A skywriter appeared overhead today as we walked past San Francisco’s famous Painted Ladies. The plane towed a banner which read “Save money,” along with the image of an insurance company’s well-known reptillian mascot.
Thanks. I guess.
Could there possibly be a less effective way to reach your audience? Maybe it’s because I’m not in the market for automobile insurance, but I felt like the money and effort invested to get me to see the banner was a huge waste. The best way for the company to measure outcomes from this ostentatious display of marketing is a log of how long the pilot flew, and over what parts of town. Awareness advertising and “visibility campaigns” may work for publicly-traded concerns, but startups have to do much better with their money and their time.
There’s a huge difference between visibility and impact. Just being seen should never be the goal of your public relations efforts. Investor Marc Suster advises startups to begin their PR on Day 1, and I’ve written that it’s never too early to begin the public relations process, you should do so with specific goals in mind.
PR for it’s own sake can be a massively wasteful and counterproductive endeavor, as Adam Lieb Duxter founder CEO explains. In today’s guest post Lieb explains his definition of “bad press,” and how startups can leverage tactical media exposure to accomplish specific objectives. Lieb shares his experience using targeted media exposure to empower existing investors, court prospective investors, and drive new customer acquisition.
I don’t subscribe to the conventional wisdom “there is no such thing as bad press.” I find that spinning your wheels trying to get press for your startup can be objectively bad and a huge distraction. “Getting your name out there” usually means unfocused PR that doesn’t get results. Ignore it.
At Duxter, I’ve done two types of PR. PR for gamers and PR for investors. We’ve been fairly successful with one and fairly unsuccessful with the other.
Press for gamers
Like any red-blooded American startup, we thought it would be really important to launch our product publicly on TechCrunch. In terms of views, shares, traffic and so on, things went extremely well. We were the most shared article on TC that day. The launch story was posted on Digg and became the top/featured story for a few hours.
Big win, right? Well not so much.
We ended up with a little under 10,000 registers traced to the TechCrunch launch. With the TC cohort we saw by far the worst retention we’ve ever seen. The best part of the TC launch was that it served as a nice stress test for our systems.
Key learning: We should have gone to where our audience was. I would have rather had 500 real gamers than 10K lookie loos. Sexy isn’t all that matters in PR.
Press for investors
I’ve targeted my investor press at investors currently in the pipeline as well as already-committed investors. I am sure there are great stories about articles being read by strangers that subsequently ended in investment, but that has not been my experience.
Press for current investors
I have found that it is extremely important to arm your current investors with everything they need to sell their other investor friends on your company. This is especially true at the angel stage. You want your current angels to tell other angels at cocktail parties on yachts (or wherever they gather) “Hey, did you read about Duxter? They are one of my portfolio companies and just had a great write-up in XYZ tech spot.” I find it extremely important to share press mentions and articles with all current investors to show progress and traction, but also with the nudge that they send this to other angels.
Key learning: Current investors love press. Share it freely and ask them to share it with their investor friends.
Press for prospective investors
I always find it a little awkward to talk to an investor after an initial meeting. Usually they hear the pitch, say it sounds interesting, have some questions, and the meeting ends. Good email followup is key to closing. I always try to think of creative and appropriate followups. Recently, I met an angel investor for the first time. This angel really pushed back one issue. I must not have handled it very well in person. When I got home I thought of all the great things I should have said. I didn’t want to write a five paragraph email explaining exactly why his issue wasn’t an issue. I ended up writing an article on a major industry publication explaining my points. Rather than sending him a 5 paragraph email, I linked him to the article and asked for his thoughts. He was fairly impressed and, ultimately, stopped pushing back on that point.
Key learning: Using press pieces to engage investors in the pipeline can be an excellent way to demonstrate domain expertise or traction. It is also an excellent way to keep the dialogue rolling without becoming a stale deal.
Regarding PR, I focus on attracting gamers and raising money. I’ve had more success with the latter and am still working on the former. When you do PR, do it with a purpose. Block out distracting opportunities to “get your name out there” and focus on what helps you build your business.
Adam Lieb is the Founder and CEO of Duxter Inc, the LinkedIn for Gamers. Seattle-based Duxter has raised more than $1 million from is a funded startup in Seattle, WA, poised to be “the next big thing” in gaming. Rather than listen to the conventional wisdom that “playing games was a waste of time,” Adam turned his passion into business. After starting his first gaming company at 11, bringing in tens of thousands of dollars selling virtual goods at 13, and building his first million dollar business by 20, Adam founded Duxter, his largest and most prosperous venture yet. Adam believes in challenging the status quo and following your passion.