Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Orabrush and YouTube Marketing

This post was first published to StartupSmart.

The Orabrush is a tongue cleaner designed to cure bad breath. "Why on earth is Michael writing about this, does his breath smell?" you might justifiably be wondering. The reason is that they've done an outstanding job of marketing their business using YouTube and we love a good YouTube marketing story!

The story of the Orabrush and it's success is best told in their own video:

Prior to watching that video and reading about the story of the Orabrush the only thing I would have said that was interesting about the product was how uninteresting and ridiculous sounding a tongue brush was! That video and all the Orabrush videos do a great job of developing an interesting and viral story and giving credibility to a product people may otherwise shy away from.

This is also a good example of how video can work so well as a marketing tool for e-commerce websites. One of the big challenges for an e-commerce site is that potential customers don't get to see and interact with a product or sales people in a store. While it might be possible for a well trained sales person to share some of the Orabrush story in a physical store, that's not possible online and arguably it's a better story told by video anyway.

Interestingly, Orabrush also worked with our favourite video blogger Juicystar07 back in December 2009 before we did, video here!

Hat tip to Bob for passing this one on. If you've seen other companies using YouTube very successfully please pass add them to the comments. And a reminder that we have Suzie O'Carroll from YouTube come to our offices in Sydney on Thursday night to hold a TechTalk, all welcome.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sydney entrepreneurs running group

Just a reminder that if you're into running and entrepreneurship we're combining the two on Wednesday nights with the Sydney entrepreneurs running group. This week we'll be joined by Nick Crocker fresh from his Arafura Games 800m personal best (read his excellent blog post on the experience here).

Nick is going to lead us on a sprint session this week, should be fun! Meet at our offices at 6pm for a 6:10pm start. RSVP to

Monday, June 27, 2011

Blogs I subscribe to

A few people have asked me recently what blogs I subscribe to, so I thought I'd categorise them and put a list together here using the 'Bundles' feature in Google Reader. Note that I only subscribe to sources that provide a full RSS feed, truncated feeds that force me to visit a specific site to read the article slow my reading down too much.

For those who don't already use an RSS reader I highly recommend Google Reader. There are lots of great new startups and apps out there that provide different reading experiencing but after trying lots of them I still can't go past Google Reader as the most efficient way to read.

What great blogs am I missing in these lists? Please let me know in the comments. I'm particularly keen to find Australian news sites that provide full RSS feeds, hence my recent subscription to a number of political blogs.

And if you read this blog and write your own and I don't subscribe let me know so I can check it out.

Friday, June 24, 2011

TechTalk - Suzie O'Carroll - YouTube

For our next TechTalk we have a very exciting topic and speaker. Suzie O'Carroll from YouTube is going to join us to share her thoughts on how we can build the Shoes of Prey YouTube channel into a marketing powerhouse like our friend Blair Fowler has built up. She'll be sharing her thoughts on what's behind the success of some of the top YouTube channels, the kind of content that works and the audiences who are both watching videos on YouTube and getting involved by subscribing to channels and sharing content. We're hoping to get some brainstorming going on the topic too so it should be a very interactive session.

As we've experienced, video is a fantastic medium for all online businesses, and particularly online retailers, so Suzie's thoughts should be applicable to a lot of different startups.

Prior to joining YouTube last year, Suzie worked as a Digital Director at MindShare and prior to that was a Client Services Manager at Yahoo! so she brings with her some excellent digital and online marketing experiences.

Join us from 5:30pm on Thursday June 30 at our offices for drinks. Susie's presentation will kick off from 5:45pm. RSVP either in the comments or to

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Developing a media strategy for your startup - Part 3: Getting your story to the media

This post follows on from part 1 and part 2 in this series.

In our experience, gone are the days of sending a press release to media outlets and hoping a journalist will pick it up. There are 3 key things we do to ensure we get coverage when we have a story to pitch to the media.

1. Build personal relationships with the media
Like so many other aspects of business, personal relationships are extremely helpful in having the media cover your business. Strong personal relationships are one reason PR firms can be so helpful, however if you can develop these relationships in house you'll be much better off. Jodie, Mike and I have all developed relationships with journalists before and since starting Shoe of Prey. Like any 'networking' it's important to be authentic about it. The best way to get to know journalists is to be proactive and take the opportunity to meet them at events, and if you help them they're likely to want to help you. Tell the journalist about a great story in the sector even if it doesn't involve your own business. Introduce them to people who might help them find a good story. And when the opportunity arises, be the best, fastest and most professional person who responds to the requests for information. Over time, as you build these relationships you'll have a ready network of journalists who you can share your latest interesting story with who will happily want to write about it. This same advice could apply to any form of 'networking' that you do.

2. Build your own reputation as an industry expert
Going back to the 3 businesses I mentioned in the first post in this series, Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos has built his personal brand so that he's rightly viewed as an industry expert on customer service and organisational culture. Journalists want to interview him and people buy his books - including Shoes of Prey - we bought 5 copies of his most recent book 'Delivering Happiness' to share amongst the team! Naomi Simson of RedBalloon is an industry expert on employee engagement. She regularly speaks at industry events and conferences and has politicians visiting her office to launch new business related initiatives - all leading to more press coverage. Ruslan Kogan, and I'll add Paul Greenberg of Deals Direct here, have both built reputations as leaders in the online retail industry in Australia. They're regularly quoted in industry press and when their businesses launch something new it always receives great coverage.

It's still early days for us, but this blog is helping to share Mike, Jodie and my thoughts on the online retail and startup industries. Jodie's writing on the Shoes of Prey blog and her attending fashion industry events is building her name within the fashion industry and the 3 of us are starting to speak at more retail, technology and fashion industry events. All of this means that even when we cold call journalists with a story, they're more likely to take us seriously compared with a year or two ago.

3. Tools like Source Bottle and Help a Reporter.
As with many other industries the web has created efficiencies in the PR world. Source Bottle in Australia and Help a Reporter in the US are fantastic tools that allow journalists to create media requests which are then read by businesses like Shoes of Prey who are looking to share their story. Source Bottle provides us with a steady stream of startup, business and fashion related media sourcing requests. The request might be something like, "Looking for businesses who have experienced high levels of growth through the Global Financial Crisis for a business related story." We usually receive a couple of emails a week with requests for information that relate to our business and that we can respond to. These pitches are quick to write and are highly targeted because we know exactly what information the journalist is looking for. We've had some great coverage responding to Source Bottle requests since our launch. Source Bottle and Help a Reporter are both free for businesses, journalists pay a fee to submit information requests.

This post concludes our thoughts on developing a media strategy for your startup. If you can develop an interesting story, react effectively to media requests and develop ways to pitch your stories then you'll be on your way to successful and high return media coverage for your startup.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Don't be nice; be helpful

Great article on giving feedback - Don't be nice; be helpful. This is something I often struggle with.

I love the framework:
1. Ask permission
2. Don't hedge
3. Do it often

I'd add to this that to help create a culture of giving feedback, it helps to regularly ask for constructive feedback on what you're doing yourself. Eg. If you're an entrepreneur, implement a 360 degree feedback program or for something more informal, catch up with members of your team and ask them for feedback on your performance and what they'd like you or the business to change. If you're seeking feedback yourself, then not only will you learn about things to improve, but it helps make it easier to give feedback on others.

via @cameront

Monday, June 20, 2011

The surprising truth about what motivates us

This article was originally posted to Startup Smart.

This 10min video provides some fantastic insights into what motivates us as human beings and how this applies to the workplace.

If you don't have 10 minutes to watch it, following is a brief summary:

Premise: Money is a motivator as far as people need to be paid enough that they're not worrying about the issue of money. Beyond that, it's a poor motivator.

So what motivates people?

1. Autonomy
Let people direct their own lives and work, get out of their way. The video gives the example of Atlassian who once a month, let all their developers work on whatever they want with whoever they want - and so many awesome ideas have come out of that. Google do a similar thing offering 20% time to their software engineers.

2. Mastery
Why do people play musical instruments? Very few get paid for it, it doesn't make sense economically. They do it because it's fun and the more they do it, the better they get at it.

3. Purpose
People want a sense of purpose, to feel that they're contributing to something great. Why do people contribute to building Linux or adding and editing articles to Wikipedia? They do it because they're mastering something new, together with the sense that they're contributing to something important. I felt this sense of purpose when I was working at Google, I loved the company's mission, 'to organise the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful'. And I loved the informal motto - 'Don't be evil'. That motivated me and was a key reason I applied to work there in the first place.

Applying this to Shoes of Prey:

1. Autonomy
I think we do a reasonable job regarding autonomy, we're certainly a long way from being micro-managers. We're very much about empowering our team to find better ways of doing things. Susie has been working on our new home page design amongst other creative, marketing pursuits and she finds that she can focus on this creative work better in a different environment to the office like a coffee shop or her own home. We want our team to feel empowered to make decisions like this, if they feel they'll be more productive on occasions in another environment then we want them to do that. All of our software engineering team except for Mike are part time at the moment, so that makes 20% time or Atlassian style days a little more challenging, but we'll aim to do this as we hire full time software engineers.

2. Mastery
This is an interesting one and something I'd not considered in detail before. A topic we've been discussing internally lately is how do we make customer service a career role? It's something we've not found an answer to yet. I think one of the main issues with many top performers not wanting to work in customer service as a career role is this issue of mastery - once you've mastered customer service the tasks become quite repetitive and your rate of learning drops. We'll need to brainstorm some ways we might be able to change this - future blog post on the to do list!

3. Purpose
What's our purpose for existing at Shoes of Prey? We believe that women want to be creative, unique, confident and inspired by what they wear. Our goal is to empower women to harness their own creativity to create unique products they can wear.

In some ways we're a hybrid between an entertainment company and a fashion company, but essentially we want women to offer women the opportunity to enjoy designing their own shoes, and provide them the sense of confidence and excitement that comes with wearing something you've designed yourself.

Making people happy and feeling confident is a purpose that certainly inspires me every day. I'll need to gather thoughts from the rest of the team, but given their enthusiasm to date I suspect they would agree with that.

Thanks to Bill Bartee for passing on the video.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Creative Marketing

Love Crust Pizza's letter to Michelin Star Headquarters requesting to be considered for a star.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Final lessons on how not to treat your customers from Virgin Mobile: Part 2 - How to prevent this happening in your organisation

This is a follow up to yesterday's post describing my experiences as a former customer for Virgin Mobile.

Virgin Mobile is owned by Optus who license the use of the Virgin name. In one way Optus's behaviour is not a bad move, they're using Virgin's brand to screw consumer's for every dollar they can. If customers revolt against the brand, they can just cease licensing it and find a new one to license. Virgin clearly don't police how their brand is used and I no longer place the extra trust I used to in products sold under the Virgin brand, they could be good like the airline Virgin Australia, they could be total rubbish like Virgin Mobile. In fact my initial reaction to Virgin branded products is now probably slightly negative as I'm reminded of my frustrating Virgin Mobile experiences.

These practices must negatively affect Optus in other ways though. I couldn't be happy working at a company who treats their customers in this way, and many times during my experiences I felt sorry for the Virgin Mobile staff I was dealing with who would personally empathise with my plight, but weren't empowered to do anything about it. That must make for a terrible work environment and staff retention rates.

I'm fascinated by what must be happening internally at Optus for them to act in this way. I've never worked there or spoken in detail to anyone who works there, but here's my guess (and if anyone works or has worked there, I'd love if you could shed some light.):

1. Staff at the customer facing level aren't empowered to do anything, so despite the fact they can see these issues they can't do anything about it. This is compounded by the fact that most customer facing staff are working in overseas call centre where they're probably happy to have a job and don't want to rock the boat and risk their employment by passing this feedback up the line. Culturally they might not be used to questioning their superiors in the way we are in the West, and Optus are unlikely to be doing anything to encourage an open internal culture across their call centres.

2. Upper management spend no time with customers. A closed internal culture, compounded by customer facing activities happening in overseas call centres means they have no idea the impact their decisions have at the customer level. Driven by their board, they set aggressive targets for their business to achieve.

3. Middle management, as their name suggests, are stuck in the middle. They can see some of the impact their decisions have on customers, but they also need to meet the aggressive targets set by upper management. Internally lip service is given to treating customers well, but the reality is this is put well and truly last behind meeting targets. So middle management make what is a reasonably logical choice in these circumstances, they set up processes that work in the short term but are unethical and damaging to the business in the long term.

This is one of the many cultural challenges that happens in a large organisation, particularly one that operates in an industry with few competitors so they can at least partially get away with treating customers poorly because customers have few other options. This is one of the things that impressed me most about working with Google. Motto's like 'don't be evil' really were put into practice and the internal culture was to operate with a view to the long term rather than short term gain. A great example of this is separating sponsored links from organic search results and having them clearly labelled as such for the consumer. Compare this with some magazines we've been dealing with who actively make it clear that to get editorial coverage, you need to be running paid advertisements. I still don't understand why governments in some countries have questioned Google about sponsored links being confused with organic search results when their time would be much better spent following up with other media companies.

Our approach at Shoes of Prey

We aim to be at the extreme other end of the spectrum in how we treat our customers at Shoes of Prey, in line with Zappos rather than Optus. I hope we can provide our customers with many of the top 10 positive customer experiences they've ever received from a company, and right now I think we do a great job of this but we'll need to ensure we don't lose our way as we grow. There are two simple ways we can do this:

1. Involve all key staff in customer service. Everyone on our team including Mike, Jodie and I will always spend time answering customer emails and speaking with customers directly so we can understand the Shoes of Prey experience as they see it. We're already doing this, Ken who we recently hired to manage our operations in China just spent 2 weeks with us in Sydney where most of his time was spent on customer service training and emailing directly with customers. Jodie and I take care of customer service on public holidays and will often help Susie and Jonaye when they're busy.

2. Ensure the culture of our organisation is focused around the customer. Point 1 above goes a long way to achieving this, but we need to ensure that customers come first and targets come second. Customer service should and I think is viewed as a key role within our company. In the future, if we're to set targets around metrics like lowering refund rates, we need to ensure that doesn't mean we reach the target by screwing the customer. We'll need to ensure we're measuring customer happiness and not allowing that to drop, while we focus on improving the customer experience so they're happy and not requesting a refund.

I'd love to hear your thoughts. Any other insights into why Optus/Virgin Mobile treat their customers so poorly? Does your organisation take a Zappos or Optus approach to dealing with customers?

Update: A creative and hilarious complaint letter re: Virgin Atlantic. via @inspiredworlds

Update 2: About 6 hours after this post going live I received a call from a very apologetic customer service manager from Virgin Mobile. She explained that they're across a number of these customer issues and know they need to improve as these sorts of experiences are not what their company is about. She's personally responsible for a project to fix these issues. It was nice to receive the call and I wished her all the best!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Final lessons on how not to treat your customers from Virgin Mobile: Part 1 - The experience

Last week was a great week, it was my last on Virgin Mobile, providers of 4 of my top 10 worst customer experiences I've ever received from any company and providers of numerous lessons and warnings for other businesses on exactly how not to treat customers. I've written about Virgin Mobile before but I've been reflecting on how much I don't want Shoes of Prey to by anything like this company and it's inspired a 2 part post. This post will summarise the worst of my Virgin Mobile experiences. Part 2 will focus on what I think might be happening internally at Optus (owners of Virgin Mobile) to cause this and the lessons we're taking for Shoes of Prey.

If you've read my previous Virgin Mobile posts, skip to lesson 4 for my latest and thankfully last Virgin Mobile experience.

Lesson 1: How not to survey your customers
Step 1. Email your customers with the promise of a $10 credit if they complete a 5 minute survey.
Step 2. After a page of questions tell them you actually don't need data on the particular plan they're on and don't give them the credit.
Step 3. Offer no explanation as to why you spammed this customer in the first place given you should know what mobile phone plan they're on before you waste their time for absolutely no reason.

Lesson 2: How to make customers angry with global roaming charges
Step 1. Don't explain anywhere that calls forwarded to voice mail while overseas are charged at global roaming rates. Instead ensure contracts are so poorly worded that a reasonable person could interpret them to mean the opposite.
Step 2. Have ridiculous unexplainable charges on customer bills like 3x 0:00 length calls in Japan costing a total of $5, that all occur at the exact same time.
Step 3. Make your customer spend hours on the phone explaining that points 1 and 2 are ridiculous. Have staff acknowledge that this is ridiculous, but tell you they aren't empowered to offer any credits in this case, instead they promise a manager will call you back.
Step 4. Have no managers call back
Step 5. Instead have a random customer survey team call back asking how you would rate your latest customer service experience on a scale of 1-10.
Step 6. When given a rating of minus infinity promise another manager call back which doesn't happen.

Lesson 3: How to make screwing your customers part of your financial/business model
Step 1. Have outrageous charges if customers exceed their allocated data allowance, to the tune of charging $2000 if they go over by 1gb.
Step 2. Even though no one in their right mind would want to spend this sort of money, and even though you track data usage if customers go to the effort of logging in online to check it, don't offer customers the ability to turn off data access if they hit their limit, or even an SMS service to tell customers they're approaching or reaching their limit.
Step 3. Leave customers fuming about the fact that in your sales plan you probably budget a certain percentage of customers to go over their data cap each month and be exposed to your outrageous charges.

Lesson 4: How not to deal with customers put out by the fact your national telecommunications product doesn't work 1km from Sydney's CBD
Step 1. Have a hole in your coverage at 12/285A Crown St. Surry Hills, Shoes of Prey's new office which is located 1km from the CBD of the largest city in the country. Ensure calls sometimes half work but then frustratingly drop out at random times. Ensure those random times include during interviews with journalists.
Step 2. Even though you're a mobile phone provider, not a landline provider, when the customer calls you about this problem tell them you only guarantee coverage at their home address.
Step 3. Even though you're having trouble hearing the customer because reception is dropping in and out at this very moment on this very call, tell the customer your system says reception at their address is fine.
Step 4. When you finally agree there might be a problem, instead of sending a technician, force your customer to waste 2 hours of their time troubleshooting different sim cards in different phones to confirm for you that it's not a phone issue.
Step 5. During a 30 minute call, where your customer has wasted 30 minutes of their life trying to explain why points 1, 2 and 3 are unreasonable and why they should be let out of their contract, have your service drop the call completely. Have this happen multiple times during the miserable process you force your customer to go through when your service doesn't work.
Step 6. Don't bother calling the customer back on any occasion where a 30 minute call drops out. Instead make your customer call you back and spend 30 minutes going through all the exact same points with a new customer service person.
Step 7. Tell the customer it's completely reasonable that they should have to pay $500 to exit their contract and don't budge on this.
Step 8. Force your customer to complain to the telecommunications industry ombudsman, wasting both your customer's time and taxpayer's money.
Step 9. Instead of resolving the above issues in a reasonable, ethical way, actually have a formal process in place with a separate team to deal with telecommunications industry ombudsman complaints. The process is so formalised you immediately offer to let the customer out of their contract for $100 instead of the $500 you spent hours not budging on previously. You clearly structure your processes in this way so you can continue to screw any customers who don't happen to know there is a telecommunications industry ombudsman.

The above are 4 of my top 10 worst customer experiences ever. I've been giving a lot of thought to how one company can provide such awful customer experiences so I'll share those thoughts and how to ideally prevent this happening in your organisation in a follow up post tomorrow.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sydney entrepreneurs running group

I've blogged previously about how I aim to keep healthy and fit while doing a startup. I've been sticking to that pretty well but at times it is challenging to fit everything in.

Something I've been finding works well is the 'running meeting' where instead of catching up with someone for a beer, I catch up with them for a run. Last Wednesday Robbie Rankin of Car Joy and I did just that. We met up at the Shoes of Prey office and did about a ~12km run down around the harbour and back.

We enjoyed it so much we thought we'd see if there's any interest in a 'Sydney entrepreneurs running group' where whoever wants to comes along for a run on Wednesday nights. We've got a few people already for this Wednesday night and if anyone else would like to join us feel free.

What: ~12km relatively steady paced run with entrepreneurial types
Where: Meet at the Shoes of Prey office in Surry Hills
When: 6pm Wednesday night. Depart 6:10pm, return around 7:30pm.

Leave a comment or email me if you're in (

Image credit.

Friday, June 10, 2011

How your shoes are made

We love video as a marketing tool for Shoes of Prey. We've seen that customers who watch our leather videos are more likely to purchase from us than other customers. And working with video bloggers on YouTube has been game changing for our business.

So late last year we invited a friend of ours Andy Miller to join Jodie and I in China to film a video showing how our shoes are made. Jodie edited the video together earlier this year and here it is:

We've had a great response to it from customers so far. It goes a long way to explaining our mid to high end brand/price positioning in the market, and why it takes 5 weeks to hand make and deliver a customer's shoes.

We've embedded it on our website and we're linking to it in an email we send customer's to let them know we've shipped their shoes to them.

How have you seen other retailers using video on their websites?

This post originally appeared on Power Retail.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Viral Me

Great article: "Devin Friedman of GQ socialises with the barely pubescent geniuses of Silicon Valley and asks: What is the endgame of your revolution? And can you promise me it won't suck?"

via @superzac

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Site search on SurfStitch

Loving site search on Australian surfwear online retailer Above are search results for the phrase: 'blue boardies on sale'. The results are 8 pairs of blue boardies on sale on the site. Bam.

via @GrantArnott and built by SLI Systems.

Monday, June 6, 2011

How great leaders inspire action

Fantastic video discussing how great leaders inspire action:

Applying this to Shoes of Prey:

Why - We believe that women want to be creative, unique, confident and inspired by what they wear.
How - We empower women to harness their own creativity to create unique products they can wear.
What - We happen to hand make beautiful shoes. "Want to buy one?"

How would you apply Simon's comment to what you do each day? "Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care?"

Via @nativedigital.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Our business is less about the founders and more about the team from this point

This blog post was originally posted to StartupSmart.

I was talking through Shoes of Prey's strategy with a good friend Chris Chan the other day and he made the following observation:

"From where you are now, the success of Shoes of Prey is less about the founders and more about your team."

This is an excellent insight and not one that had fully formed in my mind until Chris said it. We're now a team of 14 in our Australian and China offices and we're 22 if you count our partner offices in Japan, Russia and the Netherlands. Mike, Jodie and I are 3 people and we're becoming a smaller percentage of the overall team as we grow. In our first 6 months if something went wrong we could change what we were working on and handle it. If we wanted to boost sales we could develop a new marketing idea, execute and watch as it tripled our sales. As we grow larger doing the same thing just isn't possible for 3 people. Tripling our sales now requires all of us in Sydney and our partner offices to develop ideas and execute them well. If there's a manufacturing issue the scale likely means it will require all hands on deck from our team in China to resolve it.

Chris made the point that moving from a reliance on the founders to the broader team is where so many small/medium businesses fail. If the founders retain the attitude that they can solve and do everything they'll not only burn themselves out, but they simply won't be able to do it and the business will flounder.

Fortunately I think we've been making the right moves as we make this transition. It's an easy thing to say, but I really am being honest when I say we have an amazing team. Susie has gone far above and beyond the call of duty since she joined us in December. She's taken the customer service reigns and any of our customers will (and unprompted often do) attest to what great service she provides. In addition to this she's doing some fantastic marketing work with Jodie which should bear fruit for us soon (more on that to come in a future post). Jonaye who recently started with us has taken to her customer service wonderperson role with incredible enthusiasm and has picked things up very quickly.

Our 3 software engineering students Mel, Bel and Charles have already proven that being a student is no barrier to writing and implementing brilliant code. We literally hired 3 of UNSW's best students and they're proving to us just why that's the case. Our team in China, Qun, Penny, Holly, Jophie, James and most recently Ken couldn't be doing a better job of managing our orders and shipping our shoes. Their attention to detail in ensuring we always ship the right pair of shoes to the right customer, with the right photograph and letter, and the speed and efficiency in which they do their work is extraordinary. They're also 6 of the nicest, must enjoyable people to spend time with as I've experienced over the last few months.

Retaining such a great team is not easy, we've had Vanessa and Carmen both leave our business recently, however we're making the right moves in regards to retention. Our management and bonus systems will help ensure we're rewarding people appropriately for their work. Our stock options plan will mean employees can share in the success of our business financially. We provide free lunch in our Sydney office, free lunch and dinner in our China office and snacks in both offices. And we've recently moved into new offices in both Sydney and China - both of which we've spent a lot more money on than normal to ensure they're productive, fun and enjoyable work environments.

Our existing team have all been spending a lot more time on hiring recently. In March alone we did 43 approximately 30min interviews between us, not to mention all the reviewing of CVs and co-ordinating interview times that goes along with this. A thorough hiring process, while it can be difficult at the time, is critical given the people we hire will have such a large impact on our business from here on.

How have you seen businesses go about this transition? I'd love to hear examples of it happening both successfully and unsuccessfully.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Developing a media strategy for your startup - Part 2: Responding to the media

This is part 2 of a 3 part series of posts. See part 1 here.

Journalists are busy people and a key part of their role is to ensure their have their stories completed before their dreaded publishing deadline. While you might have an interesting story to tell, if they can't tell it before their deadline they're not going to be able to write about you! And with so many people constantly pitching interesting stories to them, if you make it hard for them to write about you they're often going to go with the simpler path of writing about someone else.

We learnt this the hard way the week we launched Shoes of Prey. MX, the free paper that's handed out on trains in Sydney contacted us a couple of days after our launch to do a story on us. They needed some pictures of our shoes to help illustrate the story. We answered their questions over email then promised them we'd get some photos we had retouched so they were ready for publication. Unfortunately the retouchers we were using (who were doing us a favour by helping us) were busy and we couldn't get this work completed before the MX deadline, so the story didn't go ahead. MX have sister publications in many major cities around the globe so it's quite possible this cost us coverage in some of these publications as well.

The lesson we learnt is that you need a process for responding to media requests quickly. We've done this in a number of ways:

1. Shortly after our MX experience we set up a media page on our website with some basic information for journalists and more importantly photos they can use. We also now have a large number of retouched photos of our shoes in our shoe gallery that can be downloaded in large files so journalists have access to any shoe photos they might need.

2. We treat any media request with the highest priority. In addition to having a good story to tell, we want that story to be the easiest story for the media to tell to help ensure it makes it to press. If a journalist calls and leaves a message we call them straight back. If they email us we respond and answer their questions as quickly as possible.

3. Be open and honest with the media. If we trust the journalist we'll often share key information like our sales data 'off the record'. It helps the journalist put their story together if they understand some of the wider context of our business even if they're not going to cover it in their story. And if you make it easier for the journalist it's easier for them to write about you.

Being slow to respond to media requests could result in the journalists choosing an easier story to write about or missing their deadline so it's important to react and respond quickly.

In the final post in this series we'll discuss proactively getting your message out to the media.