PR for Startups – What’s It All About?

Startup for Startup

19/03/2019

lior:                  Hi Eran.

eran:                Hi Lior.

Speaker 3:        (singing).

lior:                  Hi everyone, you’ve reached Startup for Startup the podcast in which we openly share knowledge, experience, and actionable insights among startups. So, first of all today we’re going to speak in English. Surprise, surprise.

eran:                Our first time.

lior:                  Our very first time. But far from being the last. And today we’re going to focus on the 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 did it in English.

lior:                  Leah’s Canadian.

leah:                 Hi everyone.

lior:                  So Leah, hi.

leah:                 Hi.

lior:                  Shalom, hi.

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

lior:                  Uh, no.

eran:                Yeah yeah yeah. We want a demo.

lior:                  Thank you. Okay, I don’t think so.

leah:                 There was a commitment there.

lior:                  But whenever you feel like it you can throw us into some Hebrew.

eran:                Yeah, you can spice your English with a bit of Hebrew if you need.

leah:                 Thank you, thank you.

lior:                  Okay, appreciate that.

lior:                  So, why do PR?

leah:                 Let’s get right in. So 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 kind of knew that we need to do PR, but we didn’t really understand it. ‘Cause everybody says, okay you’ve got to 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 outsourced 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, and without us having to do anything with it. Which was wrong.

lior:                  Magic.

eran:                Yeah. I thought you know, we’re going to hire this company, and then all the sudden we’re going to appear in newspapers and we’re going to be happy about it.

lior:                  With the right messaging, the right values, the right ideas. Wow.

eran:                Yeah, obviously. We’re paying for a service. And what happened was, we started working with these companies and then they said, “Okay, lets sit down, lets discuss. What are the … explain to us about the company, what are the angles that we can present to newspapers.” And we thought, “Why are we paying you? To waste our time?” We didn’t 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 that didn’t work out, we figured that it makes much more sense to bring somebody in house because it’s, you know, require 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:                 Okay. So it depends on the startup and the company and what your idea is.

lior:                  For us.

leah:                 Okay, 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 want to be in X publication. You’re saying we want to explain a certain thing about ourselves. So how do you do that and how do you reach the right people?

leah:                 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 learned 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’re saying, “Okay, we have this timeline lets do PR about it.” I was like, “Great, lets 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 US media market right now, international for sure, and local for other reasons. But the US 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 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 Tech Crunch would love to write about that.” You know, it’s an amazing piece of news. And then you realize, you know, in the 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 kind of report on Tech Crunch about our funding round, we thought we’re goin to have a spike of traffic. You know, tens of thousands of people are going to check this new cool startup that’s just raised money, and what eventually happened is, like, a small blimp in the analytics tool that you’re using. And he said, “Okay, why isn’t the world excited about, you know, yet another startup that raised X amount of money?”

eran:                I think, you know, when we look at that we realize 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 big news papers, and you’re going to 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 about you.

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.

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. This one thing we can’t measure.

leah:                 Right, so-

lior:                  In a company like Monday, where we measure everything, how can we say so securely brand awareness and what does it mean?

leah:                 So I don’t think we say it securely. 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 XYZ 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?

leah:                 Just because they tell you?

lior:                  If you tell them that you raise money makes them now walk down the street and be like, “Oh, Monday is a company I might-“

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

lior:                  No, what I meant is, what within PR makes people remember you?

leah:                 It’s not you saying it yourself. So we, 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 around and say, 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 find outlooks, 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 3% or 4% of our customers are from Israel, so I remember that when we talked we said, “You know, for Israel we want to do PR, but our main focus is going to be on hiring.” It’s not meant to bring new customers, people know us because the ecosystem here is pretty small, the company’s growing fast, people know about us. They think about it like a tool like ours, they’re going to think about Monday as one of the alternatives. But in terms of hiring we have a lot of competition from other companies to where emphasis in Israel was hiring.

eran:                So Leah thought about what kind 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 US we said, “Okay, so majority of our users are from Europe and the US, Australia, English speaking countries. We want to increase the brand awareness in those countries, and present what is Monday, and what’s the concept behind it, and what is the thought process.” So there it was very different, we don’t care about hiring people in the US, now we do ’cause we have an office, but yeah, I think most of our effort is towards building a brand.

leah:                 And customer acquisition.

eran:                Yeah. And to support a customer acquisition I would say. Enhance it in a way.

lior:                  So tell us a bit more about how do you start thinking about it? How do you pick media, how do you track with them?

leah:                 Yeah, 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, would 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 fund raising, we talked about feature announcements, 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 the funding round we want to announce, January first, 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.

leah:                 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 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 email 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.

leah:                 In the US 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 was that it’s a relationship more than anything. ‘Cause you can’t just reach out to a news reporter one day and say, “Oh, we’re Monday.com and this is what we want to publish.” ‘Cause you 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 key to get the right message across and to get the news that you want to be published. And it requires 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, “Okay, why?” “Because I want him to get to know you guys, and 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 requires 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? Kind of thing?

leah:                 Yeah.

lior:                  You do?

leah:                 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, okay, so. I made a list of people’s-

lior:                  Wow, what a great month you had.

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

leah:                 And 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 bait game. We did not like shallow pieces, and middleist, and wrote emails, kind of awkwardly introducing myself, and saying, “Hey this is who we are and what we do.” And it’s amazing to look at the now ’cause it’s like, “You won’t believe it, we have 5,000 paying teams.” You know, like, it’s crazy the change that it’s been.

lior:                  Today we have 40,000. Just for the reference.

leah:                 To understand the difference. And I thought 5,000 that’s incredible. They’re going to love us. It took some time. Introduced myself and some of them started writing back being like, “Great. As you grow stay in touch.” Like, you know, like “Cool, that’s great.”

lior:                  Thank you but no thank you.

leah:                 And I’m like, “Okay, they want to be friends.” So-

eran:                [crosstalk] study American language Leah.

leah:                 I just chose to ignore it, what they were actually trying to say. And, you know, there’s a balance between the right 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 going to be there. Would love to come and meet, you know, you and the guys, and see the company.” So that was incredible.

leah:                 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. 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 led to the story.

leah:                 So that was great to see.

lior:                  Was it reflected in the story?

leah:                 Yeah. You know, listen. We have ways that if we could write the story, I think 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.

lior:                  Now is there ever-

eran:                No, ’cause Leah’s very-

lior:                  Canadian.

eran:                Canadian.

leah:                 I’m Israeli at heart.

eran:                That’s true. No, but. What you said is true and amazing, ’cause she also forced us to be in each one of these meetings. So we got to know this specific person, and I think truly created a lot of trust between us and him, and it’s amazing to see how much it effects 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:                ‘Cause it just presented in something that could have been positive in a very negative way. And I think it’s kind of shed 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. They create traffic into their website, and then you create engagement with the readers, and I think it makes from their perspective.

lior:                  So it was more provocative kind of thing?

eran:                Yeah.

leah:                 Click bait. 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. Because we knew him we felt comfortable asking to change the title, and he was open to do it. And if was just a random person-

lior:                  He wouldn’t care.

eran:                Yeah.

lior:                  Did he change the title?

eran:                Yeah, he changed it.

lior:                  Oh okay.

eran:                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 the budget?

leah:                 That’s an interesting question.

eran:                I would like to know as well.

leah:                 Okay. So just, first straight money. Let’s just think about that. We, on and off since I’ve been here, have 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.

leah:                 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 $4,000 I would say. Something like that. And in terms of expenses I think that’s it.

eran:                Maybe more 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 customer 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 news room of basically every media outlet that you can imagine.

leah:                 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 pick up and a lot of different people receiving your news.

eran:                Yeah. Another big part of it was that Leah had to teach us how to do an interview. You know, Lior and I both being Israeli’s we have different mentality, and it’s fine.

lior:                  What is the mentality, like, the Israeli mentality?

eran:                Well-

lior:                  No really.

eran:                We can do a whole episode about that. But-

lior:                  Just being like too straight forward? What do you mean by that?

eran:                Yeah, sometimes to straight forward, sometimes being too blunt, sometimes not answering the question, or not fully understanding what they meant when they asked the question. But also, like, technical terms that we didn’t know. I can give you a few examples, like, I remember that in our last founding round, we had to interview for quite a lot of newspapers. And Leah told us all kinds of terms that we can use with the journalist. Like, on record, this is something that you can be quoted for, and you have to specify that this is off record if you want to say something without being quoted.

lior:                  And what’s the value of it?

eran:                The value is that-

lior:                  Of the off the record I mean. If you’re talking to an-

leah:                 Context.

lior:                  Oh.

leah:                 So, basically 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 having a nice casual conversation, I’m going to tell you all these things, I’m going to speak in slang, maybe I’m going to 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 it record. So, with something sensitive like, valuation maybe, or you know, if you want to 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’ve 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 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 wouldn’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, 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.

eran:                Yeah, that’s funny. So that’s kind of technical stuff that we’ve learned along the way. But also, you need to take into account that even if we were in the US, most of those calls are on the phone, using Skype, usually, you know, it’s not the best set up. 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 Lior speaking.” So they can quote you, and it becomes more personal. ‘Cause otherwise it’s going to 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 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 a 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 help us, you know, in general. Like, to convey what we do in a very precise manor, thanks to those efforts.

leah:                 There’s also tips and tricks in answering questions with what you want to say. You know, a lot of the time the journalist will have an agenda, they will know what they want to ask you. But really you want to present a different part of the company. And that’s something that you guys I think have really improved in also, in being able to sort of side step, and say “Great, yeah that’s interesting. But let us tell you about this.” And it’s amazing to see the improvement.

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

leah:                 No, I also think. Yeah, I-

lior:                  Both sides maybe.

leah:                 The mentality here … no, I don’t-

lior:                  Hello Canadian, how are-

leah:                 I don’t agree with you. I don’t agree with you. I don’t agree with you because I think Israeli’s 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 CEO’s and co founders, and it’s like almost a forbidden thing for us to do.

eran:                I want to expand on that.

leah:                 Yeah.

eran:                We have a constant battle with Leah.

leah:                 Yeah.

eran:                She comes to us all the time, “Okay, we want a picture of you doing that.” Or “Eran, I want to interview you.” And we don’t want to do it. Not because I don’t see the value of it, but I think there’s two types of companies, one, which is like a … 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 companies stand for itself. You know, who’s the CEO of Spotify? Nobody knows.

lior:                  Right.

eran:                Who’s the CEO of-

lior:                  AirBnB.

eran:                AirBnB? Nobody knows. You know, but you have a lot of brand awareness about the company. So, what we told Leah is that we don’t want to be in the center. We don’t want to be the face of the company. Obviously part of our job is to do that, and we do that in front of investors and whatever is needed. But-

lior:                  Does it come with a price?

leah:                 Absolutely. I mean, an emotional price for me personally. I would say we battle on this every day. But no, at coverage for sure. But it’s a price that we totally happy and willing to pay because that isn’t the kind of coverage we want. It’s not the people we want to attract, it’s not the customers we want to attract, it’s not the brand we want to 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 some battles I win. 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.

leah:                 I’m saying no to 90% I would say right off the bat. And then 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 head shots of just the co founders, I was like, “I’m sorry, I don’t have any.” The only thing we have is a team photo, and they’re like, “Nope, 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.

eran:                I think she could write a book about it.

lior:                  Just one.

leah:                 One thing that went really wrong. Okay. So, around our name change. That was a super huge effort by 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.

leah:                 So we worked to figure out what we were going to say to make it interesting to other people. And locally, you know, as a 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 IL1.

leah:                 Yeah, so that was 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 US also, and lo and behold we got a call a couple of days before the publishing date to say a major major US publication who hadn’t covered us before was going to 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 want to get across. It’s going to be perfect.”

leah:                 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 going to publish the news first, which might not sound like a big deal, but there is a code amongst journalists around the world that embargoes 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 US and Israel in this way. You know, Israeli’s 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 US is sort of, like, a slap in the face.

leah:                 So we said, “No, this is the embargo date, this is what you have to do it.” They pushed back and said, “Okay, fine, like we’re not going to 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.”

lior:                  Why do they have to do it?

leah:                 Why do they? They don’t. They don’t have to do it. But, when you’re in this-

eran:                No, but there’s 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 ’cause they could.

leah:                 They did it ’cause 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 doesn’t matter. This is going to be an English story, like, “Okay, 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, “Okay, we’re going to get this piece. We’ll wake up in the morning, we’ll do the Israeli coverage, it’s going to be fine.” What ended up happening is all of the Israeli journalists saw the piece and said, “Like what, like how could you do this to us?” It breaks the trust that you’ve invested in a relationship of 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 want to do, and the answer should have been absolutely not. You cannot break the embargo. And it was awful.

lior:                  Do you want to say anything about it? No, I mean Leah you’re making it sound very-

leah:                 It was traumat-

lior:                  Very dramatic. How dramatic was it on a-

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:                Usually before a press release you can’t speak with Leah, like two 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 your inbox and there’s like 50 emails from different journalists asking questions, and want to break the embargo, or want to publish before. And it’s like, I would say it’s managing so many relationships and everybody’s special in how they want to convey the message. It’s very hard.

lior:                  By the way, how did we fix it? Did we?

leah:                 With those –

lior:                  With the relationships and everything.

leah:                 Yeah, so with that US 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 the permission to publish the piece-

lior:                  They took it the wrong-

leah:                 They took it extremely the wrong way. And the Israeli journalists here thought that they made the mistake, that they were making fun of us.

lior:                  Wow.

leah:                 And that we were sort of some sort of joke. 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’s funny ’cause 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.

lior:                  And it brings the question of is there bad PR? I mean you know, there is a common thought that as long as you’re out there and people are talking about you, it’s a good thing 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 don’t believe that as well.

leah:                 No. No.

eran:                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 to the company. There’s so many articles, you know … I wouldn’t call them even shallow, you know, it’s like, “This company’s going to raise … going to hire another 200 people in the next year.”

eran:                Okay, is that news? “This company has a ping pong table and a pool table.”

leah:                 Right.

eran:                I don’t want to be associated with this kind of PR ’cause 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, [inaudible 00:33:33]. Right, okay so [inaudible 00:33:35], we thought it was a great idea. Right?

leah:                 It was.

lior:                  Apparently it was a great idea. But, we got coverage from one of the local newspapers that was not in favor of what we did. So although it was a bad reporting about it, it still did not ruin the impact right?

leah:                 No, so that’s different.

lior:                  That’s what I’m talking about.

leah:                 Yeah, so, what you’re talking about in terms of-

lior:                  Being just associated with the wrong values.

leah:                 With the wrong messages. 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. Like, amazing television coverage.”

lior:                  Seriously?

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

lior:                  That’s a real one?

leah:                 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 [inaudible] side was our vibe and 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.

leah:                 If they speculated about how much we spent on it, or you know, how much money is in the startup scene, that’s fine.

lior:                  Did this coverage make any harm? That’s what I’m asking.

leah:                 It didn’t. The only thing that maybe was negative was made our job HR harder because they got so so so so many resumes 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, lets give context.

eran:                Okay.

lior:                  [crosstalk 00:35:13]. Campaign in New York.

eran:                Okay, here’s context. Delete.

leah:                 No, lets not delete.

lior:                  Give us some context.

leah:                 Okay.

lior:                  Tada.

leah:                 You have to ask a question.

eran:                Maybe you give us some context.

lior:                  Okay, here’s a context. What are our current challenges? What are our future plans? What are you working on now?

leah:                 You want to talk about the campaign? That’s a question about the campaign?

lior:                  Yeah, of course.

eran:                Yeah.

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

leah:                 See that! She’s using the lingo already.

eran:                Can I embarrass you Lior?

lior:                  Sure. How do you want to embarrass me?

eran:                I don’t know, you’ll cut it off anyway.

leah:                 That’s editing power.

leah:                 Okay, 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 it like that.

lior:                  Right.

leah:                 Right. It was, easy.

eran:                Yeah.

lior:                  What’s so complex about it?

leah:                 Okay, so.

lior:                  Where to start?

leah:                 So first of all, why did we do it? We did it to, 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 six-ish 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 our maturing as a company. Up until now we scaled only on performance marketing, which is great, you know. And we will continue to do that, but eventually you realize that you have to build a brand. And part of it is doing PR, but a 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 accounts. But even for now, when they have 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.

lior:                  So what’s complex about it?

leah:                 Everything. Everything is complex about it.

eran:                Especially since Leah managed the whole thing.

leah:                 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 is 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 counter intuitive to the way we usually convey a message because we were so used to having a vertical focused 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 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 humongous challenge because it’s everybody. So how do you touch on pain points that effect so many people? It’s a PR challenge, it’s a branding challenge, it’s a marketing challenge, it’s a challenge as a 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 28 different answers from our most popular use cases that we’ve learned from our users. The best way that people use Monday is for these various things.

lior:                  Such as what?

leah:                 Team management, project management, those are sort of the more general ones. And 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 10 different versions of the campaign before we decide on that one.

leah:                 At least.

eran:                Yeah, and then more. I would say more than 10 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 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, ’cause-

lior:                  Looking at it.

eran:                You walk in New York and you see, you know, thousands of ads in every 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 want to 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, “Okay, would this horizontal tool … and we do all those things, how can we say that?” You know, “In the billboard?” And then lets just say that. That we are all those things.

eran:                And I think that’s what nailed it eventually. The fact that we’ll just communicate what we want to 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 is it now, two weeks into the campaign?

leah:                 No, not even.

lior:                  For you to take the risk, what does it take? Like, what do you hope to get out of it did 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.

leah:                 Yeah that’s what I was going to ask you. I wouldn’t [inaudible 00:40:56].

eran:                I mean, and because I didn’t have a lot of expectations out of it. Like I didn’t say, “Oh this and that have to happen for it to be successful.” 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 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 1/5th the whole campaign, which includes this part and we will be doing … this is a spoiler alert, subway stations in 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 piece of what we’re doing.

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

leah:                 It’s an extremely huge amount of money. Yeah.

lior:                  What about you? Leah? 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 want to mess 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.

leah:                 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 500 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-

lior:                  It’s worth it.

leah:                 We did pretty well.

eran:                Yeah, we also took a lot of steps, you know, to measure it.

lior:                  Now we can talk about the measures.

leah:                 Yeah. 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 going to show you pictures of billboards around the city and the subway stations, and we’re going to 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 the only the first week, but it’s very cool to see.

eran:                Also, we measured the effect of the billboards compared to other countries in New York. ‘Cause we can’t really do an [inaudible] 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, and different cities. And we have a benchmark. So we can actually see, you know, even though it’s been Columbus Day on this Monday, and there’s a holiday, so it’s always changing. But we can kind of benchmark how New York is performing compared to other countries and other cities. So you can actually see the uplist that the company is causing.

eran:                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 confirmed. So it’s not just, you know, we didn’t think that on the first day, you know, people are going to see the billboards and going to sign up in masses, like, if you, like, put like a $2,000,000 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 going to take between two and three months to see actual results. And we’re going to 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. What I said about the decision process, I mean, is somebody going to pick us over software X.

lior:                  They’re not going to report to you, “Hi, I’m actually now picking you because-“

leah:                 “Based on seeing your billboard 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 sign ups that we can attribute to the campaign, which is amazing. And then the long term effect we will have faith in.

lior:                  Did you get any reaction in it from our newspaper friends?

leah:                 Yeah, so that’s … we’re working on now. We knew from the beginning it’s a tough media sell because, like I said, 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, 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.” And we’re like, that’s not going to cut it for us. So we figured out all of these creative ways to actually measure impact. 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.

leah:                 We’re using, you know, we just did a report on transparency, and so that’s going to be coming out soon. We’re including pictures and details about the campaign as part of that story. The advertising campaign itself is not so newsworthy, but 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. 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 pursuing.

lior:                  Such as what?

leah:                 Can’t reveal that yet. No, the major shift I want to 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 thought 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 want to 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.

leah:                 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 tick, and what makes them very successful. So one of the things that we’re going to do is to start using this data, aggregated data from our system, and I think we have a lot of insights to share with the world. So 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 why we build the software the way we build it, and what the value is behind it. ‘Cause 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.

eran:                Yeah.

leah:                 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 interview-

eran:                This is the last time I’m doing this Lior.

leah:                 It’s okay. Everyone was awesome. Thanks for having me.

lior:                  Next time in Spanish.

eran:                No, no way.

leah:                 Oh my God.

eran:                We need like 15 episodes in Hebrew [crosstalk 00:48:29].

lior:                  Thank you Eran.

eran:                Thank you Lior.

lior:                  Thank you all for listening.

Speaker 3:        (singing).

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