A Crash Course in Crowdfunding Public Relations
Or you could consider this a crash course in public relations itself…
First let’s define public relations. For that we’ll turn to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA for short):
“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” (you can read the full article here.)
We need to shine a bright spotlight on the first sentence — PR is a communications process. Communications can have many possible outcomes — agreement, disagreement, disbelief, fervent advocacy, immediate leap into action, a neutral reaction or no reaction at all.
The first paragraph of PRSA’s Official Statement on Public Relations has the perfect introductory paragraph:
“Public relations helps our complex, pluralistic society to reach decisions and function more effectively by contributing to mutual understanding among groups and institutions. It serves to bring private and public policies into harmony.” Feel free to download the full document here.
The keywords here are ‘reach decisions’. People make decisions in response to what they read, hear or see.
Putting it all together; PR is a method of communications allowing people to make decisions.
From there some natural questions come to mind – will the message be heard? By how many people? And what will they decide to do once they have?
Based on crowdfunding history, firm and tangible answers to these natural questions may be impossible…
We wrote and distributed a crowdfunding client’s press release for their crowdfunding campaign for The Personal Land Craft, a new type of motorized, portable and totally foldable scooter that anybody can use anywhere. The press release appeared in the Miami Herald. The Miami Herald editors thought it interesting enough to run so they did. Ditto a news outlet in Hawaii, another in Las Vegas as well as The Houston Chronicle, The Boston Globe and the San Jose Mercury News. Undeniably, this client scored major media pickup
So what happened with all of this media coverage? Not much. The client came nowhere near to reaching his funding goal of $32,763.
On the other hand, another crowdfunding client hired us to help with a crowdfunding project for a totally secure, totally private VPN called CyberGhost which has garnered impressive media coverage from the most respected technical media outlets including PC Magazine, Lifehacker as well as mainstream news sources including Google News, Yahoo! news and others. When we got in touch with CNet they were very interested and one of their reporters is investigating now for a possible story gaining even more media attention. The result? With less than half of the media coverage for the Personal Land Craft outlined in the previous example, The CyberGhost people have already beaten their crowdfunding goal of $70,000 with 37 days still to go as this blog post is written.
Did you follow the math of these two campaigns?? The VPN campaign is a major success despite the fact it has more than double the crowdfunding goal and has received less than half the media coverage compared to the Personal Land Craft project.
What? Huh? How? So what gives?
When it comes to media coverage of a crowdfunding project, a press release is an important crowdfunding tool but it’s not a silver bullet. It doesn’t hit every target every time you fire it off. I covered this in detail and with specific examples in two previous blog posts published here and here. But IF it does hit a target, magic can happen for a crowdfunding campaign.
Why did I say “IF”? Because editors, reporters, journalists, bloggers, etc. decide what they feel is news important enough to share with their audience. And when they feel a press release is something their audience would be interested in and go ahead and publish it, there’s no way to know what the public reaction to that news might be. This key PR concept ties in perfectly with the quote above — public relations helps people make decisions. People can decide to read the headline and skip the rest. They can decide to read the whole press release or related article and think “gee that’s cool” and then move on to the next article while others could decide to click on the link to the crowdfunding campaign and then read all about the crowdfunding project — and then decide to back the campaign. Or not.
For the past five years or so there’s been lots of talk of the press release being dead. None of the serious PR professionals believe that for a minute. In fact, the value of a press release stretches far beyond potential media coverage. Let me pass the mike to Michelle Garrett who blogged about this very topic for PRDaily.Com. I urge you to read the entire article because it’s loaded with good information and insights as to the value the press releasse has. Here’s one of Michelle’s quotes from her article:
“I’d argue that the value even goes beyond reaching reporters, customers, and prospects. The act of writing a press release helps businesses hone their messages and focus on the key elements. This helps them in communicating with their audiences, both externally and internally. Many times, the press release will be referred to for the messages surrounding that particular piece of news. It has a life beyond the day it’s issued.
Though press releases are far from dead, it is safe to say that the purpose of the press release has evolved. It used to be primarily for reporters. Now, one of the biggest benefits is SEO. If you include your key words in a press release and issue it on a wire service, it will help your company, product, or service rank higher in search results.”
That applies equally to crowdfunding campaigns.
One of the cornerstones of crowdfunding success is getting the word out to as many people as possible. Crowdfunding PR is driven by the press release and the press release for a crowdfunding campaign could get your project in front of hundreds of thousands or even millions of people. Thanks to the power of SEO and rapid reach of newswires, a lot of those people could find your press release on the search engines and not on TV, the radio or any source of news or information.
Press release results are impossible to predict but the potential gains make a press release an essential part of the crowdfunding playbook.