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Made in Chicago.

Bitten off more than you can chew? BiteSize PR pitches relevant media connections for you

Bitten off more than you can chew? BiteSize PR pitches relevant media connections for you

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A Chicago-headquartered business focusing on good PR at a bite-sized price, BiteSize PR is helping companies gain the exposure they need in the blogging age. Instead of offering a daily email blast largely full of irrelevant press opportunities, BiteSize PR focuses on tailoring connections based on each client’s expertise.

Not only does BiteSize PR sift through the press inquiries to find the most relevant fit for your company, but they even take on the pitching process for you. If the media contact agrees that it’s a good fit, they get in touch and you’ve just gained some sweet, sweet press.

Founder Ryan Evans talks with us about the need for a revamped PR service in a time when anyone with a keyboard becomes an arm of the media, and proving his high school career counselor wrong as he embarked on the path of entrepreneurship.

What was your inspiration for creating BiteSize PR?

I owned a marketing company called Lift and we were trying to do PR for ourselves. I had an experience like a lot of people where I subscribed to one of these services and I thought, This is a great way to get cheap PR.

Essentially the way these services work is that they would send you an email. Some of them have emails five or six times a day alerting you to existing opportunities. I subscribed to this email and I got it and I was eager for the first couple of days. I responded to something and it didn’t work and I responded to another thing and I got kind of a bite on it and it was good.

Then I got distracted like most business owners and I said, “Oh I’ll read this later,” because they were so frequent. The problem was that the vast majority of these opportunities were irrelevant to my business. If someone was talking about the fiscal cliff or dieting tips or tax tips or anything like that, it wasn’t relevant to me. So I was doing a lot of work to find the relatively few opportunities that were a good fit for me.

I actually had someone come work for me to start going through those, queue up the response, having them forward it to me and let me look it over before it went out. She started doing that and I started getting press hits. I saw that if you have a system in place it doesn’t take a ton of time.

I thought that this might be a compelling service so I just invited some of my friends with businesses to try it out as well. They tried it out and started getting press. I thought then that I might have something here.

The first version we built was very rudimentary. We did a lot of things and built an application around it to make it more seamless -- we added more services. We just kind of put it all together and we launched it last summer and we’ve just been chugging along since then.

When did you know that entrepreneurship was right for you?

I’ve probably known all my life. It’s just something that I always wanted to do. I didn’t know exactly what area or whatever but I wanted to do it.

I grew up in a small town and they had this big career thing at my high school and they featured all these different career paths. I thought I wanted to do something in finance but I didn’t really understand what that was or what that meant.

One of the categories on the form was stockbroker so I picked that and they said, “Oh, so you want to be a stockbroker?” I said, “Not really. That’s just the closest thing that I saw on the form.” They asked what I meant and I explained that I wanted to be the one making investments and owning businesses.

I remember my career counselor just looked at me like I was crazy. He was trying to point me in the right direction, but they were telling me that there really isn’t such a thing as that.

He was wrong. I always knew that I wanted to be in business and be an entrepreneur.

Who are some entrepreneurs that inspire you?

I think Richard Branson is pretty inspiring. Elon Musk is incredibly inspiring; he’s doing some amazing things right now.

There’s a local entrepreneur named Jay Goltz. He owns Jayson Home and Garden and he owns a framing company. I like him a lot. He writes a little bit for the New York Times and he has some great, great posts and great advice. I like him too.

Would you say there are any aspects of your business that are revolutionary for the field?

I think that PR is changing pretty significantly. Keep in mind that I don’t have a PR background; I haven’t been in the industry for 20 years or anything like that, but from what I can tell it’s pretty obvious that media has changed.

We’ve gone from an age of having a relatively small group of media channels out there—think about the newspapers and broadcast TV and radio stations. Even 20 years ago there was a relatively small universe of those. Now everybody is the media.

Everybody has a blog. If you’re on Twitter you’re participating in the media. There are niche publications and niche blogs that talk about very small things, there’s podcasts and an endless boom of media sources out there.

The media landscape has changed dramatically and the PR industry is struggling to keep up with that change. When there were only relatively few media outlets, the PR folks served as a pretty good gateway to getting press.

For example, if you had a business before and you wanted to get press -- say you were in Chicago and you wanted to get into the Tribune, you would need to connect with people that had ins at the Tribune because you didn’t really know who or how to connect with those people, and also you didn’t necessarily have instant credibility. So people went out and hired PR firms and those firms nurtured relationships and charged money to get access to those media outlets.

That was valuable for the journalists too because it’s a filtering mechanism. If you have enough money to pay a PR firm you must be somewhat of a serious business. PR folks had a reputation so they would only take on certain clients. So that was all well and good but now what’s happened is pretty much everyone knows who the journalists are in their industry or covering what they do.

There’s an access wall that has been broken down and getting in these big media outlets is no longer the Holy Grail. There’s Pandodaily and there’s Techli and there’s a lot of smaller blogs that, put together, they can reach your target audience more effectively than the bigger outlets.

This dynamic has changed and because of that the function of PR has changed from gate keeping to matchmaking. It’s saying, “Look, here’s someone who’s doing a story or looking for a story idea and here’s someone with the credibility.”

Keep in mind, we’re only doing a small sliver of PR and there are other pieces that are important for people to do, but we’re just focusing on that one piece and I think it’s a pretty valuable piece and it doesn’t cost $5,000 a month to do that. We’re dealing with data and opportunities that are a little more scalable so we can do it far more cost effectively.

That’s why our business exists and what’s going on now with the PR industry and why we’ve grown.

What tends to be the daily soundtrack around the office?

This is kind of bizarre. I started a coworking space with multiple rooms but where everybody works is in the main room. A lot of times I’ll put headphones on and I’ll actually listen to nature sounds like running water, just to concentrate. Not that it’s crazy loud in here, but just because I don’t want to get pulled into an interesting conversation or debate or whatever.

I’m also kind of a sucker for old hip-hop like Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z and that kind of stuff. I listen to all kinds of music but the thing I have on the most is calming background noise.

What’s your idea of happiness?

That’s a good question. I don’t really know. I think for me happiness is caring about people and having people care about you. I think that’s it.

Working on something that you feel is meaningful, too -- everything else I think is just to satisfy our ego or just what we do because other people are doing it. And I’m a victim of that too, but that’s what I think happiness is.

What does 2013 have in store for BiteSize PR?

We’re doing what everyone tells people not to do: build a two-sided marketplace, because it’s incredibly difficult and foolhardy. We’ve taken that advice and thrown it out the window and are doing it anyway. We’re building the other half of BiteSize PR.

We have clients that sign up and we monitor and find opportunities, but then we’re building the other side of it that helps journalists find credible sources. We built a website called SourceSleuth.com that tracks down high quality sources for bloggers, journalists, people who do radio shows or podcasts. We’ll find people who are a good fit for whatever they’re doing whether it’s a story or an interview.

We’re building that out now. We’ve had it live for a few months. We get inquiries on it every day so we have journalists that use it every day. The way that works is we look to our pool at BiteSize PR and see if anyone makes sense there. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t, and when we don’t we go out and find credible sources that aren’t in our network and we do it for free for the journalists.

The other thing that we’re doing is a little ironic: we’re opening our service a little bit more to PR firms because they want to use our service. I said PR was changing, but PR folks still have some things they do very well.

They can engage social media and do a lot of different things. Some of the smarter ones are doing things like that and then they’re also looking to BiteSize PR to find real-time media opportunities. We’re going to build some tools for PR firms so they can effectively manage multiple clients through our application.

Other than that, just chugging along and keep improving our service.

 

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