Can’t figure out how to go about forming public relationships? Jowynne Khor, Chief Operating Officer of e27, conducted a workshop and shared tips on how to start building public relationship (PR), at CUAsia 2018. Before joining e27, Asia’s largest Tech media platform; she used to work at MaGIC, where she lead the team to build the coworking space in Malaysia. Her insights would be helpful to those playing the role of a coworking space operator, or incubator, or accelerator, and even a community leader.
Jowynne started the workshop with how one should approach content creation, which was divided into three steps. First, you need to identify your position, which to make the best use of her insights, should be someone wearing the hat of managing a coworking space or leading a community. Second, identify your impact, as in how you can help the community to pursue or achieve their dream. Third, think of ‘why’ you would want to play that role, once you get the why you can encourage the community to write the content for you. Content creating or media PR is about people writing the story for you; it is less about you writing or branding yourself and more about other people identifying and acknowledging the value that you can provide. It does not necessarily mean that you can’t write the content; however, it is more impactful if you get others to write about you. People out there are interested to know about the story of your members(startup), and they are less interested in you (coworking space operator). If a startup can tell a fantastic story, indirectly it benefits you, because these people are successful because of you. As a coworking space operator, it is your role to guide them on how to tell a story. “You want to attract people to first listen or hear about the stories told by the startups which will lead to you. Their success is your success, their story is essentially your story,” said Jowynne.
Now that you know how to approach content creation, next you need to plan for your big moment. By that, Jowynne is referring to setting a ‘milestone’ towards your critical moment, the milestone is the pre-programming, which includes planning, program schedule, recruitment, announcement and finally the amazing speakers/mentors people come to meet. We almost always emphasize on the pre-programming phase, since we are always looking for the next big thing. Here is an example Jowynne used to make it easier for you to understand; let’s assume that you are planning to launch an accelerator program, for which you will run two events a year, one in the first quarter(Q1) and another in the third (Q3). Before the actual event, you publicize it to let people know what you are going to do; then you focus on the second event. In many cases, we forget about the first event, which could still potentially bring in more value. Jowynne’s suggestion is to revisit your portfolio of startups during the first event, follow up with them on their journey. Get answers to how they raised their funds, how much were they able to raise, how much they scaled regarding business, etc. Then you can make a listing of all the startups in Q1 and talk about their growth at the next event in Q3.
Lastly, you get to learn how to communicate with the public as a ‘thought leader.’ Jowynne went into details on how you can start engaging the community. The first approach she mentions, involves you sharing your journey of building a community. Journey refers to what you’ve learned (findings), any cultural changes, the impact you or your organization made and any transformation it has undergone. “You won’t know if what you are doing is right or wrong until you do it” – The finding/learning is always after you do something; and then you share the change that you brought about, this information comes from you. What about your members? They have also walked the journey with you, so you can encourage them to share their ‘productivity change.’ They will be able to share what has changed from their perspective, so they should share the productivity change content, while you share the cultural change content.
We have gone through content creation; next Jowynne talks about channeling, how you can leverage on media platform to push out the content. When you are looking for channels to help distribute your content, you need to think long term. The long-term emphasizes on engagement; you should aim to always engage with the community. For example, at e27, they have AMA (Ask Me Anything). Twitter is also a useful engagement method. Once you publish an article, you follow up with AMA, whereby you allow people to ask you questions, and then you answer. For marketing, you can leverage on Facebook to push out or encoura’ge a content, if it is good, people will share.
During the Q&A session, Jowynne was asked several questions which lead to her revealing more details on the points she had covered.
“How do you get the startups to write about you? Do you pay them?”
Never pay, always share. The more you share means your return on investment is more valuable, because you are impact-drive, not money-driven. By sharing it proves that you are in the space and you are sharing something relevant to the space or something relevant people want to know, then people will stick to you. Since you are building community, you want people to trust you. If anything is money driven, it is hard to contribute to impact with that, in turn making it hard for you to gain trust. Jowynne stated, “I am talking about contributing content, not paid content.” What you can pay for is a channel to push out the content, you can pay for people to plan for you or schedule for you, to share the use of their tactics or strategy on how to do it. “Unpaid content is when you don’t have to pay for the story, but you can pay someone to write the story, this points to a lack of skill set, which is okay.”
“Is it our role to help distribute the articles with existing PR networks?”
It sure is, because as a coworking space operator, you want to build the relationship with the PR or media agency. The content piece is not about your coworking space, but about the startups. Jowynne points out that the article should reach the agency via you, then you can start building a relationship with the PR. It can be mentioned in the article that the startup is operating from your space, that way you get a form of indirect branding opportunity for you.
“Journalist usually looks for value within the articles, how do I get them to publish the article?”
Let’s suppose that you want to publish a piece in e27; you can first study the writer’s style by reading the existing articles. Their specific styles will help you tap into their interest. You could even opt for going to events they are interested in and talking to them, be sure to make them remember you. You have already taken the first step to building a relationship with them. Jowynne shared, “I can tell you that writers are also human beings. They would love for you to treat them as a friend, rather than you going up to them and asking them to write a piece on you.”
“What are some new channels types that you have come across that we can use for engagement?”
In South East Asia, Linkedin has been in trend, because they are more targeted and therefore there is demand there. If you are looking into the younger generation, Snapchat and Instagram are in trend and appeals more to the next generation. E27 is looking into it, to see if they can be used as a viable channel.
“Going back to PR, other than emailing the reporters and trying to build the relationship. Is there any other way we can work to foster the connection?”
With e27, you can contribute directly. It is a blog driven by the community. You can tap into the platform they’ve built, to contribute the article/content directly to the community.
“How do you differentiate between user-driven content and your own?”
You start by writing a mail to the e27 writers, make the title catchy to get them to open it. The content should be the type that makes them want to talk to you. Then there is the interview stage, which does not have to be face to face. Finally, they write the piece for you; which is why when you want to use your startup story and put your positioning as a coworking space operator, it makes sense because you contribute it.