What’s Your Marketing Value Chain?

In a 20-minute presentation I gave yesterday…do you know how hard it is to deliver merely 20 minutes of value?…to some small business owners, I spoke on two cogs in the marketing value chain.

I delivered a caveat that this marketing value chain was of my creation with a PR core. I have no idea if there is such a thing as a value chain for marketers, but it sounded good enough to put into a diagram.

The Soulati Marketing Value Chain


Soulati Marketing Value Chain

Because I have 30 years as a public relations marketer,  I know this hybrid approach to a blend of public relations and marketing is spot on. It’s what I do for my clients, and it’s what I listen for when speaking with businesses that may need my services.

Thus, in my presentation, I said that message mapping was the most critical aspect of the marketing value chain. Not only have I rebranded myself as a Message Mapping Master, I firmly believe this exercise is highly required by everyone who makes business happen. If you want to ask why, I have a new autoresponder series in the sidebar of my blog on top. Please sign up, and I proudly admit writing these myself (it was a true feat).

Get A FREE Message Mapping Book

If you stop by my site, you’ll also see the opportunity to download my free Message Mapping: Why You Need It & How To Do It ebook.

Promoting myself in this post is NOT the goal; however, I’m so excited with my new site and rebranding (it’s just been a short week!) that I had to plug a bit. [Read more...]

When Startups Flounder, Is PR To Blame?

Dandylion-Startup-Soulati.jpgThe factors contributing to success of a startup are myriad and must cohesively meld in the sandbox. While fundraising drives ultimate success, think of these and then ask which is to blame if the rocks start to skitter:

  • Team Strength. Like forming a hive with all the competency variations, a startup team has to be smart, committed, representative of the needs to take the company forward, and come with the skills required for the long term.
  • The Big Idea. Let’s say the big idea truly rocks and then it doesn’t. What happens to the startup if the business strategy and model continue to morph after launch? The very foundation of the business begins to waver, and uncertainty is the daily emotion.
  • Marketing & PR. Every single startup needs and gets marketing; yet, they often relegate public relations to the back burner. PR is brought on board to do the media relations, get the earned stories just after launch, and to create the excitement for continued fundraising and growth.
  • Fundraising. Crowdsourcing, friends and family, angels, venture capitalists, credit cards, loans, personal retirement are all methods of funding growth of a startup. Without the funds, the people hired to help the core team with the big idea can’t bootstrap into perpetuity.

The PR Component

When a startup launches into a crowded vertical with many big players who have owned the space for decades, it’s a challenge to earn attention by media without time for the little fish stories. There has to be news created and launched on a regular basis, and if that funnel of newsworthy content dries up, so too does any positive attention earned during launch.

When the business model waffles, public relations must play catch up to understand new objectives and develop revised strategy to keep external audiences interested.

Public relations success is critically dependent on all of the above factors weaving in and around one another to create buzz.

When you regard how public relations works with established business, it’s really no different, it just may be easier to identify the news and pitch it to an audience who recognizes an established brand.

So, to the question in the headline, is PR to blame if a startup flounders?

No, not at all.

Each of the components in the list above must be in synch in order to continue the growth curve with a hundred roadblocks.

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The Solopreneur And The Hive

Bee-Hive-Soulati.jpgI’ve been saying for years there’s no more going it alone as a solo entrepreneur; times up for individual practices of one.


From first-hand experience, I offer you this:

There is too much kerfuddle about what’s new online that requires competency and back-end smarts to make the online business go. What about that social media stuff? Who’s interpreting the big data, and who, for goodness sake, is installing all the plug-ins, widgets, badges and pages plus security on your site and landing pages, not to mention the calls to action and ohmygosh that list?

Beyond competency in all things online, brand and digital marketing plus the writing and strategy of it all, there’s also accounting, legal (more oriented to contracts) or other skill sets needed for teams’ success.

Get the picture?

If you’re still not tracking and nodding the head along with me, here’s solid proof my theory is justified. In the Feb. 3, 2014 Wall Street Journal Small Business Report, “Freelancing Alone—But Together,” the executive dean of St. Joseph’s College in New York writes a solid piece about consultants who find payload working together in a hive.

What Is A Hive

We’re not talking bees here, but do consider the queen and the workers building a colony. There’s a systematic method to that buzzing madness, right? And, now consider this hive mentality with a grouping of freelancers coming together with conjoined forces, competencies, experience, and services to represent clients.

According to Elance in the story in the Wall Street Journal, in 2013, there were 1.21 million jobs posted on its freelance site with 1.15 million freelancers available; do the math – a bit of a deficiency for professionals, eh?

Which suggests to me that the freelancer solopreneur has a bit of opportunity to make it rich; but hold on…as companies shed their full-timers, they’re not shedding the need for skills. This means that a hive has the opportunity to roll in and become the outsourced team, acting as if they are full-time. Do you have a hive success story of your own?

Hive Success

Imagine if you’re part of a hive with all the moving parts to make it buzz. Throughout my 30 years in public relations, I have put together virtual teams and bid together on RFPs. Back in the day, however, companies weren’t ready for that type of structure; perhaps they thought there wasn’t structure.

What I can share as the most critical point of working in a hive or virtual team is this – someone needs to lead. Sadly, organizational dynamics requires a leader; flat teams may work well in theory, but clients need a leading point person they turn to for issues, discussions and strategy.

Here are several factors that contribute to hive success:
1. Leadership – appoint your primary point person to represent the hive to clients.
2. Skill Set – get a variety of competencies on the team that are not competitive with one another.
3. Money – address the discomfort of money and pay up front; everyone carries the load and contributes to expenses while getting a fee commensurate with the budgets attracted and hours recorded
4. Unified Front – this becomes more esoteric; however, if a client is calling another hive member for help with an issue, that person has to inform the rest of the hive. The team must function as a unit and not as individual members especially when clients regard the hive as one company.

Hire Soulati Media

There’s beauty being a solo practice. I can morph into arrangements faster than a chameleon changes colors. I can slot into a marketing team and be an assistant product marketer or join a public relations team and put my media relations skills to work, or work with another solo marketer trying to get a blog up and running or take a larger role as a business strategist for a startup.

Why this is easier for me is due to my career as a generalist in agency public relations. I took on a plethora of roles and adopted skill sets to empower competency as the Internet era unfolded.

Soulati Media is seeking clients right now. Let’s begin with a message map and follow that up with some strategic marketing programs and execution. The team is here and standing by; better yet, Jayme Soulati is the leader with decades of competency to offer.

Be Part of My Hive

Honestly, my hive has been alive and well for a number of years. I draw upon the skill sets that are deficient in my purview and gladly so. It’s been a tough road for me because I am a DIY’er. I love to do it myself but when I do it poorly, it’s time to step aside and let the experts in.
There’s safety in numbers to an extent. What I have found is that people are happy to join a hive as long as they don’t have to lead, and that’s what I do best.

Care to join my hive?

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Startups Should Hire PR Early

What-is-the-plan.jpgDuring the earliest stages of a startup, there are many discussions and decisions about how a business will launch and with which bells and whistles to go to market. Marketing needs to be involved in these earliest stages; does public relations?

The very lawyerly answer is, it depends.

When you work with a hybrid public relations professional who brings 30 years of experience to a team, then public relations influences a startup’s business strategy. There is even counsel delivered by public relations that can influence business model. This expertise comes from years of innate knowledge acquired from representing clients across industries.

A public relations professional is a startup’s single-most critical member of the team, especially during pre-launch.


While marketing morphs the business, public relations stands in the wings absorbing the dynamics of company culture and adding expertise from the outside looking in. While executives are safely spinning their business model, public relations contributes external perspective from the vantage point of a variety of stakeholders.

  • What will media ask; what will executives say?
  • What would investors and boards of advisors want set up at the start point?
  • Will consumers be able to understand why this company matters?

Startups Spend Time Inside

The formation of a company requires intense focus on the inside of a company. There’s so much more that happens beyond writing a mission statement or determining company values, structure and model.

What’s likely most confusing is the fact that public relations, in the presence of marketing, will not influence the inside of a company as much as it will influence how the company is positioned for external consumption.

Please read that again.

Therein lies the major differentiator among marketing and public relations – we who do the latter will always be listening for the language we need from marketing to describe and position a company for audiences who reside outside the company.

Throughout my career, I have influenced the business model of a startup. Because I bring such a breadth of experience across industries, it’s comfortable for me to share insights based on three decades of influencing results and driving measurable campaigns.

Ultimately, the best team for a startup is one where marketing and PR work hand in hand so all the expertise is conjoined with the same goal. Usually, that’s rare as the startup budget cannot afford a seasoned or deep team with these key players.

Would I to choose which professional to hire at the outset, it would be public relations – a seasoned, hybrid professional who has continually innovated and morphed alongside industry and technology.

PR And Marketing

Public relations is blending more with marketing than ever before; that’s nothing new, it’s been happening for years, yet now everyone is finally labeling what’s happening. Although the disciplines of marketing and public relations are blurring, there is still a major gap in understanding of how public relations delivers.

The logical progression for a startup is to hire marketing to morph its insides with branding, mission, vision, values, etc. When done, public relations enters from the wings during pre-launch. The positioning begins.

  • Public relations rolls in with a message mapping process.
  • Executives are trained to deliver strong messages to external audiences.
  • The business model is tested with all the key audiences in mind.
  • A strategy unfolds to announce the company’s existence with the differentiators in place.
  • A media relations strategy is launched to announce to the market this company exists and is serious about earning a spot in the vertical market.
  • Social media and blogs are launched to continuously push content.
  • Public relations and marketing blend and work cohesively to execute strategy.

No Budget? Hire PR

What if a startup is working on a shoestring budget? There are seasoned public relations professionals who can bootstrap alongside a startup.

When a startup needs communications and marketing counsel, a public relations professional is the best hire at the outset. Someone who knows enough about technology, business, messaging, strategy, positioning, marketing blend, and much more.

Having the ability to write professionally is critical; adding someone to the team who is a professional blogger and media relations professional is smart for a startup.

To understand more about why PR is a better hire for startups than marketing,

contact Jayme Soulati at jayme at Soulati dot com. The hands-on experience is there.

You may dial 937-312-1363, as well.

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$2.8 Billion; Ponder That Starbucks

English: Starbucks at West Coast Plaza, Singapore

English: Starbucks at West Coast Plaza, Singapore (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The boldest headline I’ve read in awhile shook my core.

Starbucks Fined $2.8 Billion

It’s yesterday’s news, literally; but its impact will be felt by you and me. If Starbucks doesn’t appeal the arbitrator’s judgment in its three-year battle against Kraft for trying to end a failed partnership, then the price of that $5 pumpkin spice latte will increase to $5.75.

You will pay for Starbuck’s business decision gone awry.

In the Wall Street Journal Nov. 13, 2013, the story includes a quote from a statement by Starbucks CFO Troy Alstead, “We believe Kraft did not deliver on its responsibilities to our brand under the agreement; the performance of the business suffered as a result.”

How can someone put a price tag on “performance of a brand?”

This figure is mindboggling.

With $2.8 billion dollars:

• The U.S. national debt could remove a sizeable chunk
• Every person in China would get about $2.50 (there’s something like 1 billion people in China)
• 28,000 college students could get $100,000 each to attend university
• The debt of cities like Chicago and Detroit could be wiped out
• And, on and on and on

With the current crises we’re seeing each day in the economies of the world, within P&L sheets of companies, in municipalities and how they’re run and function, in the debt acquired by young people interested in a better path after college, in the homes and families of everyone in the world, do you think that arbitrator could’ve required Starbucks to donate $1 billion to charitable causes in an endowment fund?

Further in the article, it states:

Starbucks declined to comment on a possible appeal, saying it is still reviewing the decision, but said it has adequate liquidity in the form of cash and available borrowing capacity to make the payment…

Blows your mind, doesn’t it? Starbucks posted $14.9 billion in revenue for fiscal year ending Sept. 29, and it reported $2.6 billion in cash and cash equivalents, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Starbucks Mission Statement

Perhaps the more mature I become in age and my professional standing within my profession, I have begun to view business from a lighter perspective.

The very center and core of a business contributes to its culture, its values, mission, and vision. Take a look at the Starbucks mission statement:

Our Starbucks Mission Statement

Our mission: to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.
Here are the principles of how we live that every day:

Our Coffee
It has always been, and will always be, about quality. We’re passionate about ethically sourcing the finest coffee beans, roasting them with great care, and improving the lives of people who grow them. We care deeply about all of this; our work is never done.

Our Partners
We’re called partners, because it’s not just a job, it’s our passion. Together, we embrace diversity to create a place where each of us can be ourselves. We always treat each other with respect and dignity. And we hold each other to that standard.

Our Customers
When we are fully engaged, we connect with, laugh with, and uplift the lives of our customers – even if just for a few moments. Sure, it starts with the promise of a perfectly made beverage, but our work goes far beyond that. It’s really about human connection.

Our Stores
When our customers feel this sense of belonging, our stores become a haven, a break from the worries outside, a place where you can meet with friends. It’s about enjoyment at the speed of life – sometimes slow and savored, sometimes faster. Always full of humanity.

Our Neighborhood
Every store is part of a community, and we take our responsibility to be good neighbors seriously. We want to be invited in wherever we do business. We can be a force for positive action – bringing together our partners, customers, and the community to contribute every day. Now we see that our responsibility – and our potential for good – is even larger. The world is looking to Starbucks to set the new standard, yet again. We will lead.

Our Shareholders
We know that as we deliver in each of these areas, we enjoy the kind of success that rewards our shareholders. We are fully accountable to get each of these elements right so that Starbucks – and everyone it touches – can endure and thrive.

Reaction to Starbucks Mission Statement

I read this three times; I’m seeking what’s missing from what I did see:

• Starbucks will be in the lead to set new standards (yet again), and it will be a good neighbor.
• Coffee is its business, period. And it is committed to coffee.
• Partnerships and customers are treated with respect; yet, again, it’s about work.

Nowhere in this mission do I see a commitment to giving back to nurture a community beyond being a good neighbor with its stores and to uplift the customer, which I know it does extremely well. The mission statement says it sees the potential for good, and it will be a leader (again) to set the standard for that.

Feelings from Mission Statements

I don’t know about you, but what is your reaction to the words in Starbucks’ Mission Statement? Does it leave you with a warm and fuzzy feeling about this global corporation interested in nurturing, giving back, contributing and helping solve the problems of the communities in which its stores reside?
Do you get a teensy bit of arrogance from some of the word choices that fail, IMHO, to move me.

Let’s ponder this — $2.8 billion.

Kraft and Mondelez will split that. In fact, the two corporations are already sharing, in yesterday’s article, how they will spend that money. Mondelez International will buy back shares, while Kraft indicated the “arbitration’s outcome will not have material financial impact on Kraft.”

Who is responsible, accountable and interested in where the world needs to go to become a better place for our children?

Is money or love the answer? When you stand in line at your neighborhood Starbucks to spend $5 on a fat-filled dreamy drink, ponder $2.8 billion; that’s all.

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