By Megan Ostrower & Ryan Wagner
Last week at the MIT Enterprise Forum Exchange’s Launch Smart Clinic, budding entrepreneurs experienced the art of pitching first-hand. While not from the perspective of a PR specialist, three individual presenters came to the forefront of the audience to pitch their new business idea. The companies consisted of Decidedly (@decidedlyapp) an email marketing solution, Cognate (@CognateTM) a trade mark solution company, and Ashton Instruments (@ashinst) a company building the next generation of power meters. Similar to an episode of Shark Tank, after each pitch, the audience broke into groups to discuss the pitch in all forms: the good, the bad and the ugly.
From lawyers and investors to CEOs and lowly PR professionals, the audience consisted of a wide range of professional perspectives who gathered together to provide each presenting company with feedback on their product/service. Like a PR pitch, the audience was looking to connect to the story of each presenter’s product. Here are a few key questions that came up during each presentation that are essential to building a relationship with a client in PR.
Who is the company?
When the presenters got up in front of the crowd, they first needed to paint a picture of their business concept, the problem they were trying to solve and how their solution provided value. As in our industry, you want to get to the point quickly, precisely and in a way that sets you apart from the rest – a compelling elevator pitch to start the conversation. We need to define the story we want to tell to drive results. Each of the three companies at the Launch Smart Clinic was able to showcase the innovation behind their product or service.
What’s the problem they are trying to solve?
Every great product solves an issue that makes life easier or more accessible for consumers. To do so however, you need to understand the target market in all aspects – size, sustainability and barriers to entry. If there is an immense opportunity for market growth, of course your product or service may come across as more attractive to investors, media, customers, etc. This was a problem that two of the three companies ran into during their presentations – is there really a need? In PR, it is our job to find that need and find the uniqueness of each and every product or service. Creatively solving problems is what we do best. The third company that presented pulled statistics showing that 98 percent of the market was untapped. This poses the question, is what their selling really necessary? When pitching reporters, the question comes to fruition, what makes this product different, why should I write about this? Holding true in investor pitching, these questions certainly came up after each presentation.
Who are the current competitors?
Looking into the barriers to entry a bit further, new businesses should always be mindful of who their competitors are, know where they are being covered in the news and what consumer reaction is towards them. This backend knowledge helps immensely in furthering business plans and sets the stage for the perfect PR pitch. Gathering insight into where competitors are in the market allows a deeper look into what truly makes your company different. Each presenter shared their research on competitors and what made them truly different. While Decidedly pushed the fact that they offered a simple solution compared to those that are more complex, Ashton Instruments focused on price point and Cognate ran with going after the percentage of the untapped market. One way or another, there needs to be a differentiator that is visible to consumers and in PR we look to tell that story.
Similar to going into a new business pitch for PR, these are all questions that need to be asked and answered to establish a successful working relationship. Whether you’re an investor or PR firm, a partnership requires trust and communication.
Have you ever attended an investor pitch? If so, are there any similarities you’ve seen that relate to PR?