Editor’s note: In this article, we introduce you to Rebekah Iliff, co-founder and CEO of talkTECH Communications. Today, Rebekah posted an op-ed piece on The Huffington Post about five startup economies. In her article on Bright Side of News*, Rebekah discusses how to differentiate Public Relations strategies and how not to adopt the sure approach of lame press releases.

Take your app from lame to fame: how to harness the power and principles of PR

Dear #DevCom,

First of all, I love you. Wanna know why? Because I co-founded an entire company on your uncanny ability to 1) like numbers 2) code and 3) analyze data. The three of which secretly make me want to projectile vomit every time I think about them.

Furthermore, I’d really really really like to thank you for taking the time to create all those somewhat useless extremely stellar apps that now consume approximately 84.6% of my waking hours. From my GPS, to Camera+, to Facebook, and other unmentionables (what? A girl can’t have secrets?), I like my apps, and I can’t leave without ‘em.

But, I gotta tell ya, just from me and around 1B others (not a real number per se, just my guess. Hmm, I should Google that?) who have been forced by some weird hand of nature called Steve Jobs and Sergey Brin privileged enough to join the hyper-connected, technology driven madness I’ll say this: no more dating apps; no more beer apps; no more social networking apps. Oh oh oh… and no more photo sharing apps!

K?

Thankssomuch.

Love,

RebekahSanFran12

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can get to the good stuff, the stuff that is going to make your non sucky app rise to super stardom so that you can pay your bills and buy your soon to be wifey that rock she’s always wanted. Not the pet one. That other one.

No, no I’m not about to tell you how to monetize your app. I’m not that smart. Besides, my good friend Jeremia from InMobi already did that. But what I am going to tell you is how you can leverage the power and principles of PR to gain some exposure around your app while also gathering valuable insights about your UX from those who matter most: your target audience.

WARNING! Now I’m going to say some semi-smart stuff… so shift gears.

The pervading ideology around "app marketing" focuses primarily on promotion within the app marketplace as well as bought media on [typically] mobile networks to drive traffic.

For more clarity, there are three media divisions among which users are acquired. In no particular order these are:

  1. Bought media: simply put, this refers to media/ads that are purchased through either third party ad networks, or platforms like Google AdWords to drive traffic to your app. The average CPA for this activity is roughly $2-$3 per user – at least this is what my inside sources tell me!
  2. Owned media: as the name implies, these are media properties that YOU own that, if managed well through community outreach, can serve to drive traffic. These include your website, social media properties, as well as the app description itself, which often determines whether someone will download once within the marketplace.
  3. Earned media: possibly the least utilized with the app environment, earned media refers to 3rd party "endorsements" who then act as referral sources for your app. This could include everything from a popular blog that reviews your app to a top tier media outlet like Mashable covering your app in a roundup or feature story [this is where talkTECH fits in, just for example sake]. We are also big fans of "app swaps" whereby you partner with another app that complements your product and has a decent size community, then you both promote to your various communities. The antecedent to this, however, is a strong owned media strategy.

The reality is that as an app developer it’s your job to create a product that has a killer UX (User eXperience), appealing design, and either takes away some pain or provides some pleasure to the user. What becomes your job long after the development cycle is done (if ever?!) is telling that story to as many people who will hear it in a compelling way. Chances are, if your app isn’t a raging success within a few months of launch, and you aren’t acquiring users naturally through WOM or discoverability techniques, you may need a little extra help.

This is where earned media comes, and I’d like to walk you through how you can use the principles of PR to get your "app story" told.

Ready?

  1. MAKE IT EMOTIONAL: Think about your story. Are you a travel app that makes it easier for single moms with kids to source discount vacations because you saw a need for this after watching your sister go through it? Or are you a B2B app that makes task sharing easier among executives who wanted to have more time to spend with their kids? Is there an emotional component or is this just a straight up practical application? which is fine by the way.
  2. ARTICULATE YOUR STORY: Here’s a good exercise to go through that may help you better understand how to position your app. Fill in the blanks with 20-50 word answers.
            a)Our team created this app because…
            b) The app has the following features…
            c) Which will allow our users to…
            d) And success of the app will be measured like this…
  3. DEFINE YOUR TARGET USER: Who is your intended user for this app? Is it everyone (bad sign!) or is it extremely niche, i.e. ex-pats living in major urban cities. Once you understand who you are serving, you can better understand which earned media channels will make sense for you to distribute information to. And yes, I just ended my sentence with a preposition, but I’m not going to change it.
  4. DO YOUR RESEARCH: Who are your competitors and who is talking about them? Did they get a big write up on CNet, or HuffPo? Or do they have a lot of buzz in a particular community like dog walkers? Point being – don’t aim in the dark. Newsflash: 99% of apps are not unique and they have predecessors. Use them to your advantage and figure out what tactics they used to get people talking about them.
  5. CREATE A WISH LIST: Pick the top 10 media outlets or blogs where you would like to be featured/covered, ideally. Beyond that, pick 20-30 writers, bloggers, review sites, or partners that would be able to get your app in front of at least 5k eyeballs. Meaning, their audience has a reach of at least 5k. I’m not talking about unique visits to the website BS. I’m talking about actual distribution and engagement. 5k is good, 1M better.
  6. PITCH: THEN and only then, tell them your story and offer them something unique to share with their audience. Make sure their audience is the correct one (go back to #3 if this doesn’t make sense to you). It’s YOUR job to make the connection for them. Allude to trends in the marketplace, or other apps they’ve covered that are similar. Keep in mind that you must have something to offer them – they won’t do you any favors. It has to be a win/win.

Just for shitz and giggles, I’ve included a sample pitch below (for a real client of ours who I’ve fake named "LoveLoyalty" below) to give you an idea of how this generally rolls?

"Hello [INSERT JOURNALIST NAME],

With the proliferation of "daily deal sites", "couponing platforms" and "loyalty program technology" geared toward helping businesses win and retain customers, small businesses to franchises to large scale retailers could certainly spend half of their waking hours figuring out where they get the most bang for their buck.

Or not.

Enter LoveLoyalty, a customer loyalty platform for the restaurant and retail industries that captures data at the point of sale (on an iPad with JUST a phone number!) and empowers businesses to use the data to influence customer behavior.

The platform analyzes customer demographics, purchase patterns, and behaviors while providing tools that allow businesses to:

1) Drive lost customers back to the store

2) Provide targeted marketing messages to consumers through personalized emails and text messaging

3) Incentivize actions via gamification techniques

How does it measure up to the competition?

Based on recent data pulled from leading competitors, LoveLoyalty’s numbers are beyond what any other customer loyalty platform has been able to accomplish to date. In fact, LoveLoyalty has 31x the customer sign-up rate as competitor Belly: 16.25 new users per location per day vs .53 new users per location per day (More data available upon request).

Currently, LoveLoyalty serves businesses from the largest multinational franchises to small single-store and single-restaurant local businesses.

Notable:

LoveLoyalty was listed as AlwaysOn Global 250′s "Top 10 Private Companies to Watch" and was a Top 3 Finalist for Best Commercial App in the first LBS Awards (in the running against Groupon).

Click HERE [Insert Link] to see a case study highlighting the experience a client has had while using the LoveLoyalty platform.

And finally?

May I interest you in a briefing with Luna Labrowski, the CEO of LoveLoyalty to learn more about the platform, or walk you through a demo? Perhaps you’d be interested in learning more about their stellar team, a dynamic group of startup aficionados who have been disrupting the tech industry for over a decade?


Looking forward to hearing your thoughts,

[YOUR NAME]"

Now that you have the inside scoop on how to take your app from lame to fame, go get ?em!

About the Author

Rebekah Iliff, Co-founder and CEO, techTALK CommunicationsRebekah is an organizational management, development, and communications professional who has served clients across multiple industries and across the globe for over eight years. She is a senior leader and trusted advisor to executive leadership who excels in solving challenging and complex problems. Rebekah?s valuable depth of experience launching startups, reengineering infrastructures, and developing and implementing business and marketing plans that facilitate growth, build brand equity, and increase ROI have made her a trusted consultant to hundreds of entrepreneurs, innovators, and brands in the emerging technology space.

Under her leadership, talkTECH Communications has seen 100% growth year over year since opening in 2007. What started as a "one woman show" has grown to a team of eleven whose collective experience and creativity has lead to over 50 startup launches.

Rebekah holds a B.A. in Philosophy (Cum Laude) from Loyola University Chicago, and an M.A. in Organizational Management and Applied Community Psychology from Antioch University at Los Angeles (AULA). She has authored and co-authored articles that have appeared in The Huffington Post, VentureBeat, StartupAmerica, PR Daily, PR Sunrise, the Mega Startup Weekend blog, and the Office of Technology Management blog (University of Illinois). Notable achievements include: Los Angeles Business Journal 2011 "Women Making A Difference: Rising Star" Nomination; National Society of Collegiate Scholars for Outstanding Achievement; and the President?s Award for Community Service and Outreach. Key memberships include: Organization Development Network; Public Relations Society of America (San Francisco); and AULA?s MAOM Community Network Career Programming Group.