Publicity: Getting the Word Out

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Publicity: Getting the Word Out is a guide that forms part of the Social Good Guides, a series of essential small-business guides created to support startup changemakers produced by the Social Innovators Collective. Authored by Marissa Feinberg, co-founder of Impact Hub New York and Green Spaces, this guide discusses the importance of publicity and when and where to seek it out. When asked where most social innovators go wrong in regards to publicity, Marissa responded: “Know who you’re talking to at all times. Study and research as much as possible. Know the publications and the reporters.” When asked “Is publicity in blogs and small publications effective?” Marissa answered: “Ask yourself these questions to decide. What is your niche? What are you trying to achieve?”


“You don’t need to hire a publicist, but there are advantages to doing so.”



Below is an excerpt from the Q + A section of the guide.

Social Good Guides (SGG): What is public relations and why does a changemaker need to know about it in the first 12 months of their venture building?

Marissa Feinberg (MF): In my opinion, PR is your reputation from every angle, which ultimately reflects your relationship management. In the traditional sense, it’s media relations. When you do PR, you share your story with newspapers, magazines, radio, television and the immense world of blogs and online media. With Facebook and Twitter, anyone can do PR. We all have these social media accounts, and with the noise of the web, the voice of the friend or follower is king.

There is no right or wrong time to do PR. It just depends on when you’re ready to share your story and start a dialog with the press and public. That said, you need to stay on top of the industry conversations, and they happen via the media and organically between people.

SGG: How can a small changemaker with big dreams reach out to large media outlets?

MF: You must always start somewhere and build. For example, Carpooling.com wanted to make inroads to come to the US. They already had millions of users in Europe, and they wanted to raise funds and expand to the US. They sent their Communications Director, Odile Beniflah, to New York City to start building buzz around their company. They immediately wanted her to secure coverage in Techcrunch. At first, it wasn’t possible to get through. Therefore, Odile started with blogs and lower-hanging fruit. She eventually built up to Techcrunch, the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and many more.

It worked! In less than one year, Carpooling.com secured a $10 million investment from Daimler. PR was a requirement to raise funds. Carpooling.com needed to prove the need and demand for its business outside of Europe. PR was a key part of the buzz to attract investors. It was used strategically in their capital raise. You can apply the same principles to any organization. Start where you can, and build from there.

SGG: At what point, if any, should changemakers hire a publicist?

MF: You don’t need to hire a publicist, but there are advantages to doing so. As I have shared, anyone can do PR, including you. As entrepreneurs, we try to do most things ourselves. Every dollar spent is spent wisely. Like any task, you can do it yourself, but when you hire a specialist, there’s a luxury in expertise that comes along with it.

If and when you have a budget for it, or when you’re making money and get too busy to do outreach, hire a publicist. However, find someone passionate about your industry. Find someone you feel will go above and beyond, and give 110%.


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