Posted on: 04/11/2017

Ronjini Joshua of The Silver Telegram on How to Do Startup PR

Ronjini Joshua

Founder - The Silver Telegram


Podcast Summary

Ronjini Joshua is the founder of The Silver Telegram, a PR agency for startups and crowdfunding campaigns. She walks us through the best practices for Startup PR, how to get the most out of your PR Agency and a few "what not to do" stories. :)

Podcast Transcript

Scott Orn:

Welcome to Founders and Friends podcast with Scott Orn at Kruze Consulting. And my very special guests is Ronjini Joshua of the Silver Telegram. Welcome Ronjini.

Ronjini Joshua:

Thank you, it's nice to be here.

Scott Orn:

Yeah, so is Silver Telegram is PR Agency for tech start-ups, only tech, do not try to be a real estate company getting PR from the Silver Telegram, they will say no. But it's because they're so good at PR for tech companies. So maybe Ronjini retrace your career a little bit and how you ended up in PR?

Ronjini Joshua:

Yeah absolutely. So I have been doing PR for about 16 years and I started off at tech mobile and wireless specifically at a small agency in southern California. And it was a little bit of accident to be in tech, after graduating from college you kind of do a little internships, and kind of figure out what you want to do as you go, and tech at the time just really started booming, and I've done everything from mobile technologies, enterprise technologies, video games, consumer technologies, which is what we do more of these days; but I have been able to be able to kind of dive into all these different facets of tech specifically, and it's such a very specific type of PR, it's much different than doing like publicity some people call it, it is definitely a nuance kind of thing where you're competing against a lot of really cool start-up companies, and trying to position yourself ahead of innovation and things like that. So it took a little while but I started freelancing at some point, I was working with a big agency and I noticed that they were passing by a lot of the small guys, and I realized that I could be helping those small guys. And so, I kind of started freelancing for smaller companies, and it kind of blossomed from there, just word of mouth got out, and I started working with video game companies, consumer tech companies, and then I actually started doing some crowd funding PR for companies that are just launching their branding products too. So it's really fun, because we get to see, test and view a lot of really cool different things, but it's an underserved market or at least it was, now it is becoming a little bit more popular to serve tech start-ups, but for a while there, there was really nobody doing it, and I think it's awesome because you get to see ROI from my perspective, I can see you know how much of an impact we can make almost immediately.

Scott Orn:

You touched on ROI which is like, a lot of people don't always think, they don't know how to quantify PR ROI, I mean, maybe you can touch on that, and also just like what makes you good at your job, is it relationships you've developed, is it your way of positioning a start-up, is it guiding the founders through the PR process, like what makes you so awesome at PR Page1|8

Ronjini Joshua:

Good questions. So, for the ROI, yeah a lot of people don't feel like they can really quantify it because PR is actually like living and breathing article sometimes, thought leadership it's kind of a combination of things. So the ROI we measure is partially like actionable traffic sales that kind of stuff, but then you kind of add a little bit of extra because this is something that is going to live and breathe for a really long time, so it's not just like and advertisement, it's not just you can't measure it through clicks, although you can, kind of. So, when we measure ROI for our clients, we kind of do a combination of okay this is the publication that you've reached, this is the influence that it has, but then here's the actual clicks, like this is the Google Analytics, this is the traffic it's driving here to your website so PR has become a little bit of a converged art where you are doing a little bit of analytics, social media, media relations, so we're combining all those things. And I think what makes us really good at that is that I really make sure that our team kind of looks at that particular ROI. While a lot of people say we find clients, okay, get me into Good Morning America. It sounds so easy, right.

Scott Orn:

Well, sometimes that's driven by the fact that they watch Good Morning America, right, or their parents do, and so it's a little bit of like, I'm a success.

Ronjini Joshua:

I mean I've got products in the Good Morning America and they just didn't even move the needle.

Scott Orn:

Yeah, wow that's crazy, yeah.

Ronjini Joshua:

It's really hard to explain that to the client, so typically we usually have them have like a wish list, of okay, these are the things that we really want to be in, and then we explain to them ok, we can be in those things but they may not do what you need it to do, and here are the publications or the media, or the types of PR you could do that will really push the needle to the direction that you want it to. So, helping them quantify and working with the CEOs to help them understand that, hey there are actually ways to measure PR, you just have to be doing the right activities, that's like a big part of my job, and at the end of the day, they still want what they want, but we can give them a little bit more information on how they can get that customer, the new customer, or make their investors happy, or you know, sell their products. So, I think when we start talking like that, they perk up little bit because they realize oh okay it's not just like figurative, it's actual.

Scott Orn:

It sounds like you're doing a lot of brand positioning work and helping them kind of realize who they are, too, right? I mean, they give you the list of being on Good Morning America but it's a niche product that is super focused, you sound like you're talking him through that exercise and helping them figure out a better channel, or a better audience for what they're really doing.

Ronjini Joshua:

Sometimes they get it right away, and then other times they kind of are a little bit argumentative. With start-ups, you are dealing with people's babies, so you have to be a little bit as sensitive to that as well, so there are places where we kind of give in a little bit, but at the end of the day, I think people Page2|8 are pretty happy because we are very straightforward and transparent and trying to do the best we can as far as getting them ROI quickly. But sometimes also depending on what kind of industry you're in, like health care for example, I mean, the lead time on health care is really long. The lead time on a gadget is super short, so it just really depends on what you're working with.

Scott Orn:

Yeah. I've always wondered this, how does someone like you go about developing relationships with journalists? Because that's a big part of your job too, right, being able to get someone into Good Morning America, or getting someone to TechCrunch or whatever it is, how do you do that side of your job?

Ronjini Joshua:

I think first and foremost, for someone who doesn't have a lot of time experience, it's doing the right kind of research; so making sure you know who you're talking to, what they've covered before, that kind of things. And there is very specific reporters for very specific things. And you should be able to find that out. But, sometimes it's trial and error, I mean I know people at TechCrunch that cover a number of topics, and you don't know if they're going to want to cover it until you ask them. So it's just realizing that everybody is human, and having conversations with these people instead of shoving like information down their throat; and then also, a lot of times I think it has to do with the product- being realistic about the actual product or pitch that you have. If you're doing a lot of marketing talk and talking about it like it's the first or the only innovation of its kind, I mean typically, you're going to get a lot of eyes rolling. If you are very explicit and specific about what problem it is solving, and why people should care, and you need to come up with that with a client, the client needs to understand that they need to have a really good key compelling message, if you have a compelling message, then typically the reporters will work with you whether you worked with them before or not. It's just about being very clear but honest, and if they worked with you before, they get back to you a lot faster.

Scott Orn:

Yeah, that's for sure.

Ronjini Joshua:

But if you haven't worked with them before, there's still ways to talk to them.

Scott Orn:

Yeah, it's their job to find cool new stuff too, so I'm sure they're open to things. Do you have any amazing or crazy stories, you have to have pitched something or some journalist is like oh my God I can't believe this, or maybe it's like a happy thing where- did you ever have a moment where a journalist was like so excited because they like just got it right away?

Ronjini Joshua:

We've had a lot of interesting moments. I think the best stories are the ones you don't expect to actually have picked up, but you like kind of put it out there, so I was working with a really big video game company for a while, and we put a story out there for New York Times and I just wasn't sure if they're really to bite, because we were stretching a little bit, I'm not going to lie, this story was a little bit of a stretch because we were talking about virtual lives and like how these augmented reality worlds kind of stick into a real world, Page3|8 and how they are kind of mimicking real life. And so it was more of a story, but the reporter at New York Times ate it up and he really liked it, and it took about two or three months to generate that coverage. So you know, sometimes you think it's going to happen, sometimes you're not sure, and then finally when it hits you get really excited and it was like in print, in colour, on the art section and it was beautiful, I was just like so happy because it was on the front page of the arts section, and then also like within the paper, and even though the New York Times doesn't give as many impressions as maybe like online as TechCrunch or something like that, it's a really huge impact, because it's going everywhere.

Scott Orn:

Yeah. Actually I think you touched on something really great there, which is the timelines for some of these articles is really long, and we experience that actually Vanessa my wife, who's our founder at Kruze Consulting was quoted in New York Times on expense management and IRS audits, and from the time she was interviewed, to actual run it was something like two months. And it was exactly what you were saying, the reporter actually did a ton of research, you could see the research coming out in the piece, was really exciting, but yeah you have to be patient and you have to let these things kind of build and brew over time.

Ronjini Joshua:

It's really difficult for start-ups to be patient, because they're trying to prove themselves very quickly. So, I feel for them and I totally get it when they're like, hey why are we having this coverage, and I sometimes tell them, this is when they told me it's going to come out, they told me it's coming out in March, I know you were interviewed in December, but I can't do anything about that, but it's coming I promise.

Scott Orn:

Yeah, exactly. But it's a little bit of like you have to be patient and have to just keep doing shots on goal, and keep talking, and keep doing interviews, right?

Ronjini Joshua:

Right and some of them are just sitting there doing nothing in the meantime. Everything is a rolling process, and I think most people don't like the ramp up time, and I like to say that it's a really short ramp up time, but it really depends on what you have ready before you like engage a PR agency or a freelancer, having like your messaging and branding like knowing what that's like, beforehand, it's really important. So waiting until you have a PR agency to create that is bad idea, because you'll kind of waste a little bit of time, especially if you're impatient, but doing some research beforehand, and then bring someone on board to execute is a really good way of how to get started.

Scott Orn:

I like it. There's one topic we were going to talk about which was I love how you phrased this "bootstrapping your PR". And I'll let you describe it, because you are the one who actually had the idea and told me this is a topic for you.

Ronjini Joshua:

Yeah, so bootstrapping in the way where you really are going to start doing some pre PR work before you hire someone outside of your agency, and I think a lot of start-ups can do this on their own, and I probably shouldn't be saying that, but again, like I said I like to be transparent and honest and I think a lot of start-ups, if you want coverage, you can definitely start working Page4|8 on relationships beforehand, before you need a PR agency. What you need to know is one- your branding, your key messages to the target audiences, and then really understanding what you want out of PR is very important, so do you want the traffic to your website, do you want sales, do you want to show your investors that people are talking about you. And so, identifying that first, and then going and starting to kind of research the reporters that are covering competitors in your space, that's really the best way, that's what we do, we basically research people that are competitors in your space, that are doing something innovative and different, and seeing what a positioning is like, and kind of seeing how the trends are going, and what the conversation feels like, and how we can kind of get into that conversation and shake it up, because if you are not shaking it up no one cares.

Scott Orn:

Yeah, they have a responsibility to their readership to make sure it's interesting and new. So, what are some, kind of the bootstrap mentality like doing this in a cost effective way, like what do you recommend?

Ronjini Joshua:

I would recommend hiring, I've seen start-ups hire interns for this kind of stuff, and literally just research your competitors, like the last six months what they've been doing. Then you can identify reporters and typically I would say maybe three months, because reporters are on the move a lot these days, kind of to figure out who's writing about your industry; hire an intern, have them do some research on your competitors, and some keywords that you guys are using maybe for SEO, and you can identify reporters that way. A lot of times you can find the reporters' e-mail on the website, so it's not like a big mystery. And then there are of course some tools and databases that you can register for, to get emails. But nowadays primarily you can find them on twitter, or you can find them on their website, you can e-mail them and start creating a relationship and I would make it very casual, straightforward because otherwise they are going to delete your e-mail if you and sound like you're marketing to them, they are going to just delete you so quickly.

Scott Orn:

I love it. Now, you've mentioned earlier when we were talking off mic that you're actually working on a book, that's really exciting.

Ronjini Joshua:

Yeah, so I'm working on a PR for startups called the PR playbook, and basically telling starting-ups this simple fact of like you can start doing this stuff yourself, and it gives a little bit more background on the media landscape also, so how the media operates, I interviewed about ten different media companies, the ones that everybody wants to hear from, so like TechCrunch and Mashable and Venture Beat and all those guys, and I interviewed them on how they process pitches and stories and what they think of press releases, and you know what's the real kind of story behind all of that. Because honestly, you can do PR yourself, it's just very time intensive. And that's why you hire people who have been doing it for a long time to do it. So it's not that you can't do it yourself, it's not that it's difficult, it's just very tedious and stressful and time intensive, and there's a lot of follow up that is required. Sometimes you just have to keep bugging people and I've had reporters actually thank me for following up, because they are forgetting; Page5|8 too many e-mails, I mean some of the reporters that I interviewed were like yeah I get hundreds of e-mails in my inbox every day, I batch delete them. That's not something you want to hear as a PR person, but it's a reality.

Scott Orn:

Yeah. It's also, I think the PR handbook or play book that you're writing and also just all those stuff you're sharing with us, is kind of the how to get going, and I think when people try it themselves a little bit, they really will appreciate their relationship with you a lot more. Because they know how hard it is, and oftentimes at Kruze Consulting I like it when people have been doing their books for a while themselves, because they actually understand how hard it is to do accounting, and what we do, and why were so good at what we do, and I feel like the same thing applies to you, we're playing in the same niche, but providing different services, but do you feel that way, like you like it when people have come to you and done a little bit of PR already?

Ronjini Joshua:

Absolutely, those are the best clients, because they appreciate how much work you're putting in and how much time it takes. Most people they don't understand the time investment, and I actually deal with a lot of people that have bad PR experiences, and it's really hard to recover from a bad PR experience, they become very demanding, they just whoever worked with them did not deliver anything, and then we are stuck in that little bucket of ok PR doesn't deliver, where it really should, you just have to know what to expect.

Scott Orn:

Yeah, you're totally right. What are a couple, I guess tips that the audience can take away? I mean, is there anything like- have a friend who actually he was interviewed on the podcast, his name is Haje and he wrote he's a TachCrunch writer, and he wrote like a nice little blog post about how his big thing is like people send him pictures, or they don't send him pictures of their product, and he's visual, and every PR pitch should have pictures, like are there things like that that you can share with the audience where it's like, look there's a few basic things especially if you are bootstrapping your own PR for a while that every PR pitch needs to have?

Ronjini Joshua:

I would say the first and foremost, make sure that the person who you are reaching out to you has written about that topic, that's the first thing.

Scott Orn:

Yeah like they're actually interested in what you're e-mailing them.

Ronjini Joshua:

Exactly, just because they are a writer for TechCrunch, it doesn't mean that they are the right person. So make sure that the person is the right person, and then also make sure to give them the reason why it's important to the world and not just to you.

Scott Orn:

That's an awesome point, because often founders are looking at it from their perspective, and why they started something or why it's so important, but maybe they need some help translating that to the world, right?

Ronjini Joshua:

Exactly, and assume that you have competitors, not that hey nobody else is doing this, I don't have any competitors, no media guys are going to just Page6|8 adore19:30 you they are going to be like I just heard this pitch last week, what are you talking about.

Scott Orn:

If you don't have a competitor, it's a really bad sign actually, it means you're not doing anything that interesting.

Ronjini Joshua:

Right, exactly, so I think those three things could be a way to kind of get started, make sure you have those key elements. But I think as far as pictures go, I think it really depends on the reporter because I know there's some reporters that want to request the pictures, because it makes the email heavy, sometimes if you attached to many images they won't go through because they have limited e-mail quantity, so what we typically do is well do like a little link, like and we'll give them the link, so that the way at least they have access to pictures.

Scott Orn:

Yeah, that's super smart. Yeah, that's definitely his and he is avid photog, so he's a picture oriented person. What about just kind of changing gears a little bit, you started your own company, you're a founder of yourself, like what was that experience like, and do you find it helps you so that you can relate the founders lot better?

Ronjini Joshua:

Absolutely, I feel like we're definitely a start up, we are really small, I keep it pretty lean, but yeah I mean absolutely like starting a company is such a daunting task, and I don't think I realized what it was going to be until it happened. So to your point of like bookkeeping, I think I messed it up for like the first three years and then we had to like get on track, because I was messing things up, and I couldn't measure what was going on, and realized that like you really shouldn't do things that you're not good at. And that is kind of a big start up thing that we've been talking about as start-up founders with other people too, is really find the people who are good at what they do, and then hire them, or get them involved in what you're doing because you can't do everything, and the CEO like it's hard to let go of stuff, but if you want to run a successful business, you have to, you can't do everything. And that's I think one of the most important things I have learned, and the hardest things to learn over the past two years, so we've been in business five years, and just like maybe they'll pass two years I've started letting go of stuff.

Scott Orn:

It is important. We also found that it's such a relief to pay people who are experts to execute for you, it just freeze up your brain so much, you do it maybe half as good as they would, and actually those dollars are really well spent, like they have a really high ROI, it's important to do.

Ronjini Joshua:

Absolutely, one of the things was our website, it's Wordpress and you think oh Wordpress is so easy- I got in there and I messed everything up. And then you have to pay someone twice as much to fix it, so just get someone else to do it, I'm not a website developer, I can't do it.

Scott Orn:

Awesome. Now, you're based in LA, right?

Ronjini Joshua:

Yeah, we're based in Long Beach. Page7|8

Scott Orn:

But you take clients kind of throughout the nation, right?

Ronjini Joshua:

Actually internationally. We've done a lot of really cool projects in China, Italy, UK, all over obviously United States. Right now I think we have two clients in Los Angeles, and everybody else is all over the world, and it's interesting dynamic to work internationally with clients because you have to stay up late and do all that kind of stuff, but it's fine, you get to experience lots of different types of technology, and you know, Tel Aviv is really like awesome place for start-ups right now, Miami has ton of really cool tech start-ups coming up.

Scott Orn:

We actually have a client based in Miami too, it's a really good one.

Ronjini Joshua:

It's really cool to be able to see the trends, especially with us working in crowd-funding we're seeing a lot of cool new companies come up, and China is another huge market where they're bringing their technologies now to the US instead of just stealing what people are doing here, they're doing their own thing now. So it's nice to see that.

Scott Orn:

That's awesome. Well, this has been a really good podcast, I appreciate it. Can you tell the audience where they can find you, how they can reach out, and maybe just kind of restate your specialties, I know you've been doing a ton of stuff and crowd funding, and we were introduced via one of my favourite clients who's hiring you to do something non crowd funding oriented, so you do everything in tech?

Ronjini Joshua:

Yeah, so you can check out our website, it's www.silvertelegram.com and easily e-mail me at ronjini@thesilvertelegram.com, and basically you know we work with any companies that are considering themselves start-ups, anything from early seed funding to like series B, C funding and anyone who is looking to launch products, we work with them, mostly consumer tech and lifestyle, so lifestyle tech is really kind of our space. We do everything from media relations to thought leadership, brand branding and kind of getting brand awareness. And then, of course crowd funding which is a little bit of a different beast, it's a little different game to play, but it's really fun and interesting, but we do full crowd-funding management as well.

Scott Orn:

Wow, awesome. Well you've built a great company and the referral you came to me from is an expert and their endorsement is humongous, so people should check out The Silver Telegram. Ranjini, thank you for coming on Founders and Friends.

Ronjini Joshua:

Thanks you so much, talk to you soon! Page8|8

Explore podcasts from these experts