PR for startups – What’s it all about?

Startup For Startup

28/04/2021

Lior:                Hi Eran.

Eran:               Hi Lior.

[audial cue]

Lior:                Hi everyone, you’ve reached Startup for Startup, the podcast on which we openly share knowledge, experience and actionable insights amongst startups. So, first of all today we’re gonna speak in English, surprise, surprise.

Eran:               This is our first time.

Lior:                Our very first time, but far from being the last, and today we’re gonna focus on a question of PR for startups, why is it important, what’s challenging about it, and to answer those questions we have with us today Leah Walters, our Head of Communications here at Monday.com.

Eran:               And this is why we did it in English.

Lior:                And Leah is Canadian.

[Laughs]

Leah:               Hi everyone.

Lior:                So Leah, hi.

Eran:               [Laughs]

Leah:               Hi.

Lior:                Shalom.

Leah:               Hi.

Lior:                Do you want to show us some of your Hebrew?

Leah:               Ah, no.

Eran:               Yeah, yeah, yeah, we want a dialogue.

Leah:               No, OK, I don’t think so. [laughs]

Eran:               [laughs]

Lior:                [laughs]

Leah:               There was a commitment here.

Lior:                [laughs] But whenever you feel like it you can …

Eran:               Yeah.

Lior:                throw a sentence in here to say …

Eran:               You can spice your English with a bit of Hebrew …

Leah:               Thank you.

Eran:               if you need.

Leah:               Thank you. OK, appreciate it.

Lior:                So why do PR?

Leah:               Let’s get right in. So I, I am biased, I think, on the matter, but I think PR is essential to any startup, any company’s success. It’s the best way to build a third party understanding, endorsement, impression of who you are and what you do and it helps user acquisition, it helps employee pride, it helps with investing, building a profile, really everything.

Eran:               It’s a good question, because I think when we started we kinda knew that we need to do PR, but we didn’t really understand it, coz everybody says OK, you’ve gotta do PR for your company and before Leah we actually had several attempts to do PR in the company which we found out was not successful. What we’ve done, and I see a lot of founders do that, they usually hire like an outsource company to do the PR for them, and what we found out is that we thought we’ll hire one of these companies and then they’ll do PR for us without us having to do anything with it, which was wrong.

Lior:                Magic.

Eran:               Yeah …

[laughs]

Eran:               I thought, you know, we’re gonna hire this company and then all of a sudden we’re gonna appear in newspapers and we’re gonna be happy about it …

Lior:                With the right messaging …

Eran:               Yeah.

Lior:                the right values …

Eran:               Obviously.

Lior:                the right ideas, wow.

Eran:               We’re paying, we’re paying for a service, and what happened was we started working with these companies and then they said OK, let’s sit down, let’s discuss, like what are the, explain us about the company, what are the angles that we can present to newspapers, and we thought why are we paying you, I mean, to waste our time. We understand that PR is not a technical thing; it’s much more than that, and then once we realized that then after several attempts working with companies then it didn’t work out we figured that it makes much more sense to bring somebody in-house, because it’s, you know, required a lot of commitment from our side.

Lior:                So you mentioned PR is not a technical thing. What is PR, Leah?

Leah:               Also an excellent question. It’s funny, because it means I think different things to different people. The most traditional understanding is earned media, so getting media coverage that you don’t pay for. It’s different than marketing in that way and you work with journalists to put out a certain message that you want and hopefully they then agree and write a story to that effect, but the real sort of differentiator is that you don’t pay for it.

Lior:                And why is it challenging for a startup?

Leah:               OK, so it depends on the startup and the company and what your …

Lior:                For us.

Leah:               idea is (00:03:49) working for …

Lior:                For us, yeah.

Leah:               OK, so we have a lot of unique challenges here, I would say. No, the first challenge is determining what your message is, it’s sort of what you were describing as the process with a firm is internally you have to do a really deep dive to understand who are you targeting and why. A lot of people use PR as a customer acquisition strategy, for us it’s not so much that, it’s really about brand awareness and so it’s harder, because you’re not saying we’re targeting a specific group, so we wanna be in X publication, you’re saying we wanna explain a certain thing about ourselves and so how do you do that and how do you reach the right people. So in the beginning there was a lot of learning and understanding and a lot of mistakes made. I remember in my first month it was really important to hit the ground running, you know, I learnt done is better than perfect, which is not how I operated previously, and we had a feature which, to us, felt like a massive change in the company, it was the timeline, and it was the first month, they were saying OK, we have this timeline, let’s do PR about it. I was like great, let’s do PR about the timeline. What I didn’t realize is nobody knew who we were as a company, so you can’t go to them please write about this amazing new feature when, you know …

Lior:                They just don’t care.

Leah:               Exactly, they don’t care, they don’t know who we are.

Lior:                Right.

Leah:               They don’t know how it fits into the bigger picture. So the first major challenge is establishing, you know, a reputation for yourself, and when you’re doing that from afar, and for us we really focus on the U.S. media market right now, international for sure and local for other reasons, but the U.S. is really the toughest market to crack. There’s a lot of time and effort going into explaining what differentiates you from competitors from other American companies, from companies they may have heard of who have strong local reputations and then building towards things like feature announcements and other updates.

Eran:               Yeah, I think there’s such a misconception about PR. I remember that, you know, we raised our first round and we thought oh, TechCrunch would love to write about that, you know, it’s amazing piece of news, and then we realized, you know, hundreds of companies are raising money like every week I think, it’s not, you know, big news, you have to push yourself in order to appear there and more than that, even I think after we got our first kinda report on TechCrunch about our funding round we thought we’re gonna have a spike of traffic, you know, tens of thousands of people are gonna check this new cool startup that’s just raised money, and what eventually happened, you see like a small blimp in the latex tool that you’re using and you said OK, why isn’t the world excited about, you know, yet another startup that raised X amount of money. I think, you know, when we looked at that we realized that it’s not like a one night thing, it’s not like a magic tool that you can get, you know, one piece of news into the blog or into, you know, one of the big newspapers and you’re gonna get a lot of traffic and traction. It’s a process. It’s something you need to build and it takes time and you need to have like a clear vision and goal behind it.

Lior:                And also maybe that what seemed to be important to you to report is not necessarily what the newspapers are looking for (00:06:53).

Eran:               Oh yeah they don’t care about what I have to say.

Leah:               Say that one a little louder. I think that’s important.

[Laughs]

Leah:               Yeah.

Lior:                What is brand awareness anyways? I mean I hear it, whenever I hear it I must say I’m like oh, this is a fluff thing, you know, brand awareness, there’s one thing we can’t measure …

Leah:               Right, so it’s fluffy …

Lior:                in a company like Monday …

Leah:               Yeah, …

Lior:                where we measure everything …

Leah:               Right.

Eran:               how can we say so securely, brand awareness, and what does it mean?

Leah:               So I don’t think we say it securely.

Lior:                [Laughs]

Leah:               It’s new, it’s still something that we’re growing into. What does it mean? It means people know who you are. So in our space there’s a lot of other companies who have different kinds of offerings that have, what we would describe as, strong brand awareness which means random person on the street knows X, Y, Z company, they know what other companies do. For us it’s harder for a few reasons; one because we’re doing it from here and with the name change I think that was a huge push towards successful brand awareness, you know, we chose a company, we built a company, sorry, and then chose a name that really can support a brand around it and that was a major transition point, so yeah, what is brand awareness, people knowing who you are and what you do and then one step further is people loving you.

Lior:                What makes them know you? Just because you tell them …

Leah:               Because they tell you.

Lior:                that you raise money makes them now walk on the street and be like oh, Monday is a company I might (00:08:17)

Leah:               So there’s a lot of different things that can contribute it to, but yeah, I mean PR is one step towards brand awareness, our marketing strategies are paid marketing strategies, work towards brand awareness. If we target people and put our brand and name, you know, in their face and in their Facebook feeds and Instagram and whatever …

Lior:                No, what I meant is what within PR …

Leah:               Yeah.

Lior:                makes people remember you.

Leah:               Ah, it’s not you saying it yourself, so we, you know, drink the Kool Aid here and are extremely proud and excited and happy of what we do, there’s one thing for us to go round and say it and there’s another thing for a third party to be like oh, this company’s awesome, what they’re doing is unique, you should check it out because of this. That has infinite value versus doing it yourself.

Eran:               I think it’s very important that you don’t have like one goal. You, it’s fine to have like different goals for different countries and for different reasons. For us most of our customers are not from Israel for example, I would say only like three or four percent of our customers are from Israel, so I remember that when we talked we said, you know, for Israel we wanna do PR, but our main focus is gonna be on hiring. It’s not meant to bring new customers, people know us, because the ecosystem here is pretty small, the company is growing fast, people know about us if they think about like a tool like ours they’re gonna think about Monday as one of the alternatives, but in terms of hiring we have a lot of competition from other companies to put emphasis on Israel was hiring, so Leah thought about all kinds of PR moves with newspapers and blogs in Israel in order to promote the culture here and how we work and the values that we care about and while in the U.S. we said OK, so the majority of our users are from Europe and the U.S. Australia, English speaking countries, we wanna increase the brand awareness in those countries and present, you know, what is Monday and what’s the concept behind it and what’s the thought process. So there it was very different. We don’t care about hiring people in the U.S., now we do it, coz we have an office, but yeah, I think most of our effort is towards building a brand to support …

Lior:                And customer acquisition.

Eran:               Yeah, and to support the customer acquisition I would say, enhance it in a way.

Lior:                So tell us a bit more about how does it, how do you start thinking about it?

Leah:               So …

Lior:                How do you pick media? How do you interact with them?

Leah:               Yeah, it, our philosophy is, I think, ‘our’ being Monday, is different. We are not in the all, you know, we don’t want as much coverage as we can possibly get. I think we would, correct me if I’m wrong, but rather have no coverage than the wrong messages out there. So it’s a very carefully guarded sort of story list that we are constantly pitching. So we talked about fundraising, we talked about feature enhancements, those are pretty straightforward. You know when it’s happening, you can plan in advance, you reach out to journalists. We do it usually under embargo which means you set a date of publication, so with a funding round we want to announce January 1st, two or three weeks before we will send the information to journalists, ask them to confirm and respect the embargo, send them the details and then do interviews afterwards. So that’s how you do it with announcements like that, and then we have a list of what we call evergreen stories, so it’s topics that are really important to us. So in Israel we are, you know, looking for a certain kind of employee, so we put together messaging and figured out what kind of stories do we want to attract those right kind of people and then we pitch them. So a huge thing with PR is it’s a relationship game, it’s getting to know the journalists, knowing what’s interesting to them, knowing how they like to receive their information, what kind of stories they write about and really doing targeted pitches. So you don’t take the same e-mail and send it to everybody, you customize it to say, you know, hey I saw you wrote about this recently, you might be interested in this, and then you have the assets ready, so if it’s images, if it’s quotes, if it’s whatever else that goes with it so that the process is as easy as possible. In the U.S. when we’re doing the more brand awareness stories it’s harder, because you don’t have hard news, necessarily, other than the different things that we talked about, so it’s always trying to keep an eye on either trends that you can jump into or producing your own content as an op ed which is a way to get out your message in your own words, but published by another company.

Eran:              Yeah, and I think one of the things that I found out wasn’t clear for me before that it’s a relationship more than anything, coz you can’t just reach out to a news reporter one day and say hello, we’re Monday.com and this is what we want to publish, coz he won’t understand the context and the context is super important. I think one of the things that I learned from Leah is that the relationship is very, is key to get the right message across and to get like the, the news that you want to be published and it require a lot of effort, and I remember that she told us oh, you guys need to meet this journalist from newspaper X and I said OK, why. Because I wanna, I want him to get to know you guys and I want to, I want him to get to know like how you think about the company, you know, without a specific reason, just to build a relationship. So this is again something that require a lot of attention and effort, but I think it’s critical to get the right PR across.

Lior:                Do you have an example of a relationship that ended up in a success story kinda thing?

Leah:               Yeah.

Lior:                You do?

Leah:               [laughs] Yeah, so I think the first example that really comes to mind was also started in my first month here, it was all about action and doing things, I was like OK, so I made a list of people …

Lior:                Wow, what a great month you had.

Leah:               [laughs]

Eran:               It’s been like that every month she’s been here.

Leah:               [Laughs] we won’t talk about Wikipedia, that’s a whole other situation, but I made a list of journalists who I thought were interesting, I like to read their content, I thought they did deeper dive stories, I very quickly realized we were not in the click big game, we did not like shallow pieces and made a list and wrote e-mails kind of awkwardly introducing myself and saying hey, this is who we are and what we do and it’s amazing to look at them now, coz it’s like you won’t believe it, we have five thousand (5000) paying teams, you know, like it’s just, it’s crazy the change that has been …

Eran:               Yeah, we have …

Lior:                Today we have forty thousand (40 000) …

Leah:               Exactly. [laughs]

Lior:                just for your, just for the reference.

Leah:               to understand the difference, and I thought five thousand (5000) that’s incredible, they’re gonna love us. Yeah, it took some time, but we, introduced myself and some of them started writing back being like great, as you grow stay in touch, like, you know, like …

Eran:               [laughs]

Leah:               cool, that’s great.

Lior:                Thank you, (00:14:27)

Leah:               and I’m like okay, they wanna be friends, so …

Eran:               Didn’t you study American language, Leah?

Leah:               I just chose to ignore what they were actually trying to say. And you, you know there’s a balance between the right, like amount of communication, you know, where I’m not updating them with every time we change a color, but it is keeping them up to date on our major growth milestones and that kind of thing, so sending either videos or product updates or funding news and that kind of thing. So there was one particular journalist who I really set my eyes on and we developed a great relationship and so he sent one of those shallow responses initially, but he responded so I took the bait and we kept going from there and ultimately he ended up coming to Israel for a totally different reason and reached out himself proactively to say hey, I’m gonna be there, would love to come and meet like, you know, you and the guys and see the company. So that was incredible and just showed sort of the long game of relationship building. We had a small setback with him where, when we changed the name, we developed these amazing swag boxes and of course sent him one and unfortunately the glasses, the very cool glasses that we included combusted on the way, so when he opened it, it exploded shards of glass all over his desk …

Lior:                Oh my God.

Leah:               and he tweeted about it which was mortifying, but it was another way to just be like sorry, and keep the communication going. We sent replacement glasses and he says he actually uses them to this day still and ultimately when we had a funding round that was sort of at the level that he covers he did a major deep dive into the company, he spoke to a bunch of our investors, he spoke to us a few times and the background that he had developed in the years that we have been in touch is ultimately what let to the story, so that was great to see that happen.

Lior:                Was it also reflected in the story?

Leah:               Yeah, yeah, you know, listen, we, we have wasted, if we could write the story I think I would have changed certain things, but definitely he showed different perspectives, he really took the time to dig in deep and then when we had a couple of things that were, we felt were inaccurate afterwards he was very willing and open to changing them which also really comes from a relationship.

Eran:               I would say this differently.

Leah:               [Laughs]

Eran:               So I …

Lior:                That was her answer.

Eran:               [laughs] no, coz I’m, Leah is very …

Lior:                Canadian.

Eran:               Canadian.

Leah:               I’m Israeli at heart.

Eran:               [Laughs] that’s true.

Leah:               [Laughs]

Eran:               No, but like which set is true and amazing, because she also forced us to be in each one of these meetings so we got to know this specific person and I think it really created a lot of trust between us and him and it’s amazing to see how much it affects the coverage of the company, but when he published that specific article the title wasn’t good, like I remember reading it and I was really bummed about the title, but I think one …

Lior:                Why wasn’t it good?

Eran:               Coz it just presented something that could have been positive in a very negative way and I think it’s kinda shed like a bad light about the whole story and I understand that, I mean those, we always have to remember that they have a role as well, that it’s crafting it into their website and you create like engagement with the readers and I think it makes sense from their perspective.

Lior:                So it was like more provocative kind of thing?

Eran:               Yeah, more provoc …

Leah:               Quit bait.

Eran:               Yeah.

Leah:               It was to get people to click on the piece.

Eran:               I think that’s one of the times where I saw the benefit of creating like a good relationship with the news reporter, coz, because we knew him we felt comfortable asking to change the title and he was open to do it and if it was just a random person …

Lior:                He wouldn’t care.

Eran:               Yeah.

Lior:                Right.

Eran:               So …

Lior:                Did he change the title?

Eran:               Yeah, he changed it.

Lior:                Oh, OK.

Eran:               Yeah, for the better, and I think that’s amazing, you know, the fact that you have this kind of relationship is critical, I think.

Lior:                How much money do we spend on PR? How can we plan it? What’s …

Leah:               That’s interesting point there.

Lior:                the budget?

Leah:               How much money …

Eran:               I would like to know as well, yeah.

Leah:               Yeah [laughs], OK, so just first straight money like I’m, let’s just think about that, we, on and off since I’ve been here I’ve worked with firms and I have a complicated relationship with firms. I think we, as a company, have a complicated relationship with firms, and when I say firms I should explain. It means that I work here internally for Monday in PR, but we hire external PR firms to help us amplify our story, you know we use their relationships, we use their expertise to develop stories and we pay them a monthly retainer that is very different fee in Israel and outside and so we pay one in Israel and one outside and I think it’s something that, as we grow and really dig deeper into PR, we will eliminate and build an in-house team, because nobody can speak as passionately and, you know, in such an educated way about a brand, unless you work there. So that’s one fee. What else do we pay for? We have a monthly, not a monthly, sorry, we do press releases that we put out on a service when we have major news which is probably twice or three times a year and that’s about four thousand dollars (US$4,000-00), I would say, something like that, and in terms of expenses I think that’s it.

Eran:               Yeah, but maybe it’s worth expanding about that service that you’re using.

Leah:               The PR?

Eran:               Yeah.

Leah:               So the game is changing as we’ve been talking about and press releases aren’t the most traditional way to reach journalists anymore, it used to be you put together a press release of your news and you blast it out to as many people as possible, now there’s a lot more custom pitching and relationship building, but for major news like a funding announcement or if you do a survey and get a lot of data, that kind of thing, you do a formal press release and you work with a service that publishes the press release in infinite number of places and sends it to the newsroom of basically every media outlet that you can imagine, and that’s great, because they receive the news, but you always have to be following up anyway to be like oh, we sent you this press release, and doing it that way. It just guarantees tons of pickup and a lot of different people receiving your news.

Eran:               Another big part of it was that Leah had to teach us how to do an interview.

Lior:                [Laughs]

Eran:               You know, Roy and I, both being Israelis, we have different mentality and it’s fine …

Lior:                What is the mental, like the Israeli mentality?

Eran:               Well [laughs], we need a …

Lior:                No really.

Eran:               a whole episode about that, but, look I mean …

Lior:                Oh, you mean like too straightforward? What do you mean by that?

Eran:               Yeah, sometimes too straightforward, sometimes being too blunt, sometimes not answering the question or not fully understanding what they meant when they asked a question, but also like technical terms that we didn’t know. I can give you a few examples like …

Lior:                Sure, good.

Eran:               I remember that, you know, last funding round like we had to interview for quite a lot of newspapers and Leah told us all kind of terms that we can use with a journalist, like ‘on record’, this is something that you can be quoted for and you have to specify that, you know, this is ‘off record’ if you wanna say something without being quoted.

Lior:                And what’s the value of it?

Eran:               That value is that …

Lior:                Of the ‘off the record’ I mean. If you’re talking to an in …

Leah:               Context. So …

Lior:                Oh, OK.

Leah:               So basically you, you assume, and this was also a very important lesson that we learned the hard way, I would say, that you are on the record unless you say you’re off the record. So you feel like here we are chatting, have a nice casual conversation, I’m gonna tell you all these things, I’m gonna speak in slang, maybe I’m gonna swear by accident; these are things that they can take and write …

Lior:                Unless you tell them it’s off the record.

Leah:               Unless you tell them it’s off the record.

Eran:               Yeah.

Leah:               So with something sensitive like valuation maybe or, you know, if you wanna give specific growth metrics that you’re not ready to be published you can say this is off the record so that they understand the scope of the company and what you can accomplish.

Eran:               Another thing I have learned is ‘on background’.

Leah:               Yeah.

Eran:               So I didn’t know what ‘on background’ means. Apparently it’s a term that you can use with the news reporters. So ‘on background’ means that you, they won’t quote you, but you can mention a fact and they will mention that in the article of like sources from the company told us that X, Y, Z.

Lior:                But it won’t be your name related to it.

Leah:               Exactly.

Eran:               Yeah.

Lior:                It won’t be coming out of your mouth.

Eran:               Yeah, so it’s like a fact, but they can’t quote you directly. So that’s like another tool I didn’t realize I can say that …

Lior:                Wow.

Eran:               Yeah.

Lior:                There are rules to this game.

Eran:               Yeah, yeah.

Leah:               And now you know when you see ‘sources close to the company’ are probably sources within the company. [laughs]

Eran:               Yeah, that’s funny.

Leah:               [Laughs]

Eran:               So that’s kinda technical stuff that we’ve learned along the way, but also like you need to take into account that , you know, even if you, we were in the U.S. most of those calls are like on the phone, using Skype, usually, you know, it’s not the best setup; like the audio is not clear, they can’t see you on the other side and it’s very hard to create like a relationship over the phone, so we had to learn, you know, to listen to the questions and we had to learn to say: “Hi, this is Eran speaking,” or “This is Roy speaking,” or like, so they can quote you, and it becomes more personal, coz otherwise it’s gonna be like a mumbo jumbo of quotes and different things and it’s very hard to convey, you know, a clear message across.

Lior:                So you have to get better so that the article, the final result is good.

Eran:               Yeah, Leah actually prepared us before interviews about what to say, what not to say, how to answer specific questions, you know, how to present ourselves, how to present the company, and I think it created a lot of confidence in how we do it and I think it’s critical to do it in-house and what we found is that it’s also helped us, you know, in general like to convey what we do in a very precise manner thanks to those efforts.

Leah:               There’s also tips and tricks in answering questions with what you wanna say. You know, a lot of the time the journalist will have an agenda, they will know what they wanna ask you, but really you wanna present a different part of the company and that’s something that you guys, I think, have really improved in also and being able to sort of sidestep and say great, yeah, that’s interesting, but let us tell you some of this …

Lior:                Right.

Leah:               and it’s amazing to see, to see the improvement.

Lior:                And I think we are like more of good kids in Israel thinking that we are supposed to collaborative and just because they ask a question let’s answer it the way they asked it and I saw, yeah, I think I mean I don’t think we’re good at it in Israel. What do you say, Leah?

Leah:               No, I also think, yeah, I …

Lior:                No, besides maybe.

Leah:               you are, no, I, no it’s fine, Israeli, like the mentality here …

Lior:                [Laughs]

Eran:               [Laughs]

Leah:               no, I don’t …

Lior:                Hello Canadian, how are you (00:24:31)

Leah:               I don’t agree with you. I don’t agree with you. I don’t agree with you, because I think Israelis are really good at giving the bottom line and there is so much fluff in the media and I think there’s really an asset to say, you know, this is who we are and what we do; you know, there’s a take it or leave it element to it which I think the rest of the world might not respond as well to, but you get to the bottom line and that’s the key message and I think where the improvement needs to come is in packaging up that bottom line a little bit nicer, and what I have learned so much from being here, and you guys, is we don’t rely our coverage on you as co-founders or as people. It’s so, the easy way to get coverage. You know people love CEO profiles or tips from CEOs and co-founders, and it’s like almost a forbidden thing for us to do.

Eran:               I wanna expand on that.

Leah:               Yeah.

Eran:               We have a constant battle with Leah.

Leah:               Yeah.

Eran:               She comes to us all the time, OK, Roy, we want a picture of you doing that or Eran, I wanna interview you and we don’t wanna do it, not because I don’t see the value of it, but I think there’s like two types of companies, one which is like, you know, when you think about Apple you think about Steve Jobs, you know he’s the face of the company …

Lior:                Right.

Eran:               but there’s companies where, you know, the company stands for itself, you know, who’s the CEO of Spotify, nobody knows.

Lior:                Right.

Eran:               Who’s the CEO of …

Lior:                Air BnB.

Eran:               Air BnB? Nobody knows, you know, but you have a lot of brand awareness about the company.

Lior:                Right.

Eran:               Yeah, so what we told Leah is that like we don’t wanna be in the center, like we don’t wanna be the face of the company. Obviously, you know, part of our job is to do that, and we do that, you know, in front of investors and whenever it’s needed, but  we …

Lior:                Does it come with a price?

Leah:               Absolutely.

Eran:               [Laughs]

Leah:               Absolutely. And, I mean, an emotional price for me personally, I would say we battle on this everyday, but no, coverage, for sure, but it’s a price that we are totally happy and willing to pay, because that isn’t the kind of coverage we want; it’s not the people we wanna attract, it’s not the customers we want to attract, it’s not the brand we wanna build, so the price is less coverage, but the gain is we get to stay true to ourselves and you don’t not do it. There’s, …

Eran:               [Laughs]

Leah:               there’s some battles I win. No, and what, my job is to sort of be the gatekeeper and evaluate all of the opportunities that come in. You feel like I come to you a lot with a lot of things; I’m saying no to ninety percent, I would say, right off the bat, and what I do is then challenge the journalist to say well what about this person from the company, what about this angle, why don’t we do it this way instead? You know, sometimes they’ll ask for headshots of just the co-founders. I was like I’m sorry, I don’t have any, [laughs], the only thing we have is a team photo and they’re like no, we can’t use that. I was like well, that’s what we have, and what do you know, they can use it, and so it’s just pushing and really establishing ourselves as a team and it’s one of the most incredible and infuriating things about working here.

Lior:                Can you tell us a story of something that went really wrong?

Leah:               Yeah [laughs] one …

Eran:               [Laughs] I think she already can write a book about it.

[laugh]

Lior:                Just one.

Leah:               One thing that went really wrong. Okay, so around our name change, that was a super huge effort by the entire, every single person in the company to do and it was super exciting for us and really emotional and sensitive and exciting, and so the PR component was really a huge part of it and for us changing the name of the company was a really big deal, for the rest of the world it was less of a big deal, but it was still really important to secure some great pieces from it. So we worked to figure out how, like what we were gonna say to make it interesting to other people and locally, you know, as a, you know, growing Israeli company with a strong reputation we got some bites, people were excited about it and we did it under embargo like we talked about before and secured a bunch of coverage.

Lior:                And we had an Ayalon …

Leah:               Yeah, so that was …

Lior:                big ad …

Leah:               a whole other, that was a part of it also, but in this particular situation it was just on the pitching and then we went to the U.S. also and lo and behold we got a call a couple of days before the publishing date to say a major, major U.S. publication who hadn’t covered us before was gonna do a feature piece on it which was extremely exciting to us, we had a video that accompanied the news and they wanted to write about the video and the messaging and we’re like great, we made this video with exactly the message we wanna get across, it’s gonna be perfect. As we got closer to the publication date, and this was over the weekend here, they said oh, we can only publish one day before we lift the embargo, which means that they were gonna publish the news first, which might not sound like a big deal, but there is a code amongst journalists across, around the world that embargos are respected and if you give it to one person first you’re giving an exclusive and you’re giving a leg up to somebody else, there’s a special sensitivity between the U.S. and Israel in this way, you know, Israelis are really proud of Israeli companies, they want to get the news first or at least at the same time, and to give it to the U.S. is sort of like a slap in the face, so we said no, like this is the embargo date, this is when you have to do it, they pushed back and said OK, fine, like we’re not gonna publish. So what do you do? It was a really, really, really hard decision, but basically what we said is publish it, like really don’t do it, please don’t do it. If you absolutely have to, and this is at the cost of the piece, publish it as late as possible so then …

Lior:                Why do they have to do it?

Leah:               Why do they, they don’t. They don’t have to do it …

Lior:                OK.

Leah:               but when you’re in this …

Eran:               No, but there’s a thing about being first.

Leah:               Yeah, there’s a huge thing about being first even when it’s something like this company changed their name, but also it’s a, they’re a massive publication, they knew they had the stronger hand in this situation and that we wanted that coverage.

Lior:                So they did it coz they could.

Leah:               They did it coz they could and, you know, they don’t care in the same way that we do and they also are thinking like oh, you’re Israeli based, it, like, you know, it doesn’t matter, this is gonna be an English story, like, OK, well everyone has the internet and can Google, and anyway, so they ended up publishing and it was a disaster. It was a huge, huge mistake by me to give them that leeway to be able to do it. I thought OK, we’re gonna get this piece, we’ll wake up in the morning, we’ll do the Israeli coverage, it’s gonna be fine. What ended up happening is all of the Israeli journalists saw the piece and said like what, how could you do this to us. It breaks the trust that you’ve invested in a relationship we’re building and they ultimately didn’t publish with the exception of one or two and it was mostly around the sign, and so it was a lesson of you stick to your values, you know who you are, you know what you wanna do and the answer should have been absolutely not, you cannot break the embargo and it was, it was awful.

Lior:                Do you wanna say anything about it? No, I mean, Leah, you’re making it sound very …

Leah:               It was traum, no, it was, I mean, it was …

Lior:                Very dramatic.

Leah:               I also, like, I take …

Lior:                How dramatic was it?

Leah:               I take these things very hard, you know, so like I think personally it felt awful and it’s also, it was a moral dilemma, like what do you do.

Eran:               Yeah, usually before a press release, you know like, you can’t speak with Leah …

Leah:               [Laughs]

Eran:               like few days before that. There’s so much pressure. I didn’t realize like how much pressure. She usually deals with like, you know, you open her inbox and there’s like fifty e-mails from different journalists asking questions and wanna break the embargo or wanna publish before and it’s like …

Lior:                Wow.

Eran:               I would say, you know, it’s managing so many relationships and everybody is special in the, how they wanna convey the message. It’s, it’s very hard, like …

Lior:                By the way, how did we fix it? Did we? Like …

Leah:               With, with those …

Lior:                With the relationships and everything you’re …

Leah:               Yeah, so, so with that U.S. publication we very likely won’t work with them again and especially not that team any time soon. Oh, the other thing to mention, to add in about it, is the headline of the piece was also massive click bait, and so it wasn’t only that we gave them the permission to publish the piece …

Lior:                They took it the wrong.

Leah:               they took it extremely the wrong way and it, the Israeli journalists here under, thought, like they made the mistake that they were making fun of us …

Lior:                Wow.

Leah:               and that we were sort of, some sort of joke, like, anyway it was awful. I forgot what you asked.

Eran:               But eventually it was fine.

Leah:               Eventually it was fine.

Eran:               Yeah, I mean it, it’s funny, coz like when it happens it seems like the end of the world, but then you realize that, you know, more newspapers publish about it and it’s fine and …

Lior:                And it brings the question of is there bad PR. I mean, you know …

Leah:               Yeah.

Lior:                there is a common …

Leah:               Yeah.

Lior:                thought that as long as you’re out there and people are talking about you it’s a good thing …

Leah:               Right.

Lior:                no matter what they say about you. How do you think about it?

Leah:               I don’t believe that. Do you believe that?

Eran:               I, I don’t believe that as well.

Leah:               No. [laughs] No …

Eran:               I mean, I mean to some extent it might be true, but I mean for example in Israel we had so many opportunities to publish, if we go back to, our Israeli goal is to, you know, bring more talent into the company, there are so many articles, you know, we call them, I wouldn’t call them even shallow, you know, it’s like this company is gonna raise, you know, gonna hire another two hundred people in the next year; OK, is that news? This company has a ping pong table and a pool table …

Lior:                Right.

Eran:               I don’t wanna be associated with this kind of PR, coz the message it sends to potential candidates is, you know, the benefit of working in this company is the ping pong table. I don’t want them to think about that.

Lior:                Right, but I’m talking about something different, I’m talking about for example the Ayalon ad …

Leah:               Right.

Eran:               Yeah.

Lior:                OK, so Ayalon, we thought it was a great idea, right.

Leah:               It was.

Lior:                Apparently it was a great idea, but we got a coverage from one of the local newspapers …

Leah:               Yeah.

Lior:                that was not in favor of what we did …

Eran:               Yeah.

Lior:                so although it was a bad reporting about it, it still did not bring the impact, right?

Leah:               No, so that, that’s different …

Lior:                And that’s what I’m talking about.

Leah:               Yeah, so, so, what you’re talking about in terms of …

Lior:                Being just associated with the wrong values.

Leah:               the wrong messages …

Lior:                Right.

Eran:               Yeah.

Leah:               and that’s something that we really try and guard against, you know, we get opportunities often of hey, we can fly one of your employees in a helicopter and land on the office …

Eran:               [Laughs]

Leah:               like amazing television coverage. I was like …

Lior:                Seriously?

Leah:               Oh yeah, no, that, that’s a popular one.

Lior:                That’s a real one?

Leah:               Ken. And I said no thank you. And anyway those are the kinds of things that we don’t pursue, because they bring us the wrong kind of people. The Ayalon sign is, was our vibe in message and if it was misinterpreted that’s fine, that really amplified the audience and what it did was started a dialogue. Our message was clear on it, you know, the picture of the company that reflects us as a team, and really the message on it was thank you to the community for being a part of it. That’s what we wanted to say, that’s what we did say and hopefully that’s the message that got across. If they speculated about how much we spent on it or, you know, how much money is in the startup scene, like that, that’s fine.

Lior:                But did this coverage make any harm?

Leah:               No.

Lior:                That’s what I’m asking.

Leah:               It didn’t. If any, the only thing maybe was negative was made our job for HR harder, because they got so, so, so, so many résumés that weren’t necessarily the right fit.

Eran:               Yeah, but I think it’s challenging. I mean even now with the campaign that we’re doing in New York …

Lior:                So wait, …

Eran:               OK.

Lior:                let’s get context.

Leah:               [Laughs]

Leah:               What campaign?

Lior:                Even now the campaign in New York …

Leah:               What are you talking about?

Eran:               OK, OK.

Leah:               What?

Eran:               What context?

Leah:               [Laughs]

Eran:               Delete.

Lior:                We have a …

[laugh]

Lior:                No, let’s not delete. Leah, give us some context.

Leah:               OK.

Lior:                Ta da!

Leah:               No, you have to ask a question.

Eran:               No, so maybe you give us some context.

Lior:                Okay, here is a context.

Leah:               [laughs]

Lior:                What are our current challenges?

[Laugh]

Lior:                What are our future plans? What are you working on now?

Leah:               You wanna talk about the campaign? That’s a question of the campaign?

Lior:                Yeah, of course.

Eran:               Yeah.

Lior:                No, we are talking. This is on record guys.

Leah:               Oh, see, she’s using the lingo I (00:35:43).

Eran:               Can I embarrass you, Lior? [laughs]

Leah:               Sure.

Lior:                How do you wanna embarrass me?

Eran:               I don’t know. You’ll cut it off anyway.

[laughs]

Lior:                I did empower.

Leah:               OK, so a current major initiative that we’re undertaking is our first offline advertising campaign in Manhattan, in New York City. We took eight billboards across mid and downtown Manhattan and two subway stations and are doing an advertising campaign.

Eran:               Sounds simple when you put them like that.

Lior:                Right, right.

Leah:               And it was easy.

Eran:               Yeah.

Lior:                What’s so complex about it?

Leah:               OK, so …

Lior:                Where do you start?

Leah:               So first of all why did we do it. We did it to, and you know we were talking about brand awareness before, we did it as a brand building exercise in a super important market for us where we just opened an office, sixish months ago where our investors are to let people know or to answer the question: “What is Monday.com?”

Eran:               I think it’s also part of us maturing as a company. Up until now we scaled only on performance marketing which is great, you know, and we’ll continue to do that, but eventually you realize that you have to build a brand and part of it is doing PR, but big part of it is to, you know, one of the things that we took into account with this campaign is that people might see this ad, but won’t convert into paying account, but even for now when they had to decide between Monday and a different software they remember that they saw this campaign on the subway and will make, you know, the right decision.

Leah:               [Laughs]

Lior:                So what’s complex about it?

Leah:               Everything.

Eran:               [Laughs]

Leah:               Everything is complex about it.

Eran:               Especially since Leah managed the whole thing.

Leah:               [Laughs] yeah. Yeah, no, everything is complex about it. Figuring out what message we want to portray, that’s super complex. Figuring out where the people are that we want to target was super complex. The logistics of executing a campaign like this, super complex, and the logistics of doing it from a million miles away is also really hard.

Lior:                I think about it for the first time now also, it’s so counterintuitive to the way we usually convey a message, because we’re so used to having a vertical focus message and we try to really avoid general messages around what we do and who we are just because it’s such a difficult thing to say, and maybe it was like this one first time that we just really had to …

Leah:               Yeah.

Lior:                go with something.

Leah:               It’s an interesting thing, because our target market is anybody who manages a team. That’s amazing, because it’s everybody and it’s a humungous challenge, because it’s everybody. So how do you touch on pinpoints that affect so many people? It’s a PR challenge, it’s a branding challenge, it’s a marketing challenge, it’s a, challenges the company which is, I think, what brought us to the idea that we ultimately went with which is, you know, an experiment, like we’ll see. What we ended up doing was on the billboards writing only what is Monday.com, which is the fundamental question that is super hard for us to answer, and in the subway stations put twenty-eight (28) different answers from our most popular use cases that we’ve learned from our users, the best ways that people use Monday is for these various things, so …

Lior:                Such as what?

Leah:               Team management, project management, those are sort of the more general ones and then we got into, as a sales pipeline tool, as a CRM, different kinds of things that people really use the product for.

Eran:               Yeah, the thought process, you know, I think we had like ten different versions of the campaign before we decided on that one.

Leah:               At least.

Eran:               Yeah, even more. I would say even, you know, more than ten concepts, but it’s, what we realized along the way it’s very different than performance marketing. While performance marketing is very easy, you know, to get an ad tested and get it down, but also you can put in a lot of text and a lot of visuals and what you realize is that people, you know, even specifically in New York, have so little attention that you have to be very precise and very minimal in how much information …

Lior:                Time they have to spend …

Eran:               Yeah …

Lior:                looking at it.

Eran:               coz you walk in New York and you see, you know, thousands of ads in every, you know, five or six minutes and it’s insane, and in all that noise you have to stand out and it’s very hard, but also, like you wanna convey a message in the same time, so we had to, I remember it was like a process of stripping down, you know, all the noise and being very precise, and it’s hard, but I really like, you know, what eventually brought us to this specific campaign is the fact that, you know, we kept thinking about OK, with this horizontal tool, and we do all those things, how can we say that, you know, in a billboard and then we said, you know, let’s just say that, that we are all those things.

Lior:                Right.

Eran:               And I think that’s what nailed it eventually, the fact that we’ll just communicate what we wanna communicate as direct as possible.

Lior:                There’s such a big risk in it from our perspective of marketing, because again, as you said, like today if we make a mistake and we have so many tools to predict that we’re not, we can still take it down the moment we realize it’s not working. Here we put so much effort and so much money and we still don’t know what, what is it now, two weeks into the campaign?

Leah:               No, not even.

Lior:                For you to take the risk what does it take? What, like what do you hope to get out of it that you say I’m taking this one risk?

Eran:               I don’t know. I mean to be honest I didn’t feel it was such a big risk.

Lior:                That’s what I was gonna ask you. I wouldn’t have guessed …

Eran:               Yeah.

Leah:               you’d say that.

Eran:               I mean and, because I didn’t have a lot of expectations out of it, like I didn’t say oh, this has, this and that have to happen and for it to be successful …

Lior:                Right.

Eran:               I believe it’s, you know, strategic and it’s the right thing to do, and we’ll improve with it along the way and I think it’s a great campaign, but for me it’s just a starting point and we’ll evolve from here, and I don’t think it’s a big risk, to be honest.

Leah:               And also in terms of cost it’s one fifth, the whole campaign which includes this part and we will be doing, this is a spoiler alert, [laughs] subway stations at the end of January through February, is a fifth of what our monthly marketing spend is and so in terms of budget for us it’s a …

Eran:               Yeah, it’s still, it’s …

Leah:               it’s a piece of what we’re doing.

Lior:                Right.

Eran:               Yeah, it’s still a lot of money.

Leah:               It’s extremely huge amount of money, yeah.

Eran:               Yeah.

Lior:                What about you, Leah?

Leah:               Which?

Lior:                With the risk.

Leah:               The risk. The risk is missing, to me it was missing our first shot. You know this is us introducing ourselves to a market that’s super important to us for so many reasons and I, yeah, I didn’t wanna miss up our first try of messaging and so it took, yeah, so many different variations and even when I saw the first stab at this final concept I was like no, like no, and then it sits and it grows on you and it came out so beautifully and I think something else to mention is we did it all entirely in-house which has to be unusual. It ended up being about five hundred pieces of media in between the stations and the billboards, it’s a tremendous amount of work for our design team, marketing team, data science team, like it was an incredible company-wide effort to come together to pull it off and a huge source of pride for the company, you know, if that’s what comes out of this as our biggest win I think we did …

Lior:                It’s worth it.

Leah:               we did pretty well.

Eran:               Yeah. We also took a lot of steps, you know, to measure it, coz …

Lior:                Yeah, I can talk about that.

Leah:               Yeah, yeah.

Eran:               Yeah.

Leah:               It’s huge.

Eran:               One of the cool things that we’ve done is that we changed our sign up process so if you sign up to Monday.com from New York right now during the sign up process we’re gonna show you pictures of billboards around the city and the subway stations …

Lior:                Really?

Eran:               and we’re gonna ask you have you seen any of these billboards and you can click on any of them and we’re actually getting pretty cool results so far, I mean it’s only the first week, but it’s very cool to see. Also we measured the effect of the billboards compared to other countries in New York, because we can’t really do an ab test about that, so we have the same online marketing going on, but we know like how the different countries in America …

Lior:                Cities.

Eran:               Sorry, different countries are behaving in different cities …

Lior:                Okay.

Eran:               and we have a benchmark. So we can actually see, you know, even though it’s like, it’s been Columbus Day on this Monday and there’s a holiday, so it’s always changing, but we can kinda benchmark how New York is performing compared to other countries and other cities. So you can actually see the uplift that the campaign is causing. Also another thing that we knew from the beginning is that it’s different from online marketing in a sense that people have to be exposed several times to the message before they actually convert, so it’s not just, you know, we didn’t thought that, we didn’t think that on the first day, you know, people are gonna see the billboards and gonna sign up in masses like if you, like put like a ten million dollar budget on online marketing. People have to see the ad for, you know, several times a week before they actually convert. So we actually prepared for a long term effect, we think it’s gonna take between two and three months to see actual results and we’re gonna measure that …

Lior:                Do we take into consideration the possibility that we’ll never be able to attribute it to that campaign?

Eran:               Some of it, yeah.

Leah:               Yeah.

Eran:               What I’ve said about the decision process, I mean if somebody’s gonna pick us over software X …

Lior:                They’re not gonna report to you, hi …

Eran:               [Laughs] yeah.

Lior:                I’m actually now picking you, because …

Leah:               Based on seeing your billboard …

Lior:                Right.

Leah:               three months ago.

Eran:               Yeah.

Leah:               No, but, no, they also study the exact area around where the billboards are to look at the behavior before and after, so we will, we already do see specific signups that we can attribute to the campaign, which is amazing, and then the long term effect we will have faith in. [laughs]

Lior:                Did you get any reaction on it from our newspaper friends?

Leah:               Yeah, so that, that we’re working on now. It’s, it’s a, we knew from the beginning it’s a tough media sell, because like I said what, PR is about earned media, so this is something, an advertising campaign that we are paying for. So it’s a hard thing. What we’re doing is talking about all the interesting things around it, how we’re measuring it, you know this, we spoke to so many companies who did advertising campaigns to say hey, how did you measure the effect and they said oh, we got great response. We’re like that’s not gonna cut it for us, so we figured out all of these creative ways to actually measure it unpacked. So we’re waiting for a little bit of data before we go to journalists to say this is how you can measure an offline campaign, that’s one way of doing it. We’re using, you know, we just did a report on transparency and so that’s gonna be coming out soon. We’re including pictures and details about the campaign as part of that story. The advertising campaign itself is not, not so newsworthy, but we’re, we’re pushing it anyway.

Lior:                Leah, what’s coming up?

Leah:               So like everything in this company I feel like we’re just scratching the surface in what we can accomplish. We, if I look at, you know, a year and eight months ago from when I started to now we’ve accomplished a lot, but there’s so many different story angles that we want to be pursing.

Lior:                Such as what?

Leah:               Ah [laughs] can’t reveal that yet, [laughs]. No, what we wanna, the major shift I wanna see is going from proactive to reactive. So we are now pitching all different kinds of stories. I would like to see us established as fact experts in a bunch of different areas where the tier A, top publications are coming to us to ask for comments and it’s definitely starting to happen in a lot of ways, and I wanna be in a place where something like a product update or a feature update is big news. So it’s really taking equity in the conversation that’s going on right now and establishing a strong presence there and it’s also something where the company is accomplishing so many cool things and so we feed off of that and are so happy to have so many different things to be promoting in the news.

Eran:               So like Leah said I think that one thing that we found out is because we’re scaling so much and we have so many customers and so many users we actually got quite a lot of insights about how people work, how they behave around work, what makes companies stuck and what makes them very successful, so one of the things that we’re gonna do is to start using this data aggregate, like aggregated data from our system, and I think we have a lot of insights to share with the world. I think this is one thing that’s very interesting. I will also say that, you know, we had a lot of values and concepts behind the product and I think, you know, as we grow as a company we can be thought leaders in how we manage and how, why we build the software the way we built it and what are the values behind it, coz I think there’s a lot of depth to what we’re doing, so hopefully as we grow we’ll be able to share that and this will, you know, become like news and what people are interested in reading.

Lior:                Sounds like we should stay tuned, right.

Leah:               Stay tuned. Lots, lots of good things to come. Yeah.

Lior:                Leah, thanks for being with us today.

Leah:               Thanks for having me.

Lior:                And for being our very first forever and ever interviewee.

Eran:               This is the last time I’m doing this, Lior. [Laughs]

Leah:               It’s OK, everyone, it was awesome. Thanks for having me.

Lior:                Next time in Spanish.

Eran:               No, no way.

Leah:               Oh my God.

Eran:               We need like fifteen episodes in Hebrew before I …

Lior:                You refer Eran to do …

Eran:               I need to recover, yeah.

Lior:                Thank you, Eran.

Eran:               Thank you, Lior.

Lior:                Thank you all for listening

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