Strategic Partnering for your Media Startup


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- Michele Kayal, Co-Founder, American Food Roots

Originally presented at the event, "Women Media Entrepreneurs - Making New Ideas Happen," on Sept. 12 at the National Press Club, Washington, D.C.

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  • Good morning. My name is Michele Kayal, and I’m the assistant managing editor of American Food Roots.
  • American Food Roots is a digital-only publication telling America’s food stories state-by-state. My co-founders and I are all old-school journalists. I write for AP about food, culture and cookbooks. Our managing editor, Bonny Wolf is a commentator on NPR’s Weekend Edition. DomenicaMarchetti writes Italian cookbooks, and Carol Guensburg is an editor at Scripps-Howard. But about two years ago we had the collective realization that print was no longer the best way to reach people.
  • No text here – click through
  • So we took our passion for food and created AFR. We are graciously supported by J-Lab, which last year awarded us one of their four grants for New Media Women Entrepreneurs. Jan Schaefer – who signs those checks – has asked me to talk today about strategic partnerships and how to use them to move your enterprise forward. So let’s go. The first thing to do is:
  • You may not think you have any status. Because you see yourself …
  • Like this. But it’s important to see yourself the way others see you, which is undoubtedly…
  • LIKE THISPitch the places and the people that scare you. Ask for things you think you won’t get. Just after we launched, hip hop food celebrity Eddie Huang came out with a memoir. I’d known his PR people for years, but I just figured they wouldn’t even talk to me if I wasn’t writing for AP. I was wrong.
  • The interview we ran with Eddie Huang got us airtime on MSNBC. This was a huge coup in our first few weeks of publishing. And it’s something I almost didn’t ask for. So first, leverage your status. Then,
  • When we launched, we sent “birth announcements” to everyone we could think of. EVERYONE. Editors we knew, editors we didn’t know, sources, bloggers, friends, family, people we had met at cocktail parties. We sent about 2000 announcements total. Over the next six weeks,
  • …we got mentions in Washington Post, The Kitchn, Milwaukee paper, and a couple of others. These things brought us audience, but even more importantly, they gave us instant credibility. And….
  • With that small bit of press under our belts, we went deeper into our contacts.  Domenica successfully pitched us to the KojoNaambdi show, where she’d been a guest in the past.
  • Bonny successfully pitched a segment called “State Secrets” – a quiz based on our biographies of the states -- to a producer she knew at WUSA9. The first one aired in May.
  • Andshe also talked us up to the people who run Capitol Hill’s historic Eastern Market, where she has been a customer for 20 years. They’ve offered to be the venue for any event we hold. We’re working on a few that we hope to launch next year.
  • This is the “and they told two friends, and so on and so on…”  I have a friend who’s a friend of Mo Rocca, the wacky Cooking Channel celebrity. I made her a very nice meal and asked if she would introduce us. While he was charming and enthusiastic and supportive, we figured we’d never hear from him again. Until we got a call from a friend of HIS at a large American food company asking us whether we’d be interested in partnering. We’re talking more with them later this month.
  • One of our most important partnerships is with the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. In XXFebruary,XX they launched an exhibit called Food. We approached the curators about partnering with the exhibit. Beginning later this month we will tape My American Roots videos there – 2 minute food memoirs from ordinary Americans. This is a strong BRANDINGpartnership – national museum of American history – and huge CREDIBILITY. THINK YOU SHOULD MENTION THAT I KNEW THE CURATOR FROM COVERING JULIA CHILD’S KITCHEN FOR NPR. ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF LEVERAGING RELATIONSHIPS. PROBABLY WOULDN’T HAVE HAPPENED WITH A COLD CALL.
  • Cookbook publisher that specializes in American antiquarian books. Talking with them about a number of possibilities, from curating their e-books under an AFR imprint to creating events and clubs around the books to writing a book of our own. CREDIBILITY, BRANDING AND REVENUE
  • There’s a reason it’s called “the Web.” Success in online publishing is about connections, about cross-fertilization. About moving back and forth between sites. The more you do that, the more cross current you create, the more traffic, notice and numbers you’ll generate. To that end, we’ve forged partnerships with a number of popular bloggers: Southwest food blogger Meagan Micozzi – AKAScarlEEEEtta Bakes – has almost 7,000 twitter followers and a cookbook coming out next month.GOING TO WRITE FOR US ABOUT FOOD OF THE SOUTHWEST. F is for Food – chronicling their trip across the south in real time for us next month.
  • Launched our first long term editorial partnership with bloggers who call themselves the Beerded Ladies -- 50 States of Beer – gotten great traffic – Brings content AND audience to us at the same time. Also means we are being promoted on social networks of lots of different people.  
  • The Six O’Clock Scramble, an online family dinner planning system created and run by Aviva Goldfarb, has 10,000 active and paying members, an email list of 40,000, more than 8,000 fans on Facebook, and a Twitter following of 8,000 people.We partnered with the Scramble’s Familly Dinner challenge, which urges families to have dinner together three times a week to create a series called Dinnertime in America.
  • Cross promotion is bringing excellent traffic. Next week we’re hosting a Twitter chat together.
  • Click to next slideWHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
  • In this case, cornbread.A couple of months ago, I reported several stories in North Carolina. Once we saw what we had, we decided to run a North Carolina week. AS A TEST RUN FOR SINGLE-STATE WEEKS.We are talking with the NORTH CAROLINA COMPANIES AND PRODUCERS about cross promotion that could go beyond Twitter and FB to events, contests and television appearances.
  • Timing is everything. We are about to launch a kickstarter campaign. Everything we’ve read suggests that becoming a “staff pick” – where they highlight your project – helps a project reach its goal. And that attention outside of kickstarter helps you become a staff pick. So in addition to the mere fact of cross promoting the North Carolina package, we are planning to run it when we launch the Kickstarter campaign.
  • Thank you for your attention. Go forth and partner.
  • Strategic Partnering for your Media Startup

    1. 1. Strategic Partnering Michele Kayal Co-Founder American Food Roots
    2. 2. Leverage Your Status
    3. 3. Leverage Your Relationships
    4. 4. Credibility Breeds Credibility
    5. 5. Eastern Market
    6. 6. Leverage Relationships Of Relationships
    7. 7. Be Strategic In Your Partnerships
    8. 8. Catch Another Rising Star
    9. 9. Swim With Bigger Fish
    10. 10. Offer Someone Butter For Their Bread
    11. 11. Your Mom Was Right
    12. 12. Go Forth And Partner