Startup Tips From a Startup PR Firm

We at Change Communications love nothing more than working with startups, entrepreneurs and small businesses. These risk-takers are fearless, exciting and visionary, and we’re proud to consider ourselves a startup PR firm that specializes in startups. Based on our experience, we’ve put together a few tips for anyone thinking of growing a startup or small business. Go forth and conquer!

Reach out to mentors who will provide you value, not just connections. There are plenty of mentors out there who aren’t names you’d see splashed all over TechCrunch but who can give you the same guidance and more attention than busier, flashier mentors. Don’t just seek out all-stars but look for business leaders who genuinely believe in your business and will do more for you than get you an invite to the latest party.

Your most important priority is your Product. Your product is your #1. Nothing else matters. Yes, marketing is important, and there are a lot of products out there that have had their uselessness overshadowed by smart, creative marketing and PR. But all of that smart, creative marketing and PR will yield you ZERO results if your product sucks and your customers, and the media, will figure that out quickly.

Don’t be afraid to do it better. You don’t always have to be first-to-market (in fact, it can sometimes hurt you). If you’ve seen a company that has a product/service that you like but you have a million issues with it and think you have a better idea, do it.That being said, do NOT be a leech and copycat that steals ideas. There’s a big difference between creating a brand new web browser with features no one has seen before because Firefox, Chrome and IE aren’t doing it for you, and blatantly ripping off an existing idea. If you do that, you’re dishonest not only to your brand but to yourself. We don’t care how much money you’ll make, you won’t sleep well at night and everyone will know you’re a fraud and thief.

It’s all about the talent. If you’re the founder(s), don’t let your ego hang you up. Hire people more talented than you, who have skills you don’t. And give them what they need to stay motivated. We’ve witnessed lots of boardroom blowups that stemmed from pure ego and relationships go haywire simply because someone wasn’t happy with someone else’s title. Keep a healthy, talented team, shine the spotlight on them and nurture good people.

Pivot early. This is the most critical part for startups. At a point in your growth, you’ll find yourself at a crossroads. Either you’re about to get really big or your business is faltering and you need to start fixing what’s not working. We’ve worked with a few startups who have smartly pivoted and were willing to embrace the change. There are many startups who have done so and reaped the benefits. is the most recognizable example of an excellent reset. We’re not saying that these shifts always work — we all know that for every, there are hundreds of startups who pivoted and failed. So it’s a strenuous, agonizing decision that shouldn’t be treated lightly but it’s one to always consider. You also can’t pivot every single time something goes awry with your business. It’s almost a one-and-done move, for most.

Don’t party like it’s 1999. For the love of Michael Arrington, stop blowing your funding on unnecessarily expensive office space and meaningless parties that do nothing but stroke your ego and prove to attendees that you can’t do the robot. You’ll be stunned at how quickly you can blow through that $2m seed funding and how difficult it will be to secure more funding once VCs and investors discover how lavish you are. Spend that money on hiring talent, improving your product/service and, when the time’s right, hiring PR/marketing help. Which brings us to our next point.

Don’t get PR too early. Now, we’ll be the first to go on and on about the importance of PR. We truly believe in its value and we’ve seen first-hand how much it has helped companies, especially startups. If you’re a startup seeking PR, you’re smart! Good decision. However, be careful not to secure PR too early. Some companies like to get PR input on whether they can “sell” the product during the development stage, and while that’s important, it detracts from your product development. Focus on the best product you can make and then find the right PR firm (oh, HAI!) or professional who believes in it, too.

Surround yourself with skeptics. Don’t surround yourself with yes-men and people who tell you how brilliant you and your product are. Surround yourself with people willing to be the devil’s advocate and who question your tactics. It will help you immeasurably.

Don’t be evil. Can we add this one? It’s really important and perhaps has become a bit of a punchline now. But seriously, don’t be evil.

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Three Public Relations Failures: Laugh and Learn

Some of the most recent PR blunders were so ridiculous, that you can’t help but laugh (and isn’t laughter the best medicine?). At the same time, each case teaches us to remember some basic PR lessons that it would be wise not to forget, and are so simple they shouldn’t be crushing your mind grapes.

One Million Moms Attacks DC Comics For Gay Green Lantern

Earlier this month, conservative group One Million Moms attacked DC Comics on their Facebook page, after news leaked that popular character Green Lantern is gay. Tables soon turned, however, when One Million Moms became flooded by positive comments in support of the move by DC Comics. Eventually the original Facebook post was deleted and with their Facebook page now being offline, the group tweeted, “OMM will be offline most of next week for Vacation Bible School!” One Million Moms has also recently been in the news for their dislike of JCPenney’s pro-gay family stance, urging their readers to boycott the retailer because of gay couples being featured in a Mother’s Day and Father’s Day ads, in May and June of 2012  respectively.

Lesson: Don’t ever forget how viral social media has become. After One Million Moms posted their protest against DC Comics on Facebook, media outlets such as Washington Post, Yahoo! Voices, and popular site Reddit all linked their readers onto the group’s Facebook page, letting people show their vocal support for the newly outed Green Lantern and disagreement with OMM’s view. OMM was unprepared for the counter-attack and immediately went offline. If you intend on posting a controversial opinion, then you’d better be ready to take the heat or get out of the Facebook kitchen. See also: Susan G. Komen and Planned Parenthood.

Kansas Governor Brownback Demands Apology When High School Student Tweets “Governor Sucks”

Social media has made it easier than ever before to track news-whether positive or negative. In early November 2011, after a Kansas Youth in Government field trip, Emma Sullivan, Shawnee Mission East High senior, tweeted “Just made mean comments at gov. brownback and told him he sucked, in person #heblowsalot.” Brownback’s office, which monitors social media content with the Governor’s name, blew a gasket over this harmless little Tweet. They contacted her high school, demanding that she write an apology for the disparaging remark. The situation then grew viral when Sullivan’s older sister contacted the media about the asurdity. By the end of that month, Sullivan’s followers grew from 65 to over 12,000 and everyone had a good laugh at Brownback’s office’s expense.

Lesson: Remember the source before you make someone issue a public apology because of a negative tweet. A high school student with only 65 followers didn’t have much influence, but the major media outlets (CNN, Politico, Huffington Post, NY Times) that spread her story definitely did. Not everyone’s going to like you or your brand but they’re entitled to their opinions and you’ll need to choose your battles wisely. A situation that was truly much ado about nothing suddenly became a media firestorm. After all, the press love David vs. Goliath stories. A high school senior vs. a powerful Senator? Comedy (and media) gold.

PR Agency Tweets That Detroit Drivers Are Horrible on Official Chrysler Twitter Account

Chrysler’s official Twitter account (@ChryslerAutos) is run by a PR agency called New Media Solutions. One of their employee, frustrated with Detroit traffic and its drivers, tweeted  “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to (expletive) drive.” Would’ve been fine-except that tweet came out on the official Chrysler account, making it look like Chrysler was dissing the city of Detroit, a place legendary for its automobile production. Oops. It only took a day before the tweet, employee, and media company were all removed from the Chrysler contract.

Obvious Lesson: When you’re airing frustration on social media, think twice. Sometimes it’s best to just type your frustration and then never click “send” or “tweet.” Take a deep breath, walk away from your computing device, pet a puppy or coo at a baby, and then go back and see if you’re still upset. And if you still want to vent? Make sure you’re on the right account. Even better solution would be to not make negative comments that would adversely affect a client. Social media makes dirty laundry travel faster than you can hit the delete button.

By Courtney Lee, Account Coordinator

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Going on a Dark Ride

We’re big fans of the horror and sci-fi genres. Whether it’s books, movies or some spooky tunes, we revel in the macabre and mystical. So when we got a call from the hilarious and multi-talented horror filmmaker William Butler, we couldn’t wait to go on a Dark Ride with his new production company.

Butler, a former “Scream King,” was killed in nearly every major 80s horror franchise, including “Friday the 13th”

Butler and his partners, John Vulich (a man who can fill a mantel with all of the Emmy awards he’s won for his work doing makeup and special effects for two of our all-time favorite TV shows, “The X-Files” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) and Peter Garcia (another Emmy Award winner in his own right) have established Dark Ride Entertainment as a new vision in quality, cost-effective genre films. After all, the best chillers (think: Romero, Argento, even the recent Paranormal Activity) have cost little to no money to make.

With their entire ambitious first slate of eight films fully funded by their investors, Struans Media, Dark Ride are prepping their first project, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi/horror film titled “Hell Storm.” We’re pretty sure it involves things eating people. And lots of blood.

The movie begins filming this summer in L.A. We’re ready for our close-up, Mr. Butler.

Check out Dark Ride on Facebook, Twitter and at their Website and share what your favorite genre films are. 

We’re very excited that Dark Ride was already featured in articles on top industry outlets Variety and DeadlineHollywood!