Sunday, August 19, 2007

No Hype

This morning, I was reading an interesting analysis of Katie Couric and Meredith Viera with their respective 1-year anniversaries upcoming. It was yet another reminder of why hype usually hurts those who are supposed to be the beneficiaries. In essence, the point was that Meredith Viera has had the chance to grow into her role on the Today Show (as has Charles Gibson on ABC) while Katie Couric was under such a microscope on her and faced huge expectations, it would be nearly impossible for her to succeed.

You will notice, if you have read this blog before, that our view of the world is that hype is a bad thing in communications -- particularly in the world of young, start-up companies. This is an important reminder today when young entrepreneurs see Google and Facebook and believe they, too, can benefit from lots of attention. Some do; most don't. Here are some of the reasons why:

  1. With lots of hype, comes lots of expectations. Even the most established companies are challenged by meeting expectations that have been magnified by a unidimensional view of a company's strategy and plans;
  2. With hype comes lots of scrutiny. Have you heard the expression "you can only know the dynamics of a relationship if you are in it"? The same goes for start-up companies. It's easy to second-guess a company unless you really understand what's going on inside and all of the pressures the company and executives face on a daily basis.
  3. In a fast-changing world (and even sometimes when things are not moving so fast), it's good to be in a position to learn and refine your strategy and execution as you move along.
  4. Every company needs to learn about their product. Particularly when you are first coming to market, it's important to learn from what the market is saying to improve the product. It's hard to do that when everyone is watching and the slightest change leads to big questions.
  5. The simplifications that result from (and sometimes contribute to) hype lead to long-term misunderstanding.
  6. There are more.

To be fair, I really should enumerate the benefits:
  • A lot of attention can lead to quick visibility which can lead to quick consumer product adoption, if the product is really good. (See 4, above. Also, as a note, I have often thought that one of the great sources of Starbucks' success is that they combine great marketing with great products.)
  • If you are interested in doing a quick-flip financial transaction, hype can certainly create an opportunity to achieve a higher valuation in the near term (but there are other ways to do that, as well).
  • Anyone want to suggest some more benefits?
So, what should a young company do, if they aren't supposed to hype themselves?
  1. Create a strong perceptual goal and a plan to help the market understand it.
  2. Create a good, substantial, and easy to understand story that can form the foundation of long term communications.
  3. Build strong relationships and understanding among influencers in the market.
  4. Develop an ongoing flow of news that helps people understand who you are, where you are going, and why you are important.
  5. Be prepared to learn from what you are hearing from the market and refine as you move forward.
  6. Be patient and plan to work hard. Very few people get something for nothing.

But, don't get me wrong. Attention for a company is not a bad thing --when handled in the right ways. It just leads to an important reminder: Most of all, build a great company!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your point about understanding and improving the product is well taken, however, but perhaps it takes a good deal of traffic from some degree of hype to generate the amount of pseudo-random user trial needed to fully flesh out a products potentials and weaknesses.

So maybe some hype leads to traffic which leads to trial which leads to requisite amount of info needed to understand and evolve product.

5:18 PM  

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