Wednesday, December 10, 2008

How bad PR can kill a startup.

Many new ventures are rich in ideas, engineering features and programming genius but still over 80% fail. After working with startup companies since 1994, Tom Gable of San Diego-based Gable PR, has identified nine ways public relations and marketing communications can help kill a start-up. Understanding and managing these nine areas can put a startup on the road to building a successful image and brand. These concepts can be applied to internet companies and to traditional companies moving into integrated on-line/off-line marketing communications and public relations programs.

Pandora's Positioning.
The business and marketing plans are crammed with every buzz word on earth, yet the new venture isn't clearly differentiated. Jargon alert: If you talk about being first to move with robust, turn-key, best-of-breed, next-generation, leading, scaleable, end-to-end solutions, journalists, customers and investors won't take the venture seriously.

Babel Branding.
The vast majority of new products or services fail because they try to be all things to all people. They don't demonstrate and communicate why the new brand is better than what currently exists. A new brand needs to cut through the clutter to reach a distinct market segment.

Budget 22.
This is the PR equivalent of Catch 22. The CEO wants major global coverage on a neighborhood budget. Results are driven by agency time and creativity in carrying out the program on a consistent, continuous basis. Match expectations to budgets.

Egomaniac Expectations.
Budget 22 usually leads to demanding Fortune 500-type coverage (WSJ, NYT, magazine covers) without looking at the reality of the company and its budget, products, services and size versus existing trends in the rest of the world. The breakthrough factor comes from being able to communicate and prove how you fit into the bigger picture and why you’re the harbinger of a new trend or development.

Creative Quagmires.
Kill creativity by involving the wrong people in writing, or participating in editing by committee. You don't ask lawyers to write software code or engineers to prepare legal briefs, so why involve them in the creative processes of brand positioning?

Missing Metrics.
The venture can't provide timely, relevant data to demonstrate progress against plan, the competition and the market, or its ability to scale. The media (and investors) demand ongoing proof of principle. It isn't good enough to just exist with a good idea. You have to be able to prove that it works as promised.

Hysteria Marketing.
Expecting short-term miracles and changing directions faster than a hummingbird at a flower show. The result: Diluting budget impact and creating internal confusion. Stick to an integrated, strategic program that ramps up in support of the business, marketing and capital investment plans.

Lack of energy, passion and personality. You have “stuff,” but so does everyone else. Become the messiah for your concept. "Flippers" (those looking to turn a quick buck rather than create something of lasting value) need not apply.

Old Economy Thinking.
Top-down, one-way marketing models and old economy thinking are just that -- old. Think interactive and environmental. Go deep into your database and mine data so you truly know your customers. Connect with them. Find new opportunities every day to show them you’re empathetic, sympathetic and intuitive about their needs and beliefs. Create two-way relationships and build wonderful environments for ongoing communications.

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