Interview with Steve Strauss

Steve Strauss

We took a few minutes to sit down with one of our favorite journalists, Steve Strauss from USAToday.

Steve, who is often called “the country’s leading small business expert,” is a lawyer, author, and columnist. His latest book is the Small Business Bible. Steve is also a speaker in high demand who has spoken around the world about entrepreneurship, including at the United Nations. He has been seen on CNN, CNBC, MSNBC, The O’Reilly Factor, and many other shows.

What is the role of a media relations person for today’s journalist?

It is two-fold. Your job is to get your client’s name out there – and if you can help a journalist get their job done easier, then it’s a home run.

What kind of things are you looking for/writing about in the next few months?

I’m always looking for new angles around small business, something that is of general interest to a lot of small business people—something they don’t already know. A unique take or an innovative angle is always much appreciated.

How is the outlook for small business in this economy?

Everyone is past the survival mode they were in for the last two years and now they are figuring out how to grow.

What are your readers challenged by these days?

One issue that keeps coming up is how to manage social media. How much, how to make it pay off, how to make money doing it, etc.

How do you want to receive information?

I hate press releases. In fact, I occasionally give a speech that encourages people not to use a traditional press release. I like email – short, quick and snappy—from someone who knows who I am and what I am about. I’m frustrated by someone who just puts my name on a list. But, if someone knows my beat, that will really pique my interest and then I’m more likely to listen to their pitch. A short, snappy directed email works best for me.

Do you have an example of a good PR pitch?

A former journalist-turned-PR person sent me an inquiry that was just about getting to know what I wanted. No pitch, no client information. Just a basic “what can I do for you” note. That really resonated with me.

An example gone wrong?

Someone asked me to write a story, and I said yes. They provided me with the information and it sat there for a while. I just got busy. I let her know I’d write the story, I just didn’t know when. She wouldn’t stop. I understand follow up, we all have to do it. But there is a line you can’t cross. I wrote the story but I asked her not to contact me anymore.

Persuasive Picks for the week of 10/11/10

How to Integrate Video Into Your Social Media Marketing
The latest episode of Social Media Examiner TV hosted by Mari Smith features a plethora of basic information on getting started with mixing video into your social content offerings. Watch the episode below, but be sure to make the jump over to the site for links to all the resources mentioned in the video.


Could Facebook be bluffing on search-engine plans?
Mashable‘s Pete Cashmore shares his perspective on this week’s Facebook/Microsoft Bing partnership via his regular column on

What Social Media Can Teach Us About SEO
There are plenty of ways to “game” social platforms in order to give off a perception of greater influence, but when it comes to search rankings, only original and engaging content will get you where you need to be in the world of SEO. Vizion Interactive CEO Mark Jackson shares his views on the the topic, via this post on

Social Media Now More Popular Than E-mail on Mobile Devices
Lauren Indvik highlights the results of a recent TNS report that found “mobile users spend 1.4 times as many hours using social networking sites than reading and responding to e-mail” via this post on Mashable. Is mobile part of your social strategy yet?

How to drive Facebook likes
This post from Drew McLellan provides a brief overview of Corona’s recent Facebook campaign to drive more “Likes.” Don’t have a Corona-sized budget? Drew also provides some good tips on executing your own successful campaign.

Persuasive Picks for the week of 11/09/09

Coping With Social Media Burnout
Have you reached the point of social media burnout? For some, committing to and keeping up with, social media engagement can be overwhelming.’s Kristin Burnham contributes this guest post on the topic to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Study: Social Media, Mobile Set to Impact Holidays in Big Way
Retailers might get a little extra business from social media communities this holiday season. Christopher Heine from cites some interesting facts from a recent study by Deloitte.

Your Social Media Content Must Be Valuable
Content might be king, but’s Liana Evans reminds readers that quality outweighs quantity when it comes to maintaining your high search engine rank.

Companies Identify Major Business Benefits in Listening to Online Conversation
More great facts, stats and examples of the importance of paying attention to online conversations about your brand, courtesy of Aberdeen and CNN Money.

How Ford does Social Media
JD Lasica shares this great video interview featuring Scott Monty who heads up Social Media at Ford.

Persuasive Picks for the week of 10/26/09

listenTop 13 Guidelines for Commenting on Blog Posts
Commenting on blogs that are part of your vertical market can be a powerful way to share knowledge with community and build your reputation as an expert in your field. B.L Ochman shares 13 tips and best practices for commenting on blogs.

Customer Data via Twitter
Adam T. Sutton from the Sherpa blog recently interviewed Craig Greenfield, VP, Search and Performance Media, Performics, where they discussed how his team uses Twitter. The result was six takeaways that show how Twitter contributes to the Performics team’s success.

Privacy is dead, and social media holds smoking gun
Mashable’s Pete Cashmore guest posts on the CNN Opinion blog with this piece on how social media is changing the face of privacy.

Your Company May Own Your Tweets, Pokes, and YouTube Videos
Jermiah Owyang discusses content ownership between employees and companies and includes an attorney’s perspective on the topic.

The new rules of business-to-business marketing & PR
David Meerman Scott’s keynote from the Business Marketing Association’s annual conference has been made available online for the first time. Pop some corn and settle in for 45 minutes of great B2B marketing information.

Valuable Content, Not Numbers, is What Really Matters in Social Media for Business

This morning I received a promotional email from a company that began with this line, “With over 1,700 followers on Twitter, [Company] is fast becoming a top industry resource…”

That statement fires me up for a few reasons:

1) Why do 1700 followers on Twitter make you an industry resource?

2) Who are the 1700 followers and why do you equate them with credibility of your organization (or to me) if you haven’t put them into context?

3) This was from a PR resource company and screams “bad pitch” to me – something the PR industry continues to suffer from.

Where is the context? Proof points? Value explanation?

This is the biggest issue I see right now in social media efforts from businesses: too much fluff and not enough valuable content. This email landed on the heels of a video I watched on Friday that raised hairs on my neck. It was a home-produced video commercial for a “service” (read: a set of video instructions) to help you “build your Twitter followers with no effort at all! Fully automated!” (I so vehemently disagree with its purpose that I can’t even bring myself to link to it here.)

Look, we’re all aware that there’s a certain level of narcissism to social media. We share every little thing we do, say or feel with near-strangers via microblogging, video, Facebook and more. We compare follower numbers, TwitPic everything we can, and debate over whether or not to employ a Guy Kawasaki-like Twitter strategy or not. Follower numbers do matter to a lot of people.

And while a large following can work for good causes – take Ashton Kutcher and CNN raising $$ to fight Malaria in their battle to reach 1M users – it’s not quite the same when you’re promoting a product or service. In other words, using social media for business has got to employ a smarter strategy. It’s easy to be viewed as genuine when raising money for a good cause. Building a genuine reputation when promoting your business takes a bit more effort.

That effort includes understanding social media – not just touting your use of it because it’s a hot buzz word or trend. Don’t mislead your prospects or customers by equating your “followers” on Twitter (or elsewhere) with value – unless you’ve done your homework and can explain how those numbers add value. I have over 10,000 followers on Twitter today but I wouldn’t tout those numbers as the value in a new business pitch. Rather, I would tout that I know how to identify and communicate with the specific followers within that number that would matter to the prospect. Or, that I know how to help build, grow and maintain a focused and valuable network for my clients (as I’ve done for myself and for others). My fashion industry friends are not going to matter to my VoIP or healthcare clients. My parenting discussions won’t relate to non-parenting Twitter pals. My marathon community doesn’t matter to my PR colleagues (well, not the ones who aren’t runners anyway). You get the point.

I am fully aware that the exciting opportunity in social media is to expand your network in ways never before possible. I agree that there are unprecedented opportunities for promoting and connecting. But people who are turning social media – especially Twitter – into a massive infomercial are missing the point. Even if you get 25,000 followers to your Twitter stream, if you don’t offer meaningful value to them, they aren’t going to stay, or buy your product, or read your blog. Say you’re Tweeting about mountain climbing gear and 75% of your followers are musicians who live in New York City. That means an even smaller percentage of those 25,000 followers are likely to be relevant customers. And that brings me back to touting your follower numbers alone as value. The value is in the content and the relationship (and how these relate to your ultimate goals), not the numbers.

The more popular social media becomes – like Twitter, for example – the more choosy I am becoming about who I’m connecting with – and the more I am learning about how to maintain value for different audiences. I want value out of these relationships – both work and personal value – and I’m finding that many of my friends are discovering this as well. I want to help my clients participate in social media intelligently – in a way that will bring value to their organization as well as their customers.

The booming popularity of social media has changed the focus – for those who truly get it – from building a large network to building a valuable network. I’ve got various examples to share on how to do this – but that’s another blog post.

What do you think?