-tuned sense of what does and does not work as a press story, along with a similarly finely-tuned view of how to match those story angles with different publications. Second, they should have the relationships at those publications to get stories placed.

That’s it. Gut and relationships.

So when you think about going the hustle-it-out route, you should think about it in those terms. How are you going to make up for your lack of experience and relationships?

Gut

Let’s start with the first component—the fact that you probably have no idea how to make your company interesting to the press. If you have some effort to spare, there are some easy ways to make up for this deficit.

Before you do anything, you’ll need to acquire a solid understanding for how the press talks about your industry. Step one: head over to Google and spend as much time as you can getting a feel for what people are talking about in your space. What are the big questions, controversies or trends? How do different publications approach these topics? What are people getting wrong? What are they missing?

Basically, you need to soak yourself in relevant media so that, eventually, you can internalize the different lenses through which reporters approach topics and companies in your industry. Think backwards from headlines. How can you see your company plausibly fitting into the conversation?

Next, you still need some professional advice.

As the founder of a startup, odds are that you have some kind of moderately effective network. You may have investors, mentors, advisors, other founder friends, etc. Somewhere within that network is someone who knows a PR professional. It’s even possible that this PR professional knows what they’re talking about.

Find a way to talk to that PR professional and milk them for 15 minutes of advice. If they’re any good, they’ll prevent you from making any number of stupid mistakes within the first five minutes and possibly give you a sense of the most promising angles for your business after the first 15. They’ll also be helpful for tactical tips and etiquette. (I.e., “How long should I wait to follow-up with reporters?”)

And if you don’t have a PR professional in your network? If you live in a media-dense market like New York or San Francisco, there are almost certainly events that have media professionals crawling all over them. Just go wherever reporters are, and you’ll probably find three PR people for every journalist. Since tech PR people need new business almost as much as they need to cozy up to journalists, they’re generally happy to talk to startup founders about a couple of their issues in these situations.

If that’s not an option, find someone who looks like they know what they’re talking about online and cold e-mail them. Some may not take the call, but a lot will. 

Relationships

For early-stage startups, PR firms often appear most valuable for their relationships with the media. This is valid, though you’d be surprised by how many firms survive by just cold-emailing hundreds of reporters. 

That said, relationships with the media are still enormously valuable. As a startup founder, you’ll never be able to match the rolodex of a quality firm, but the truth is that you don’t need to. At your stage, you likely don’t need an expensive, sustained communications strategy. You just need a couple of pieces of decent press, and a couple of relationships to get them. With a little work, that’s definitely achievable.

Here’s how to make that happen:

1.) Again, use your network.

Like I mentioned earlier, as a startup founder you should have some reasonably robust network. There are probably people within that network—investors, founders, consultants—who are on friendly terms with one or more journalists. Find those people, ask for introductions and go from there.

2.) Be helpful.

In order to do their jobs well, journalists have to continuously get information from people in the industries they cover. Guess what? You work in one of the industries they cover. By virtue of that fact, you probably have insights and opinions that could be very useful for them. 

As one prominent tech reporter noted, “If people are going to feed me information, then I’m much more likely to be their friend.”

In practice, this means providing helpful opinions and facts to relevant reporters via social media or a very concise, non-salesy email. 

3.) Go to events.

Again, this works best in a media dense market, but even smaller cities often have local reporters hanging around conferences or panels. Go to these events, talk to reporters like a normal human, and follow-up politely. To find relevant events, I recommend Meetup.com and local newsletters like Startup Digest or, in New York, Gary’s Guide.  

4.) Send thoughtful, targeted emails.

Even without relationships, an interesting product and angle, along with a couple of human-sounding emails from the founder, can do wonders. I gave this advice (pro bono) to the Columbia freshmen behind Readism, for example, and they ended up with articles in The Next WebPC WorldLifehackerBustle and Digital Trends.

Trust me, before they began the process they were just as clueless as you are now. But with a little effort you too can save yourself a couple grand on a PR firm and still get the press you deserve. 

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NADA Announces New Senior Vice President of Dealership Operations


TYSONS, Va. — The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) announced that it has found its new senior vice president of dealership operations: Peter L. Fong.

Fong expressed that one of his key areas of interest will be to accelerate the process of moving dealerships toward the “0online to in-store” car-buying experience for consumers.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to be returning to the automotive industry, particularly now given the ongoing digital transformation of both the automotive manufacturing and retail sectors,” Fong said. “My primary goal will be driving value-added changes in all areas of dealership operations, so that the next generation of products and services provided by the NADA to dealers and their employees is second-to-none.”

Before joining the NADA, Fong was the executive vice president and CMO at The Judge Group, a firm specializing in technology consulting, staffing solutions, and corporate training. He has also held multiple executive-level sales, marketing, and brand management positions at Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC. He brings a cumulative 20 years of industry experience.

“Peter brings tremendous understanding and a wealth of hands-on experience to the NADA,” said NADA President Peter Welch. “With Peter at the helm of Dealership Operations, the NADA will be able to continue providing our member dealers and their employees with innovative educational and training programs designed to meet the challenges of automotive retailing both now and well into the future.”

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Cox Automotive Names New VP of Communications and Community Relations


ATLANTA – Cox Automotive named Shirley Powell as its vice president of communications and community relations. She will lead and manage day-to-day operations of the company’s global communications organization, according to F&I and Showroom magazine.

Powell has more than 25 years of experience in strategic communications and most recently served as executive vice president and chief communications officer at The Weather Company, where she oversaw internal and external communications.

“Cox Automotive has a great story to tell about how we are connecting the entire automotive ecosystem, and Shirley brings expertise that will enable us to clearly communicate the strength and value of our brands and services,” said John Kovac, senior vice president of marketing at Cox Automotive. “Shirley’s superior leadership style and broad experience with leading global communications for multi-brand organizations will be an incredible asset to the company and elevate our visibility among clients and consumers.”

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Wise F&I Hires Amy Counts As Account Executive


ST. LOUIS – Wise F&I announced the hiring of Amy Counts as an account executive. Counts is responsible for business and relationship development with independent Agents by growing Wise F&I product penetration.

Counts has over 18 years’ experience in the automotive industry working for The Reynolds and Reynolds Company and RouteOne in roles expanding from: marketing, management, software training, technology implementations and B2B sales.

She received several honors during that time including: Core Value Award, National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers Association Appreciation Award, 300 Sales Club and Variable Operation Specialist of the Year.

Counts helps to round out the Wise F&I sales team and is part of their continued growth. Over the past five years, Wise F&I has tripled in employee size.

Wise F&I has expanded their product offerings and technology capabilities, including eContrating, eRemitting and menu system integration. “We are excited to have Amy as part of our team and feel she will be an asset to support our business partners,” said Matt Croak, president of Wise F&I.

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Auto/Mate Offers A Resource for Better Hiring Practices


ALBANY, N.Y. — Auto/Mate Dealership Systems has released a free e-book titled “The Auto Dealer’s Ten Step Guide to Hiring the Best Employees.” The guide is designed to help dealerships minimize employee turnover and improve hiring practices.

The e-book reveals the bottom-line costs associated with a bad hiring decision, and shares best practices to help auto dealers avoid common hiring mistakes. It also guides dealers through the following steps to making a good hiring decision:

  • Create a detailed job description for each position
  • Define qualities necessary for a culture fit
  • Develop an exciting job advertisement
  • Have a marketing plan for your job openings
  • Source candidates
  • Create and stick to a hiring process
  • Hone your interviewing techniques
  • Set realistic expectations for candidates
  • Set realistic expectations internally
  • Vet all candidates

In 2014, the average turnover rate for sales consultants in dealerships was 72%, while the average turnover rate for all employees in dealerships was 39%, according to the 2015 NADA Dealership Workforce Study. In non-luxury dealerships, the average sales turnover rate skyrocketed to 80%. Additionally, 28% of all terminations happened within the first 90 days and 41% of sales turnover happened within 90 days.

“These statistics tell us that many dealers are making common hiring mistakes such as hiring too quickly, not having an established hiring process and not vetting candidates properly,” said Dave Druzynski, director of human resources for Auto/Mate. “Many dealerships don’t have a dedicated human resources professional on staff so they are not familiar with the techniques and tools available to help them establish a successful hiring process.”

In 2015 Auto/Mate ranked No. 1 on the “Top Workplaces” list in the mid-size business category for the greater New York capital region, the fourth time the firm made the list. It is compiled annually by Workplace Dynamics and the Times-Union. Auto/Mate has also been voted a “Best Place to Work” five years running by the Albany Business Review.

For more information or to download the free e-book, click here.

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4 Tips to Hiring The Right Candidate


Hiring the wrong candidate gets costly. From costs incurred by drops in productivity, to reputation costs, hiring the wrong candidates can set your business back in deep and lasting ways, reports Entrepreneur.

Being in the staffing industry for 13 years now in the high volume clerical and light industrial sectors, I’ve seen my fair share of right hires vs. wrong hires. It comes down to four key principles.

1. Let the interview speak for itself.

Ask integrity-based questions, performance-productivity questions, and form them in always open-ended ways. This is your time to get to know the candidate, and to see the important bits: not what they say on paper, but how they react on the spot.

Smartt tip: ask questions from the perspective of your interviewee’s potential coworkers. They are your proverbial canaries in the coal mine, in that they are the most likely to see red flags before management, who don’t work on the ground with a new hire, will. A good candidate will own up to not knowing certain answers, without getting overly self-conscious about the knowledge gap. Overconfidence can sometimes be an important factor, too. Trust your gut.

2. Core values.

Your company has spent a wealth of effort building your mission and vision, and grooming your employees to fit your culture. Making sure your prospective employees are a culture fit is arguably the most important issue to consider on your hires. Candidates with less experience but a deep commitment to your company’s values often learn faster, require less hand holding, and devote themselves with better outcomes than those who aren’t culture fits.

Smartt tip: if you’re having trouble reaching concord with a new hire, talk with your other employees. Ask them questions in the vein of barriers to their own success. If you see correlations, pursue them.

3. Don’t make it all about the paperwork.

You’re fostering a relationship here, not filling out papers. They’re important, and definitely get them filled out, but please do yourself a favor and make the on-boarding process more about getting to know the team, the off-paper processes, and integrating with a new work-family than focusing on a mid-20th century stodgy HR desk experience. You can make sure all the appropriate boxes are checked without losing the humanity in the situation.

4. Productivity matters.

According to Stuart Brown,“the estimated costs of losing an employee vary wildly, from 30% of annual salary, to as much as 200 times annual salary for high level positions.” Consider how confident you feel in how well your new candidate can get up to speed without taxing other workers.

Smartt tip: consider how robust your training materials are, and work toward a seamless integration.

Hiring the right candidate is a better question, really, but it’s much harder to answer. If you can identify “wrong” clearly, you’ll be in a better position to determine what your particular “right” is. Happy hunting!

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