Caroline McCarthyJournalist turned marketer. I help tell stories.
Bio

Startup PR and marketing exec. TED Resident Spring '18. Former print and TV journalist covering tech startups and social media. Former Google marketer. I specialize in brand storytelling, social media strategy, and event curation. Nonprofit advisor on the side.



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It's far less important than it used to be, because so many social media businesses are much more reliant on their apps than their desktop websites these days.

Instagram launched (and grew fast) with the domain instagr.am, for instance.


There are many consultants who can do this, but startups need to be realistic about what is newsworthy and what is not. A launch? If it's a great, innovative product, yes. A VC raise? If it's a notable amount of funding or the investors are well-known. A partnership? Rarely.

A great firm or consultant needs to be able to manage expectations with the client rather than promise constant press -- the latter is a red flag. In addition, the founders need to be willing to put in a lot of work as well. The startup is their story, not the consultant's, and the founders will be the ones who need to get out there and meet reporters. In the earliest stages, a PR consultant should be primarily a behind-the-scenes strategist (on messaging and branding) and a conduit for introductions to reporters. It needs to be the founders putting in the face time.

If you are a cash-strapped startup, my recommendation is to bring on a consultant to get press specifically for your launch or Series A raise. Having a firm on retainer can get expensive!

I'm happy to take a call if you want to discuss your options further.


You do not want cheap marketing -- period. It's better to have someone do the work pro bono (which is not out of the question given that you are a nonprofit) than to be paying $10/hour for someone to help you launch. If they are cutting their rates for you, they are unlikely to be doing their best work. If they charge $10/hour normally, they are probably not very good marketers. A few other people who have answered this question have suggested college interns; this might be a solution for you but I'm not sure how well-versed they would be in the nonprofit world or the subject matter at hand. I would think it might be better to find a college student who's digitally savvy and passionate about your cause rather than one who happens to be majoring in marketing.

Another option is to consider using a site like VolunteerMatch or Catchafire, which are marketplaces for digital professionals looking to put their skills to nonprofit work.

Alternately, one or two Clarity calls with a nonprofit marketing expert might put you on the right track to handling your marketing yourself. I am happy to take a call if you are interested; I'm a marketer who is on multiple nonprofit boards.

Good luck!


Facebook is certainly a good option for this. But what kind of women above 40 are you looking to target? Are they stay-at-home moms? Professional women? Affluent? Savings-centric? This will make some difference in how you'll want to target both your advertising and your messaging.

I'm guessing that you are a local salon rather than a national network (but correct me if I'm wrong). In addition to Facebook, it's worth looking into your metro area's popular digital content -- newsletters, local blogs that are well-read among that demographic, etc.

I'm happy to take a call about this if you're interested in hearing more about how to create a blend of paid and earned media.


Sales people, especially senior sales people, are expensive for a small company. It's also a hiring area where a lot of hires don't work out -- the people who look good on paper often have massive-company experience and startups are totally foreign to them -- which makes it even more expensive. Without naming names, there are dozens of small companies in Silicon Valley, including those coming out of prestigious accelerators, that have had to shut down because overinvesting in sales made them run out of money.

I suggest you take a look at what Upshift Partners' founder has to say about this; he trains technical- and product-oriented startup founding teams to scale their sales without bankrupting their companies. I've worked with him as a consultant but he's better in his own words: http://firstround.com/article/Looking-to-Scale-Your-Sales-Seven-Bullets-to-Dodge


Content curation is a great way to show a wider breadth of your company's interests and values, as well as your ability to find and discover great ideas. It's particularly compelling if it's coming from one of your executives whom you hope to develop as a thought leader ("What our CEO is reading now") or is rolled up into a "reading list" that you add to the end of weekly e-mail newsletters to customers or users. In addition, curation can be handled in a relatively lightweight while still keeping quality high, and this may be an easy solution for a company that is having a tough time getting the budget or resources for a bigger content marketing strategy.


Having a great "personal brand" with loads of Twitter followers and a roster of conference speaking appearances pales in comparison to having legitimate, close connections to people who trust you and will vouch for you in any situation. Who are those people in your life? Who do they know whom you want to know? Ask for some introductions.

Frankly, a lot of social media and personal brand consultants are full of crap when they tell you to promote-promote-promote at all costs. When you're out giving keynote after keynote after keynote, you aren't building your product. Worse, it can also result in a startup brand that can't stand alone without its CEO, and for the long-term health of the company, you definitely don't want that.

Something you're going to want to consider is that while you don't like to be in the limelight, you may need to use some "limelight" tactics to build your company's reputation. I've seen a lot of successful cases in which a reserved or introverted entrepreneur makes sure that he/she has a reputable senior exec at the company -- maybe a CMO or marketing VP -- to be more "out there." You don't have to promote yourself, but somebody has to be promoting what you do. A respected advisor to your company can do this too in some cases.


You should be writing it yourself if you're new to it -- you need to build your voice! -- unless you have access to high-profile guest bloggers whose posts can potentially draw more attention to your blog in its early days. They can promote their posts throughout their own networks, which in turn puts your blog on the radar of people who follow them.


You won't get anywhere if it's clear that getting bought is your end goal. The acquisition, to a buyer, is a beginning rather than an end for them, and an entrepreneur who clearly just wants to cash out is going to be very unappealing to them. What you need to project to potential buyers -- and to everyone, frankly, because everyone might *know* a potential buyer or provide a testimonial or reference for you -- is your team's raw talent and ability to be part of a productive team.

Reputation is really everything in the acqui-hire space. No company will make a talent acquisition unless it really, really knows and understands the talent. I believe many of Twitter's acqui-hires have been of start-ups that were already vendors or contractors at Twitter, and quite a few of Facebook's acqui-hires were start-ups founded by people who had known the Facebook founding team for years.

I would highly recommend Exitround to any founder who isn't tapped into the kind of network that easily leads to a talent acquisition by Google or Facebook. I recommend this in part because the founding team is prioritizing the ability for founders and potential buyers to connect across industries. Their system, though very new, aims to ultimately create ways to make introductions and facilitate deals between companies that would probably never meet one another otherwise -- something that's increasingly appealing seeing that there are many large non-tech companies that may see acqui-hiring as the best way to build out a new digital product division.


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