The UnNoticed Entrepreneur - how to overcome being overlooked.

What is the best way to get coverage for blockchain start up companies using a ghost writer?

July 20, 2021 Jim James
The UnNoticed Entrepreneur - how to overcome being overlooked.
What is the best way to get coverage for blockchain start up companies using a ghost writer?
Show Notes Transcript

What are the challenges of securing coverage in a fast-moving emerging tech sector like blockchain, and how to set realistic expectations with your agency? Just some of the questions I cover with Nick Vivion.  Working from his RV on the Mississippi River, Nick is the founder of Ghost Works Communications, a boutique integrated communications agency focused on blockchain and emerging tech.

Check out Nick's RV on the BBC.

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Nick_Vivion___Gh:

Don't hide anything. Even the bad stuff. The truth. We edit and, we need to know the truth to get to where we need to be. And so the key is just encouraging that type of relationship. And then, these, whenever you expect quick results, like anything you can't get rich quick, May happen to a few people, but you're not going to get famous quick. And so it's also investing in the longterm of the relationship because the more I understand about your business and where it's going over time, the better I get.

Jim_James:

Okay. All right. Welcome to this episode of the UnNoticed show today. I'm delighted to have Nick Vivion he's actually calling from a very interesting place to tell us about it in a minute, Nick, your company's called ghost work communications. Welcome to the show now that you're in an interesting location and an interesting building. Just tell us a little bit about that quickly.

Nick_Vivion___Gh:

Absolutely. So this is my RV. Actually, I live in an RV for about five months tomorrow, actually. And we're about 20 feet from the Mississippi river in Memphis. And it's absolutely gorgeous. It's really fun to watch the tug boats go by and it's just a really cool light. Yeah.

Jim_James:

Fantastic. and it's a life that you also got featured on the BBC. I believe so you are a PR guy through and through.

Nick_Vivion___Gh:

Sure. Did you know, there are advantages to doing your own PR, right? When you see these opportunities, you just got to take them sometimes for yourself too.

Jim_James:

Yeah. when you're not doing PR for yourself and your RV lifestyle, which has amazing, you are working at the forefront of tech. So you're working with clients around blockchain and new tech. And I spent really most of my life introducing new tech. Can you just tell us and share it with fellow entrepreneurs? How do you get new technology companies noticed and what are the particular challenges.

Nick_Vivion___Gh:

yeah, it's incredibly difficult, because you simultaneously have an audience. Maybe that's very geeky and nerdy, the people that know the technology. And so you have to be very careful about what you say and they'll really tear you apart if it's wrong. And then you have an audience that knows nothing about the technology and needs a super higher level view. So that type of dichotomy is quite difficult, because you need an education. Thing on one side, but then you need to be very detailed on the other and if those messages get crossed. So for example, if you're doing a basic message and you're pitching into a more technical outlet, you look very bad. they think, oh, look at this. I don't know what they're talking about, but on the flip side, if you go to a mainstream journalist and you try to do too much of a depth process, news kind of goes right over their head. And so you're missing an opportunity on both ends. So it's very tricky. It's a balance that can be hard to.

Jim_James:

And how you're doing that from a content point of view, because many clients have kind of one set of content, one. example, that goes to all media. How are you managing that content strategy then Nick for them?

Nick_Vivion___Gh:

it's it's incredibly difficult to that's nuanced, but thankfully we have tools that are disposable, this integrated communications approach, where you have your social media, you have your newsletter perhaps, but then you also have these. Things called blocks, so you're able to create your own content and do op-eds at different publications to try to help these different audiences. so one op-ed at a publication that is a more higher level and one op-ed that shows your technical chops. So I love doing these thought leadership pieces because it really allows you to go deeper and teach people what you need them to know about your brand. And also just your expertise in that space, because that's what we're all about,

Jim_James:

Yeah, absolutely. Especially in B2B tech, which is also where I've worked for 25 years. It's that balance and the client side is often super teched up. So how do you help the client to realize what's going to be needed? For the different media outlets, but also what might happen as a result of you getting them into those those media outlets.

Nick_Vivion___Gh:

first, we have to fight the buzzword parade rights, the first step to cut through the buzzwords to really figure out what everyone is trying to say. And once you know the core messages there, it really comes down to setting those expectations. it's very difficult. I think in our personal lives professional lives especially for entrepreneurs to set expectations with ourselves, each other, our partners, but it's really important to remember that there is no single solution. To building a brand that it takes that cohesive, integrated approach. And you have to build each of the building blocks together. you can't just put one out there in the next section to have a foundation that you can build from, you really need all of these pieces, the pillars, really to build the brand upon. And so it's I struggled because most people they take getting in the New York times, it's going to transform their business. And it might, of course, it's awesome. It's a great logo for the website, but let's be real. Like how many websites do you read in a day just to take, if you just look at your own life and behavior, someone reads you on New York times and then moves on like that. There's no, like they're not going to stop everything. And the, oh my gosh, this brand is amazing. Let me stop all that work today until everyone I know about this one thing I read in the New York times, it just doesn't happen, but entrepreneurs are so passionate about what they're doing, that they think everyone is going to care. And the core message I have is no one cares. You have to remember that it start from there.

Jim_James:

Yeah, but isn't that's also a very unpopular message to give to a client. Isn't it? because you, they pay you to care. And I have to say, Hey, I'd say this is not me saying I don't care, but your average person in the marketplace is not yet up to speed. Or how are you helping clients for example, your work in blockchain. It's not just that people don't care. They don't even understand. Blockchain so Nick how you working with the media and the client to move people as the sort of marketing across the chasm, the old Moore marketing challenge.

Nick_Vivion___Gh:

it's especially difficult with emerging tech like blockchain, because there is, there's just not that many outlets, right? There are often very few outlets that care about a niche topic and that poses its own challenges. Because especially if you have five or six clients in one space, you can't constantly be pitching the same 20 journalists. the clients, what are these difficult dances that we all face, but it really takes a thoughtful understanding of where we are. And then where we're headed and how your client fits inside of that. And I think if you can get that narrative across, that's really the most powerful thing, but the truth is everyone always wants more. I always cringe when I get on a client call and they're like, so what do you have for me this week? And it's just, that artificial pressure is sometimes not very helpful, for the agency, because you're trying to find this like larger place in the narrative. And sometimes that pushing those little wins can be where you get the momentum to get to the big one. it's not just getting in the New York times tomorrow. It's like getting a New York times in six months and backing into where you need to be today to get to where you want to go to.

Jim_James:

So if you are a client and you're listening to this and you think, Hey the agency is telling me that. Being too demanding. What do you think is realistic because they're spending money actually from the get-go, what is realistic for them? And also more importantly, how can they participate? How can they support their agency? Not just if you like create pressure on their agency.

Nick_Vivion___Gh:

I think it's maybe understanding. There, the agencies there to help you, right? we're not here to just take your money and run away. We want to help our clients. And so sometimes it feels like maybe there's like a tension there, but as long as everyone understands, we're here for the same battle. Like we're here to do this together. That's the first step. And then the second is being responsive. So if there is a quick inbound media opportunity, we need a response within the hour. The sooner you get that back to the journalist who's on the deadline, the more likely it is you get included. So that's the second piece

Jim_James:

okay. And what about making themselves accessible as well to you as the consultant? Because quite often I found there's a lack of time on the client side to give to the pR team to help them understand the strategy of the company. They can be quite focused on the tech tactical product launch, but not on the corporate strategy. What's your guidance there, Nick, in terms of getting the CEO or the founder to really share the long-term plan for the company and why does that help?

Nick_Vivion___Gh:

I'm all about oversharing. I always tell them the beginning of my clients please give me everything. Don't edit. I want everything and I'll do the editing because that's my job. especially as a former journalist, I edit for you. That's what we do. Give me everything. Don't hide anything. Even the bad stuff. The truth. We edit and, we need to know the truth to get to where we need to be. And so the key is just encouraging that type of relationship. And then, these, whenever you expect quick results, like anything you can't get rich quick, May happen to a few people, but you're not going to get famous quick. And so it's also investing in the longterm of the relationship because the more I understand about your business and where it's going over time, the better I get. So for thought leadership, like if I'm writing your blogs and placing op-eds for you, I know your voice. And so it is this long-term commitment that I always try with clients, for them to understand let's be in this for the longterm. are you with us for a year? Are you just looking for a quick hit and trying to winnow those things out? Because building a brand takes time, it takes patience and it most certainly takes a strategy.

Jim_James:

And that's a Nick, you've mentioned a few things that are, if you're like industry buzzwords or op-eds that you've also mentioned about building blocks. Could you just be a little bit more detailed for those people that are listening? What are those building blocks, those different pieces of content that you would create for the client that. Ensure goes to the right media. Just take us through those different elements that you have within your overall portfolio of material for a client.

Nick_Vivion___Gh:

Absolutely. first thing we'll start is a few objectives, is that we're going to go public in six months, just starting to understand what the bigger picture objective is, and then breaking it down into the audiences that would participate in that objective. And then within those audiences, we'll start creating content and communications for the app for that audience. So it could be like we're going to do social media or a blog, like a technical blog. If recruitment is what you're trying to do with developers, that's a key piece. And try to then adapt levels are building all the content blocks, the PR blocks and then any sort of social media or other external communication that needs to happen. And it's almost like building a communication strategy for each audience, which is why it gets very complicated b ecause most people don't want to do the audience work. it's like the sales team who just sprays and prays. It's just not going to be as effective.

Jim_James:

Okay. So if we look at that, one of the areas that I found useful for introducing new technology is that, the industry association, people don't think of that as media relations, but you've also mentioned about this 360 and sometimes companies need to get together to move a whole industry forward. Don't they, what's your guidance to a company that might really need to join forces with competitors to move an industry on 5g is a good example of this with Open Ran, for example, how do you help your clients to understand and participate in those kinds of forums?

Nick_Vivion___Gh:

Absolutely. I mean with blockchain too, right? Like widespread adoption really matters for the whole community. And so when it comes to technology, finding those partners is key. One of my clients actually works with IEEE which is a global standards body, and they're building those standards together for blockchain IOT. And so that type of thing is really important because it not only gets you partners and gets in front of there, but it allows you to also set your future kind of just set the agenda a little bit and, with associations, the great thing about those folks is that they're always looking for content. It's speakers. They're always in that vein. And a lot of them are paid organizations, so they want to keep people happy and they have, your agendas are aligned. they want to press that narrative and they want it to grow, to be successful. So it is an important piece of what you're trying to do as a brand.

Jim_James:

Yeah, I think that when we worked with the GSMA, it was getting all the different organizations and vendors together. and getting them partner and I guess you almost co-optition isn't it. In terms of the kind of challenges of companies that are maybe looking to do international PR in new tech. are you working with clients and helping them to go international because blockchain of course is not a national or even a regional industry. So any advice for companies that actually are trying to go global, even though there may be a small company.

Nick_Vivion___Gh:

That's funny, I'm doing another client doing that right now. They're out of Canada cryptocurrency exchange and they've just launched in Europe. It's very difficult, right? Because you're not only a small company in your home town and you're not in your home country. You're really a challenger brand, but now you've become a challenger brand, possibly a new countries too these two different languages, different preferences, different media outlets, new relationships and also different headway. And and that's in those cases, this is another very unpopular thing, but it's like taking a strategy and doing a geography based. So whether it's country or region, ideally country or language-based, and then you got to localize all of your approaches. And so I think a lot of people just have a cavalier attitude. Like I'm expanding to Europe, go get me press, but it's okay. But how and why is it relevant to French people versus German? Do we need a different message or can we use, it could be fine to use our other message, but we might need a more nuanced message. And that's why it gets so complicated, so fast, and you're doing it often with the limited team. And so your expansion plans hopefully really are thoughtful and also include a communications person to help you understand what that means because French people aren't like German people. And I don't know what it is sometimes that the kind of corporate level you forget that every country is different and localizing your approach is really the only way to success

Jim_James:

in terms of the kind of way that you are w orking within the organization. Do you find that you're on the whole dealing with the CEO, the founders, or are you working with the PR manager marketing manager and what's the difference? Because that's often a challenge isn't it is that the PR manager themselves hasn't necessarily got a full briefing.

Nick_Vivion___Gh:

And that's your audience like when you're the professional in there, you might have a triple audience. You might have the one who pays the bills, the one who was the champion to hire you. And then the one you deal with on day to day operations. And so if the day-to-day person may not really talk much to the CEO or they may not report much, so you have to try to figure out what needs to be shared. How do you show that you're having impact and understanding. The internal person may also have someone else that they're trying to bring in, or that maybe they didn't want you, or she know that there's other dynamics at play. And so you have to be pretty thoughtful about that. And just always knowing who the bill payer is always good for any consultant. Just know who the actual person making that decision is. And then making sure they're happy and bringing that strategy then down to the PR person that you're dealing with. To make sure that you're aligned and you're not causing conflict. And also that you're resilient. If someone moves on, cause people also change roles. And the last thing you want is someone to leave and then take you away too, because someone else comes in, right? Like you want to embed yourself in the organization and be useful across all levels so that people see you as a partner in the future success, rather than just a vendor who's coming in.

Jim_James:

You raised an interesting question about being useful across all departments. Do you find that you interface with sales teams at all Nick, or are you already strictly dealing with the communications teams?

Nick_Vivion___Gh:

So now you're going to make me reveal one of my big secrets. sales is the key. it's so funny because it, people just forget that I was like the sale. I honestly, I'd rather talk to the salespeople than the marketing people, no shade on marketing people, but a lot of times the salespeople know more about what's actually going on in their client's lives and the problems being really solved. marketing does because a lot of sales and marketing teams are a little more siloed than they should be. And I just find that sales teams really understand customer problems. They understand new things that are emerging. I love that we're getting recordings of calls, if I can get access to them. And what's something weird that someone said to you because that's usually a good story. And ultimately PR is about story. We need to find the good stories. And when I go deep a nd of get insights that's super helpful. And the same goes with product marketing. if I can talk to product marketing about the near term roadmap, we might not be able to create a feature or change a feature a little bit more towards communications and PR strategy than it would have been alone, rather than them just dumping a feature in our laps and be like, go talk about this cool thing. We could maybe develop it together in tandem and then make a feature that's actually newsworthy.

Jim_James:

That's a great idea. And I think that one of the.

Nick_Vivion___Gh:

Yeah.

Jim_James:

Issues that I faced is people don't trust the PR person to talk to the salesperson because they think they're going to give away commercial secrets. one can have an NDA in place, for example to safeguard the commercial aspects of the relationship and information. Can't you.

Nick_Vivion___Gh:

Absolutely. Absolutely. And even just sales decks, stuff that maybe is more digging, digging a little deeper. the type, those types of presentations can give you a lot of insights that maybe wouldn't be surfaced in a marketing brief necessarily because they have just a little bit different metrics, sales team and marketing team, but, brand marketing ultimately needs to come from the problems you're solving and then elevate it. But you need to know the problems you're solving so that where your brand sits in the minds of their customers.

Jim_James:

You talked about metrics and you've talked about building. Just talk us through frequency, Nick, because we often find that clients have a lot of information available, for example, for a trade show or for a speaking opportunity or a product launch, but not a lot in between. Can you give us some guidance on cadence? How frequently people should be issuing content before they get to that wall street journal? Op-ed.

Nick_Vivion___Gh:

Absolutely. Yeah, it can be tough in between the dry spells of major news announcements, or things that are a little more notable. So it's important to always be thinking of that, like what is your monthly plan there? I, I always recommend at least a monthly touch of some sort. so even if it's like you've created a blog post and then you can share it with your journalists or, this type of thing can be really wonderful and impactful. and even honestly, just reaching out to journalists when you like something, they won't always respond, just these little touch points. So thinking about losses like these oh, it's just a major news announcement, but thinking of all the touch points in that journey, and then making sure that you're accomplishing a nd that's the beauty of social media too, right? Like you can always get these messages out, you can participate. we do a lot of like ghost LinkedIn management. So we'll go in into the client's LinkedIn for the CEOs and the executives that we work with and manage it because those little comments and these little pieces, those all build and that's really that's really the cadence that I recommend is constant, was just a lot for people to digest,

Jim_James:

Yeah, it is. I think you're right with that cadence. Can you just talk then maybe a little bit about allocation Nick, between the owned and earned media. Are you recommending to clients that there's 60, 40 or 80 20? Can you give us some guidance on that as well?

Nick_Vivion___Gh:

Clearly owned media, is my preference just in the sense of, you can control it, And you even look with a 16 Z the Anderson Horowitz doing the publication so there's a lot of people going directly to the consumer. And so I do prefer that, but it doesn't have the same caché and it doesn't build a full strategy. so you know, each brand's a little different, if it's something where we need to educate and we have a lot of touch points, then, mailing more like 70, 30, or if it's a brand that is constantly releasing features and has a lot of organic growth and interest. Industry, that's very popular a buzzy industry, then maybe it's more 70, 30 the other way with earned media leading away, but it really just really comes down to also your own personal brand preferences. Do you feel like you want to have more control over it or do you feel like you would rather have external social proof with the understanding that it's not guaranteed, You can't control. It's like SEO, right? Google could change their their algorithm. And we do a lot of SEO too, with this thought leadership and owned media. the great part is when it's published on your website, you get the SEO. But even when we're optimizing and really concerned, SEO strategy, things change like they did an update in June. And one of my client's sites went from they lost 5,000 viewers or 5,000 readers a month, and that's not owned media fully. because you're at the mercy of someone else. So it is all about.

Jim_James:

Yeah. And it sounds as though this need to have as you say, a holistic approach, and then to manage expectations about what might happen. If there's one thing that you think public relations can bring to a company, Nick, to a client, what would you say? That's going to be.

Nick_Vivion___Gh:

This is also another tougher, maybe less popular thing to say, it's the the internet. evolution of the company that I think PR is really valuable at and people very much focused on the external metrics, but we do things like help understand the brand narratives, coalesce your teams around a common vision and a shared messaging really help you craft and hone the narrative that you're telling, which. Goes down and gets into the sales teams, right? Because once they know exactly what you stand for, they can sell it better. And so I think really PR is helping you become a better brand. And I know it's not an external metric and even that is hard to measure, but. it's, it's tough for PR with metrics. Cause it's, everyone wants metrics and, but brands don't have metrics. sure. You can do awareness and things like that, but you just know whether or not a brand is good. Like you have a feeling like it's just very wishy-washy, but you can feel it. And so while it's not a metric, I think we all just know when it's working.

Jim_James:

Nick. And if people want to find out about how you're working from your amazing RV in the countryside, down the middle of America, how can people get hold of you?

Nick_Vivion___Gh:

Absolutely. You can find me on LinkedIn. It's just Nick Vivion, or my website is ghost.works and shoot me an email. It's [email protected]

Jim_James:

nick. Thank you so much for joining me today on the unnoticed show, it's been a real pleasure and really great insight to talk with you about especially how to market new technologies and really give me great ideas about the complexity of the content creation process that you engage with. So thank you for sharing.

Nick_Vivion___Gh:

Absolutely. It's a lot of fun.