Ahh, the oxygen of publicity; take a gulp of that exalted air! How will anybody know what a perfectly disruptive business model you are creating unless somebody is telling them about it?
Of course, you and your team can talk to people about your startup until you are blue in the face (which, incidentally, is probably what you’ll look like when starved of the oxygen of publicity), but it just sounds so much better when somebody else is doing it for you. Right?
Well, not wrong, exactly, but break it down and not everything in the startup-to-PR-to-journo-to-ads-to-potential-client journey seems exactly as it should be. It’s not exactly broken, but it could certainly do with a splash of WD40 and a vigorous rub down with a moist lather. What couldn’t?
Let’s discuss it through the medium of chocolate!
Let’s say you, a founder, really really like chocolate, and you’ve come up with a new recipe for chocolate, and you want everybody else who likes chocolate as much as you do to try your recipe. So the first thing you need to do, you figure, is hire a PR person, somebody who is maybe not that into chocolate but can do a jolly good impression of a chocolate lover in exchange for some money.
That PR person also tells you they know tonnes of influential people who can write, talk about, make movies about and even go on TV or in the tabloids munching chocolate (Anthea Turner anyone?) But do they really like chocolate?
They think chocolate is pretty great. Well, some of them do. Some of them have eaten lots of chocolate and know good chocolate when they see/taste it. But some of them have eaten so much chocolate that they feel kind of cynical about chocolate and it’s made them a bit grumpy. These are the journalists.
Some people do an even better impression of a chocolate lover than the PR peeps – these people are called actors. It’s worth mentioning here that both journalists and actors are both quite partial to money too. Aren’t we all. You can convert money into chocolate if you want, or use money for all sorts of other pursuits, like paying your bills and having a life, but you can’t convert chocolate into money. That’s worth bearing in mind.
Does it matter to you why your customers buy from you?
Other people have some spare money (either a little, a lot, or a medium amount), and are wondering what to spend it on – these are your clients. These people, because they have spare money, have options about what to spend it on. Do they want to fix a problem they have, like bad teeth, a hole in their ceiling, or a new kitchen. Or maybe they want to spend their money on something ephemeral and thrilling, like chocolate.
Very few of them will just give their money away willy-nilly without fretting about the consequences, and if they decide to give their money to you in exchange for chocolate, they will judge that chocolate, and judge you, against all the other resources they could have allocated their money to. That means you need to exert a degree of control over what people are saying about your chocolate. If, for example, an actor tells them that your chocolate will make them feel sexy, and they try it, and it doesn’t, they are not going to be happy with you.
A cynic might tell you that once the money is in your pocket, it doesn’t matter, it’s all good, and they will soon forget they were ever angry with you. Hell, now they’re used to the taste, they’ll probably buy some more chocolate from you.
So you might end up with more money, and more chocolate! But hold on, what’s that sick feeling in your stomach. Didn’t you start out as a chocolate lover? And you wanted people to think your chocolate was the best. And now some people are pretending to love it, and others are just buying it because it’s easy and convenient.
Does your chocolate seem kind of rotten now? That rarefied air you were breathing in a little musty? It’s not the chocolate is it!? It surely is. You didn’t achieve what you set out to achieve, because you got waylaid by a crappy PR campaign.
But you still have money, right? Shame the only thing you can buy is crappy chocolate or other equally crappy products. All we’re saying is: don’t let your sweet dreams turn into a choccy nightmare.
Keep on hustlin’