Public Relations 101 for Entrepreneurs

This past Saturday a couple members of IDEA’s management team attended PR Advanced: Unleash Our Generation, the 6th annual regional conference hosted by Boston University (BU) Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA).  The conference focused on the merging of new media with traditional public relations in an effort to design the ideal PR model. After all, as BU professor Steve Quigley pointed out during his “warm-up” speech, “this is the most exciting time in the history of the public relations industry!”

Though the business of public relations is in indeed classified as its own industry, the various skills are transferrable and applicable to any industry. As members of the IDEA management team, we were naturally taking every bit of advice from the conference and relating it to how it might benefit student entrepreneurs.  Since startups in particular don’t always have the means to hire public relations agencies, they are often on their own when it comes to generating the essential good PR for their new businesses.

Thus, we have compiled a list of key takeaways from each area of the conference that every young entrepreneur should know:

Keynote Speaker

  • BU’s Dean of Students, Kenn Elmore told attendees that no matter your industry, you need to be “eloquent, hip, bold, and persistent.” People want to know what you think of the world, what you’re reading and listening to, and how effectively you can tell your story. In order to be interesting, likeable, and relatable, you have to know about culture, fashion, and lifestyle. “It isn’t frivolous stuff. It’s how culture pushes itself forward,” he said. New social media is the perfect platform to share these ideas with the world and let them get to know you as cultured individuals.

New Media Panel

  • Anne Weiskopf of Rip Off The Roof Consulting discussed the idea that in today’s society, new capital “is about the power of knowledge sharing, not hoarding. This is not understood by all but if you get it, it becomes intuitive.”
  • Weiskopf also mused that Gen-Y finds and trusts information from blogs and YouTube as their two primary sources, while Gen-X goes to newspapers and company websites first.
  • Patrick Foster of USA Today put the importance of social media in perspective when he said, “They’re going to have a conversation about you, do you want to be a part of it or not?”

Personal Branding Panel (featuring the Twitter stars of Boston)

  • Joselin Mane (@BostonTweetUp) discussed the importance of getting out from behind your social media channels and actually meeting people. “You can’t hide behind tech,” he said. “You need to have both an online presence and a physical presence.”
  • As if speaking directly to student entrepreneurs, Joselin said that “paying it forward has a lot of advantages. Promote yourself by promoting others.”
  • “Be the person you want to follow [on Twitter.]”
  • “The people you become associated with add credibility to what you do,” said Joselin.
  • To gain followers, Tom O’Keefe (@BostonTweet) advised individuals to “know your market and audience, and provide good content for them.”
  • “Don’t make your tweets 140 characters. If you want re-tweets, people need space to write their own thoughts,” said O’Keefe.

Start-Up Panel

  • Kris Ruby, President and Founder of Ruby Media Group, said, “Your team is your best asset. Find a good team of people and mentors.”
  • Liz Ricketts of AFUTU Project added, “Never think of it as yours; it is your team’s too. The moment you claim it as your own is the moment you start facing issues.”
  • David Yarus, Senior Leader at Mr. Youth, suggested trying to work your team’s personal interests and passions into the business somehow.
  • Liz Ricketts stressed the importance of broadening your scope before focusing on one key issue.
  • Kris Ruby mentioned that young entrepreneurs should always consider barter deals. “Ask yourself, ‘Is there any way that I can get something I need by helping someone else?’”
  • Branson Skinner of AFUTU Projects advised startups to “set your own bar and meet it before you try to gain clients.”

Interactive Career Panel

  • “You need to combine your ‘work’ and ‘play’ personalities to really succeed and love your job.” – Mike DiSalvo, Account Executive at Ogilvy PR
  • DiSalvo also advised individuals to “learn how to write in both the voice of your company and in a way that makes the company or brand stand out.”
  • Brandi Boatner, Strategic Communications Professional at IBM, stressed that “networking is capitalizing on weak ties and understanding what that means.”
  • “Be the person who follows up. You’ll get that connection.” – Chelsea Alexander, Associate Brand and Consumer Marketing at Burson-Marsteller

The conference featured an entire day of breakout sessions, lunch, a career fair, and lots of opportunities for networking. Throughout the course of the day, we learned that there is actually no ideal PR model—only great PR ideas to be implemented.

Christina Pagano contributed to this post.