Does Your (Early Stage) Startup Need a PR Agency

Gregory Gomer from wrote recently:

If you are an early stage startup and you are paying for a PR firm, it really might not be worth it… you have more dire things to spend your money on than someone out there sending emails and networking on your behalf – like making sure your product is so badass that it is impossible for the media not to write about it.

I agree mostly with his assessments… despite my friendship with an excellent PR guy. My comments are inline below:

He describes 7 ways to do your own PR.

Leverage Your Network: Dig in to your LinkedIn and Facebook contacts.

I would add, join relevant groups (not too many, at most 5) with active discussions, and contribute ideas and tips, and ask for feedback when you get a feel for the quality of the group’s members.

Comment on Industry Specific Blog Posts: If you are a startup focusing on mobile payments, then you’d better know every mobile payments blog out there and read them every day.

This is a great point — it is difficult to make time to comment on other people’s blogs, but one or two comments you contribute add up over time. Seriously, do this. It will pay dividends.

Email Journalists, Create Relevant Dialogue: …take the time to email the author and provide some insight on his/her post, and throw some compliments out and share it over social media to score some serious points.

Follow/Tweet at Journalists: Make sure you are following the journalists who specialize in your company’s industry and keep an eye on everything they are writing. Every once in a while give them a RT and add a little flare to it.

Again, one or two per day. Then get back to work.

Pitch Your Story, Not Your Company: When pitching to journalists on any medium, make sure your personality and founding story connects with them.

Who better to tell your story than the cofounders? Practice your story, though… get verification that it is not boring or dull. Tell the story 5 times to 5 different friends/colleagues. Get feedback. I learned this trick from Guy Kawasaki.

Target Your Prey, Plan Your Attack: If you are going to an event every night you should really evaluate the value spent at the event versus in front of your computer doing ACTUAL work.

When you’re in startup mode, one event per week is plenty; I was spending too much time going to events rather than meeting with advisors and customers.

Gap Needs a New Logo

The visual design profession has long battled the undervaluing of its craft by companies seeking “work on spec” — meaning, “you designers make a design for me and I’ll pay for the one I like.”  Given that no other industry operates this way, designers are right to be boycotting such attempts to extract free work.

Recently, the GAP clothing company introduced a new logo design. Customers promptly disliked it, and in an attempt to mollify them, GAP offered an invite to designers to “crowd-source” an alternative logo.

Some prominent designers rebelled. MULE design posted a great response.

And that time and effort was used to make sure I delivered something that actually met your needs and objectives. You guys have numbers to meet. (I imagine at least a 10% increase to last year’s $14.5B in revenue, and $967M in net income.) And plans for the future based on meeting those numbers. So do I.

And for the sake of full disclosure I should let you know that I’ve also frequently shopped at your stores. You sell good stuff. But never in my experience has any of your employees offered me a free pair of pants because the ones I was wearing looked bad. I wouldn’t expect them to. Their job is to sell me clothes.

My job is to sell design.

I believe we understand each other. I anxiously await your call and look forward to negotiating a fair value for the greatest logo on Earth.

Brilliant. Read more of the backstory.

And as a final update, GAP has returned to its original logo. Power of the crowds, indeed.

When your sales staff is compensated based on deal size, not profit

Interesting if not obvious-in-hindsight complaint about Sun Microsystems by Oracle head:

More infuriating, says Ellison, is that Sun routinely sold equipment at a loss because it was more focused on boosting revenue than generating profits. The sales staff was compensated based on deal size, not profit. So the commission on a $1 million sale that generated $500,000 in profit was the same as one that cost the company $100,000, he said. “The sales force could care less if they sold things that lost money because the commission was the same in either case,” he said.

See Reuters article.