Latest Startup PR SNAFU: “Guru” Eric Ries in Wired


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Another head-smacking moment, brought to you by page 34 in the September issue of Wired. And I quote: “The mistake isn’t releasing something bad. The mistake is to launch it and get PR people involved.” Get a cup of coffee; this is worth discussing.

My first reaction was to get obnoxiously literal about that quote from Eric Ries, author of the new book, The Lean Startup. Yep, launching something bad with a full-court PR press is a bad idea, buddy. But clearly Ries is making a deeper statement about hype and expectations, and to tell you the truth, he’s got a point.

To rewind a minute, Ries’ concept of the lean startup is a powerful one, highlighting the market truth that bubbles love to ignore: efficient and evolving win (nearly) every time. Low overhead, rapid response time,the ability to sense an audience shift and position to meet the need — these are the almost legendary advantages of startup companies, particularly as opposed to the comparatively hulking behemoths of big enterprise.

But startups are also prone to a cart-before-horse mistake that can eliminate that natural strength: the temptation to get too big for their britches. Hype is a problem both internally (see in-house massage therapists) and externally (see this depressing infographic on the 14 greatest dot com bombs), and Mr. Lean Startup has a very valid point about focusing on the product and the market rather than the cool quotient. My beef is that “amping up expectations” is not the only, or even the best use of PR.

Put aside your Mad Men-ish concept of the slick promo guys, and look simply at the term “public relations.” Ries may be quite right to beat up on the old-school pump-it-up megaphone world of press releases and sponsorships when it comes to startups. But today’s (quality) PR is about a company having both a voice and a working pair of ears — exactly the communicative tools required to be responsive and open. And the very best PR people also offer a constant reality check on your broader market prospects, asking probing questions about what you offer, how, and why. They are a vital part of the feedback loop you need to survive and grow.

Lean startups make sense — but that’s lean, not emaciated. And a seasoned communications coach is a part of the team, shaping the perception of your company by helping to shape your company while it is still impressionable and fresh.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Kate Schackai
Kate combines a technical understanding of web 2.0 with classic PR savvy, resulting in online communications that both humans and Google love. She joins Crawford from WordPress development firm TCWebsite, where she worked in online marketing and search engine optimization.


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