Continuing Augur’s PR interview series with TrustEv and DueDil, this time we’re speaking to Chiara Pensato at MOVE Guides.
With a career that has spanned New York, Lisbon, Dublin and beyond, Chiara understood the MOVE Guides mission first hand. She has also sat on both sides of the sales/ marketing divide, in companies big and small.
So what did Chiara have to say about running PR for a fast growing SaaS company?
What’s your background?
I decided early in my studies that I was going to be a marketeer but IBM was a great company and a great opportunity — and if you really want to be a good marketeer in B2B, you have to understand how sales people work and what makes them tick. The best way to do that was to be a sales person myself.
I continued learning from large enterprises after moving to the UK, working in marketing for Hewlett Packard and Vodafone. I never thought I’d work for a startup when friends – and former colleagues – convinced me to talk to Box. At the end of 2012, they were just opening offices; I met the team and jumped at the opportunity.
How would you outline your current PR/ Marketing philosophy?
How can we appeal to the emotions of our audience? We have diverse audiences and the main challenge is how to appeal to HR, the tech community, investors, industry influencers and be recognised as a hot, up and coming player.
And then, how can we appeal to our buyers: HR – and especially talent mobility – doesn’t have a reputation for being at the forefront of innovation, so how do we get them excited about adopting a new ways of doing things?
How can you be inspiring and disruptive, without being too aggressive and scare people off?
Is it about emotion in both those cases?
Yes — it’s quite easy to fall into just pitching your product and wanting people just to get it. Most of the time they are being bombarded by thousands of messages from companies, so the only way to cut through is to trigger an emotional reaction.
That may be: I can really empathise with that, which usually isn’t about a product or business benefit. It’s about “how can you improve their life” or make them more successful, feel more accomplished.
So “what’s in it for them?” is answered with “a feeling”.
Sometimes the best way is to develop a point of view about topics that are trending and that everyone is talking about, as they affect people beyond their day to day job.
What makes startup PR particularly different?
You don’t have the level of resources as a big corporate. How can you drive your CEO’s ambitious mission and bring it to life when you are just one or two people? Shaping the brand, making noise, generating buzz are easier said than done. You think: how am I going to do that by myself with a few thousand dollars? I think it’s a positive in many ways because it makes you really creative and gives you the motivation to try and find quick ways to make an impact.
Because of that, you find out there’s a lot you can do by yourself or with just a couple of team members. And there’s plenty of untapped value in other execs in the company that are not usually considered spokespeople/ ambassadors.
Are there things you’ve learned you didn’t expect?
While sharing news, we find certain content pushed to exactly the same audience (HR) generates a very different response in different regions.
So even though we’re very global, regional matters.
Are there any major things you’ve learned from?
As much in PR as in demand generation, the one-fit-all approach of reaching out to as many people as possible at once and pitching them every other day doesn’t deliver results. In fact, you get the opposite to what you’re looking for, which is apathy for your company.
Earlier this year we got a PR agency on board in the US because we had to build our presence there — we started with drafting sample pitches and blasting everyone hoping for a response, and – no surprise – they fell flat.
People want to hear something that appeals from an emotional perspective. How you approach PR is similar to how you approach sales. You have to create opportunities for people to get in touch with you, engage and show interest. Then you can proactively reach out and build on that interest..
Doing a lot of research can also get results. Follow what your audience is talking about. What are they experts on? What do they comment on? You can then get in touch, make them feel important and share your thoughts.
More like a correspondent than a target?
What has been your biggest success so far?
Using our CEO as the face and voice of the company. She’s the founder, she personally experienced the pain of relocating, she’s a woman, she’s a millennial. All those elements reflect the modern entrepreneur. It’s something a lot of people can empathise with — both press and our target buyers.
Are there any products/ services/ partners you swear by?
We have Hubspot for marketing automation. It’s easy to use, provides lots of insight and analytics. Both sales and marketing get a single, instant view of who is reading what, who responds, where they come from, demographics. That enables us to capture what is resonating.
It can be difficult to measure PR performance because it’s not always translating in hard leads– but using analytics can really help estimate the impact. If you do a certain push and get media coverage or a big feature, Hubspot will reveal a peak of visits to our website and where they are coming from.
LinkedIn and Twitter are also great. During our regular on-boarding sessions, I tell new starters they can all be brand ambassadors. In fact, “Be The Brand” is one of our corporate values. Just by retweeting and sharing what we create, they can reach their network, who may also share it on. So you multiply coverage 50x.
People underestimate who’s listening to them — if you hire good people, they reach other good people.
In terms of outside resources, where do you get a feeling of what’s happening next?
Number 1 is being really curious and dedicating a fixed time in the morning to reading the news. Focus on not just tech/business/HR — it can be anything that’s happening in society that affects your audience. Immigration, politics, the latest in the consumer world.
What’s trendy? What are people talking about? Why do they care? Then find ways that resonate with those topics.
So it’s about finding context, listening and finding where you fit?
Exactly. Then I really believe in the power of the network. So I always put a lot of effort into staying in touch with former colleagues, managers and mentors. I often leverage them as a sounding board and get input on ideas and what has worked for them.
Then I think it’s also about staying in touch with people in media. Pick their brains — what’s hot now? What’s most popular that you are focusing on at the moment?
Post produced in partnership with Max Tatton-Brown at Augur.