Last week I had the pleasure of volunteering for and attending Vancouver Startup Week. I got involved because I was hoping to network, connect, tap into new ideas, and contribute my time to something cool happening in our community; but I really had no idea just how amazing this conference would be!
With over 100 different events held around Vancouver’s startup community, I was juggling a crazy schedule to get in every interesting and relevant talk I was hoping to see. I’ve been working in Marketing and Communications for a long time, but everyone can always learn more about how to produce and share great content to grow customers, and I’m happy to say, I learned a lot!
Here’s a quick rundown of some of my favourite events and a few of my top takeaways:
Media & PR Strategies Workshop
This casual Q&A with Kelly Hoey was full of helpful advice and suggestions for getting press for your business. The main takeaway is to focus on helping reporters get and write great stories.
So what does that actually mean? It means taking the time to target the right media outlets and journalists; getting to the concise and engaging point right away when you reach out; offering an interesting story; opening with a catchy headline as your subject; and being super responsive and reliable in order to nurture ongoing media relationships.
Kelly shared the very useful resource, HARO (help a reporter out) to see what reporters are asking for, and be the first to the table when reporters are looking for expertise in your field. Check it out, and take your PR efforts to the next level!
I also attended Kelly Hoey’s later session on Deep Networking, and was very excited to get a free copy of her book, Build Your Dream Network – can’t wait to read it!
Storytelling for Startups – Aligning Your Story with your Why
There’s no question that in this world where social media provides the ultimate platform for word of mouth marketing, and business success is built on brand recognition and personal resonance, a company’s story has become more important than ever.
Winston Yeung of VoiceStory, and My Story Mondays took us on an interesting journey to understand the value of storytelling for building connection, with clients, friends, or even to help us understand our own motivations and purpose.
This session did something special, it got us connecting with our neighbours through asking some personally revealing questions – questions we wouldn’t normally ask a stranger. But through that process, we built rapid trust and sparked curiosity and interest in each others visions and dreams. There’s no better proof for the power of storytelling than this.
Practical Solutions to Employee Engagement
Samin offered up lots of great wisdom about what kinds of things drive us to excel, and what loses our motivation and trust. She shared what employers can do to support more engaged workers, but also what we can do as individuals to be engaged and empowered to grow, and turn our current job into our dream job. And all of her wisdom was backed by fascinating psychological studies, a lot of which go against our expectations. I admit, this is the kind of stuff I really geek out on.
Right now I’m just a one woman show, so the only person I need to engage is myself, but I think for any growing or large company, it’s worth diving into this topic to help you create a culture that inspires growth and gives your employees opportunities to achieve the kind of personal success that will help your business excel.
Growth for Startups – 10 Proven SEO techniques
This session was great on so many levels. The first of which, I must admit, was the free beer! The second was the cozy room with the comfortable couch that made me feel like I was hanging out in someone’s living room with a bunch of friends. Of course, the real gem was the super informative presentation by Josh Loewen, “SEO guy,” and co-founder of The Status Bureau.
I have a longtime love/hate with SEO. That’s because a lot of SEO advice used to favour excessive keyword stuffing over readability and good content. But lately, I’ve been feeling vindicated, because well-written, useful, and customer-supportive content is experiencing a well-deserved renaissance. After all, Google’s goal is to help people find what they need, and if it leads you to a keyword stuffed page that makes no sense, well then it hasn’t got you anywhere, has it?
Josh’s session was great because it highlighted how different marketing efforts work together to support the process of improving your SEO, and it recognized that it can be an arduous process that takes time – that’s not what people love to hear, but it’s useful to understand the magic mix that will eventually move you up the SEO ladder.
This was the last talk I attended at Vancouver Startup Week and it cycled me right back to where I began, with how to get PR. Getting your company story out to reputable news outlets, and building links from sites with strong rankings is one of the best ways to strengthen your SEO and reach customers.
Josh’s other piece of SEO advice was to out-content and out-effort your competitors. While I’m a strong believer that companies should focus on consistently doing what’s manageable, there’s a lot to be said for doing more, establishing consistent content publishing schedules, and just fighting hard to make it happen.
Wrap up party at the new Spaces Gastown
Feeling relaxed and much the wiser after my last informative session, I strolled around the corner to enjoy the big wrap party at the stunning new Spaces Gastown. I savoured cocktails and canapés with new friends, fellow volunteers, and business connections, and got to explore this swanky creative work space downtown on Cambie and Hastings. I imagine a lot of great ideas and collaborations are going to come out of Spaces Gastown in the future.
No matter what kind of business you are, whether you’re in tech, have a locally made product or service, or are a big and established company, I highly recommend you put Vancouver Startup Week on your radar and attend, sponsor or share your expertise next year. This was one of the most valuable learning events I’ve attended, and I barely scratched the surface!