We glamorize entrepreneurship. This can be seen in the things that we read, and that get covered in the ; “new” can often mean newsworthy, and startups have a certain allure for the tech journalist or blogger. But there is no shortage of new ventures, and a relatively high flameout rate.
Journalists use a number of factors to determine which ones have legs and are worth covering. These can include the state of the business – does the company have product, a foothold in the marketplace and is it now really ready for a larger stage?One more credibility builder is venture capitalist backing; after all, getting piles of cash adds another element to the story, and journalists know that VCs do their homework and kick the tires pretty well before they invest in companies.
However, more and more these days we are seeing startups burst onto the scene and the entry point is a crowdfunding platform and campaign, especially on Kickstarter. Crowd-sourced money raising can disrupt traditional methods of funding and launching companies; while the total funds raised may be less than with a major VC, more people have an incentive to spread the good word.
We first noticed this phenomenon not long ago, while assisting the crowdfunding platform Return on Change (one of their key differentiators is that they are making it easier for a wider range of investors to purchase shares in young companies; Kickstarter offers other types of remuneration, see this article by RoC CEO Sang Lee on Forbes ). It seemed that much of the great press around crowdfunding platforms was actually more about the companies that were raising funds.
More recently, while we were working with a new client, the teams huddled to try to better understand why another company in the space was getting so much buzz. The competitor had a number of things going for it, but unquestionably, one of the reasons for the excitement related to its use of crowdfunding. We tracked online chatter that showed that many were focused on its funding goal; the suspense about whether the company would reach it seemed to add to the buzz, and interest in the company.
The takeaway here is that crowdfunding can shake up the traditional formula of how young tech companies go to market and get attention. If you are a startup, you should consider crowdfunding, not just for its potential to help you achieve your capital raising goals – but as a possible driver of buzz.
With these thoughts in mind we have assembled a team of professionals to offer a turnkey set of services that can help you optimize your listing, and meet your funding and PR launch goals. It taps our collective experience working with and promoting tech companies, and understanding of what works well with the major crowdfunding platforms. If this is of interest, and you would like more info, please register at the following link.
There are some obvious exceptions; you don’t want to announce news on a major holiday, or shortly before or after one. If there is a major industry event, such as a trade show, and you or your client are not there, why compete with the noise of other announcements?
Then, there are the planned and unplanned events and news outside of tech that can steal the thunder from your announcement; You need to use good common sense and look at each situation, in general we are an aggressive shop and don’t like to stand down if we don’t have to.
To use a real example, if you follow the world of tech or use an iPhone, you by now probably know that next week – September 12, to be exact – is when Apple is expected to announce iPhone 5 details. The New York Times covered how other vendors of consumer tech have adjusted their PR schedules in light of Apple, which does tend to suck the air out of all other coverage (see Rivals Jostle for Spotlight… and excerpts below).
Back when Apple was an underdog, it had an easier time shrouding its product announcements in mystery and perhaps catching its competitors off guard. But now technology companies are watching every one of Apple’s moves — and scrambling to get out in front of them.
Several major tech companies are cramming product announcements into this holiday-shortened workweek…In past years it was common for technology companies to deliver product news at trade shows like the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Now some major companies have scaled back their presence at those conventions and followed Apple’s lead in running their own elaborate news conferences, hoping to grab the news media’s undivided attention.
Fall product introductions are important to companies seeking to generate excitement ahead of the holiday shopping season. The fall has become especially jam-packed with news in recent years as both the number of companies involved and their product lines have grown, with the addition of players like Amazon and its Kindle products as well as all the companies building mobile devices based on Google’s Android operating system.
My girlfriend and I stayed at her beach house on Long Island for a few days. It was nice to enjoy time in the sun, on the beautiful beach at Smith Point. I generally fight wind, sand and ocean spray while trying to read the newspaper there. After leafing through the NY Times (my favorite), I read the NY Daily News (hers). During this trip I zeroed in on the following NY tech-related stories in the News. Please see link below to get excerpts and links to the full articles:
In the tech PR field, we have an interesting and sometimes tortured relationship with VCs. Especially for those of us that work with startups, we value the financial muscle that they bring. We greatly appreciate it when they they introduce us to their portfolio companies.
On the other hand, things can get tricky when VCs try to micromanage PR programs, as I wrote in this post awhile back.
As a group, they have always seemed a bit impenetrable. Sure most of them are scary smart and understand all areas of business including PR. However, many have been reluctant to toot their own horns and use the tools of the PR trade.This seems to be changing, according to an article in the NY Times yesterday, which highlights the success of Andreesen Horowitz (a firm that has not been shy about using PR), and the trend of VC firms to embrace PR and other forms of marketing.
Here is an excerpt:
It wasn’t so long ago that venture capitalists kept secrets…Self-promotion was shunned [by VCs] as crass. Now, Sand Hill Road in Silicon Valley is one long parade route. Venture capitalists are hiring full-time public relations experts to tell bloggers and reporters of their investing prowess. They publicize their every doing and thought on Twitter and in blog posts.The self-promotion, branding and race to build an admiring Twitter following, people here say, is a symptom of the stresses on the consolidating venture capital industry…But the biggest catalyst for the attention-seeking atmosphere, venture capitalists say, has been the rise of Andreessen Horowitz. The speed with which the venture firm — started by Marc Andreessen, the co-founder of Netscape, and Ben Horowitz, a former executive there — has rocketed to the top ranks has served as a case study in successful self-promotion.
Seth Schiesel, who covered apps for the NY Times before leaving the beat recently, wrote in his final App Smart column:
Of the hundreds of thousands of apps on the market, at least 20 percent aren’t worth a glance, yet they constantly clutter the search results of Apple’s App Store or Google Play for Android.
Number one on his Wish List for a Booming Industry is to improve search in the app stores.
When search grows frustrating, people often turn to top app lists – but may or may not trust them. The second item on Seth’s list is to “eliminate shills”:
Of course, with so many user reviews being written by software bots, Google and Apple may not wish to rely too heavily on such reviews to determine search results.
WSJ covered some of the same ground in a great article that compared the early days and rapid growth of app industry to Tin Pan Alley, i.e. the birth of the recorded music era:
As with the songsters of earliest Tin Pan Alley, the apps business now is open to virtually anyone with a good idea. Then and now, mass audiences created the hope of quick, large profits. Then and now, success was rampantly cloned.
The Journal article says that developing the apps is relatively easy; getting attention for them is the main challenge:
Marketing and selling the app remains a crude undertaking. It’s still difficult for users to discover new apps much beyond Apple’s “Top 10″ lists. As in Tin Pan Alley, a mercenary world of gimmickry and “hit-making” middlemen promise to push an app onto these charts. Song-plugging has even returned. Today it’s called “pay per install”—in which app developers pay anywhere from a quarter to a few dollars for each app download.
Both articles covered the challenges of app discovery, but neither one offered a very obvious solution – and one that can be of great value for app developers, users and app store owners alike. Yes, there is a great way for app developers to get attention – and for users to find apps with confidence – and that is through good old fashioned editorial coverage – and the PR that can help get this.
PR can get app companies on the radars of influential (read: professional, not user) reviewers. Reviews point users in the direction of top apps. And, just like Google uses links from high ranking sites to guide users to the most relevant and credible Web pages, there is no reason that app stores can’t factor editorial coverage into their search algorithms.
Users are turning to the growing list of reporters, blogs, and columns that review apps; and developers are discovering the power of PR to help win success.
My monthly column on Neal Schaffer’s Windmill Networking today is about visual content marketing. I thought that this might be a good opportunity to also talk about the use of images in PR. As I point out in the article, PR has generally been more about words than pictures. Given the growing use of imagery in content and story telling, however, it seems natural that we should embrace the trend and seek to master visual info.
Back in 2007 I blogged about a Businessweek article that shared some interesting research. My post From Madmen to PR’s Holy Grail pointed out the very real and quantifiable impact of reputation on a company’s stock price. Here is an excerpt:
[the article] reported on the growing trend of turning reputation management into a science, and cited research isolating and identifying the specific premium (or drag) that a company’s reputation can add to (or subtract from) its stock price.
That was almost five years ago. Flash forward to my post last week on this blog, which cited a Wall Street Journal article that maintained that corporate crises cause little lasting damage to reputations, stock prices and balance sheets these days.
It is interesting, if you believe it – and I am wondering if things have changed to the extent that reputation matters less, in terms of quantifiable financial impact.
Stay tuned to this blog for more on this topic. Meanwhile, it would be good to know what your thoughts are.