Speaker 1 (00:02):
This podcast is for PR Pros who are looking to discover the best strategies for landing their dream retainer clients and scoring them top tier media coverage. I'm your host Jen Berson, and I want you to have a fulfilling career in PR that totally lights you up without sacrificing your personal or family time or your sanity. Welcome to the Pitching Powerhouse podcast.
Speaker 2 (00:30):
[00:00:30] Hey guys, welcome back to Pitching Powerhouse. I'm so happy you're here. I just had such a fantastic chat with our guest. I'll tell you about her in just a second. But first, I wanted to thank you. Just thank you so much for being a member of our Powerhouse Pros community and a listener of this Pitching Powerhouse podcast. If you could do me the biggest favor, I'm clapping my hands right now. [00:01:00] I'm like, please help me out. I would love for you to leave a review. It could be as simple as just clicking the stars or doing a writeup. Very, very brief about the podcast, how you like it, anything you've learned from us. I get such great feedback through my social media channels and on LinkedIn. I guess that's a social media platform, but so many people are connecting from all over the world and letting me know that they have found [00:01:30] us through the podcast and they love it.
Speaker 2 (01:33):
But I want to see more reviews so easy. I always leave reviews on my favorite podcast. It just helps us connect with more people and lets them know what they can expect when they listen to the show. So if you've learned anything on the pitching powerhouse or you've gotten anything of value out of our community, please leave a review. That would be awesome and I will love you forever. So just [00:02:00] wanted to share that and onto our guest. I had the pleasure of speaking with Amanda cia, who is the founder of Lightspeed Public Relations. They're also a marketing firm. They're a tech-centric firm. She founded it about 10 years ago and before that she had worked in a variety of other agencies and in-house at different businesses, everything from major large companies to small startups. And [00:02:30] one of the things that she let us know is that she was asked questions all the time that led her to believe that people don't really understand the value of PR or how PR works, especially business leaders that she would connect with. So she wrote a book that would help explain what PR is. It's called PR Confidential, unlocking the Secrets to Creating [00:03:00] a Powerful Public Image. It is now available on Amazon. It just launched and it is a really cool format that I'll let Amanda tell you all about, but do me the pleasure of welcoming Amanda to our show. I know you'll love hearing from her as much as I did. Amanda, welcome to the Pitching Powerhouse podcast.
Speaker 3 (03:24):
Thank you so much. Great to be here.
Speaker 2 (03:26):
We're so happy to have you. First, I want to congratulate you on [00:03:30] the release of your book just last month, PR Confidential, unlocking the Secrets to Creating a Powerful Public Image. Awesome.
Speaker 3 (03:42):
Thank you so much.
Speaker 2 (03:43):
That's got to be a labor of love. Tell us a little bit about yourself. I did a quick intro at the top of the show, but I'd love to hear a little bit more about you and how our audience of PR professionals can learn from all of your experience.
Speaker 3 (04:00):
[00:04:00] Sure, absolutely. I've been doing PR for over 30 years now. I can't even believe it's been that long. A lot of different types of pr. I did a lot of agency work, boutique, big agency, kind of everything in between a lot of different practice areas. I did politics, marketing, corporate. I focused as a writer for a while doing speech writing and content creation. Then I went in-house for about five years. I was on the corporate comms team at American Express, and then after all of [00:04:30] that time, my current business partner and I decided that we'd seen enough of in-house and agency side that we felt like we wanted to give it a try ourselves. So we founded Lightspeed about 10 years ago. Congratulations. We focus on Congrats. Congratulations. Thank you. Your anniversary this year. Yeah, entirely.
Speaker 2 (04:48):
Speaker 3 (04:50):
Thank you. Yes, broad sweep Alltech clients from all different corners of technology. But yeah, so a lot of startups, a lot of big companies and [00:05:00] everything in between. We've grown our team and we're just really proud of what we've accomplished, but over that time, I'm recognizing more and more what I'm sure your audience will realize, which is nobody understands what we do,
Speaker 2 (05:12):
Speaker 3 (05:13):
Do advertising and I can't. So I decided to write a book that tries to demystify, that tries to start the conversation a little bit further along for all of us so that we're not always taking 10 steps backward and explaining what PR [00:05:30] is and why it's valuable. So that was my hope for the book
Speaker 2 (05:35):
And what it isn't. Right, not advertising. Yeah, not traditional marketing, not social media. Is it fair to say that in all of your years of experience and your different stops along the way in your career path that tech was your favorite kind or the kind of niche that you loved the most? How did you and your partner at Lightspeed settle [00:06:00] on tech as your focus area?
Speaker 3 (06:04):
It's funny, I did a fair amount of tech along the way, but my business partner did almost exclusively tech. He was head of the tech practice at Edelman, New York for about 10 years. Then he went in-house at Samsung and he really developed a reputation as a tech communicator. And then when we were sort of talking around how to develop our particular way of doing pr, it was just more and more exciting to [00:06:30] think about what we could do for tech clients and all the emerging tech that was coming out and the different ways there is to talk about it. And it just seemed to be the perfect marriage of our skills.
Speaker 2 (06:41):
Yeah, it definitely sounds like it is, like you would be the go-to, I mean that you would immediately be top of mind for me and hopefully our community, just knowing your expertise and your experience and your partners, I think that's really a great practice [00:07:00] area to land on and just instant credibility, your tenures in business, but 20 years before that of just really establishing expertise and relationships. It's no wonder you guys have been successful in Lightspeed, so it perfect to me. Yeah, well, sorry.
Speaker 3 (07:21):
We hope so. We hope to continue that type of reputation and our proudest is when we're making our clients look good and when people [00:07:30] come to us and tell us it was a valuable partnership, that's when we're the most happy.
Speaker 2 (07:35):
Yeah, same here. And speaking of clients, because our audience is always looking to bring in better clients, clients that really understand the value of what it is that we do, certainly they could read your book and get a clear understanding of the complexities of pr, and I'm sure your book breaks down. I haven't received my copy yet, but it breaks [00:08:00] down how to create a compelling campaign and create authority in the media and makes it very simple for someone that might be interested in doing their own pr. But when it's an agency and we're doing it at scale and for multiple clients, it's definitely a different approach. How do you explain the, that was weird. A loud truck just went by my place, but how do you [00:08:30] explain the value of PR to your prospective clients so they really understand and they give you the runway you need to make it happen for them and put them in the spotlight, like you said?
Speaker 3 (08:44):
Yeah, and that's something that I actually, I did dive into a little bit in the book because it comes up so often they say, why don't I just buy an ad? Or, oh, I have a marketing team in place and they're already doing all that, and the real crux of it is the earned part. So [00:09:00] instead of buying an ad or paying somebody else, I actually have a quote in the book from Jean Louise who is a prominent executive at Apple for a long time, and he said, advertising is saying you're good. PR is getting someone else to say you're good. And that's really where I think PR has a lot of value is that get third party validation that earned media, that external person who weighs in on what you're doing and gives it their [00:09:30] saleable approval saying, yes, we think this is valuable. We think other people should know about this. Whether you're after awareness or investments or employees or partners or whatever it is that you have a need for. PR can drive all of those goals through other people saying that you're good.
Speaker 2 (09:50):
Yeah, it's more believable when it's coming from someone else. That's why we often recommend our community get testimonials from their clients, include [00:10:00] them in their case studies to really show what the experience is like working with them. It's better to tell prospective clients, this client that's very similar to your business had a great experience in the similar ways that you're looking for, but don't take our word for it. You can hear what they have to say. Media obviously just gives that instant vote of credibility, confidence, and that person and their expertise. And so you're teaching others how [00:10:30] to do it for themselves. Is it like a step-by-step guide so that they can soup to nuts, implement a campaign, hone in on their story, build a media list? Or is it just the overall idea of how PR can benefit them?
Speaker 3 (10:48):
Actually, it's a little unique in that the book is written in letter form, so if you can think of Dear Abby or an advice column, that's how I set it up. So every [00:11:00] section is started with a letter and it's Dear PR Pro, my investors are telling me I need pr, but I don't know what it is or why I should bother. Tell me why. And it signed off lost and confused. So I answer dear lost and confused, and I give them the answers that I've been giving to people who ask me these questions for, let's face it, 30 years a lot more since I started my own agency, but it's the same questions. All of us in PR here all of the time, [00:11:30] and I'm so gratified when my friends in PR and colleagues and other partners have called me up and said, I need to get this book to everybody.
Speaker 3 (11:38):
I know I'm going to put it as a stocking stuffer and my family for Christmas because it's finally answering all those questions that we all hear all day long, and I'm hoping in a useful way, it starts with what PR is not. It's not marketing, it's not advertising. You have to think about it differently and there are stepping stones along the way, finding out who your [00:12:00] audience is, deciding why your offering makes sense in light of your competition. All of those things are answered in the book, but in these very easy to digest question and answer forms, I hope it's something that's useful to people.
Speaker 2 (12:15):
Yeah, it sounds like a really fun format that you can check into a specific type of question that you get pretty often or really understand how somebody with a different area of expertise might answer [00:12:30] a question. We don't do really any no investor relations in our agency, but I'm sure that comes up quite a bit in tech and it would be really wonderful to know how a Savvy PR Pro answers that question. In that same vein, what have you seen, I guess the 20 years before you started your agency and in the last 10 years as the top commonly asked questions that prospective clients will ask on discovery calls or in following up [00:13:00] and reviewing your proposal and really to understand how PR is going to work or what's in it for them or explaining your retainer or whatever, what are the questions that come up and how have you come up with the best answers for them?
Speaker 3 (13:17):
I think probably the first one, and everybody will relate to this, is how quickly can you get me results? That's always the biggest one. And we tell them, Hey, we're called lights be for a reason. We don't drag our feet, [00:13:30] but I'm sure every PR person would say that. It's not like an advertising plan where you have to go through discovery and all the different ramp up pieces, but that's the thing that they all want to know. Of course, after that, once we get a little bit more dug into what PR does and can do for them, I think the number one question is how do I know if I have news? Because
Speaker 3 (13:51):
We can't just call the media and give them the boilerplate from your website. That's not going to make news. Reporters are savvy. [00:14:00] They have to put something in that's actual news that their readers will care about, so we have to give them something that fits that. So my agency actually came up with something that we use in tech, which we call the three is, which is innovation, insight or impact. So if your story, it's an innovation story if you have some new tech or some new way of doing something, insight is typically thought leadership if you are leaders or chief of marketing or whomever can lend some commentary [00:14:30] or some expertise on a subject. And then impact is your company having a significant year or doing something important or newsworthy or have you changed the paradigm of how your work has done, all those kinds of things. So that's typically what we fall back on and I outline those with some case studies in the book, but that's probably the biggest one. Okay, I want to get news coverage, but how do I know if I can do it?
Speaker 2 (14:54):
Yeah. Okay. I'm going to circle back to the first question because I love the name Lightspeed. It [00:15:00] definitely implies that you are nimble quick to get the campaign kicked off and reach out to the media. Everybody wants to know when they can expect results, and it sounds like the response is we'll get up and running fast and we'll make it happen. And other PR pros are answering the question similarly, not me, because we want to set realistic expectations and I want to give my clients a [00:15:30] great understanding before we kick off of what they can expect and when, so that there's no surprises so that their expectations are not misaligned with what's realistic. So I always let them know kind of like a timeline of what they can expect. So they really give us that. Runway tech probably operates a lot quicker than the consumer product space that I am in baby and kids brands and beauty brands, but [00:16:00] I always want to make sure my clients are aligned with reality so that we're meeting their expectations and they're not feeling like, well, why is it taking three months? We haven't seen a lot. So how are you getting, I don't want to say low hanging fruit, but in the online world, are you able to convert really quickly and then build on those longer stories or what does it realistically look like for you and your business?
Speaker 3 (16:29):
I [00:16:30] am sure we have a lot of, and I actually did consumer products for a while way back. Yeah, certainly you have to wait until you have something that you can pitch of course. But like you say, in tech, they do often come to us with something that we feel is pitch worthy fairly early on, whether or not they're ready to announce or there's some holdup that we have to be respectful of. Typically when we start with a tech client, there's innovation enough [00:17:00] that we can start the story, not always, but generally the people who are most interested in getting quick news are typically the ones who do have something ready to go. It's not, oh, we're prepping a product, it'll be ready in six months or we're in a quiet period. Not those people and too often, Hey, we're launching something on Monday tomorrow,
Speaker 3 (17:23):
You guys can do it. Right. So we do use that word runway a lot. Yes, we can do it, but it won't be as good [00:17:30] as it could be if you gave us a little more time. Obviously things have to build, and I will say yes, there's, as of course, all PR people know media loves media, so if you go after that low hanging fruit, if you start with the trades or different verticals where you know that you're going to get interest at the beginning, you can build on that to get higher and higher tier publications or just general interest or if you're placing an executive, if you get them talking within their own [00:18:00] spheres first and then that climb, that staircase as we call it, that builds and builds and builds to more and more top tier media. That does of course take time. It's rare, it's usually a staircase, but we like to joke with our clients that sometimes people have a key card to the elevator. If you have a really spectacular story or you're doing a release that's just completely, if I had represented chat GPT or something like that, they would've definitely had a key card to the elevator. [00:18:30] They would've gone straight up to the top floors, but that is very rare.
Speaker 2 (18:35):
Have you ever had to tell a client that maybe they don't even have access to the staircase because they're a little stale or there's not a lot that's newsworthy or they come to you during those quote off periods just looking to drum up something thinking you're going to create something out of nothing. Have you ever had to have that conversation with a prospective client that [00:19:00] there's not much here and I don't want to take your money if I'm not going to be successful, come back to me when there's innovation or something newsworthy?
Speaker 3 (19:11):
Yes, actually, we have that conversation a lot and it's not easy to tell people, but they're generally grateful when we're more honest upfront and tell them we see potential. There's a lot you could develop. There's things that maybe you have a data story that you're not considering, or maybe you [00:19:30] have an executive who could really rise above others in your industry. We've done plenty of clients where they were entirely that insight where we just got them commentary or trend jacking opportunities or inserted into other news breaking news. We've had quite a bit of luck with those, but they do generally have to be built on something that's different, something that's that's going to give a reporter something to dig into. And [00:20:00] when a client comes to us and they just don't have something that we feel is going to get any kind of legitimate play, we tell them that. We say, I'm sorry, it's just you might actually have better luck with advertising or a marketing program, or if you develop this particular angle of your business or decide to go in this direction with the particular product, then absolutely call us back. But until then, you're just not ready yet
Speaker 2 (20:28):
And they appreciate that, and [00:20:30] then they'll come back when they're in a better position and you're going to be set up for success and they may not believe you and go to another agency who's happy to take their retainer and then not get results, and they'll say, oh yeah, Amanda Lightspeed, they were very honest and I think they really appreciate that candor versus hearing what they want to hear and then being disappointed. So we often do that too, where we have to say to people, [00:21:00] I'm quite right. But I want to pivot a little bit and talk a bit more about your book, how Long, and first of all, incredible to be able to run an agency and then write a book at the same time. I'm sure with a million other things going on in your life, I find it very hard to just put your head down and crank something out, especially if it's a deadline for me and not necessarily beholden to someone else. How long did it take you to write PR confidential [00:21:30] from Idea to release
Speaker 3 (21:34):
From Idea? It was a while. It was something that I was mulling around for quite some time because every now and then we'll go to an event or a trade show or we'll talk to large groups of people, and so often they would come to us and say exactly what I said earlier, well, my investors are telling me I need pr, but I don't know what it's, I can't tell you how often I've had that conversation. And it was so surprising to me how pervasive it was and how little [00:22:00] people really understood about what we do. So I've been kind of noodling around on it for probably a year or so when I finally decided to put pen to paper. Amazingly, the whole thing only took me about three months because it's my life every day answering these questions and my clients for just the best source material because I would get on the phone with them and they would ask these questions, and they're good questions, they're legitimate questions that I absolutely want people to ask and understand better, but it gave [00:22:30] me more and more content to build on. Every time I heard something like that, I was like, oh, I really should address that because it's something that comes up enough that I don't think it's really understood. And of course, it's only 92 pages. It's a quick read. It's got some graphics and some fun jokes and things in it. It's not a massive undertaking. It was much more fun than anything. But yeah, start to finish, it was just about three months,
Speaker 2 (22:58):
And I think the format lends itself really [00:23:00] well to that fun style of quick responses and more like your voice to somebody asking the question instead of having to write in a certain style that feels like academic or more instructive than conversational and something that's easy to digest. But how has writing, I mean, it just came out like you guys [00:23:30] three weeks ago maybe. So how do you feel writing a book can help PR professionals get more clients or get higher caliber clients or expand in their, if somebody were looking to create something like this as a way to build their reputation and hopefully secure bigger, better clients, how would that look [00:24:00] for a PR pro?
Speaker 3 (24:02):
Yeah, absolutely. Actually, over the years, I've talked to so many business owners who wrote a book and every one of them told me the same thing. My book is the best business card I've ever had. It opens so many doors. It gets me into conversations with people who I ordinarily wouldn't have. It gets me in front of audiences that I wouldn't have been able to. So obviously, again, the book just came out a few weeks ago, like you said, but we're already seeing more traffic through our website. I'm getting [00:24:30] more followers on LinkedIn. We're getting some new phone calls from people who want to talk about partnering with us. So already it's proving to be a good expenditure of my time to having put that in, spend the time and put the effort in. And like you said, it is very much in my voice. So I think that also helps because it feels authentic and when you meet me that it's somebody that if they've read [00:25:00] the book, they say, okay, this is truly your opinions and your thoughts and your experience coming through the book. So I know if I hire you, I know who I'm getting. I've already kind of met you in the pages of your book.
Speaker 2 (25:13):
Yeah, can you hear me okay? I just got a phone call, never ending fun of juggling it all. I just got a text from my kids' ride home from school that she has, and so now I'm getting the phone calls and the texts. [00:25:30] You know how it's always have something, there's always balls in the air wobbling trying to spin, but it'll be fun to address in the next few minutes here. But I just want to congratulate you on a decade of your agency and it's a huge milestone. It must feel really good, especially weathering the Covid chaos and coming out on the other side.
Speaker 3 (25:55):
I'm sure you had the same situation. It was scramble and do things [00:26:00] very differently and very quickly. So yeah,
Speaker 2 (26:03):
A lot navigating and certain waters and trying to keep everybody calm. We're good. We've got to, we'll handle it. And then the book, it sounds like a jam packed really quick and informative read, and so I encourage everybody listening to Pitching Powerhouse to pick up Amanda's book. It's on Amazon, and it is [00:26:30] just something that will inform you, I think, in the way that we need to consider this information. It's really how to answer client questions the best and give them the information so they can really understand what it is we do and how nuanced it is, and show them the value and why they really aren't able to do it themselves, or why their marketing team in-House is not doing the same thing. You work with them, [00:27:00] you're supporting them, you're going to make them look good, but it's not the same. So pick up PR confidential from Amanda, cia, say it right again. I want to say cia. Good. Awesome. Well, thank you so much for your time today. This is really informative and I appreciate you sharing so much of your expertise with our community. How can people find you? We know you're on LinkedIn, but what's the best way to connect with you? If I'm
Speaker 3 (27:26):
On LinkedIn, you can find our website is lightspeed pr.com. [00:27:30] The book is actually also available on the website for free download if you want to get a downloaded version and not the hard copy, you can get it right there on the site. There's some great resources there too. LinkedIn. Yep, Amanda Persha. And I hope everybody, if nothing else, gets a good laugh out of it and find some of their own experiences ringing. True.
Speaker 2 (27:55):
I think having this community, I have seen firsthand time [00:28:00] and time again how we all have such similar experiences, and half the time you're thinking, is it just me or am I the crazy one? And then we get together with our community and we're like, oh, everybody's experiencing these very similar things, so it's very reassuring, and I'm sure they'll feel that way in reading the book too. Thanks again, Amanda. I appreciate being here. Thank
Speaker 3 (28:21):
You. It's so great to be on and I really enjoyed it. Thank you.