If you need to be Loud, you better call Lou Draper
Lou Draper is a hustler. Not the street-corner kind, not the Twitter bio #growthhacking kind. Nah, she’s the real ‘find a way to make the impossible happen’ kind of hustler, and as a tech publicist in Wellington, she’s helping the startup capital’s up and comers hustle their stories. Lou is not afraid to be Loud in Public.
I met this mother and serial entrepreneur after reaching out to one of her clients for an interview, and I was fascinated by her story.
Lou started her career as a high school drop out. Classrooms, timetables, and homework didn’t really suit her, so she quit and started working in the rag trade, hospitality, and professional service industries. After she grew tired of that, Lou did a short amount of study in business, got a spot in radio, and moved onto PR.
“I’m easily tempted by business ideas,” Lou told me, “so as well as owning my second public relations agency, I’ve also owned a beauty therapy studio, a mobile espresso business, a spa pool party hire company, and an event management service.”
“I’ve got two other businesses on the boiler right now that I’m hoping to launch soon, as well as a few crazy ideas that I’ll probably chuck into the market at some point to see what happens.”
Lou works in tech because she gets it. She understands how these things work, and she knows how to whittle down tech gibberish into plain English for the laymen.
“If a highly technical business, can’t explain their story to me,” she says, “then they’ve got a lot of message refining to do till they can.”
That’s what a PR agent or a publicist does. They tell stories. Strip away the fancy titles and quirky social media bios, Lou says, and at the end of the day, all of these people in the industry are essentially doing the same thing: telling stories. It’s a skill that can be learned, but some people are natural story tellers. Lou is one of those people.
“My last agency was called Rockstar PR,” Lou recounted”and at the same time I was making coffee at the weekend markets with my mobile espresso truck – High Voltage.”
“I’m good at making coffee and I love talking to strangers, so while each customer would wait for their coffee, which was around 90 seconds, I had their ears. I also had product samples of beauty products and other wares I would be promoting. So while people were waiting for their flat white, they’d also be trying a hand cream or taking away some bath crystals, or learning about an event I was working on.
“90 seconds – perfect time to make a point or sell something without being intrusive and a pain.”
This skill is especially important in a small country like New Zealand, where there are fewer publications to engage with for message delivery and storytelling. There aren’t many well-known options to choose from, but Lou says that when you dig a bit deeper, there are so many fantastic sites, newsletters and other consumable media to use.
“I feel we’re well represented.” she said. “We’re lucky too, because there’s always the opportunity to re-pitch at a later date with a new story angle to our journalists and editors in New Zealand. In the US, outlets that are super desirable like TechCrunch – you just get the one shot to get it right.”
That’s not to say that there are no consequences for poor communications. Just like it is in other countries, companies don’t have free reign over the media.
“I think it’s great when anyone attempts to do something they previously didn’t have any experience in. That’s the life of someone in business, yeah? But one thing that is almost guaranteed to NOT work in pitching a story to the media is to send it as an attachment to a cast of thousands!”
“Instead, you should pick five titles that you really love,” Lou advises. “Think about 5 individual stories or angles you have in your business, and send a short pitch email, individually with that well crafted story idea for that title only. [You’ll get a] much better result.”
Another piece of advice that the businesswomen has for startups is to not give up easily. “If your idea is a good one, keep at it until you don’t love it anymore,” she says. “Pushing an idea that you don’t totally adore, is when you need to quit it and do something else.
“Also, don’t go crazy with your investors cash!” she adds. “Spend it wisely. A week in San Fran is probably not needed the second after your first funding round.”
Rueben Skipper, another serial entrepreneur with a similar attitude, once told me that for a business to work you need three types of people. You need a hustler, a hacker, and a designer. You need someone who can sell, someone who can build the business, and someone who can take your values and present them in an aesthetically pleasing way.
I think Lou Draper is all three.