At this years Munich founders festival Bits and Pretzels I listened to Andy Cunningham’s inspiring talk on the role of PR in the 21st Century. She was on the so-called Academy Stage, a type of university format where the founders are able to learn from the stars.

Andy Cunningham was a PR Consultant to Steve Jobs. He fired her four times and hired her five times. I was very excited to listen to her. The way Apple promotes its love brand has a very important meaning for me. Whenever a client does not seem to understand why we are talking about feelings instead of how to measure a PR activity we are working on, I explain this is not because I am a woman but because I’m telling the story of the company the way Apple does.

Andy gave some entertaining insights about her time working with Steve Jobs.

According to Andy PR as a result of the internet is a very different ballgame. It is the practice of telling your story successfully and building and maintaining a prodigious digital footprint. She told the founders that they still need the press but they don’t need to start with the press.

Andy pointed out ten things to know about PR in the 21 st century:

  1. Positioning matters: Target a white space and know your role and relevance.
  2. Branding is for emotional connection: What are you shooting for?
  3. Messaging is your virus: Infect everything with it.
  4. Narrative is critical: Why your company? Why now?
  5. Master your owned, earned and paid channels of distribution.
  6. Be relentless in the frequency and consistency of your story.
  7. Build a prodigious digital footprint.
  8. Influencer marketing is critical.
  9. Event marketings brings your story to life.
  10. PR is like pornography; you know it when you see it.

I met her afterwards and asked her a couple of questions.

Question: Andy, why did you choose Bits and Pretzels and Munich to travel to? There are so many important venues for start up conferences and festivals. Why Munich?

Answer: I love Munich as a city, I’ve never been to OctoberFest and I love startups. So Bits & Pretzels was a perfect conference to attend.

Question: What do people in Sillicon Valley think about the Startup Scene in Germany?

Answer: The startup scene is a lifestyle in Silicon Valley and wherever that lifestyle exists, there’s a common bond between and among the people who dedicate their lives to it. So much impressive technology comes from Germany. And so many successful companies are there. We can learn a lot from the Germans about commercializing technology.

Question: At Bits and Pretzels you gave a talk on the academy stage where you pointed out the shift of PR in the 21st century. You said that PR is not measurable. I was very grateful for that because my clients often ask me how to measure the PR I do for them. You had a very interesting answer. You said that PR is comparable to pornography because it is all about a feeling and you know it when you see it. But can’t we measure pornography?

Answer: The old saying in the United States is that it is impossible to measure pornography, but you definitely know it when you see it. The same is true about PR. It is very difficult to measure, although there are some new tools out there, like AirPR, that can track an article to website traffic and the sales funnel. You can begin to see how the press you generate leads to sales.

But it is still a challenge to measure the intangible swell of a sticky narrative. The hard work we all do to develop a messaging strategy, embed it in a compelling narrative and then launch it into the market doesn’t begin to pay off until we start to hear it coming back at us in traditional as well as social media. If the reaction is positive, it’s working. You can FEEL it. And so can our clients.

Question: You published a book which was released in October.  The book is called „Get to Aha“ and it is available on Amazon. Could you please explain why you have chosen this title?

Answer: The process of developing a compelling narrative—one that sticks in the market and begins to change the behavior of potential customers, starts with positioning. This is a book about a new positioning framework for the digital age that answers the two most important questions in business: Who Are You? And Why Do You Matter? The answers to these questions determine the company’s role and relevance in the market and form a position for a product or service in the mind of a potential customer. When you own the position you wish to own, you have succeeded in the positioning exercise. It all starts with discovering your positioning DNA. Once you know what you’re made of as a company, you can make something of it. The book contains some tests that will help you determine your positioning DNA and guides you through the rest of the positioning process.

Question: The PR world here in Germany is very different from the US PR world. What specifically can we learn from your book and apply here? And what would we have to adapt to apply here?

Answer: Positioning is universal, so from that perspective, it is helpful anywhere in the world. Every company must be able to articulate its role and relevance in the market. Every company must be differentiated from its competition. Every company must own a position in the mind of the potential customer. And every company can benefit from understanding if it is a customer-oriented company (a Mother), a product-oriented company (a Mechanic) or a concept-oriented company (a Missionary). This basic information about the core of a company enables marketers and communicators to start with authenticity. All humans share a certain radar for authenticity and there is nothing more important for PR in the internet age than that.

Question: I have a lot of clients coming from small medium enterprises (SME). The digital revolution in Germany has just begun. Owners of SMEs are well aware that preparing for a digital future is our economy’s biggest challenge. At the same time I sometimes get feedback from them that, while they see my efforts, that I am moving too fast or am too visionary for them. They have to cope with their „real important“challenges first. Usually I am not sure whether I have to convince them about the necessity to “think big”or what to do…

Answer: If you are visionary and your client is not – find another client. There is nothing more rewarding than working with a visionary. But there is a Bell Curve with adoption of any new technology: innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards. Your clients are likely in the middle somewhere. They won’t try something new until it is proven in the market. And there’s nothing you can do to accelerate that acceptance. That’s why if you are an innovator or an early adopter, you should probably be working with similar mindsets. I love Silicon Valley because everyone there is an innovator or an early adopter and there are visionaries around every corner. It is still a place where you can change the world.