Mike: Hey everyone, it’s Mike Sullivan from MO.com. Thanks for being with me. Joining me today is Stephanie Bullis of Grasshopper. Now I know that you’re used to hearing Jonathan Kay come out, and we’ll touch on where Jonathon is in a bit. But I’d like to welcome Stephanie, and she has a PR background. We’re going to talk a little bit about PR. Before we do, Stephanie would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself?
Stephanie: Sure. So my name is Stephanie Bullis, and I’m the Ambassador of Buzz here at Grasshopper. Obviously, people who are familiar with your site will probably recognize that title and our company. My former colleague, Jonathan Kay, who has now moved on to some bigger startup endeavors, has left me in charge and running the show of all things buzz here at Grasshopper.
Prior to joining Grasshopper, I worked at a PR agency in Boston where I focused mostly on enterprise software, pharmaceuticals, and some startup clients. So I have a communications degree, a background in PR, and just a general love for people.
Mike: Stephanie, from a PR perspective, you’ve kind of seen both sides of the fence. So you’ve been in a PR firm, working for companies, and now you’re in-house as the Ambassador of Buzz for Grasshopper. Can you tell me from seeing those two angles, is there a preferred approach? Is one better than the other?
Stephanie: Absolutely. I mean, it’s definitely a question that I get asked a lot, and there’s no clear cut answer to it either. Everyone is different. I think agencies are great at what they do, and I wouldn’t be where I am without agencies, and sometimes I do think they get a bad rep. For startups, I don’t think that they’re the answer, at least right off the gate. For a company like Coca-Cola, you’d be silly to not have an agency. But for a small company that’s just trying to get on the radar, trying to get their first, say, 100 customers, the last thing you need is an agency that wants $10,000 a month in a retainer and will give you kind of just their lower level people that will get you one or two hits and call it a day. It’s definitely more beneficial to have someone in-house that kind of feels the passion of your company and can really tell your story.
Mike: So let’s take the angle of let’s suppose you’re a business and you’re looking to hire someone to come in and be on your staff and focus on PR for the company. Are there things that we should look for when hiring for this type of role?
Stephanie: So that’s a tricky thing. I think you have to really know what you’re looking for. If you want just media, then hire a former PR person. They have a lot of contacts. They have a lot of experience. But I think today, especially for startups, PR isn’t just media. It is a lot more. It encompasses your customers. It encompasses your employees. It’s really anyone that comes into contact with your brand in any way, you need to be having relationships with those people. So today’s PR for startups is less about the media relations and getting on the cover of Wall Street Journal, which obviously is ideal, but it’s more about generating personal relationships.
Mike: Today, is social media and PR, is that the same thing? Is that kind of all rolled up in one?
Stephanie: I think that there’s a big difference there. I think people who say that they are social media experts, they’re not necessarily PR experts. I think that they do overlap a little bit, but PR is definitely being able to tell your story in a compelling way and being able to connect the dots between what reporters are looking to write about and how your company can help their needs, whereas social media is obviously another way to connect with reporters, and it’s a form of connecting with people and getting your brand out there. But it’s definitely not the same thing.
Another thing I think that you need to keep in mind is no one can tell your story better than you. If you have a real story, even in your personal life, you would never go to a party and say to your friend, “Oh, I know you’ve told a story to the people at this party before. Can you tell my story for me?” That’s just silly. You can’t teach someone your passion, and you can’t teach someone exactly what you want to convey. That’s something that needs to come from you and come from the heart. There’s a struggle with that because teaching someone at an agency your story, you’re always going to miss a little bit of it. When you’re having conversations with reporters, sometimes you go off track, and as an agency, you know kind of all the bullet points of what your client wants to talk about. But as the CEO of the startup, you know everything from the struggles that got you to where you are to your successes. So teaching someone your passion and teaching someone your story, there’s going to be something lost in translation. So having someone in-house that can actually feel the passion every day is so much more beneficial.
Mike: Thanks a lot Stephanie. I appreciate your time today, and I look forward to talking to you again.
Stephanie: All right. Thanks so much, Mike. It was nice to finally meet you.
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