Brad's Books and Organizations

Books

Books

Organizations

Organizations

Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

« swipe left for tags/categories

swipe right to go back »

Fantastic Post By Calacanis On How To Get PR

Comments (11)

Anyone who has worked with me knows that one of my favorite lines is "marketing is stupid."  And – if you really know me – you know that I don’t actually mean "marketing is stupid", but I use it as a proxy for "most PR people suck, most marcom is done poorly, and most companies have no idea what they are trying to accomplish with all the money they waste on shitty marketing and PR."

Last week I got one of Jason Calacanis’ email missives from his new email list (post-blog).  It’s been reblogged on the Silicon Alley Insider blog titled Jason Calacanis On How To Get PR For Your Startup: Fire Your PR CompanyThere are a few things I disagree with, but on the whole it’s one of the best long essays I’ve ever read on how to do PR for your startup.

While there are a few technology PR firms (or more specifically – people) that are just awesome and worth the money, the vast majority range from marginally useful but not worth the money to completely useless.  If you are the CEO of a startup, I encourage you to read Jason’s post slowly, and then re-read it, and then think about what you are doing to get PR for your company.

  • http://www.buzzstream.com/blog PR4Pirates

    I can't agree more and thanks for the pointer to Jason's post. I founded and sold a company that relied heavily on PR, especially as part of our SEO strategy. We got NYT, WSJ, and AP coverage an NPR interview, etc. without an agency. My next venture is aimed directly at helping entrepreneurs deal with this problem.

  • gregorylent

    we are very close to a time when pr will be counter-productive … in a hyper-connected world, everybody already knows what pr wants to say, and they can only make it worse

    professionals in the field seem unaware of how disliked they are, and how uselss, metrics or not. because metrics cannot measure what is important

  • http://www.defragcon.com Eric Norlin

    more on #2 in jason's post here:
    http://defragcon.com/Blog/?p=260

  • Alexander Muse

    I agree completely. Great post, thanks for the pointer.

  • Patrick Ward, 104 We

    I agreee with a lot Jason and Brad point out. Both evidence an astute understanding of journalists and dealing with them. But I can't let the swipe at PR go without comment.

    Brad rightly points out, as did Mike Arrington last week, that there is a distinction between PR people and PR as a function. Generalities are hard to defend, but there are some fundamental challenges with PR as commonly practiced and that creates these kinds of observations. The central issue is that most PR agencies and PR people deal with media lists instead of building media communities. This is what Jason and Arrington and others are really talking about: building relationships that are two-sided not a bunch of mindless “pitches” that are one sided.

  • Patrick Ward, 104 We

    PR needs to evolve and many savvy agencies and PR people are and those that don't will be left behind, just as many were when email and the Internet came along 10 years ago. But condemning the industry overall or advocating everyone fire their firms is reactionary.

    If Jason and Mike and Brad all serve to cattle prod this industry into superior performance, great. But there is a highly productive and useful role for PR for many companies, just apparently not the ones Brad invests in….

  • Aziz Grieser

    Interesting topic. Sounds like he would be the guy to know about how to handle PR correctly.

    I can only add that I do not control my company PR, and my company PR does not control my company. I think PR is a measurement, “your company is hot”, or “your company is cold”. We can only influence each other.

    Both marketing and PR investments are incredibly difficult to assess, given the amount of external influences for each. Consequently, there are a lot of egos involved in both industries, and a ton of wasteful spending gets falsely justified.

    Truly effective marketing and PR are different from solutions that currently exist. The point is to differentiate your message. Putting another ad on a page, or announcing the funding of your website on TechCrunch won't have the effect you're looking for. I think there are two important elements in PR and marketing:

    1 – The Sheppard: Explaining what you do that is so great is part of it, but doing it in a way that makes someone want to let others know that they were the first to hear about it is the key. I think that an element of secrecy, or scarcity is really good for the brand. “I know something you don't know…” Scarcity should be used to lure your first-mover trend setting Sheppard.

    2 – The Sheep: The second element gets a small group of sheep to flock after their first-mover sheppard, so the mass herds of sheep can see this tiny sheep group that always seems to be doing the cool thing. There are so many complex psychological factors at play here, but I'll stick with the simplest flocking psychology. A smaller group always proceeds the larger, and the larger never appreciates a sheppard. The smaller group is compelled to adopt the knew thing, or face losing influential power.

    The sheppard will never be cool from using the new thing. The new thing only becomes cool, after the small group makes it cool. The sheppard is usually fucked socially, but a good sheppard will help your product or service solution more than a thousand flocks giving you feedback. I learned all of this from conducting focus groups with child- customers at Hasbro Toys. Kids act more sheepish than sheep do. For some strange reason though, there is always that one kid in the group, who unconsciously assesses his/her peers in the group, and completely manipulates their judgment to the point where they look to him/her as they give their responses, just to see if he/she approves, or not.

    Welcome to 24 hour lines for an iPhone, pre-ordering an $800 Play Station 3, and paying $10K for a wedding ring.

  • http://www.redanyway.com/blog Kuldeep Kapade

    Really a great post, but for first half I was thinking he only assumed physical proximity to the people like bloggers and journalists. I think it helps greatly to only startups from area like silicon valley, boulder, NY, etc. How about startups from other parts? Do they ultimately have to rely on PRs for that?

    But, still I think finally this posts helps a lot!

  • http://kevinsgreatadventure.blogspot.com Kevin Cimring

    Excellent post and super blog from Jason – very informative. I am in the process of setting up a new Internet company, and we have made the decision to establish our offices in Palo Alto . This was a far-raching decision especially since I need to relocate from South Africa with my wife and three small children. I think Jason's blog to some extent validates this decision, as it would be impossible to practice his advice via long distance.

  • MattEmmi

    Love the lifehack appetizer trick. Best part in there.

  • PR4Pirates

    I can't agree more and thanks for the pointer to Jason's post. I founded and sold a company that relied heavily on PR, especially as part of our SEO strategy. We got NYT, WSJ, and AP coverage an NPR interview, etc. without an agency. My next venture is aimed directly at helping entrepreneurs deal with this problem.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/gregorylent gregorylent

    we are very close to a time when pr will be counter-productive … in a hyper-connected world, everybody already knows what pr wants to say, and they can only make it worse

    professionals in the field seem unaware of how disliked they are, and how uselss, metrics or not. because metrics cannot measure what is important

  • Patrick Ward, 104 We

    PR needs to evolve and many savvy agencies and PR people are and those that don't will be left behind, just as many were when email and the Internet came along 10 years ago. But condemning the industry overall or advocating everyone fire their firms is reactionary.

    If Jason and Mike and Brad all serve to cattle prod this industry into superior performance, great. But there is a highly productive and useful role for PR for many companies, just apparently not the ones Brad invests in….

  • Kevin Cimring

    Excellent post and super blog from Jason – very informative. I am in the process of setting up a new Internet company, and we have made the decision to establish our offices in Palo Alto . This was a far-raching decision especially since I need to relocate from South Africa with my wife and three small children. I think Jason's blog to some extent validates this decision, as it would be impossible to practice his advice via long distance.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/alexander_45451 alexander_45451

    I agree completely. Great post, thanks for the pointer.

  • Eric Norlin

    more on #2 in jason's post here:
    http://defragcon.com/Blog/?p=260

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/aziz_griese5636 aziz_griese5636

    Interesting topic. Sounds like he would be the guy to know about how to handle PR correctly.

    I can only add that I do not control my company PR, and my company PR does not control my company. I think PR is a measurement, "your company is hot", or "your company is cold". We can only influence each other.

    Both marketing and PR investments are incredibly difficult to assess, given the amount of external influences for each. Consequently, there are a lot of egos involved in both industries, and a ton of wasteful spending gets falsely justified.

    Truly effective marketing and PR are different from solutions that currently exist. The point is to differentiate your message. Putting another ad on a page, or announcing the funding of your website on TechCrunch won't have the effect you're looking for. I think there are two important elements in PR and marketing:

    1 – The Sheppard: Explaining what you do that is so great is part of it, but doing it in a way that makes someone want to let others know that they were the first to hear about it is the key. I think that an element of secrecy, or scarcity is really good for the brand. "I know something you don't know…" Scarcity should be used to lure your first-mover trend setting Sheppard.

    2 – The Sheep: The second element gets a small group of sheep to flock after their first-mover sheppard, so the mass herds of sheep can see this tiny sheep group that always seems to be doing the cool thing. There are so many complex psychological factors at play here, but I'll stick with the simplest flocking psychology. A smaller group always proceeds the larger, and the larger never appreciates a sheppard. The smaller group is compelled to adopt the knew thing, or face losing influential power.

    The sheppard will never be cool from using the new thing. The new thing only becomes cool, after the small group makes it cool. The sheppard is usually fucked socially, but a good sheppard will help your product or service solution more than a thousand flocks giving you feedback. I learned all of this from conducting focus groups with child- customers at Hasbro Toys. Kids act more sheepish than sheep do. For some strange reason though, there is always that one kid in the group, who unconsciously assesses his/her peers in the group, and completely manipulates their judgment to the point where they look to him/her as they give their responses, just to see if he/she approves, or not.

    Welcome to 24 hour lines for an iPhone, pre-ordering an $800 Play Station 3, and paying $10K for a wedding ring.

  • Patrick Ward, 104 We

    I agreee with a lot Jason and Brad point out. Both evidence an astute understanding of journalists and dealing with them. But I can't let the swipe at PR go without comment.

    Brad rightly points out, as did Mike Arrington last week, that there is a distinction between PR people and PR as a function. Generalities are hard to defend, but there are some fundamental challenges with PR as commonly practiced and that creates these kinds of observations. The central issue is that most PR agencies and PR people deal with media lists instead of building media communities. This is what Jason and Arrington and others are really talking about: building relationships that are two-sided not a bunch of mindless "pitches" that are one sided.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/kuldeep_kap kuldeep_kap

    Really a great post, but for first half I was thinking he only assumed physical proximity to the people like bloggers and journalists. I think it helps greatly to only startups from area like silicon valley, boulder, NY, etc. How about startups from other parts? Do they ultimately have to rely on PRs for that?

    But, still I think finally this posts helps a lot!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/MattEmmi MattEmmi

    Should I be worried that I was the 1st person in that 24 hour iPhone line?
    http://www.dailycamera.com/news/2008/jul/11/hundr

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/MattEmmi MattEmmi

    Love the lifehack appetizer trick. Best part in there.

Build something great with me