Young companies often rely on PR to build their reputations. A necessary maneuver to create buzz and free promotion is to gain public attention through positive media coverage. Third-party recognition can be derived from business, consumer, and trade media. Generating media coverage makes young, small companies appear mightier than they are, helping them generate endorsers, partners, funders and customers.
In this issue of Marketing Coach, we review three relatively new companies -- Popchips, Eventbrite and ZocDoc -- that have outpaced others with their growth by using state-of-the-art PR strategies.
Thanks to our intern Jason Huber for his terrific research and insights.
"Generating media coverage makes young, small companies appear mightier than they are, helping them generate endorsers, partners, funders and customers."
Popchips Put the Fun Back into Snacking
Popchips is the new way to nosh, delivering a healthier option to snack lovers everywhere.
"These totally natural, preservative-free chips are the ideal treat for salty snackers," said Health Magazine.
Launched in 2007, Popchips has cultivated a growing list of celebrity endorsers, including Heidi Klum and Kim Kardashian, whose massive popularity have helped the company boost sales and generate buzz for the air-popped treat. Other ambassadors include Ashton Kutcher and celebrity health connoisseur Jillian Michaels, who advised people to "eat Popchips instead of Doritos" on the Today Show. The current face of the brand is Katy Perry, who recently released her own "Katy's Kettle Corn" Popchips flavor, triggering an avalanche of news coverage. Shape, Men's Health, and Hungry Girl are among the media outlets that have editorially endorsed Popchips.
Some of their most effective evangelists are the grassroots snackers it taps -- from PTA moms to fitness instructors to college students - to whom the company sends a care package of Popchips, along with a hand-written note suggesting ways to "pop it forward" to three people they know.
Popchips has also introduced its product at "snack breaks" at Nike, Twitter and other companies. Snackers share their feedback on the product's Facebook site, which posts catchy captions such as "50 Shades of Great," and photos of fans demonstrating their passion for Popchips. The company responds to every comment and tweet. This grassroots influencer campaign has generated thousands of emails from fans, according to Popchips co-founder Keith Belling. To help sustain momentum, Belling responds to all of the emails personally.
Eventbrite - the Event Enabler
Eventbrite provides people all over the world with the opportunity to plan, promote and sell-out event of any size. The start-up company "has differentiated itself in the ticketing space by allowing anyone to sell tickets on its platform -- whether they're planning a cooking class for their friends or a 60,000-person concert in Central Park," according to Fast Company.
In 2012, Eventbrite sold over $1 billion in tickets in 174 countries. The company generates most of its sales through social media outlets, particularly Facebook and Twitter. In its social commerce study last fall, the company reported that each time someone shares an Eventbrite event on Facebook, it generates an average of $4.15 back to the event organizer.
The start-up has also garnered coverage from top-tier traditional media, including Fast Company, CNBC, andTIME. Eventbrite cofounder Julia Hartz has been recognized on The Jane Dough's list of "30 Female Entrepreneurs To Watch In 2013."
In addition to building a reputation as the go-to company for social media ticket sales, Eventbrite is creating a brand that is increasingly associated with community involvement. Among the initiatives it champions is The Paperless 2013 Coalition. In observance of Earth Day, the company provided free mobile apps, enabling organizers and attendees to store tickets electronically and avoid printing them. It also engaged with communities after the Boston Marathon tragedy, waiving costs to any event raising funds to support relief activities. In addition to supporting the company's goal to help people come together in their local communities to foster improvement, these PR tactics elevate brand awareness and generate positive coverage for EventBrite in outlets such as Forbes and Fast Company.
ZocDoc - Fast & Easy Healthcare
A report from Mashable underscores the widespread success of this young American company: "ZocDoc has permeated the medical industry, allowing people like me to get a checkup more quickly than before, and permitting people like my doctor to fill empty slots and make more money," reported a journalist seeking treatment for a throat ailment. While the average American waits 20 days for an appointment, ZocDoc can help users get doctor appointments within 1 to 3 days.
One of ZocDoc's most effective PR strategies is dramatic storytelling. The media has widely documented the saga of how its co-founder was inspired to start the company after rupturing his eardrum on a flight to New York City, where it took him four days to track down a doctor. This frustrating experience led him to launch a service to help patients get speedy access to healthcare. His willingness to openly share his experience resulted in the anecdote's being cited by dozens of media outlets including CBS News, Fast Company and Business Insider, which praised ZocDoc for helping to "broker a new standard of interaction between doctor and patient."
The company also publicizes its reputation for zealous customer service, citing customer testimonials about its highly efficient response system and live, person-to-person interactions on the telephone to keep customers updated on the status of their appointments. These experiences provide additional fodder for media stories and highlight ZocDoc as a technology company with a human touch. The company has garnered coverage in The New York Times, Forbes and The Washington Post, which cited ZocDoc as "a revelation." The publicity helped ZocDoc gain the visibility it needed to raise $95 million from investors.
Marketing Coach is a publication of Ivy Cohen Corporate Communications, Inc. ICCC helps companies build reputations and differentiate in a competitive market through brand building, public relations and strategic communications. To find out how ICCC can help you and your company build your reputation