Welcome to PR after hours, your weekly cocktail of news and interviews with leading thinkers in PR, marketing and business. So pull up a chair in our virtual lounge, your host Alex Greenwood. We'll be right back after this
Okay, who has a podcast then writes an e book about podcasting and doesn't do an audio book version of it? Well, not me. I've done that. In fact, I'm very excited to tell you dear listeners that the podcast option my recent top selling ebook on podcasting, my journey through 15 years as a podcaster broadcaster, host Guest and Observer is now an Audible audiobook. It's really, really, really exciting for me to be able to present this to you through audible, which is available on amazon.com where the E Book link is as well. And in this fast Listen, my experience comes to you through stories, practical tips and advice from my hundreds of hours as a guest, producer, podcast host and more. And the podcast option if I say so myself is mandatory listening for those new to podcasting, and it should be a welcome addition to veteran podcasters library. So check out the podcast option read by yours truly, Alex Greenwood or as they say they're the Jay Alexander Greenwood because that's my pen name. And that's a long story, which if you dig through my podcasts, eventually you'll find out what that means. But the point being today, the podcast option is available. Now as an Audible audiobook. I've got a link in the show notes to make it easy for you. Please do me a favor, go get that audio book or if audio books aren't your back. There's also a link for you to get it as an e book, again, a podcast option I certainly hope you will choose it. You know there's one area of PR that in my sadly lengthy, lengthy career I've not really delve much into and that's tech PR. I think one reason is geographical because I'm in the heartland. I'm in the Kansas City Missouri area. And that's where I practice mostly through the middle of the country. I think I think you're you kind of practice what you're more exposed to. Which is probably why our guest today it's not the only reason but it could be part of the reason why our guest today who went to Berkeley who is no stranger to the West Coast has made a quite a career and done some incredible work on working with tech PR. Her name is Donna Loughlin. I'm very excited to welcome her. She's the founder of LMG PR and best known for her work with futurists and innovators, which of course tech is right there. She's launched more than 500 companies taking them from stealth to market leader since forming her agency in 2002. As is her 20th anniversary, this is Greg beside to welcome her. She's also the host of her own podcast before it happened. Links will be in the show notes. Donna Laughlin Welcome to the Virtual lounge.
Oh, thank you so much, Alex. And you know what, there's a lot more connection between the Silicon Valley in the heartland, then you know, tell me more? Well, you know, I got a phone call about a year ago, and I almost fell off my seat. I went to UC Berkeley, my, my master's thesis in journalism was on the democratization of the farm workers union. And I picked that topic because I thought it was very, it was very organic to where we'd be living in California and and the farmworkers, labor and all the different things were associated with farming. And it was kind of a beefy topic, but then I never did anything with it. And then one day, I got a phone call from an executive at work within a transportation company. And he called to tell me, he had an electric tractor that who's bringing out of stealth, and I literally was like, mic drop moment fell off my seat, and I thought, I can finally take that out of my back pocket and apply it to something really meaningful, which was electrification of agriculture and farming. And it's been done within, you know, miles of that same vast area where I spent any two summers interviewing farmers and ranchers and labor workers and tractor operators. And it finally came to fruition.
Well, there you go. See, this is one reason I do this show. I always learned something new. That's fantastic. So yeah, you got a you got a good vibe there that I didn't know about, you know, of course, there is another thing too. Oracle just purchased the second largest medical records software company and I believe in the world or one of them, Cerner, which is based here down the road from me. So more than I thought, right? Yeah, we're cousins. Now. Leave it to me to make an assumption. But I am fascinated, though, by your work in how you built an agency largely on this kind of work. In particular, though, I have another assumption I've made, and I would love to run it by you. So you can secure it if you skewer it, if you would, please. It seems to me that a lot of people who are not heavily into that industry think that the the way to humanize a tech story is if you have some kind of a Elon Musk, he and kind of CEO or some kind of very, you know, skewed kind of, you know, futuristic version of somebody like that it, what do you think about that thought?
Well, you know, there's a really small percentage of people that I would put it in that kind of thing for almost like the Olympics, there's very few people that can actually be at the elite athletic component. So there are a number of, you know, tech leaders that are there in that 1%, you know, the Steve Jobs and the, you know, Elon Musk, these big idea, thinkers and creators, but in between all the other conversations that I have, I represent amazing scientists and futurists and visionaries that they have created and put their entire life savings into the thoughtful products that they're bringing to market. Now, they might not be the futurist necessarily, but they certainly have it in that same category. But the one thing that they do have is that unstoppable drive and the relentless of bringing something to market. And so what I do is try to find their authentic story in their journey going back to like, why did they decide to even put all the chips on the table and even just, you know, to bring something to market and looking for their authentic story. So Elon story is, you know, his own story. And there's, you know, it's evolved over the years have we seen and it gets getting bigger and bigger. But I also ensured that I'm not dealing with ego engineering. So there's innovation. And then there's ego engineering. And I like to look for the companies that I call the acorns, which the companies that ultimately are going to grow over the next number of years bringing their products and bringing their their eyes shaped, you know, the shape the market, ultimately do become unicorns, not everybody is a unicorn. And in the valley, in Silicon Valley, we have these magical, mystical unicorns that are running around these billion dollar companies. But you got to start out as a pony. And so you just can't go from a pony to a unicorn. And those are the people I particularly like working with. And over over the years, I mean, I just have a company, a robotics company I work with, and working with them for approximately seven years. Over time. They just had their IPO. When I first started working with them, they were in a lab, in a accelerator space with multitude of other companies all tried to bring products to market. Their product was a prototype, it hadn't been deployed, and now they're deployed nationwide. And they had 12 28,000 people back the company and a private IPO. Because the traditional investment community didn't back them. And to me, that is just that unstoppable relentless type of DNA that these futures and these visionaries have. And that that's what I think makes technology interesting.
So you you're doing what I think we all successful practitioners have are the dark arts we practice of er, do which is which is find the human story there. And, and I of course, you would be successful doing this because not as you said, there are very few Elon Musk's running around Steve Jobs types. If you did that, you you'd have would not have a ton of clients to try to promote. Is there. Is there a challenge though, to working with that particular mindset? Have you found that people in the valley how do they view PR do they view it as a necessary evil? Are they do they embrace it? Is there and maybe it's different for everybody? I'm just curious if there's a vibe
Yeah, you know, it's really interesting about the Silicon Valley I left I know I grew up in the valley when it was ranches and I grew up in an apricot or you know orchard and and my sisters and I would frolic around around the orchard and go tractor rides and eat cherries and all that started going away in the How to say by time we get to the, to the late to the early 90s. It was vanishing. Right. And the tech industry was really bubbling up here. I left after college, I lived in Chicago. I lived in New York, I lived in London and I was extensively based in places like Middle East and Africa on assignment as a reporter. But when I came back I realized that the this place that we put concrete this was fertile land that we put concrete on has some bit of a magic little tone to it. It breeds people from around the world with great ideas wanting to collaborate and work together because it is a culture there's a there's a Great. Hope I don't get this wrong. I think it's called muscle flats. You might have heard of it. It's a special in Louisiana recording studio where Aretha Franklin recorded her first one take hits and Johnny Cash and a bunch of others have gone there over the years to record Creedence Clearwater Revival, their first breakthrough album. And I think that the Silicon Valley is a little bit of that people come from near and far. My clients are from all over the world. And they come here because there's something that draws them. And I think what really draws them is that cultural collaboration like minded, they're not going to be judged in anything as possible. It's a little bit like the agriculture industry that was originally here, people came out west, the land was cheap, not anymore. Lamb is cheap. And they came out west, because there was a promise of something. And I think that's why people keep coming to the Silicon Valley, which is now last ized all the way to San Francisco, East Bay. And then I did there's other places that I think are sister and brotherhood. So the Silicon Valley, which, you know, the the technical technology pockets in LA, and in Boston, and in North Carolina, Atlanta, Portugal's a new hotspot, so, but people do come to me because they they'd like the Silicon Valley Mystique, it's a little bit of I don't know, technology, holy water.
It is. And so your clients, I guess, a deeper part of the question would be, what are your clients? Is it tough to sell your clients on your services? Or do they? Do you think this mindset really just is like, no, PR has got to be part of what we're doing here.
You know, it's interesting, because I work with clients, either at the inception of they're kind of they're in the lab, and it's they have a whiteboard, and they don't have the end, they have some funding, but they need to figure out how to take it to market. And so that's where the ego engineering versus innovation really comes into play. If somebody pitches me, and I asked him, you know, ask a lot of questions about, you know, not just about the IP and the patents, and what in the market and competitiveness and the user adoption and beta scenarios. I mean, there's just so many different layers of things that you have to you know, explore. And through that discovery process that you define, that there is the makings of something bigger than they thought, and I can help them take it that take it to market or she's not quite ready. And maybe I should revisit the conversation in six months when they get their, their Beta in different things in order. I pride myself in being able to work really early on with artificial intelligence, and with autonomous and with 3d printed printing industry, including a 3d printed supercar, and cybersecurity and all these different markets that evolve into their own categorical lane, but working with them really early on, because I started working with the visionaries within those categories. And now what's happened the same way we talked about the tractor, the electric tractor, plus the transportation also has an autonomous driver optional tractor has artificial intelligence, and it has deep learning, machine learning and security components do that as well. So all the other technology work that I've done in the last, you know, 20 plus years, all added convergence into being able to talk about this one new, modern tractor. And to me, that's fascinating as consumers, we see that in our homes as well. You know, we have IoT devices, none of us really ever thought we will need an Alexa in our house like who's Alexa? Do I have to feed her? Does she need her own, you know, escort service or car service. But no, we have IoT devices. We have, you know, security devices, we have storage devices, a lot of these things originally came out of either corporate infrastructure scenarios, or aerospace or even NASA, and things that we put on our home, didn't intentionally start as objects of desire for home but they were in commercial space. Look at the Internet, internet the same thing internet was used in research and, and and university levels and government. And the rest of us hopped on and the so called Information Superhighway back in the 90s. And I remember working for a company. It's hysterical I left being a reporter and I was working for a Windows TCP IP company. I didn't know how to use Windows. I used a Mac, and they hired me. And the reason why they hired me is because I needed to be the evangelist and get people to adopt to the Windows world after using Mac as a two totally different operating systems, two different user and culture. But to be able to get that human touch evolved. You do need to humanize conversation, because people like you, and people like me, in order for us to adopt windows or to adopt Mac, whatever you may choose, we need to make that that personal. So what is the you know, what is the not just the benefits? But what is the value and the impact that it's going to bring to me? And so I think the the number one thing that I look for in a story is, is it relevant? Can I be bold and fearless? Can I actually take a product such as a demon electric motorcycle, 200 horsepower, 200 miles per hour? 200 mile range motorcycle, and psych. Well, I know that's pretty bold and fearless on its own. But how do I actually turn that into a movement and a cultural aspect that people are going to want to buy a motorcycle of electric motorcycle if they've never had the desire to give up their Harley? Or their existing fossil fuel bike? It is that creative component of really thinking out of the box, if I have competition, how am I actually going to be able to, you know, leapfrog in the conversation in the market conversations and ultimately to be the authority, right? So beat authority, what can I be authority on? And then really listening to the market, like what our customers want? What are your partners want, if you have partners, what are the retailers want, if it's a consumer product, and in the tech space, you know, enterprise products is the channel. And so you really have to listen to, you know, the, the, the market and the diversity of the audience. And that, that my two favorite components of it is really the agility, the market could change, we could have a pandemic, we could have a customer recall, we could have numerous new competitor and market, Elon Musk could go to Mars, and all sudden, you know, we're not going to be able to fly planes anymore. Things like that, you know, take over and we have to be agile. And then I think the, to me, that's the fun part is always looking ahead to see how we can tell the story because we need to adjust. I like to fly airplanes, and I like fast cars. So the other component I put into is if we're going to create a product to market, and my agency is actually called LMG. PR stands for Leadership momentum and growth. And the reason why is because most of my clients, they do want some form of leadership, we have to build momentum and velocity. And eventually we have to gain speed or the growth Park. And if we don't do all those things in looking under the, under the pheasant glass, so to speak, in the very beginning, we don't know where we're gonna go. And it's like driving around, we don't use maps anymore, I was explaining to my, my, my teenagers that once upon a time we use the map.
And it wasn't GPS, and it wasn't, you know, some Assist system. And we had to figure out a plan. And when I fly, I have to plan my course and I have to plan we're gonna go. And it's very old school. And I think that storytelling is very similar to that. When you fly, you have a prep, you have a pre flight, you ever run up, you don't just take off, you ask control, it's very mother Mae eye, you know, scenario. And I think that's that engagement is really important is that in the same way at the airport, I engage with, you know, ground control, and air control in the tower is very similar to that customer human engagement, I could get permission to fly, but I better be, you know, better be very agile and quick and be able to have all my situational awareness under check. And I think that's a lot what PR practitioners like us do.
That's a great summation. I love that I'm not a pilot, but I do enjoy flying. So I I love hearing that. And of course, I've talked to many pilots over the years and the checklist is so important. So I love that. That's a great analogy for talking about here. Well, the moment we've let you mind me asking just kind of a really down to the bone kind of granular question. I've been asking this lately a little bit. Okay. No, it's not gonna be weird, I promise. Um, but I'm asking a lot of successful PR practitioners about what what client expectations seem to be and of course, I understand as well as having a checklist, it's managing expectations, a huge part of our job. But I want to ask you, do clients say get placements that aren't super sexy? Like in a trade or and maybe a local pub? Do they do they value that or as much as they you know, are they all kind of looking at you and saying, I need to get the Wall Street Journal, you know, soon because we're going to try to, you know, sell, you know, we're gonna go do an IPO and all this stuff. Well, how do you feel about that?
Yeah, well, you know, everybody wants to be the Wall Street Journal, right? Or, or Bloomberg or in real fortunate in the cover of Time. I do too. I get excited when I see those things, right. But you have to earn it. And there's there's earned content, there's own content, and then there's content that you can purchase, or acquire To, you know, I think there's there's a step in which you build upon it. So for example, it could take for interviews with the Wall Street Journal before the Wall Street Journal decides to write, it could take, you know, two or three interviews with, you know, Bloomberg or any other business outlet before they write. But you have to have the credentials. And I think one of the things that we as practitioners need to ensure is are being fully transparent. And I've told clients what they always tell them what they need to hear, versus what they want to hear is, I can get you an interview with Wall Street Journal, and I can get you an interview with Bloomberg. But these are the things like my checklist, again, that we need to be able to deliver in that conversation. So if we can't meet that, then here's five or six other places that we can't go to just start putting the credentials out there, and telling that story and then lead up to that next phase. So I think we we really need to be open and in transparent and engaging. Oftentimes, the reason to be in a particular publication has nothing, it has nothing to do with the business. Sometimes it's just going to say vanity, sometimes it is and you know, I'd really not a fan of vanity PR. But I've had publicly traded companies that are, you know, billions and cap and a story in The Wall Street Journal would would not be a good timing thing. There are opportunities that it's like, okay, well, let's find out, you know, where is good timing. So, you know, if you have a stock that is not performing well, or if you have a product that's not performing well, you don't want to pitch your CEO on Squawk Box or MSNBC, or those types of places. And so as much as we can finely tune and and predict, I think we also need to be preventative and being able to protect. And so the stories that we tell, become very important to the reputation of our reputation, the clients reputation, but also for the investors who want to potentially invest in the company. But I think if we just look at the end of the prevent and protect, and they understand why you're not ready, because nobody wants their negative PR. Yeah. And I disagree with any PR is good PR. I don't think so.
Thank you. I you know, that is so true, because I don't have time to tell you, but I'm sure you know, I've had some horror stories we all have right where you have
any job or never got any good PR. And Joe Rogan's not really getting any good PR, right?
Oh, geez, no, he's not. And Spotify, same category, but I'm just saying, no. Oh, my God. That's true. No, but you know, and it's interesting, too, that I think the Spotify CEO is probably not doing himself any favors with his response. It just just just thinking about he's, he's been kind of tone deaf, in my opinion on this. So have you.
Have you watched a TV shows Silicon Valley? No, I haven't. It's interesting, because I live it. I can't watch it. I watch it. And it's like, do you see these young millennials going in to pitch their product to investors? And I and every personality? That's really my goal. I've been in that room. I know those people. I know the engineer. I know, the venture capitalists. I know the, you know, the the ambitious, you know, creative art director and all these different character types. And it makes me a little bit nervous. It's like, would it be like getting in a commercial jet and say, Don, are you going to land the plane today? I'm like, No, I don't know how to fly commercial jet. And because I watch it, and I see the the humor, and I can see the comedic relief in some ways of going, wow, I've been deeply steeped in this culture for a long time. And knowing all the players now that we're in this hybrid work world, it's a little different. So I have a physical office, not all my team members go to the physical office, some choose to work at home. So I support that I have a lot of clients aren't going into their office. So those who do go go to their physical office, I'm excited because I actually get to engage with them in person. Because that I think, as in public relations, we're so used to having that, you know, I went to CES this year, and although it was a fantastic outlet for, you know, to the companies I went with, it was really small and very focused. And a little sad, you know, that it wasn't as grandiose as it has been in the past. But I enjoyed it because I felt good about the output that we achieved in a very short period of time in a compressed most of the A star A cluster media did not attend. But we got our clients a list media, because we started those conversations early. And I think that's the other other component of the I said, protected in another key would be to plan, plan ahead and be able to kind of forecast you know those types of stories and where were the possibilities of where you can go versus You know, no, you can ever be in Wall Street Journal says, yes, you can. But this is how you're going to get there.
Yeah. And and that's there's also the, I've gotten into this with some of my clients where maybe maybe we make them available on background. And they do a reporter a favor on background, not about specifically their company just about the industry. They don't want to be directly quoted, perhaps, but they have that knowledge. And then when we need a favor down the road, or it seems to help solely
Well, I had a sentence as talking about the tractor. And I had a sentence in a John Deere, which is, you know, the biggest, one of the biggest, I kind of polluted their article, I just, you know, be one of this, the income, you know, challenging the incumbent. And I And that one little sentence in that article in the Wall Street Journal was huge. That to me showed it's coming, I achieve very manifest, I actually create a visual board for my clients and where I want to go. And I do manifest that in the case of the Wall Street Journal, because we've had Wall Street Journal interviews, and so the article is coming. It's just doesn't come sometimes it's like a child waiting for holiday season, or Halloween or eating holiday. It's not coming fast enough. And I think that's one of the another P patients, we need patients in PR.
We do well. And we've just scratched the surface here. Before we go. I've got Aska tell us a little bit about your podcast.
Yeah, my podcast is really a labor of love is you know that they all are. But before it happened, it was really created by all the conversations and, and discussions I've had over the years, I realized that I had a vast network of visionaries and futurists that are changing the world and how we live. And so I wanted to step back and bring some of those real, authentic stories. It's really a journey with visionaries in the future, they imagine. And I have so many interesting people, I have people in aerospace, I have scientists, food scientist, I have artificial intelligence, I have agriculture, environment, Blockchain. Transportation, I mean, there's so many different intersections of innovation and technology, and then also different philosophies people that are coming approaching the food industry, from an environmental approach other people, you know, presenting their, you know, their, their challenges based on a supply chain approach. So it's, it's a really an intersection of really big, you know, thinkers and ideas shapers that I think are definitely leading the future. And it's a lot of fun. Only about I'd say 15% are actually my clients. So I pull from book authors and former clients and scientists that I've worked with that have made some some cases retired, I even contacted owl corn, the inventor of the of the video, game Pong, and got him out of retirement to kind of have a chat with me how he basically created an entire industry, gaming industry. And I've had other I had the inventor of the sports bra, a great sisterhood story about three women that came together to, to basically solve a very simple problem. There were there was no no sports bras in the marketplace in in the 70s, and literally liberated and created an entire movement in a market. And now I have electric tractors and a lot of electric and a lot of environmental, climate change, sustainability, and health. And uh, you said you just went to the gym. And so health conscious people imagine plant based cheese, not from dairy, and not from any animal, that there are people that can't eat certain things. And so she's grown in the lab. I even have a dog food, cat and dog food or pet food disruptor that is creating a lab based animal based food. So it's basically taking the DNA from a mouse and corroding that into an actual food component versus feeding your cat mice. Really interesting. So I get some things that are on this planet and I get some things that are out of this world, I guess I'd say.
Well, I would conversation certainly has been done. I really enjoy this. Donna Laughlin is the founder of LM GPR. And she's best known for her work, as we said with futurists and innovators. You can find her podcast I assume wherever podcasts are found, and it's called before it happened. Donna real quick. If people want to learn more about your company, what's that website address? We'll put in the show notes.
It's easy. It's lm g PR and it stands for Leadership momentum and growth PR. And also I'm Donna Laughlin on LinkedIn. And you can find the before it happened podcast and before it happened. The fork happened show on Instagram for all the updates or go to any of your favorite podcast platforms.
Sounds great Donna thanks for Get for joining us here in the virtual lounge.
Well thank you so much.
You know what that means it's last call here the virtual lounge. Be sure to visit PR after hours.com For links to what we discussed in this episode and more. Be sure to follow us wherever you get your podcasts. And join us next time for another round at pr after hours with Alex Greenwood.