Total $0.00


By Michael Frenkel, MFC PR

Having worked with dozens of start up companies in the hospitality space, I get the question all the time: How do you allocate budget the right way to accelerate the visibility of your start up, and reach critical decision-makers?

There’s no simple answer.

Here are some of the considerations that can guide you as your think about the shortest path to bringing your brand to the consciousness of the right hospitality audiences – to stoke sales and reach scale.

1. Have you raised money, or are you just setting about to do so?

The single biggest consideration is where you are in your fundraising cycle – Seed Round, pre-Seed, Series A or beyond – and not just because of the cash you have available to spend.

Cash availability reflects investor confidence and in most cases, how ready you are to bring your product to market.

That in turn should guide your thinking on how your marketing dollars should be spent.

Putting lots of money toward reaching decision-makers directly when you have no product to offer them may be premature. Investing in a Thought Leadership campaign when your product is not well defined enough to fit into a recognizable market category – or remake one - does not make much sense either.

The hotel industry has enough “experts” and pontificating talking heads. 

Begin your budgeting process by asking hard, product-focused questions:  

“Where is our product today, and where is it likely to be in six months, nine  months, and eighteen months? How are we getting from here to there? Do we  need to raise more money to reach the goal, or do we have enough runway to  support a sales and marketing program that speaks to the entire industry?  Do we need additional visibility to raise our next round – or is the primary  goal pushing sales?”

Once you have a clear sense of your business plan, you’ll be better equipped  to start thinking about promoting and publicizing your brand.

2. Who is your audience?

It may sound obvious, but to send the right messages the right way, you need  to be very clear about who you are trying to reach.

Almost every start-up wants to be in the Wall Street Journal and TechCrunch.  And you can be, if your story and circumstances align.

But in many cases, a series of productive articles in trade journals can be  even more valuable in helping you reach potential customers and industry  influencers. Social media is an incredibly powerful tool, and the right series  of linkedin posts, written and timed the right way, can build tremendous  attention and credibility.

Before you get to the “what,” be very clear about the “who” you are trying to  reach in a visibility campaign. Once you know who, find out what they read –  and start having the conversation.

3. Do I really need a speaking slot?

We have some incredible trade shows and conferences in the travel industry, and many of them offer visibility for start up CEOs who want to appear on stage – and are willing to foot the bill.

As part of a coordinated campaign to build visibility across multiple channels over the course of a couple of years, these speaking appearances can be valuable and productive.

Most start-ups don’t have the luxury of realizing ROI over the course of years.  It’s about what your visibility efforts yield over the next couple of months.

I’m not saying that startup CEOs should not seek out speaking engagements,  or accept them if they are offered to you (especially at a reasonable cost). But  always remember that marketing budget is very much a zero sum game:  $25,000 spent in one place cannot be spent in another, and as a start up, you  always want to think about the short-term yield from your PR investment.

There are lots of ways to reach audiences with your message, and not all of them involve being on a stage in front of hundreds of people.

4. How much is too much?

We’ve worked with startup companies, some of them now “household names” in the hospitality industry, that invested mightily in PR and visibility from the outset, and continue to do so. There’s simply no substitute for having your name out there all the time, in as many publications as possible, to put your company at the center of the industry conversation.

And it’s simply not true that PR does not produce ROI in development and  product sales leads. Of course it does.

At the same time, the ultimate task of the start up founder is balancing all the  expenses needed to launch a product, company and brand, and apply spends  at exactly the right time.

So if you have a yen for exposure and name recognition, go for it. And once  you’re in the conversation, spend what you need to spend to dominate it.

But if you seriously doubt that spending on PR is the right thing to do given  your company’s circumstances, sit it out for the moment. All the media  outlets you now want to appear in, will still be there in six months.

5. Be Incremental

As every founder knows, the start up game is about making incremental  strides in order to build the business day by day, week over week, and only  then, year by year. A string of early victories is critical, the ability to toggle  from challenge to challenge is key, and momentum is key.

Even Uber needed to rise above early challenges, hinge their bets on the next  incremental move, and shift attention and resources from one target to  another.

Think about PR and visibility the same way.

One type of communications effort may make sense for the first six months  after your Series A Round. For the six months following that, you may want  to shift more budget in the direction of trade shows, for example, and less in  the direction of advertising or direct marketing.

One of our most successful clients has staked out ground by writing  incredible Thought Leadership papers and market studies in house, and then  letting MFC PR publicize them and use them to build industry partnerships.

Another prefers a straightforward program of press releases and  announcements, believing that quantity of exposure is key for them at the  moment – and leaving big industry issues for later.

The point is that each client is willing to revisit its goals and objectives every  several months, and flow with the tide – depending on how their business is  evolving and growing.

Above all, be flexible in your approach to industry visibility, staying open to  new ideas and approaches – and remember that any communications  program must be tied directly to, and responsive to, the core business  objectives you have set for yourself and your start-up.

About Michael Frenkel

Michael Frenkel is a travel industry connector, convener, and the President of NYC-based  MFC PR - a public relations and visibility firm focused on travel and hospitality. He has been instrumental in bringing many of the industry’s leading technology start ups into the public eye, including Duetto, Local Measure, Fornova, ADARA, and Uplift. He also serves as Marketing Partner at Thayer Ventures, a San Francisco-based Venture Capital firm.

Contact: Michael Frenkel / (201) 317-7035

Please login or register to post a comment.