• Matt Wolach

How to Get PR Even Before You've Reached Product Maturity

PR Master Gloria Chou joins Matt Wolach to Discuss All Things PR



Welcome to Saas-Story tn the Making. The podcast that features the people who made the software world what it is today and the leaders who are shaping the future of technology. Here's your host, Matt Wolach.


Matt Wolach: Yes, it is your host Matt. I am really excited today to be joined by Gloria Chow, who is live from New York City. Gloria, how you doing?


Gloria Chou: I'm doing good. We're hanging in here. New York City. Hopefully we will survive this.


Matt Wolach: I'm sure you'll come out of it okay. Gloria is really, really sharp. She helps early stage founders with her PR, it's Gloria Chao PR, and she helps them become household names. You know, this is the anti-agency. You know, she's making PR accessible to all by providing a non-agency model. And you know, since she doesn't come from an agency background, basically she helps companies sharpen their narrative and get earned press and has never paid for sponsored content. I think that's really, really cool and something that's pretty shining. You know, she was previously a TV producer and a US diplomat, first US diplomat on the show. So congrats on hacker. But she made a huge career transition. And now she's founded her own PR consultancy. She's a startup mentor at pitch guru and creator of the PR starter pack, which is, it's a PR in a box solution for founders that basically it gets everything they need to pitch the press. And this is where the PR industry is headed. And the agency model just isn't evolving with the time. So Gloria is leading the way here. So I'm really excited to have her, Gloria how are you doing?


Gloria Chou: I'm doing great. Thank you for having me.


Matt Wolach: Absolutely. I'm really excited to chat with you and talk a bit about PR, but first, tell me a little bit about what you're doing at Gloria Chao PR and why you chose to focus on b2b SaaS in particular?


Gloria Chou: Well, this is the SaaS show, so it's a really good question. I think it comes down to working with kind of very technical products that don't exactly easily translate into a newsworthy story. And so I feel like this is where I can really add value, right? Because I'm not working with like a beauty brand or like some direct to consumer yoga products. So if there is a little bit of challenge and thinking involved, and so I just love kind of solving that problem. I really love taking something that seems very industry specific, and making it like super relevant and making the audience base just really wide because you're tying it into like a bigger trend that people care about.


Matt Wolach: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. That's fantastic. What is your winning CPR pitch formula all about? What is that?


Gloria Chou: So as you said, you know, I never worked at an agency in my life. I didn't have industry experience or contact so they wouldn't hire me because you know, after the government, the first question is like, Okay, well, you don't have any experience like why would hire you. So I basically just had to do it, the cold hard way I called thousands of newsroom's phone slammed in my face failed so many times. And from all of the different emails and pitches that I've sent, I really picked up on what works and what doesn't.


And it's basically distilled into this method that I created after probably 10s of thousands of pitches. And it's how I got my very early stage clients on to places like CNBC, Bloomberg Wall Street Journal, and it basically comes down to this. So the C stands for credibility, right. So you might not be like a household name. But if you have an expertise in a certain area, you want to establish yourself as a vet, a person that can speak on the topic. The POV means point of view, it means that you've done research about the editor enough to know what they cover. And when you're pitching something, it's relevant, and you have a point of view on it. It could be data that you found in your user base, something that it's telling people, the trend is going this way or that way, right. So that's your point of view.


And the last piece, which is the biggest challenge, I think for a lot of founders is making it relevance. I think a lot of founders think, well, they have a product fit, therefore it's relevant and doesn't quite work that way in press. Yeah, relevance is not about your product, because otherwise, there's an entire advertising department and you can, you know, pay them for that. So how do you make it relevant? And how do you get earned press? Right? So that has to be the bigger story that people are talking about whether it's future of work or the markets or behaviors of a certain demographic. And if you can actually add, like, pitch strengtheners like a policy relevant angle, or a seasonality, maybe it's a story about new grads, you know, and you're pitching this like, right, as graduation happens. Those are all things that can make your pitch really strong and get you from like, largely unknown to at the top of the batter's box. And you even said on your podcast that like SaaS companies have so much competition, right. I think he said like one for every one SaaS company, there are 10 competitors.


Matt Wolach: Yep. You are listening. She listens to the show, too, I love it.


Gloria Chou: I did my homework. I didn't listen to all of it, but I did my homework. So if you want to break through just, you don't only want to be on like saastoday.com, right? If you want to get on to the top tier stuff, you really need to know what people care about. And they may not really care about your product, it's almost like backing away three steps from the problem, getting an entry into a top tier outlet, and then being able to talk around the subject and then offer your product as a solution. And I can give some examples of that later on.


Matt Wolach: That's great. And I know myself when I was a founder and software companies done it a few times, it was a PR was just a foreign concept to us, you know, and it's just like it was just kind of this thing and we never really thought about it. We of course, we thought about marketing and sales and how we had to structure those, but we never really, you know, thought too hard about PR and then we also wondered, well, hey, what if we throw a bunch of money at PR and it gets us nothing? You know that that's a pretty scary thing for a founder to think about.


Gloria Chou: I get it PR agencies are expensive. I've never worked in one but from what I can tell from my clients, they were approached with these crazy numbers. And at the end of the day, like PR, there's really no guarantee, right? Because we can't control what the editors write about. So I get it. But the example I wanted to give you to illustrate kind of what this pitching method is about is an example that I worked with. I worked in a very early stage SaaS company, and they were launching its FinTech product, right. So they basically wanted to allow hourly workers at like a subway or a Chipotle to be able to get their pay right away, like right after each shift, instead of waiting for the two week period. It's basically liked an interest free loan. And there are other companies doing this.


This is not a new thing. I pitched the story to Fox Business, mornings with Maria, as you know, she's like an alias how she interviewed the president. And the story was it was right around Black Friday, and I saw this was when the economy was doing well. And I said, look I said there's so much competition now. And unemployment is so low, these retailers are doing everything they can to attract seasonal workers, right to come to like fold clothes at Macy's or do whatever it is. Now, how are they going to compete with Uber's and lifts and the gig economy. And so they're doing all these kinds of things to incentivize them. And so one of the ways was obviously getting, you know, using this FinTech product. And that's how the founder was able to get onto that show on a primetime slot by talking about Black Friday trends. And what big retailers like Macy's and those were doing to attract hourly employees while competing with Uber and Lyft.


Matt Wolach: That's fantastic. Good work out and feel pretty good.


Gloria Chou: Yeah, that was nice so, and since then, he's been on the show many times so, it's like, it's like once you're on then, you know, you can keep going back so.


Matt Wolach: Once you break in, it works out pretty well.


Gloria Chou: Yeah.


Matt Wolach: That's awesome well, I want to ask you, a lot of people in tech they don't understand how to use PR. So what are some of the ways what can founders do? What can people in tech do to grow their business through PR, Gloria?


Gloria Chou: Yeah. So PR is a little bit different than marketing, right? Because there's not like a direct user conversion, you're not paying $2 per click. It's more like the art of relationship and influence building. So PR gets you that earned media and credibility, and it gets you the furthest audience reach, right? If you have something on a news section, it's going to probably live there for decades, as opposed to an ad that goes away, which is not sustainable, but it's more straightforward. So what does that mean? PR is knowing that, you know, you need to be strategic with your announcements, right, knowing how to ride on a bigger company's coattails and when to do that, and being seen in the right places so you can maximize your perceived value as a brand and founder regardless of your sample size, right?


It means knowing that the media gatekeepers that are covering your industry, who they are, so you can start building relationships with them before you throw out your big press release, right because they're going to be like we've never heard of you. And knowing that there's a ramp up time. Knowing that there is a fundamental difference between a product pitch and a press pitch, and that's kind of where that relevance piece comes in, right? It means leveraging PR, to keynote at these huge conferences where, you know, you usually would pay 10s of thousands of dollars to have a booth. And it means knowing how to like integrate your PR with marketing, so you can get that maximum ROI. And we can talk about that later like Customer Success is one of the ways you can really use PR to increase that ROI.


Matt Wolach: Yeah, I wanted to ask you about that, you know, how a lot of startups keep marketing and PR kind of in silos and keep them separate. So, you know, what's the disadvantage of that?


Gloria Chou: Yeah, I mean, this happens a lot. And I understand because, again, PR is more of an art, right? So it's not just like, this is a product, this is our budget. This is how many clicks so I get that it's difficult. But knowing how to leverage pure in the early stages can literally save you hundreds of thousands of dollars and ad spend, right and it can exponentially grow your valuation and you credibility for if you want to get acquired if you want to exit or whatever it is.


So at the end of the day, you to remember people care about reputation and credibility. And I would argue even more than functionality, right? And that that's what marketing is doing. So what do I mean by that? So when you only use customer success on your blog as content marketing, that's fine and good. And, you know, you spent all this time getting people to go on your blog site, maybe a couple people read your blog post. But if you can pitch the customer success story, and as an angle to the press, and you go to a journalist, and you say, here's a problem. This is my product; it's giving a solution. And these are real users, that is 10 times more powerful, because you're basically acting as a conduit to bring the press and the editors like an actual human who can talk about instead of you just talking about it.


So that's one way you can use customer success in a way that can really help you with press. Another way is generating traffic with a really, really well written press releases. And there's a whole thing I have on that I don't think everyone should be writing press releases all the time that you need to be strategic about it, you know, so knowing like what warrants a press release and what doesn't, and how you can really maximize that, you know, try to secure an exclusive if you can. Alright, so for my preset clients, I was able to secure a Financial Times exclusive for them. Yeah, they started off on such a strong footing, that with every subsequent pitch, you know, we were able to say that we've already been vetted by the financial editor at Financial Times, right. So knowing that, knowing how to use bloggers right for Media Relations and content marketing, so these are all the ways that you can incorporate it to maximize your marketing spend.


Matt Wolach: That's fantastic. Well, speaking of that marketing spend, you know, how can you maximize your return on investment when you're thinking about PR and how can you do so by integrating marketing and PR together?


Gloria Chou: So one of the ways I just discusses you know, using customer success in your pitches, right to like say that there's an actual complete story. And there's people using your product. So without you telling people about it, it's the journalist. And another way is just stop writing all of this really well thought out, pieces on your blog, pitch it to a higher domain authority website, like a Forbes or a fast company or an Inc or entrepreneur, they have, like contributor editors that kind of go through pitches, and you can actually get onto their site and think about the ROI and the SEO you can get from that, right. And of course, there's some pay to play channels, but if you have a good story, the time that it takes to pitch that story may or may not be like more than you like writing that story and putting it on your blog and like monitoring it right. So I think look, people don't love to pitch because they don't want to be rejected, that's a human nature thing. But it could really, really help you break out into like, the top tiers. So now it's like what was that saying? That's like everything you want to be on the other side of. So it's kind of like that, you know, like, don't be afraid to pitch your story to the biggest, you know, newspaper outlet. I've seen it happen even with early stage founders who don't have a product.


Matt Wolach: That's fantastic. So speaking of PR, I think a lot of people kind of have this nebulous vision of what it is in their head if they don't know it really well. So, you know, what are some of the common myths about PR that software founders might have?


Gloria Chou: So well, one of them that I always, like, that's kind of like my first thing I say to clients is, you don't need product maturity, or huge user, like sample size, to pitch your product. Right, I get it technical founders, you're very conservative with your data driven people. So it almost seems very unnatural to go and pitch your stuff before you completely have it all tested out. But I see you're literally wasting so much time because someone who is half as competent but twice as confident is going to be the one that's going to be on that TV show or going to be there and then there's no more room for you to pitch your product because you're no longer the first. So you might be the first best company to do XYZ. But if you wait, then you're no longer the first. Alright, so getting comfortable with that, you know, this is where the art of PR comes in, right? It's building relationships and expanding your circle of influence. And it's knowing that there's a huge payoff to get someone else to talk about you. It might take 10, 20, 30 rejections, but once you get that first yes, you'll be super surprised at how much that momentum builds up. I think a lot of people are just afraid to start and they're afraid to get the first few news but as you know, in sales a you need those nouns, right, it's the same thing.


Matt Wolach: I was just going to say said, you know, once you get that first yes, it kind of starts to build momentum and get you going the same exact thing in sales. I mean, you're always looking for that first one. Once you get that, it starts to snowball, it starts to build on itself. So that's fantastic. Sounds like it's just the same.


Gloria Chou: Yeah, and, you know, a lot of like technical founders, inherently, it's just not in their personality trait to sell. And I get that, right, because you have salespeople, and then you have the builders and the engineers, and I learned so much from them, because that's not my skill set. But yeah, you know, my early stage FinTech company, they basically started so early with that Financial Times exclusive. They built up, they were basically in every single, like financial news magazine, and they're selling to banks. So when they walk into every sales meeting, when they walk into every board meeting, you just Google them and there's just so legitimate, they actually got invited to testify in Congress about fiscal ends and financial policy. And so now they have all these think tanks, who are like asking them for a quo and their SEO is through the roof. So they actually were a company that didn't do any marketing at all because they didn't have technically a finished product yet. And they only double down on PR because they knew how much that was going to give them so they're raising their series A and I think they're doing pretty well and I think that's This point they still spent zero dollars on marketing like none.


Matt Wolach: Wow, that is awesome. Very good. Very good. I wanted to ask you you just mentioned Congress, well, how did you get to become a US diplomat?


Gloria Chou: So I've always been interested in, like, international relations. And so I applied for grad school. And I couldn't pay for it. So I applied for a lot of scholarships. And one of the scholarships I got was actually from the State Department. So it's almost like a pre selection into the Foreign Service and I had to sign a contract. And before I knew what being a bureaucrat was, I was on that path. And next thing you knew I was like being sworn in by you know, Secretary John Kerry, who's no longer secretary of state but was and I saw a very comfortable and planned out life for myself, you know, 20 years, pension, everything well taken care of, but I just didn't feel like it was a good fit for me and so I had a lot of internal trouble. Because everyone was like, you're crazy, you're going to give up the best pension and diplomatic immunity to do what? Right? So I kind of had like a midlife crisis when I was 30. I moved home. But you know, like, I went from here to like being on Medicaid. And I have to get really quiet with myself. While I saw all of my peers rising up in the ranks. I was like, what is it that I really love to do? Regardless of what everyone else is telling me? Like, what is it that I want to do? And I realized, I just love to see people win. And I love tech. So how can I merge the two? And so now that's what I'm doing with PR.


Matt Wolach: That's fantastic. Well, I wanted to ask you, what are some of the things you know, prior to working with you that software founders can do to kind of set themselves up for success? So when they're ready for PR, they're ready for, their company is ready to rock and roll?


Gloria Chou: Yeah, so I touched a little bit about this earlier about, you know, being strategic with their press announcement riding on the coattails the beer company, so I worked with, like a NEO bank, a small challenger bank, there's ones popping every day, and they were one of the many partners of this FinTech unicorn, right? Because this FinTech unicorn was expanding. And I knew that that was their biggest shot of getting into these top tier newspapers. So I planted the seeds, started conversations with the editors. Let them know what we were doing without the expectation of them covering it, right? Because like, I knew they wouldn't. So I wasn't pushy about it. But I said, hey, this is what we're building, we have this integration coming up with this household name. So when we we did write the press release, and when they did have that roll out, they were in every single meeting with the founders of the FinTech, like, trillion dollar unicorn, and they were quoted in every magazine.


So that's just knowing to be strategic, because what they could have done is that, no, you know, we're just one of many partners. We don't really feel comfortable pushing this, right. And so I kind of had to push a little bit I have to tell the founders, this is your one chance to literally save two years of PR and condensing it, condense it into one month, so we're going to work tirelessly to make sure that happens. So we ended up getting like 20 pieces of earned press. Their SEO was through the roof and now all the journal knows them. So they don't really need to work with me anymore after that, because now every single like newspaper magazine knows who they are. And, you know, they've won all these awards. So I think I would probably make more money if I worked at an agency because, you know, I work with clients for longer, but my model is really, you know, working with clients for a shorter amount of time, delivering maximum results, and then kind of moving on so...


Matt Wolach: I think that's great. I mean, I think you've brought them such an amazing ROI is probably, you know, through the roof. And I think it's an interesting concept that you kind of worked yourself out of a job. However, I think everyone else should know that that's what you can do for them and not charge them an arm and a leg and get them to a point where they can really accelerate through PR and then go off on their own. I think that that's a fantastic, you know, kind of model for a younger company. So let me ask you, how shall our listeners how shall they get in touch with you to think about that?


Gloria Chou: Well, thank you so much. And I think that's why, you know, with Corona, and you know, I'm very active on LinkedIn. And I posted this posting, and I said that I lost 50 grand worth of contracts within a few weeks, right? And it actually got such good feedback. And I started building this new connection, I started to really think, you know, I think a lot of people now are like, no, you shouldn't sell now. No one's buying now. And I think those are really like limiting beliefs. I think if you can meet your clients where they are right now, then you're really providing value. So it's not shameful to be selling, but if you do it with an intention to put their needs first, then you're really going to win throughout all of this tragedy. And so what I did.


Matt Wolach: I hate that, that feeling of Oh, I'm just going to stop nobody's buying. It's so negative. You know, I've had so many clients signing up for my own services personally, everybody's super excited about getting their sales in order and kind of getting their process ready. I mean, people are beating down the door. It's really kind of really cool. And then my clients, they're also So in the mindset of I want to get to a spot where we're going to be selling, they're not having a any bad time either. It's different, and they've needed to pivot. But it's not something that is killing them. Right now, in many cases, obviously, there's going to be an industry here or there, that's going to, you know, airline industry and restaurants probably aren't doing so hot right now. But a lot of my clients are still seeing success and still growing, albeit maybe differently. They kind of had to shift a little bit. So I'm glad you brought that up. I don't think that the negative mindsets going to win here.


Gloria Chou: Exactly. It's about stripping away all the BS and getting very intentional about why you founded your company, right? You probably forgot about that, like, not you but a lot of founders, like you know, whatever it is, but what is your foundational intention, and it's to improve life. And so the clearer you can get on that message, the more you're going to cut through the noise and really relate to people at this stage when there's so hypersensitive to any kind of overselling and to give you an example, I actually bought more tools, services technology during this time than ever.


Matt Wolach: On my Amazon account I’m ringing it up like crazy.


Gloria Chou: I hired 100 lawyers. I hired someone to do like the new language on my website. I hired web designer. So all of these things, now is the time to invest. So again, it goes back to saying like, it's not that now no one's buying, it's just like you need to know like, what kind of value you bring and that's why I created my PR starter pack. I don't think that the year-long retainer, having a very junior person, touch your account and the person who closed the deal, never touch your account again. I don't think that that's sustainable. I don't think that it's fair for a startup to do that. Right. So a lot of times startups just don't even do PR at all. And as I said in the episode, you're throwing away so much time, energy and opportunity. So how can I meet my clients where they are? Well, this PR starter pack, it's under $500 you're not going to see this anywhere else.


Matt Wolach: Wow.


Gloria Chou: It gives you everything you need to start pitching, right? So it gives you a media list, it gives you we flesh out your angles, right? Because a lot of hunters, they don't know the difference between a product angle and a news angle. So I do that for you, I actually write the copy for you. So all you have to do is press send. So you know, it's a way for me to adapt and pivot as we're all doing in my own way so.


Matt Wolach: I think that's fantastic. So how do they get in touch with you?


Gloria Chou: Go onto my website. It's gloria.choupr.com. it's C-H-O-U. Or you can google PR starter pack or you can find me on LinkedIn. I'm very active on there as well.


Matt Wolach: Okay, perfect. And for all you listeners out there, I will put all that in the notes. So make sure to take a look and you'll be able to link right to it. But Gloria, this has been fantastic. Thank you so much for coming on the show so many good awesome knowledge bombs dropped for sure.


Gloria Chou: Thank you, I get golden nuggets of wisdom from your podcast listening to it as well.


Matt Wolach: Thank you. Man, you should be my PR agent for the show. I love it. But Gloria, thank you so much and for everybody out there. We will see you next time. Take care.