Startup PR: Tips For Getting Publicity Without A PR Firm

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Startup PR: Tips For Getting Publicity Without A PR Firm


I came across a great article today by Jason Calacanis on the topic of PR for startups.  Jason Calacanis is founder and CEO of Mahalo, but you probably would better know him as the the guy behing Weblogs, Inc.  In any case, he’s accomplished, and knows a thing or two about getting visibility for a startup.Startup PR

I’ve always thought of myself as being really different from Jason (note: I’ve never actually met him).  He seems to be the classic extrovert and seems capable of really putting himself “out there” for his startup.  Though I don’t think of myself as lacking in passion, I just don’t have the gumption he does.

In any case, If you’re involved in a startup (particularly if you happen to be venture-backed), the article is worth the read.  However, the original article is over 4,500 words and on the off-chance that you’re lazy like me, here are some of my favorite points from the article:

1.  “My philosophy of PR is summed up in six words: be amazing, be everywhere, be real.”

2.  First time I’ve ever the heard of the term ceWebrities.  clever.  With regards to these ceWebrities, “these overnight successes are 10 years in the making.”. 

3.  “Be the brand…you must be in love with your brand and inspired by your brand’s mission to have any hope of getting press.”

4.  “Be everywhere…every single night I would go out and meet folks in the internet industry…while other folks went home to their families, I went out and made a family.”

5.  “Your job is to transfer the enthusiasm you feel for your brand to everyone you meet.”

6.  “Always pick up the check — always…everyone remembers who picked up the check

7.  “Set a goal of creating deep relationships with a small number of folks as opposed to running around trying to trade business cards with as many folks as possible.”

8.  “Be a human being.  The best way to get PR is not to sell someone on your company or product — it’s by being a human being.  Journalists hate being pitched…journalists and bloggers are, in fact, humans.”

9.  “Before meeting with a journalist, it is your job (as CEO) to read their last five articles in full…”

10.  “Your job as the CEO/founder is to create direct, honest and personal relationships with journalists.”

11.  “Attach your brand to a movement.” 

12.  “PR is, by definition a reflection of what you’ve done.  When a startup hits, it’s not one thing that does it, it’s typically many things working in concer.”

I'd summarize the advice and change the 6 words of advice to:  Be amazing, be passionate, be human.  What's your 6-word version?

Posted by Dharmesh Shah on Fri, Aug 22, 2008


The original article indeed is an eye opener. Probably the PR guys would not like however, it is so true. 
Being a journalist himself in the earlier days, he has seen both sides of the coin. 
Although you have summarized it well, I would rather not try to summarize the article and the article should be read fully. 

posted on Friday, August 22, 2008 at 7:41 PM by Rashmi Ranjan Padhy

Thanks for summary of the Calacanis article. I'd looked at, but didn't make it thru the whole 4500 words. Much appreciated! 

posted on Friday, August 22, 2008 at 9:30 PM by dnason

6 words. Don't be stupid. Hire a professional. 

posted on Saturday, August 23, 2008 at 2:50 AM by Josh Morgan

6 words will not be enough for it, but My 6 Points r - 
- Be a Passionate Networker 
- Try to be Omnipresent 
- Reach People with Ease 
- Be Straightforward 
- Be A Good Listener 
- Morph yourself to the needs

posted on Saturday, August 23, 2008 at 12:15 PM by Mrinal

Is it just me or are points 4 and 7 slightly contradictory? 

posted on Sunday, August 24, 2008 at 9:47 PM by Brent

I don't think they are necessarily contradictory, well not the way I read it. I know he said small number of folks, but I read "niche".  
In this space, thats still lots of people but focused on one segment. You could be out with different people every night being seen and not see the same person again for months.

posted on Monday, August 25, 2008 at 9:11 PM by Stephen Baugh

Thank you for summarizing Jason's article. I agree that it's difficult to summarize, but you did an admirable job. 
I've been very successful with #6 (Always pick up the check). Invite others out, and think about the bill as marketing dollars; possibly the best marketing dollars you spend!!! I've generated business, but more importantly created relationships and partnerships by reaching out and offering free meals. Definitely a great return on investment. 
Eric Shooman

posted on Tuesday, August 26, 2008 at 2:22 PM by Eric Shooman

6-word summary: My ego is larger than yours. 
I started to blog about his post myself, but I kept getting stuck on how much his ideas and his image are driven by his larger-than-life ego. I mean, look at the post: it's all, vividly, about things HE thought of and things HE did and people HE knows. 
I end up thinking that he's earned it - he has had enough success that he's speaking from a position of authority. But I spend more energy thinking about the person writing the words than the ideas behind them. My loss, maybe.

posted on Tuesday, August 26, 2008 at 11:33 PM by Dan Dunn

While PR does have it's importance, I don't think a CEO should spend too much time "hobnobbing" with media people. 
His main concern is making his company relevant to his customers, and providing the best value to his customers. 
It's your customers you need to sell to, not the media. 
It's all about customers, in case you have'nt noticed. 
You dont need to sell the sizzle when you got the best tasting sausages in town. 

posted on Monday, September 01, 2008 at 9:35 PM by Bruno

Actually... I think the lesson here is write a piece that gets syndicated across the web on every start up blog and that's the best PR you could ask for. :) PR is about access.

posted on Saturday, September 06, 2008 at 3:26 PM by No Name

i belive that being a Passionate Networker is the best way to get free publicity.

posted on Sunday, September 07, 2008 at 6:12 AM by Creditos

Calacanis forgot one thing and you wld forgive him for this one because hes absically he disoriented journalist(who will hopefully get back to being a journalist again). 
He focusses only on media and journalists for pr while the best form of Pr for other people like us who arent journalistsare our customers. 
provide a great service and they will refer other people.  
Wonder if this point is too small for calcanis or maybe he doesnt care coz he can always sleep with the techrunch guys and get free publicity.

posted on Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 2:33 AM by Adi

These are great points and it's pretty hard to disagree with any of them. However, "be everywhere" is easier said than done. Having a "family", networking with individuals -- sure. But "everywhere"? Just attending every trade show in one's own field can be rather expensive for a startup, for example.

posted on Thursday, September 11, 2008 at 8:06 AM by Daniel Weinreb

You don't need to be everywhere. 
Your customers already are everywhere. Start an affiliate program, and multiply the "places" you can be at. Give customers someting to rave about, and you'll be all over the internet in a very short time. 
Writing an article (or many) is a great idea, just as is having a blog. 
These days the conventional media is much less relevant than it used to be. 
Unless your looking for VC to get your idea off the ground, and expect them to pay your bills. 
Then you have no choice but to play the political/media game, and kiss butt.

posted on Saturday, September 13, 2008 at 5:08 AM by Bruno

Agree with Jason's thought. I feel companies don't need to spend a penny on marketing. PR coming from the CEO couldn't be matched by many PR firm. I also believe in IncrementalPR, which allows startups to work their way up to get themselves on major blogs/magazines.

posted on Thursday, September 25, 2008 at 11:15 AM by Raj Anand

Have to disagree with Raj Anand's point slightly. 
While a CEO may be the best person to evangelize about his or her company, they could also be like fish out of the sea when dealing with the media. This is where a PR team.professional is invaluable. Although make sure it's a good one - like any industry, there are plenty of wannabe's. 
One thing you forgot to mention in your summary is that Calacanis also advocated firing people that are good at their jobs. I find that highly immoral and unprofessional and is a reason why so many people don't hold Calacanis in any kind of esteem. 
Great advertisement for self-loving egomania, though... ;-)

posted on Thursday, October 02, 2008 at 10:55 AM by Danny Brown

Interesting post. I also wrote about some killer tips to get your startup observed..find them here. 

posted on Sunday, December 07, 2008 at 10:19 PM by Vaibhav

I checked out the original did a great job of distilling the information down to its important points.

posted on Thursday, June 18, 2009 at 4:20 PM by Dayton Lawyer

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