top 10 lessons of public relations
November 14, 2000, Guy Kawasaki spoke
at a Netpreneur Coffee & DoughNets event on the subject of the Top
10 Lies of Entrepreneurs. With time to spare, he then set the new
standard for content at a Netpreneur event by covering, in his
typically irreverent style, The Top 10 Rules in the War for Talent,
The Top 10 Principles of Business Development, and, reproduced here,
The Top 10 Lessons of PR.
is the CEO of venture capital investment bank Garage.com,
an entrepreneur, former Chief Evangelist for Apple Computer, columnist
for Forbes magazine and author of numerous books on business and
summary, transcript, and video of the
entire event is available.]
Kawasaki: [Here's] speech number two. Fran
told me that there are a lot of PR and marketing professionals in this
audience. I grant you the power to criticize what I'm going to say,
but this is what I've learned about PR in my career.
Create buzz, not ink.
first thing is that the world has completely changed in terms of buzz
versus ink. It used to be
that if you got ink in places like Walt Mossberg's column in
The Wall Street Journal, or in The
Industry Standard or Fortune
or Forbes or Business Week,
the ink would create buzz. I
believe that the world has completely reversed.
Today, if you get buzz¾if
people are talking about you, if you're getting 25 million people
ripping off music with your software¾if you get buzz, you will get ink.
Journalists have no choice but to write about something that is
I will give you the secret to all of the evangelism and PR.
The answer is to create a great product because a great product
creates buzz and great buzz creates ink.
That's how it works. This
is called “Guy's Golden Touch,” which is to say “whatever is
gold, Guy touches.” That's
very different from “whatever Guy touches turns to gold,” okay?
Create a great product.
Be one thing to all people.
much of PR and marketing is about being many things to many people. You should be so lucky that you are absolutely identified
with one particular thing. Instead
of trying a shotgun approach, you should try the rifle approach.
What do you want to be? What
I'll give you examples of specific things.
matter how much we tried to position Macintosh as powerful, Fortune
500, MIS compatible, IT compatible; Macintosh equals “ease of
use.” For years we
spent tens of millions of dollars trying to prove how Macintosh was a
Fortune 500 computer. Macintosh
equals ease of use. There's nothing we could do about it, nothing we
could do to reposition it.
Second, Amazon equals books.
In my brain, when I think books, I think Amazon.
When I think CDs, I think someplace else; when I think
auctions, I think someplace else; when I think electronics, I think
someplace else. Amazon
equals books. Go for that
Third, Volvo equals safety. When you're a parent who wants to
drive a refrigerator, you buy a Volvo.
That's how it works. Volvo
is not sexy. Volvo is not high performance.
Volvo is not German. Volvo
is safety. The key thing
to realize is that you want to be one thing to all people.
Position, don’t be
third thing is that you should never accept the positioning that the
market and the press give you, determine what you want the positioning
to be and set it your way. This
is a lesson that I learned the hard way recently.
For the past two years, Garage.com has been positioned as an
incubator. We were lumped together with ICG, CMGI, Divine InterVentures
and IdeaLab!, but we are not an incubator. We don't house people, we
don't provide receptionists to answer your phone, we don't provide
photocopies, we don't provide anything like that. The difference
between Garage.com and an incubator is roughly 40% in equity¾we
take 40% less. However,
because there's no category called “venture capital investment
bank,” we're always lumped together with the incubators.
Now, I will grant you that if Divine InterVentures' market cap
today were $100 billion, I would be telling you that we're an
incubator, but it's not, so we decided to go on an active positioning
initiative. Now we
position ourselves as a “venture capital investment bank.”
An investment bank helps you raise money; we help you raise money just like Goldman Sachs helps you raise
money. Investment banks
prepare you for a road show; we
prepare you for a road show. Investment
banks beat you up on your business model; we
beat you up on your business model.
Investment banks make you do your financials over and over, and
we make you do your financials over and over.
We just specialize in raising venture capital.
We actively positioned this.
When reporters call us and we give interviews, we talk about
the company and we always specifically say, “When you do the
Garage.com comma something
something something comma,
you always have to say “venture capital investment bank” to that
level of specificity. You
tell the reporter that's what you want in that clause between the
commas. When I speak,
now, I require being introduced as “CEO of Garage.com comma
a venture capital investment bank.”
You heard Fran do it. If he didn't do it, I wouldn't have
spoken. Do not accept the positioning of the marketplace.
Take the position you want and evangelize it.
achieved this positioning, you need to cascade it.
Lots of times the marketing department has achieved it, gotten
it all clarified, worked with their consultants, etc., etc., and they
say, “Boom. Done.
investment bank. Everybody
knows it.” That's not
You need to cascade this position.
You need to tell all the other execs, “When somebody asks you
what you are, you say ‘venture capital investment bank.’”
When you speak anywhere, you send them your bio and it says
“Amy Vernetti, Director of Human Capital, Garage.com, a
venture capital investment bank.”
No matter where you speak, everything is like that.
All your directors and advisors should also say it. Your board of directors shouldn't be saying, “Well, they're
kind of an incubator.” It’s
not a good idea for your board of directors to be saying something
like that. They should
say “venture capital investment bank.”
And, of course, all your rank and file employees, right down to
the shipping clerk, should be saying “venture capital investment
bank.” It would be nice
if your Web site also echoed this and your press releases and your
collateral. The point is
that once you decide on positioning, make sure it cascades through all
Cut the crap.
a lot of crap in PR today, and let me save you roughly $200,000 with
this point. First of all,
you don't need to do press conferences anymore.
If you're Oracle or Microsoft, if you're AOL, okay, do a press
conference. Rent a
ballroom and spend $200,000 on wine and shrimp.
God bless you. The
press will come not because of the wine, not because of the shrimp and
not because Huey Lewis is going to play at halftime.
They're going to come because they have to come, because you're
a gorilla. Unless you
work for a gorilla, cut the press conferences because people don't
care about press conferences. All
they want, more than anything else, is a one-on-one interview with the
CEO. Give them that and
it equals a press conference. Save
the money. It also means
you don't have to do launch parties.
These $250,000 things at Comdex where you feed 1,000 of your
competitors, they don't make sense.
If you're going to spend $250,000 on a launch party, buy a
Porsche 911 Turbo for $125,000 because the next day the Turbo will
still be there. Buy a great car and let the employees share it.
You also don't need to do paper press releases or paper press
kits anymore. I think
those are passé. What
the editors and journalists really want is a one-page email press
release. That's what they
want, and they want it via email.
They don't care about the press kit.
They don't care about the 85-pound bond paper.
They don't care about the CD-ROM.
They don't care about the slides. They don't care about the
little robot that you send with the press kit that says, “If you
want the control for this robot, call me.”
They don't care about the basket of fruit because, quite
frankly, most journalists are afraid to eat the fruit; they don't know
what's in it. Cut out the
press releases and save trees, if nothing else.
Make friends before
you need them.
seems like a no-brainer, but I can tell you that very few people do
it. It is the key to the
successful PR of Garage.com. About
15 years ago, I started working at Apple and not because I was smart;
I was just lucky. Back when Apple was hot¾and
there was a time when Apple was hot, I don't know if any of you are
old enough to remember that¾we could pick who we worked with in the journalism world.
Sometimes we granted interviews to Fortune,
sometimes we granted interviews to Forbes
and The Wall Street Journal
and The New York Times, but
there were other, lesser publications that we didn't grant interviews
to because they were beneath our radar or the executives didn't have
time. During that period of heightened arrogance at Apple Computer,
I started working with all the journalists who were not at the very
well-known publications. I
was working with the people who were reporters at The
Milpitas Times and The
Fremont Gazette. You’ve
never heard of those two publications, and you shouldn't have.
Neither had I, quite frankly. The interesting thing is that, in the past 15 years the
reporters I worked with at places like The
Fremont Gazette and The
Milpitas Times, first they became business writers at The
San Francisco Chronicle, then the West Coast correspondent for Business
Week, then The Wall Street Journal’s West Coast Editor.
Now, I have all these friends who remember me as the person who
helped them when they were nothing, and now they are something.
That's why Garage.com gets so much good press.
I made all these relationships long before I needed them.
I wish I could tell you I was so sly and so smart and so
insightful to have planned this, but I didn't.
Make friends before
you need them.
Block and tackle.
believe that PR is all about blocking and tackling.
It is not, as I said, about highfalutin’ press conferences;
it is not about cute toys and gifts; it is not about anything that
you're trying to impress people with.
It is about blocking and tackling.
Let me give you examples of blocking and tackling.
First, return people's phone calls.
I can't tell you how many CEOs do not return phone calls, even
to The Wall Street Journal, Fortune,
Forbes and The New York times. Return
their phone calls. Return
their phone call even if you know it's going to be a negative thing.
when you return the phone call. If
you have to, return the phone call at 9:00 at night when you know
they're not there¾at
least you can leave a voice mail.
Play tricks, but return the voice mail, okay?
Second, answer email. You
have to answer email. If
you want to have a good relationship with the press, you answer your
email and you return their phone calls.
Third, you never lie. I
have a policy of never lying, and the reason is not because of my high
state of ethics, there's a very practical reason for never lying.
Lying takes too much energy because, when you lie, you have to
remember how you lied so you can lie consistently.
If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember because the
truth is the truth. If
for no other reason than that, don't lie because you don't have enough
energy to maintain all the separate stories.
The bigger reason is, if you want credibility with the press,
you cannot lie. If you
want to say, “Trust me on this one, it's not as bad as it seems”
when you're losing money this quarter, you need to have established
that credibility by ‘fessing up when it really was bad. PR is a process; it is not an event. Most people think that PR is an event where you meet with a
person, you're going to get a lot of ink and, boom, you're done.
It's not. It's a
process that lasts for years and years. If you lie, you will stop that process.
Read, then pitch; don’t
pitch then read.
way it really works in targeting is that you read a person's prior
work and then you pitch them a story.
Lots of PR is done the opposite way, however, which is you
pitch a story then you read what they've done.
The reason why you read then pitch is that you need to find out
who the real reporter is. If
you do PR for a semiconductor company, pitching Walt Mossberg at The
Wall Street Journal to do a story about your new chip is probably
not a good idea because he covers consumer gadgets.
He does not cover semiconductors, so you will look like a total
bozo by pitching him on a semiconductor story.
You need to read what he does, then pitch a story to him.
Shoot bullets, not pellets.
is about shooting bullets from rifles, not pellets from shotguns.
It means that you read Walt Mossberg’s background and his
prior work and you find out that he's about consumer gadgets.
If I have a consumer gadget thing, I send it to him.
If I have a semiconductor story, there's somebody else at The Wall Street Journal I send it to. If I have a venture capital story, it's Lisa Branston at The
Wall Street Journal. You
shouldn't try to blanket a news room, but lots of people do it anyway.
I was at The Washington
Post yesterday and you can see this pit with about eight people in
cubes all sort of facing each other.
If you send all eight people the same press release, what
happens is that one of them stands up says, “Hey, did you get that
press release about this thing?”
One will say yes, another will say yes and so on.
What happens is that they all assume that somebody else is
writing the story because everybody in the newsroom got the press
release. You need to
specifically identify and shoot a very specific bullet at the
journalist you want. Do
not try to spray a newsroom. It
never, ever works and can mostly hurt you.
Be a “source.”
has paid off for me over and over again.
You need to be a source for a journalist to help them write
their stories. The best
attitude to have with a journalist is “I want to help you write your
story.” Your story may
not be about me or our company. It may not generate any ink for us, but I will help you be a
I have been a background source in countless stories.
You don't want to know how many stories I've been in.
There used to be a magazine called MacWeek
and they used to give a mug for every inside tip and leak.
I hold the record for the most mugs, and I help many, many
reporters write stories, mostly on background.
Very recently, a reporter for The
San Jose Mercury was writing a story about Silicon Valley pets.
I don't have a pet, but I sent an email to my circle of friends
asking if any of them had great pet stories.
One of them told me that in San Francisco there's a daycare
service where dot.com executives bring their dogs and cats in the
morning, leave them for daycare all day and come back and get them.
That's kind of a unique story, so I told it to the reporter and
it appeared in her story about pets in Silicon Valley.
There was nothing about Garage.com in that story, but you know
what? Some day, when I need something from her, she will remember
that I helped her with the Silicon Valley pet story. You need to be a source.
If you do these things, I swear, you will get lots of buzz and
lots of press. That's
speech number two.