Sometimes it isn’t experience that wins the day. It’s the combination of chutzpah, elbow grease and original thinking that has gotten each of these young entrepreneurs and their clients into the press. This week I have gathered the best ideas from three exceptionally young entrepreneurs for achieving home run PR.
Christopher Kai, international speaker and bestselling author, was hired by his uncle at a boutique insurance company in lower Manhattan at age 12 and began writing his first book at 19. Adam Khafif, now 21, began working with professional athletes, Olympians, hip-hop artists and others on cause-based clothing lines for 6 years, since the age of 15. Nineteen-year-old Ulyses Osuna, founder of Influencer Press, has been featured in tier-one publications and is a contributor to Business.com, Huffington Post, and Entrepreneur.
All three have succeeded by writing their own PR playbooks. Each agreed to share what they’ve done that’s worked best, for the benefit of other entrepreneurs.
Kai, who became one of the youngest business strategy and communication managers at American Express, attributes much of his entrepreneurial success to the concept he calls “Tent pole stories.”
“Research has shown that stories are 22 times more memorable than facts ,” he maintains. So his first advice to aspiring founders is to create and polish the tent pole stories that can best represent yourself or your business. The result has been the Gifted Professional Speaker (GPS) online program to help entrepreneurs become professional speakers with their own tent pole stories. In the first two weeks of his launch, four of his clients used his strategies to secure seven speaking opportunities.
Here’s an example tent pole tale of his own: “In Q1 2016 I attended an event at the White House, spoke at a global conference in Atlanta and was invited to Israel/Palestine through a US Consulate program teach entrepreneurs about branding and networking. In August, my ‘Big Game Hunting: Networking with Billionaires, Executives and Celebrities’ eBook became an Amazon #1 bestseller in small business for four days. In four weeks, I’ll be giving a keynote entitled ‘Catapult Your Career Opportunities’ at the headquarters of Google.”
The story behind each of these wins is a story pole, he says, and notes that he’s succeeded at the strategy enough times that Inc Magazine has referred to him as “the billionaire networker.” His advice to other entrepreneurs is to create a new tent pole accomplishment each month and to tell the stories in ways that will captivate and motivate others to accomplish their own business goals. (For perhaps his own most interesting story of all, be sure to ask him how he persuaded Elon Musk to drive to a homeless shelter for an exclusive interview.)
In the case of Khafif, he has combined the appeal of new or well known athletes and artists with cool designs and critical causes, such as sex trafficking and refugees (he’s the founder of Lisn Up Clothing, which donates 50% of its profit to charity) with personal access.
For example, in the days prior his recent collaboration with the singer Yuna, Khafif posted a temporary phone number on Twitter and Snapchat, urging supporters to call for exclusive information about the next collaboration, the clothing collection, and the cause he would donate to. For the designated period of four hours, he took calls (“hundreds”) from all around the country. The callers’ missions were to then create a post of their own about the news with the promise that Lisn Up would repost or re-Tweet their announcement.
So Lisn Up amplified and re-posted the fan-based announcements instead of announcing the news themselves. It gave the fans a sense of exclusivity to the brand and importance within the cause, as well as creating a personal connection and an experience to remember.
As the Yuna campaign was still in progress at the time of our interview (Oct. 23), Khafif was unable to provide exact outcomes, but disclosed that in three weeks time the campaign had raised $3,000 in revenue, and that the company is in the process of setting up a pop-up shop in L.A. to continue the effort and to expand upon the progress of the five pop-up shops he’s created around the country in Spring 2016 to raise money to combat sex trafficking. In all, Khafif has determined that fan involvement and exclusivity creates much more impact than a person or an organization could achieve on their own.
Finally, Ulyses Osuna has made his own unique advances to traditional PR-marketing activities to help his public relations endeavors succeed. He is one of six founders to be featured in an Inc Magazine article on “Millennials with a Thriving Business” and has also been featured in the Huffington Post as a 19-Year-Old dominating the PR space.
Osuna uses Hubspot Sales software to schedule his email pitches, which carries the advantage of letting him see who opens and reads his pitches. (Bonus advice—he gets the best traction by scheduling his emails to land between 7-9:00 a.m. Monday through Friday in his recipients’ time zones for maximum response.) The Hubspot tool also makes it easier for Osuna to scope the person’s social profiles and recent Tweets, which is something every prospective PR pitcher should do.
“Give journalists a narrative,” Osuna advises. His favorite strategy is to offer up a couple of bullet points on the prospective story hooks he could provide them. Make your pitch short, he says, and insightfully suggests that the headline you suggest follow a similar form and style to the titles the writer typically uses (a brilliant touch).
How to pitch the right person? Osuna uses Google searches to scope the keyword and the publication to see who’s most aligned within the base of writers to your topic of choice. Refer to one or more of the writer’s recent pieces to show that you’ve done your homework (you have done that homework ahead of your pitching, correct?)
Follow the journalists you’re pitching on Twitter, Instagram, etc., to get a better feel for their interests and the kind of stories and sources they prefer. You can even comment and share their articles every now and again. Keep the tone of your emails casual. Don’t address the individual as “Mr.” or Mrs.” You should certainly avoid approaches like “Dear Sir or Madame” or “To Whom it May Concern.” And keep your missive brief. “This is a conversation,” Osana reminds others, “Not an informational dump.” [Forbes]