Scale your business through PR

How to Scale your Business with PR? Is it really worth spending money on PR? When are you ready to scale with PR and what are some of the steps you can do yourself? Saar Dietvorst, the founder of Content Cats, joins the Sales Acceleration Show to share advice and give pragmatic tips on scaling your business.

Listen to the podcast or read the full transcript below.


How to scale your business through PR

Michael Humblet:
Welcome to the Sales Acceleration show. My name is Michael Humblet, founder of Game Ethic, and in this show we will discuss the real questions, how to accelerate your business and basically make more money on sales and marketing.

Michael Humblet:
And today, one of the questions I’ve always been asking is, I invited the guests, Saar, is all about PR. So Saar, before we ask you the tough questions, tell us what you do?

Saar Dietvorst:
I’m Saar Dietvorst, I’m the founder of Content Cats, and we are a strategic PR agency.

Saar Dietvorst:
PR for us is the use of the media and the public opinion to help companies achieve their KPIs. And we do that, we focus on media relations, on strategic storytelling, and also on lobbying. We call it stakeholder management. So the, yeah.

Michael Humblet:
So one of the questions that always gets to me is, when I was helping a lot of these startup scale ups, I actually never talked about PR, never even thought about it.

Saar Dietvorst:
No.

Michael Humblet:
Because PR was expensive, right?

Michael Humblet:
So, so let me ask you the question, is it expensive and to, what happens if I do not do it? Why should I do?

Saar Dietvorst:
Well, it’s normal as a scale of that, it’s not your first goal, of course, you’re busy with your product. You’re developing the solution that you want to bring on the market. So it’s normal that that’s the first focus.

Saar Dietvorst:
On the other hand, at a certain moment, when you go into the market, of course we want people to know about this product. That doesn’t mean you have to do it immediately when you come on the market, but after a certain period of cusp period, maybe it’s a good idea to let people know that you exist.

Michael Humblet:
But when I think PR I always thinking of these press releases. I mean, it might be me, I might be wrong, I see this paper, and then you have these texts that I really wonder are being very blunt. Do people actually read it? Because it’s tough language, right?

Michael Humblet:
But that’s probably only aimed at the press, sorry, I’m wrecking the whole studio.

Michael Humblet:
It’s probably only aimed at journalists or, what’s the methodology behind, why does this look so weird?

Saar Dietvorst:
Of course, whatever we put in the press release or it’s really well thought of. Everything we say is has a meaning. We know why we say it. And we also build in call to actions.

Saar Dietvorst:
So a press release, of course it’s just the document. On the other hand, if you want to inform or tell a journalists about your business, they will tell you, “Well you know, put it on mail and I’ll take a look at it.”

Saar Dietvorst:
So that’s your email in a way. And you need to tell them-

Michael Humblet:
And it’s written in a way that they could copy-paste, because that would be the easiest route to market?

Saar Dietvorst:
Yeah. It’s the easiest way, because, you know, journalists, the editorial offices are not very extended anymore.

Saar Dietvorst:
Let’s say that by five people have to make a newspaper every day. They have to fill the newspaper every day. So the better you help them with a good text, the clear text that explains your business really well, that gets more into depth, it gives the details, the better you a journalist make a story.

Saar Dietvorst:
And you also can direct your messaging, because, of course, you can tell a story by phone to a journalist, but you’re never sure that he picks up the right things or did he understands everything well enough.

Saar Dietvorst:
And often we work for technical companies or maybe hardware or software companies, tech companies.

Michael Humblet:
Engineers.

Saar Dietvorst:
Engineers, and it’s not always easy to understand what they really do or it’s not the obvious easy for them to explain.

Michael Humblet:
So you help a lot with the storytelling and value prop?

Saar Dietvorst:
Absolutely.

Saar Dietvorst:
[crosstalk 00:03:48] Everything. Yeah. And you know, the moment that you come into the media, it has an enormous impact, and you want the right impact. You don’t want people to come congratulate you and say, “Okay, I saw your face in the newspaper.” You want people to do something. And that’s our aim as a-

Michael Humblet:
In essence, know you are probably buy, or-

Saar Dietvorst:
I’m sorry?

Michael Humblet:
So what’s the aim> is to name is to know? To buy?

Saar Dietvorst:
The aim is to, in my opinion is credibility is very important. Being in the news gives you credibility.

Michael Humblet:
Yeah.

Saar Dietvorst:
Of course you can not connect all this from social media. It’s important to be on social media. Also the news sites or newspapers, also have news sites and they pull in a lot of their readers via social media. So you cannot disconnect it.

Saar Dietvorst:
But when you are in the news or in a newspaper, it has an enormous impact that you will not get as quick with social media.

Michael Humblet:
Probably because it’s still paper and it’s touchable and-

Saar Dietvorst:
yeah, and a lot of people read the news every day and it’s a … of course you can say a lot about yourself on social media, but when it’s in the news, people believe you.

Michael Humblet:
Yeah.

Saar Dietvorst:
And that’s very important.

Michael Humblet:
Credible source.

Saar Dietvorst:
Credibility.

Michael Humblet:
Credibility.

Saar Dietvorst:
Authority. Also for hiring, it can be very important because the people who hear about you will want to work for you also.

Michael Humblet:
So if I want to start with PR and I’m looking at it, or even not. What are the things I need to do? What would be your advice before they come to you?

Michael Humblet:
For instance, say, “Okay, before you talk to us,” Let’s say like that. What are things they could do and then say, “Okay, when do you need an agency?”

Michael Humblet:
Because it’s always stuff for them. Sometimes they ask me the questions like, “Michael, can we do this ourselves? Do I need an agency?” And well let me ask you the question. What can they tell themselves or where do you think an agency brings a lot of value?

Saar Dietvorst:
So what they can do for themselves is follow the media being formed. Also read the newspaper and know the journalists that write about your industry.

Saar Dietvorst:
So whenever you read an article, write down who is the journalist and put it in an Excel or in your CRM or whatever. But start building your own press list in a way.

Saar Dietvorst:
A lot of them-

Michael Humblet:
That’s a good one, because one of the classics was you go to Twitter, you look for all the newspapers and then you look for all the journalists because they’re all on Twitter.

Saar Dietvorst:
Absolutely, start following them.

Michael Humblet:
Make a list, follow and-

Saar Dietvorst:
Absolutely.

Michael Humblet:
And hopefully they follow you back, which is just [inaudible 00:06:17] tough, but-

Saar Dietvorst:
But just, you can start by following them. That’s one thing you can do.

Saar Dietvorst:
Very important, also, if you want to reach out to press is choose the best timing.

Saar Dietvorst:
Timing when it comes from sending out the press release. Don’t do it in the afternoon because the journalist of staff has to bring in his piece at the newspaper. So it’s not the best timing. So do it in the morning then they still can … because news has to be new. The news of the day, yeah?

Michael Humblet:
Exciting.

Saar Dietvorst:
Tomorrow it’s not news anymore.

Saar Dietvorst:
So if you send out the press release, do it in the morning.

Michael Humblet:
Do you get one shot at the press release by the way?

Saar Dietvorst:
I’m sorry?

Michael Humblet:
You get one shot? So when you do a press release and imagine you think, “Should have gone with the second one.”

Saar Dietvorst:
No, that’s true. So you have to choose the right … it’s also about timing. You can, you can only launch once. Let’s say.

Saar Dietvorst:
If you give one journalist a story, you cannot give the next week, tell the same story to other journalists or two weeks after because they will … first thing they do is they Google and they see, “Oh, but you were in that newspaper two weeks ago.”

Michael Humblet:
So, you’re talking now about exclusivity? So is that when you do the news press release, you release it to all at the same time or do you really go with exclusive these certain things?

Saar Dietvorst:
I’m not the biggest fan of exclusivity.

Saar Dietvorst:
I would say inform all press at the same moment. But what you can do is give your … or send your press release under embargo to the your top journalists.

Saar Dietvorst:
Let’s say I really want to be in that newspaper or on that newspaper, inform them and say, “Okay, next week we’re going to send out this press release. If you want, we can talk about it already. You can do an interview, but you can only publish as of that date.”

Michael Humblet:
Yeah.

Saar Dietvorst:
So you give them more time-

Michael Humblet:
And they stick to that?

Saar Dietvorst:
They stick to that. Yeah, absolutely. They do that because if they don’t, they burn themselves in a way and next time you won’t to inform them anymore.

Saar Dietvorst:
So it’s a gentleman’s agreement. In fact, most of them will respect that date. Absolutely.

Michael Humblet:
So why do I then need an agency? Because everything I hear, I’m thinking, “Yeah, okay, maybe I don’t know the journalist. I think I can come up with a structure on mailing.”

Michael Humblet:
Is it a facilitator or is it, “No, it’s really impactful to bring it further.”

Saar Dietvorst:
Well, what we notice often is that companies don’t always realize what the good stories are. They’re so much into their business.

Saar Dietvorst:
Sometimes they think “That’s not important. It’s normal.” But what’s normal or obvious for them, it’s not always obvious for, the public, for the bigger public.

Saar Dietvorst:
They also have data often that they are not aware of, that are interesting for other people. And we help them dig those stories in a way.

Saar Dietvorst:
We also … sometimes companies don’t really want to tell everything to press. That’s normal. They don’t want to give all their numbers or whatever. That’s okay.

Michael Humblet:
That’s margins. Never talk about margins. Revenues [inaudible 00:09:26].

Saar Dietvorst:
On the other hand, journalists will ask those questions to them and we help them to formulate the right answer in a way.

Saar Dietvorst:
But we always come back to their key messages. So it’s important when you have a story to tell that you have a few key messages, and those are the things that you really want people to remember.

Saar Dietvorst:
So of course there’s a lot to tell about your company but at a certain moment when you reach out to press, there’s a certain thing that you want people to remember and to do. So you define the agenda also.

Michael Humblet:
I remember use case from something you guys did was, I was doing this company’s [Sweet Bride 00:10:07] was helping them with their, sales strategy and the storyline and all that. And then they said, “Okay, we’re going to launch the product.”

Michael Humblet:
It was already live that they would do a push. So they came to you and you did the news story and I was actually pretty impressed with the impact of that. And it’s actually the first time, this is about six months ago I realized that I thought, “I always think I can do all this stuff on my own and write and do,” and I realized “Damn, this might actually work if I use an agency for this.”

Saar Dietvorst:
Yeah.

Michael Humblet:
So what’s the process? So let’s take this at the mall. Let’s say strategic level. I want to work with an agency. What do you do? How does it work? What can I expect?

Saar Dietvorst:
Well, we dive into your business. That’s what we do. And depending … when it’s a large company, we often do workshop. But sometimes they also work with an intake document.

Saar Dietvorst:
I mean, we need input from a company to work with, of course. We need to know your business really well, that requires an amount of trust also.

Saar Dietvorst:
Sometimes you tell us things that you are not going to communicate to other people, but we need to know if there are things that you don’t really want to say or not really want to bring into press-

Michael Humblet:
So you set the borders, actually?

Saar Dietvorst:
Yeah, absolutely. And we need to know how we can deal with that. And how are we going to solve that?

Saar Dietvorst:
So people come to us, we dive into your business, we do a workshop, we ask a lot of questions on your company vision, of course. What about your vision, but did you want to reach really? But also what are your solutions? What are the topics that you can claim as a company? I mean we go really deep.

Michael Humblet:
But when you say topics you can claim you’re already thinking as CO or that’s a step too far?

Saar Dietvorst:
No.

Michael Humblet:
Because then we get to-

Saar Dietvorst:
No, we’re not talking about as CO.

Michael Humblet:
Okay, because then we get to the marketing side and-

Saar Dietvorst:
Yeah, that’s another thing we more talk about, let’s say that you’re a company, working in the sharing economy.

Saar Dietvorst:
Of course we have a solution. We want to talk about that solution. We want to let people know where your solution. But we also want to address maybe the topic sharing economy, because of course it’s a relatively new thing.

Michael Humblet:
They’re expensive, they probably have data, yeah.

Saar Dietvorst:
Yeah, and you need to … maybe governments are not always following yet. Or legislation isn’t always there yet.

Saar Dietvorst:
Also because a lot of those politicians or trade unions, they give keynotes and they can also tell your story to their public.

Michael Humblet:
Yeah.

Saar Dietvorst:
So it’s not only-

Michael Humblet:
So prove that whatever they saying is valid.

Saar Dietvorst:
Yeah. They will also want to know what’s going on in the world of, in my example, sharing economy.

Saar Dietvorst:
So if they have good examples of companies who work in that field and who do it really well, they can spread your message also. So they’re your ambassador in a way.

Michael Humblet:
So you did the workshop to try to figure out what the borders are, you try to figure out what’s the real solution, potentially explain the markets. I mean, I can imagine sharing economies, the one, if I go to VR, kind of an AI space in the real estate space, you need to explain what’s the market size, why would you need it potentially? And then, what then?

Saar Dietvorst:
Then we set up a communication plan. A PR plan.

Michael Humblet:
Okay, so you make a PR plan.

Saar Dietvorst:
Yeah, absolutely.

Saar Dietvorst:
Because PR is not, it’s not a one shot. PR is something that you have to build up. You build up relationships with journalists, with your ambassadors. And that’s not something you do in one time because in a few months they will have forgotten you.

Saar Dietvorst:
So it’s important in PR that you recharge on a regular base. Doesn’t have to be two times a month. One time every quarter is good enough. But on a regular base, that’s important.

Saar Dietvorst:
So we set up a PR plan with the messaging. We make sure the messaging is consistent, also in all of your communication. You cannot tell one story to the press and another one on your social media.

Michael Humblet:
When you look at startups, they tend to pivot the whole time, so you probably have to be very careful than that.

Saar Dietvorst:
So we set up the messaging really.

Saar Dietvorst:
And of course the messaging is going to alter in time. It’s not always going to be the same. But at a certain moment you have a certain goal as a company you want to reach a certain level or that next level. And depending on your needs, we will formulate the key messages. And make them consistent in all of your communication.

Saar Dietvorst:
We will also set up the PR actions. What are we going to do and how are we going to do this?

Saar Dietvorst:
Of course the launch of a product, it’s rather easy because it’s a new product. Journalists will listen to you because you have something new to tell of course.

Saar Dietvorst:
The challenge is to get attention again in a few months. What are you going to reach out or what are you going to tell then?

Michael Humblet:
And as a delivery-

Saar Dietvorst:
We can help you with that.

Michael Humblet:
Because now I’m thinking like an executive and I’m thinking, “Okay so what do I get?”

Michael Humblet:
You get the workshop, you get the plan and then you basically do the writing and the materials. So you build like little booklets let’s say. I mean the things Sweet Bride was like five, six pages really nicely explained.

Saar Dietvorst:
So you really know what to expect.

Saar Dietvorst:
Of course in this quarter, this is the action that we are going to do that quarter, that’s the section we’re going to do.

Saar Dietvorst:
But of course they’re also a lot of ad hoc actions. You know? When there’s a certain … when on how to keep, let’s say they’re maybe talking about electric cars? Of course when you’re in working into that business, you should react right away. You cannot wait until the next month.

Saar Dietvorst:
So we also keep an eye on the media all the time in fact, and we try to buzz your company-

Michael Humblet:
So you’re paid to read the newspaper?

Saar Dietvorst:
Yes. We are paid to do that. And to connect-

Michael Humblet:
So you can explain it like that to the kids. It’s always funny when you have to explain what you do to kids.

Michael Humblet:
My kids once thought because I was flying so much that I was a pilot. “No, daddy is something else.” Right?

Saar Dietvorst:
Yeah. Indeed. But that’s also my personal interests are, I really want to know what’s going on in the world and I also know what journalists want to hear.

Saar Dietvorst:
In fact, I wanted to become a journalist. That was the initial idea. It turned out differently and I’m very happy with that, with what I do now. But, yeah, that’s our strength I think as a company that we really understand what they need and what they want.

Saar Dietvorst:
We try to translate your business as a company to bigger public. And of course the journalists, they don’t want to tell your business story. That’s not what they want to tell. They really want to tell their public something interesting.

Michael Humblet:
Yeah.

Saar Dietvorst:
And that’s a translation that we make.

Michael Humblet:
So don’t do the direct approach of trying to sell your stuff straight away?

Saar Dietvorst:
No, don’t-

Michael Humblet:
Make the client put it in a story.

Saar Dietvorst:
I mean, they really don’t want to have the feeling that you use them for your commercial goals or whatever. You have to try to pull it open.

Saar Dietvorst:
And of course you can say then, “Yeah, then why should I do this? Because I really want to talk about my business. It’s the only thing I want to talk about.” On the other hand, if you can talk about your business in general, you will be seen as an authority in what you do. And people will always make the connection to your business.

Saar Dietvorst:
Also, journalists, they will find you. They will know, “Okay, I need info on let’s say a electric cars, or on sharing economy.”

Michael Humblet:
And they’ll ask you-

Saar Dietvorst:
And they will call you-

Michael Humblet:
To have something.

Saar Dietvorst:
Yeah. So that’s-

Michael Humblet:
Actually a very good effect on the radio when they start talking. They always phone the same guys on a topic.

Saar Dietvorst:
Absolutely. Yeah.

Michael Humblet:
Just need to be the guy, or their girl-

Saar Dietvorst:
On their list. You need to be on their list. Yeah.

Michael Humblet:
I never thought about that one. I should scale up.

Michael Humblet:
Now what we do, near the end of our conversation, I always had my big black book. It’s literally black.

Saar Dietvorst:
Okay.

Michael Humblet:
With the tough questions.

Michael Humblet:
So I ask all my guests these questions. So especially when you just told me, they said, “Look, I’m into the newspapers, the media. I need to read all of that.” So how do you focus? How do you bring focus to your day? Because I can imagine the constant flux of news.

Saar Dietvorst:
Well, of course we bring our projects … we know very well what we need to do. There’s a lot of things to do indeed, but we have a management system in a way with all of our products.

Saar Dietvorst:
We have team meeting once every, not every day, but a couple of times a week, in which we set priorities. And often it’s very … it’s about timing. We work in PR, in media. It’s all about timing.

Saar Dietvorst:
So if we … sometimes we can be busy on a project, but then something has been on the news, which can be interesting for one of our other customers. Then that gets priority.

Michael Humblet:
So how do you then say, “No.” That’s always a tough one.

Saar Dietvorst:
How does do I say no to-

Michael Humblet:
So this can be, actually the hardest question always is, customer phones you, says, “I want to do this.” And you want to say no. Because various reasons. I mean, sometimes you just don’t like them. Secondly, they’re asking you questions you don’t do, I mean it’s a tough one.

Michael Humblet:
I experience it every day and maybe it’s because I’m a sales guy, I do say yes on everything, which is a real problem.

Saar Dietvorst:
Yeah.

Saar Dietvorst:
Well for us and for me, trust is really important.

Saar Dietvorst:
If I feel there’s no trust, then then it’s going to be hard to work for a company. Because we need to know-

Michael Humblet:
But it’s tough to say, “Hey, I don’t trust you so we’re not going to work together.”

Saar Dietvorst:
That’s true, but you feel it rather quick.

Michael Humblet:
Yeah.

Saar Dietvorst:
We feel it rather quick. They need to open up to us, and if they can’t do that then it’s hard for us to help them, then we can’t help them.

Michael Humblet:
AND you basically tell them, “look, this is not going to work.”

Saar Dietvorst:
yeah, I kind of do in a way.

Saar Dietvorst:
What we also don’t do is that they come to us and say, “Okay, we have a press release. Can you send it out to your press contacts?”

Michael Humblet:
Yeah, No.

Saar Dietvorst:
I’m not interested in that.

Michael Humblet:
There’s no added value.

Saar Dietvorst:
No. And also I don’t feel responsible for the results.

Michael Humblet:
No, makes sense.

Saar Dietvorst:
Everything we do, we believe it will have an impact. And if I can put myself behind that, I won’t do it.

Michael Humblet:
So, where do you get inspired then? Where do you get the energy from?

Saar Dietvorst:
Inner energy from the world. It’s a very open-end answer maybe. But on the other hand, let’s say that those teenagers who come on the streets for, climate, that’s very inspiring to me. The whole migrate debate, the whole energy debate, you know, that type of discussions. I find it really interesting. And it’s society in a way. Social things.

Michael Humblet:
So what’s during your career, the biggest mistake you’ve made? Would you say, “I’m never going to do that again. I should do it differently.”

Saar Dietvorst:
Okay. My whole career? I would-

Michael Humblet:
Don’t go back to that teenager.

Saar Dietvorst:
No. But what what I think is … So when I ended my studies, I started a temporary job in HR and the manager of that company that I assisted, she was pregnant, she had to go for a couple of months and they asked me to, replace her for that time. So I ended up being six years in that company.

Saar Dietvorst:
And it was not really because I, like I told you before, I wanted to become a journalist. That was the idea, and I wouldn’t do that anymore. I would really wait until I know, “This is really the what I want to become. This is what I want to start doing.” And wait until I get the job in that field.

Saar Dietvorst:
Now I was six or eight years even an HR manager. I learned a lot from that. And it’s not something I really regret because on the other hand I was in a company, I know what it is to work in a company, it helps me until today.

Saar Dietvorst:
On the other hand, at a certain moment I made the step, the change to communication and PR. And it was a really very well-

Michael Humblet:
It didn’t feel like work anymore?

Saar Dietvorst:
Yeah. That, that’s my passion. That’s what I really love doing.

Michael Humblet:
I fully agree.

Saar Dietvorst:
What I do today doesn’t feel like working.

Michael Humblet:
Is the statement like, “You’ve got to love the process. That’s because it’s the process that makes you happy.” And if that’s not the case, you will just be unhappy. You need to do something else.

Saar Dietvorst:
And that’s what I also advise my son now already. If you want to do something, really go for that. Don’t let yourself be distracted by about other things.

Michael Humblet:
Yeah. But my kids aren’t asking to become a YouTube star unfortunately, which is going to be an intriguing one.

Saar Dietvorst:
Well, if that’s what they want to become-

Michael Humblet:
But we have [crosstalk 00:22:49] to do these kind of videos set up.

Michael Humblet:
Okay. Thanks a lot for that. I think it was a great chat.

Saar Dietvorst:
You’re welcome.

Michael Humblet:
And if you want to know a lot more, where can we find more information about you?

Saar Dietvorst:
Well, you can drop me an email, saar@contentcat.be, but of course you can always also go to our website. You can find me on Twitter, on LinkedIn.

Michael Humblet:
So we send all the press release to you now?

Saar Dietvorst:
No, we’ll make the press releases for you!

Michael Humblet:
Perfect, okay.

Michael Humblet:
Thanks for watching the show. And if you like what you’re seeing, give it a thumbs up. Subscribe for a lot more information coming.

Michael Humblet:
And Saar, thanks for being a guest on the show.

Saar Dietvorst:
You’re welcome.

Michael Humblet:
Thank you.

2019-10-08T09:35:34+02:00April 28th, 2019|

About the Author:

Michael Humblet is obsessed with designing, building and scaling sales engines and founder of Chaomatic, focused on unlocking & maximizing revenue growth trusted by over +207 companies. He is a seasoned sales strategist who served in different Sales Leadership functions. Michael Humblet is the host of The Sales Acceleration Show, the sales and marketing focused Q&A show on how to accelerate your business.
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