TIFFANY GUARNACCIA: I’m Tiffany Guarnaccia. I’m the founder of Kite Hill PR and Communications week. So I got my start about 15 years ago really when the ad tech industry was just coming onto the scene in New York and changing in a big way doing PR and marketing for ad tech companies. And from there I moved over to a few PR agencies here in New York City and always had a taste for tech PR and how it was really changing and evolving. I spent some time in the music industry really during some pivotal years working at eMusic and LimeWire just as Spotify was coming onto the scene. And unfortunately, for LimeWire, I did take them through a lot of crisis communications against the major record labels, which, as you know, during crisis communications you need to be on your A game and the outcome can be interesting and oftentimes disruptive. From there, I spent some time in the media industry working at the Huffington Post. So I had the opportunity to work directly underneath Ariana Huffington. She’s still very much a role model to me and gave me the inspiration to then found my own company and go deeper into the core categories that I had always been in my career from ad tech, to media, and marketing and really look at how an agency like Kite Hill could really represent the future of PR.
B2BNXT: Can you tell us more about Kite Hill PR?
TIFFANY GUARNACCIA: Kite Hill PR is a specialist agency. So we work deeply within the advertising media and marketing industries. One core part of the advertising industry is, of course, ad tech and mark tech. A lot of those companies are the ones that are powering all the ads you might see on the internet hoping to create a more personalized experience. It’s a really interesting category because there’s a lot of impact with data, with GDPR, and new regulations as to how companies can reach consumers. It’s been a great opportunity to tell those stories on behalf of the technology companies because we’re at a time where consumers are demanding a more personalized experience. They want a connection and the companies behind those ads really need to be able to tell the right story, at the right place, at the right time.
But, of course, it’s not only about advertising but the clients we work with at Kite Hill and a part of our specialization do go into the publishing industry. So that could be Buzzfeed has been one of our clients, trusted media brands, Future, advertising media, and of course, entertainment is another category with a background in the music industry with working with major record labels such as BMG. You’ll notice a common thread that all of those industries are very much in a time of disruption. The future, I’d say, of advertising and media have always been in question as they continue to evolve. And that’s what’s really exciting about working at Kite Hill and in a specialist agency is that we get to tell the story of a company today but really help them look towards the future to help their executives be thought leaders, to shape a story that tells how the company will continue to evolve.
It’s those core areas that we work with day to day, but we also work with a lot of emerging tech companies and tech startups in categories that impact many other industries like cyber security and artificial intelligence. It’s not only the specialization that makes Kite Hill different, but we also know that a lot of B2B companies and B2B technology companies are looking for something that’s beyond traditional earned media. That’s a part of what we do day to day. But that’s only one small part of telling a company’s story. If you’re going to be investing in PR and if you’re a B2B technology company that’s looking to really make an impact and connect with your core audiences, you have to look towards other channels and think about a fully integrated communications approach.
The way that I’ve translated that into growing our business model has been to create three separate divisions. Kite Hill PR is at our core. That’s traditional earned media. Working with the press to very much get a company’s brand in the headlines. But we also have the Kite Hill Content Studio where we’re looking at exciting mediums to tell a story. So visual, video, audio, podcast. A lot of these are crucial. And that’s all done through the Kite Hill Content Studio along with longer form content like data and white papers. Press love numbers, but so do your potential clients. If you’re a leading B2B company, you might want to think about how you can package up research and insights to really deliver back the right quality content to your audience.
And last but not least, when it comes to really defining the future of PR, it’s not only the stories that we tell, but the experiences that we create. I’m a big believer in events and experiences and how they can be used by B2B companies to really connect with core audiences. A lot of the work that we do, for example, day to day could be a half day workshop, an industry road show. Getting clients connected with and in front of their target audience. Giving them a sense for who the company is and giving their executives exposure is all a part of that. And within that amazing umbrella is also one of our own properties, Communications Week, which is a week long event every October where we talk about some of the emerging trends in PR and communications.
B2BNXT: What differentiates you from the competition?
TIFFANY GUARNACCIA: When it comes to the approach, it’s not only about the tactics. It’s not only about pitch and place. It’s about the strategy. It’s not just about execution, but it’s about laddering out to the broader business goals. I talk a lot about our approach and our DNA for our culture as positive and proactive. That’s really key to any PR program because you want an agency partner. You want someone who is working with you as a strategic partner who’s thinking about things with a positive and proactive mindset. And to go further into what do I mean by positive and proactive? I do know that PR is a discipline where you might face a challenge. There might be other ways that you can look at an existing program, but how can you come to the table with an opportunity? A new idea? How can you think outside the box? That’s what we talk about when it comes to positive and optimistic that’s a part of the secret sauce, but again, it’s about that proactive versus reactive mindset. Always constantly feeding the PR program you have to think about that ongoing cadence from media relations. That’s how a B2B company can really break through.
B2BNXT: What are some mistakes that people are making?
TIFFANY GUARNACCIA: When it comes to looking at what works versus what doesn’t work, I can answer that question from two ways. One, as an agency owner and thinking about building a successful business and getting us to the amazing point that we’re at now. It’s all been about investing in the right talent. I’ve seen mistakes because in any industry, and the PR industry included, that there’s competition for top talent. And owners of agencies or even of other B2B companies can really look at just one side of the coin when you’re looking to hire and think just about skillset as opposed to culture fit. But we’re in a business of people. So what not to do, I’d say, is to not think about your culture, especially if you’re a smaller team, and the broader impacts when you’re looking to build a business.
On the other side, when you think about … So that’s building a business. Flip it to the other side. Let’s say I’m running a PR campaign day to day and I really want to think about what should I not do? If I’m a marketing person and I’m thinking about investing in an ongoing program, I think the mindset we bring to the table every day is important. So it goes back to the core values of proactivity and really thinking about when am I investing in PR and how am I creating that ongoing cadence.A big mistake that I see from other agencies or even founders of startups that are just launching a company and they’re so excited, they want to tell the world about their existing product or service. So they think about PR in a vacuum. They think about it as a one off splash and only envision a headline in tech crunch. But there’s a really big miss and a really big mistake to doing it that way. You’re not thinking about how can I relate with my audience on an ongoing basis? It almost can be a detriment to your company because it can look like you’ve been in the headlines but then you’re pulling back and there’s no investment and traction.
So a big thing to avoid is only investing once and not thinking about the long term and an integrated program as you move forward. It’s not just one big splash in a bucket. It’s about the drip feed of ongoing communications. And there’s a really big combination to that. So I always talk about it in PR peaks and PR valleys. So in the peaks, any company, a startup company will have a big news announcement. You might have a big funding announcement that’s coming through. That’s great. That’s a time to celebrate. That’s a time to certainly invest in PR. But what happens in the valleys? That’s just as crucial. That’s when we usually really fill the gaps with thought leadership. Looking at building out an executives profile, investing in content like bylined articles, data, other research reports that can help to tell that company’s story and prove the value of their products and services on an ongoing basis.
B2BNXT: Do you have any tips for B2B growth?
TIFFANY GUARNACCIA: So one big lesson I’d give to other founders of companies and other B2B companies overall is to think about sometimes you have to sacrifice growth for quality. If you’re looking to scale a business, make sure that you have the right infrastructure to support the growth plans that you have to really set your team and your company up for success.
B2BNXT: Any PR advice for B2B technology founders?
TIFFANY GUARNACCIA: There’s many different things you should think about when you’re first investing in a PR agency. One is that you want to look for an agency that really knows your industry. Look for a specialist firm. Two, it’s all about the people. So make sure that you feel like you have a great relationship and they also have relationships with journalists in your category overall. And three, the time’s gotta be right. So think about a long-term investment.
B2BNXT: How do you measure the value of PR?
TIFFANY GUARNACCIA: The value of PR is a great question because that conversation is really reaching a fever pitch in the industry right now. We’re at a time where the question of earned media and its value is really being put in the spotlight. So there are many different ways that owners can look at driving value. But I’d also caution them to know that every program should be customized to their business. And the metrics and outputs should really tie back to their overarching business goals. PR is top of funnel. It’s something that can help you drive brand awareness. But you should really think about the pull through, and how does that relate back to the rest of your marketing metrics, and how do those drive your business forward.
B2BNXT: What’s coming up for the future of PR?
TIFFANY GUARNACCIA: When it comes to really thinking about the future of PR, I’m excited in many different ways. I believe that the vision for the future of our industry is looking at a more integrated approach. That’s exactly why Kite Hill has a model that is traditional PR content like podcast, and video, and other forms that help you connect with your audiences and tell your story combined with events and experiences to really help you connect with your audiences face to face. When you’re a B2B technology company, today you should also be thinking about how can I shift and change with my industry and know that the future of B2B PR and B2B marketing will start to look a lot like B2C communications overall. We’re starting to take a page out of the book that is traditionally consumer marketing. There’s a lot more sex appeal, there’s a lot more connection, there’s so many ways to tell your story.
B2BNXT: What’s your favorite business book?
TIFFANY GUARNACCIA: Well, I am forever reading different business books. I think in my position, I always want to focus on education and how am I pulling from other insights and learning other lessons. One business book I love is called Rocket Fuel and it’s all about a model that is the visionary and integrator. Oftentimes, many other B2B founders out there, the person who’s the founder of the company, who is the CEO is a visionary. They’re in the seat where they see the future of the industry and they’re focused on oftentimes marketing and looking at connecting with audiences, sales, there’s so much on your plate. But the other part of that puzzle, the yin and the yang is the integrator. Someone who could be, regardless of title. It might be president or COO, but someone who’s looking at the other part of your business and helping those operations, the people function, other things that help you to succeed. It’s all about how that combined approach can propel your business forward. I thought it was a great read.