Promotion Talk @ CSUF Startup Incubator

Rudy Chavarria gave a talk on promotions at the CSUF Startup Incubator on October 14, 2015
Rudy Chavarria gave a talk on promotions at the CSUF Startup Incubator on October 14, 2015

We were lucky enough to have Rudy Chavarria Jr. give a riveting talk about promotional strategies in a startup environment. Rudy’s background as an entrepreneur started in 1993 with Rude Records where he signed a number of ska bands. Once he tired of the ska scene he shuttered Rude Records only to be contacted by many record labels wanting to employ him as their marketer.

After working as a consultant for record labels he turned his focus to marketing to the college market. His big breaks came when he was contracted to promote a Bob Marley record and, somewhat later, he was a key person in creating the marketing campaign for the movie Passion of the Christ.

Rudy now focuses on mentoring college students. He is an active mentor in CSUF Entrepreneurship courses and helps many student-entrepreneurs start businesses and projects.

Here are my notes from Rudy’s talk and the discussion afterwards that included Curtis Chan, John Bradley Jackson, Bruce Moore, and Rudy:

  • Promotions are all about standing up for yourself and your business – no one else will get your message out for you so you must be your own advocate
  • When setting out on a promotional strategy you need a team – there is just too much to do on your own
  • You need to completely understand what the product/service is that you are attempting to sell and what the demographics are of the people who will be customers
  • Rudy is doing promotion for the movie The Martian and one of his strategies for promoting this movie is education because by focusing on the education angle he’s able to go to college newspapers and periodicals and successfully pitch them stories that focus on learning and the movie
  • When you get negative feedback you can 1. Ignore it, 2. Reach out to the poster to see how you can help, 3. Rely on all of your positive comments to drown out the negative ones, 4. Redirection, where you artfully change the subject, is another strategy
  • Rudy focuses mostly on street marketing, in other words having people (college students) out on the street acting as brand ambassadors for his clients. The toughest thing he faces in his business is managing these college students due to their ignorance about business and unreliability. He deals with this by closely monitoring his employees (requiring them to take pictures of what they are doing) and helping them learn the business (i.e. learning the importance of NDAs, how to keep a schedule, etc.)
  • A great way for entrepreneurs to do PR is to become seen as an expert in their field. This might take the form of the entrepreneur writing for different, relevant publications or some other fashion. Over time, your customers will begin to identify you as an expert in your field and will come to you because you are the expert.
  • Building relationships is a critical part of PR. You will need to get in touch with the people who cover your industry and develop a positive relationship with them. These relationships regularly lead to positive stories being written about you and your product/service or other kinds of opportunities.
  • Whatever industry you are in find the opinion makers and build a relationship of trust with these people
  • You have to know who your audience is (i.e. investor, customer, developer, etc.) and tailor your message to each kind of audience
  • There needs to be someone on the founding team that is willing and good at promotion and PR; if you don’t have someone you will need to find someone to fill that role. If you can’t find anyone to fill this role as a founder then you have to hire someone or agency to do PR.
  • A good heuristic for how much a startup spends on sales/marketing/PR/promotion is 25-50%
  • The “biggest bang for the buck” is PR and PR has been found to be seven to eight times more believable than marketing

I definitely enjoyed the lively discussion of PR and promotion and I’m looking forward to our next event at the CSUF Startup Incubator: Startup Leadership with CSUF Mentor Dave Kinnear

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