Category Archives: Public Relations

CSUF Startup Incubator in Mihaylo Magazine

The Mihaylo Magazine is distributed to over 50,000 CSUF Mihaylo College of Business and Economics alumni and we were honored to be the most recent cover story! This is a huge honor and we are excited to share the accomplishments that we have been able to make with the rest of the CSUF Mihaylo family. To be precise, the CSUF Startup Incubator was the cover story and the cover models, as seen below, were Director Jackson and CSUF Startup Incubator Resident John Tsui of Chopit Drones.

Director Jackson and CSUF Startup Incubator Resident John Tsui representing the CSUF Startup Incubator on the Mihaylo Magazine cover Click the picture to see the full digital version of the magazine!!!

Director Jackson and CSUF Startup Incubator Resident John Tsui representing the CSUF Startup Incubator on the Mihaylo Magazine cover
Click the picture to see the full digital version of the magazine!!!

Our story starts on page 20 of the magazine and it goes over all of the awesome things that we are doing there; like helping to launch startups and hosting many talks for entrepreneurs, like yourself. It’s really an amazing piece, well written and the pictures are great as well.

We hope that you can take a look at it and, even more than that, we would love to see you at one of our upcoming events! There are some great events coming up and they can all be found by going to:

Before I sign off here, I want to reiterate the point that none of this would have been possible without our community. You guys enable us to provide amazing competitions, real-life consulting projects, startup assistance and so much more to our students and to the CSUF Entrepreneurship community at large. It’s really an awe-inspiring sight to see all of these things come to together to produce these kind of results and, with your continued support, we expect many more great things for the future. Continue reading

Promotion Talk @ CSUF Startup Incubator

Rudy Chavarria gave a talk on promotions at the CSUF Startup Incubator on October 14, 2015

Rudy Chavarria gave a talk on promotions at the CSUF Startup Incubator on October 14, 2015

We were lucky enough to have Rudy Chavarria Jr. give a riveting talk about promotional strategies in a startup environment. Rudy’s background as an entrepreneur started in 1993 with Rude Records where he signed a number of ska bands. Once he tired of the ska scene he shuttered Rude Records only to be contacted by many record labels wanting to employ him as their marketer.

After working as a consultant for record labels he turned his focus to marketing to the college market. His big breaks came when he was contracted to promote a Bob Marley record and, somewhat later, he was a key person in creating the marketing campaign for the movie Passion of the Christ.

Rudy now focuses on mentoring college students. He is an active mentor in CSUF Entrepreneurship courses and helps many student-entrepreneurs start businesses and projects.

Here are my notes from Rudy’s talk and the discussion afterwards that included Curtis Chan, John Bradley Jackson, Bruce Moore, and Rudy: Continue reading

Ruthless Self Promotion @ CSUF Startup Incubator

Rudy Chavarria will be giving a talk on PR at the CSUF Startup Incubator on October 14, 2015

Rudy Chavarria will be giving a talk on PR at the CSUF Startup Incubator on October 14, 2015

Rudy Chavarria Jr. has a long and successful career as a music and media promoter so he knows a thing or two about how to get your message noticed. If you are thinking that your product is so good that people will just “find it” or that your service is so amazing that word of mouth advertising is all you need then you should seriously think again and attend this talk.


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Yelp – The Ugly

141020 Yelp LogoIn previous posts (Yelp – The Good and Yelp – The Bad), my co-authors and I discussed the value and challenges of Yelp for business owners. However, due to Yelp’s immense popularity, it has effectively become the go-to source for all kinds of reviews. Businesses see significant declines in revenue if their Yelp ratings decrease. And with this dominance comes some serious problems.

Yelp has become a cesspool of fake comments – a far cry from their original marketing slogan of “real people, real reviews.” It has become common for people to post negative and false comments. For example, the Yelp page for a local middle eastern restaurant contained two posts by people who claimed that the cooks there were doing things that were extremely unsanitary. After digging a bit deeper, it was clear these reviews were fake, as both reviewers had fake photos and had only posted a single review using their Yelp accounts. Worse, the reviews had racist undertones. In another case, a number of Yelpers wrote negative reviews for a Florida restaurant after President Obama visited there. Continue reading

Yelp – The Bad

As discussed in our previous post titled Yelp – The Good, Yelp has proven itself to be a powerful marketing tool that can help businesses promote their products and services. While it would be great for any business to have a five-star average rating on Yelp, the reality is that getting negative reviews is unavoidable. No business can satisfy every customer every time.

Before getting into how to respond to negative Yelp reviews, it is worth considering briefly why people write reviews on Yelp and other sites in the first place. The conventional wisdom is that people write reviews primarily to share their experiences with others and provide useful information. However, Yelp is more than just a review site: it also has a large social-networking component. Users can add each other to “friend” lists, interact on chat boards, “compliment” each other, and rate each other’s reviews as being “useful”, “funny” or “cool”. Users may also be officially designated by Yelp as a Yelp Elite and receive a series of perks for a calendar year. Yelp offers these features for a reason: people often participate in sites like this to gain stature within a community, and these social components often motivate users to keep writing reviews.

On the other extreme, a growing number of Yelp reviews are written by consumers who have no intention of being part of a community or even writing more than one review, but rather wish to tell everyone about a (usually bad) experience. More often than not, these one-time rants are centered on a particular service and can be very personal.

The complicated nature of what motivates negative Yelp reviews is what makes responding to them a delicate balancing act. Here are some tips for how to address negative reviews:

1. Have the right attitude when responding.

Let the reviewer know that you appreciate the effort they put in to comment about their experience. Show that you take their comments seriously. Respond to what each person said, instead of offering generic comments in response.

While these ideas seem like common sense, consider the opposite of this approach: a hasty, impersonal, or incomplete response. Think about how such a response would make you feel if you were the person who wrote the review. Do you want your customers feeling that way – and telling others they feel that way?

2. Solicit more information.

If possible, ask questions to clarify their experience so you can better pinpoint what needs to be done to improve your product or service.

3. Focus on getting the reviewer to update the review, not retract the original one.

Given that a lot of reviewers on Yelp are trying to gain stature within the Yelp community, their instinct will be to write as much as they can and make their opinions heard. Trying to get someone to retract a negative review goes against this instinct and probably won’t get you very far. Instead, try to make that instinct work in your favor. Suggest they give your business another try and offer them a meaningful incentive to do so. If you have shown them that you have taken their concerns to heart and made a good faith effort to remedy them, they are much more likely to give your business another chance and update their original review.

For example, a pizza restaurant in the Bay Area sent an email to Yelp reviewers who had rated the restaurant unfavorably and offered them a $25 gift card to return. The offer was accompanied by the following note:

“I am reaching out to you to apologize for the subpar experience you had at Joe’s Pizza*. Since you wrote this review, we have made many positive changes and improvements in our operation. I want to invite you to return to Joe’s Pizza by offering you a $25 gift card. I am confident we will do much better this time. Please give us another chance to put a smile on your face.”

4. Know when to ignore a review.

Sometimes, a negative reviewer is just the type who will never be satisfied, so engaging them will likely lead to an escalation of their ranting rather than a fruitful conversation on how to improve your product or service. In extreme cases, this can result in negative and embarrassing publicity – as seen in the infamous Amy’s Baking Company incident last year – but even if it doesn’t get that far, a war of words takes away time and energy you could better spend elsewhere.

5. Know when NOT to ignore a review.

The option to ignore a negative comment or review is always yours, but be aware that not responding also sends a message to customers. Dave Kerpen, author of “Likeable Social Media”, proposes that sending this message too often can be dangerous – the equivalent of keeping a caller on hold and never responding. Kerpen proposes a middle ground between ignoring customers and getting pulled into a “comment war”: you can also respond very briefly in the public forum (e.g., Yelp), so that everyone sees you didn’t ignore the customer, but invite that customer to contact you to discuss his/her concerns in private.

* – name changed to protect identity

Written by Dr. Ravi Shanmugam  and Dr. Atul Teckchandani

Note: This is the second of a series of posts about the importance of Yelp and other review sites and how entrepreneurs can manage their presence on these sites in a manner that increases their firm’s reputation and sales. It was co-authored with Dr. Ravi Shanmugam, Assistant Professor of Marketing at Santa Clara University and Dr. Atul Teckchandani, Assistant Professor of Management at the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics, California State University, Fullerton.

Yelp Series:

Yelp – The Good

Yelp – The Bad

Yelp – The Ugly

Yelp – The Good

Social media is becoming an increasingly powerful force that business owners – especially small business owners – cannot afford to ignore. There is an increasing body of work suggesting that online mentions and discussions about a particular business can meaningfully affect the business’s revenues. For instance, studies have shown that chatter on Twitter about a movie can effectively predict its box-office revenue and that online activity can predict sales of books.

Arguably, the most important resource for consumers is the online review site Yelp. The popular site allows visitors to view and create reviews for almost any type of business. And Yelp allows anyone to create a listing for your business. Anyone who steps foot through your door, passes by you on the street, or reads your name in the paper can create a business listing. Given how easy it is for others to start posting reviews about a business and the significant economic consequences of these reviews, it is crucial for business owners to embrace Yelp.

Specifically, here are three reasons why Yelp matters:

1. It contains authentic reviews

While as many as one out of every four Yelp reviews are fake, the rest are authentic. In other words, the majority of Yelp reviews are from actual customers who are sharing their actual experience with your product or service. After reading through all the reviews you will be able to decipher what your customers like about your business and what are the areas of improvement. This information is extremely valuable and, best of all, is available to you at no cost or effort. While its most obvious use is to make adjustments that will improve customer satisfaction, it can also be used in other ways. For instance, it can help identify your outstanding employees so that they can be rewarded.

2. It strongly predicts intention to buy

According to data released in June of 2013 by Nielsen , 82% of users consult Yelp reviews when they are ready to make a purchase. This means that Yelp is the top searched site when it comes to product or service reviews. Greater than that, 93% of consumers always, frequently, or occasionally purchase from a local business after visiting it on Yelp and 89% make that purchase within a week.

3. Yelp users are, in many ways, the ideal customers

Yelp users are ideal candidates for many industries. 57% of Yelp users have a college degree and the mean household income for users is $68,000. This audience mix is an ideal target market in many regards. The consumer is educated and has disposable income to spend.

To harness the power of Yelp, entrepreneurs should frequently check their business’ reviews. These reviews are an opportunity to build customer engagement and show potential customers that your business strives to satisfy its customers. A good place to start is to reach out to customers that have written positive reviews about your business. A simple thank you note emailed to each customer is a wonderful way to show them that you value their business and the time they took to write a review about their experience.

(The next post in this series will discuss a more challenging issue: how to respond to negative reviews.)

Written by Katie Nino and Dr. Atul Teckchandani

Note: This is the first of a series of posts about the importance of Yelp and other review sites and how entrepreneurs can manage their presence on these sites in a manner that increases their firm’s reputation and sales. It was co-authored with Katie Nino, Social Media Adviser for the Imperial Valley Small Business Development Center and graduate of the Entrepreneurship program at CSUF (class of 2011) and Dr. Atul Teckchandani, Assistant Professor of Management at the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics, California State University, Fullerton.

[Image: Street Fight]

Yelp Series:

Yelp – The Good

Yelp – The Bad

Yelp – The Ugly

Make Your Customers Smile

Recently, I was on a plane and paid $3 for a Vitamin Water. When it came, I discovered – to my surprise – that the bottle was half the size of the one that can be purchased at Target for $1. After realizing that I had just paid 6x more for the Vitamin Water than I would have if I wasn’t 30,000 feet in the air, I was pretty ticked off.

While thinking about whether it made sense to complain, I looked at the bottle and saw the following:

“so yeah, this bottle is a little shorter than normal. but shorter is better. want proof? what’s better, a short or long phone call with your parents? a short or long download time? and who doesn’t want to be on a short list? that’s right, short is killing it right now.”

This is one happy customer!

Instantly my anger melted and I found myself smiling. No longer was I interested in complaining. Rather, I was marveling at the clever way in which the prose seemed to be a direct response to my frustration.

We all know that humor can diffuse a tense situation. But can humor also prevent a situation from becoming tense in the first place? And, can the use of humor help reduce the likelihood of customer complaints?

While I couldn’t find any rigorous research showing a causal link, there are plenty of examples of companies that use subtle humor regularly and have large loyal fan bases:

  • Users of Google Chrome see the following message when the program crashes: “Aw, snap!”
  • The napkins at Chipotle say the following: “This napkin is made from 90% post-consumer recycled unbleached paper. It could have been an electricity bill or a parking ticket in its past life. Forgive & forget.”
  • SoomSoom – a popular chain fast-food restaurant in Manhattan best known for its falafels – has descriptions of all of its ingredients on the walls. For example, coriander is described in the following way: ” This edible plant is soft and hairless. It has also been known to relieve anxiety, insomnia and baldness. We just made up that baldness fact. Sorry if we got your hopes up.”
  • Upon launching Intuit’s TurboTax program, users are told that the program will open in a moment. But since the program takes a while to launch, that initial message is quickly replaced with “OK, we know it’s taking longer than a moment.”
  • Southwest Airlines flight attendants regularly use humor during in-flight announcements. An announcement I’ve heard quite often is to tell passengers that “in the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will descend from the ceiling. Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face. If you have a small child traveling with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are traveling with two small children, decide now which one you love more.” And here’s a video of a flight attendant rapping the safety announcements.

  • Virgin America uses humor to make what is probably the most interesting pre-flight video ever. Take a look at it – I promise it will keep your attention and make you smile.

How can your business incorporate humor to minimize customer frustrations and improve the overall experience?

Photo: flickr | Yumi Kimura

The preceding was a post from Dr. Atul Teckchandani, one of the great professors teaching Entrepreneurship at CSUF.