3 Ways to Stink at PR And How To Improve

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Some people just stink at PR for example by offering boring spokespersons. As background, PR stands for “public relations” which typically means getting press coverage. It’s coming up with messages and then passing those on to the press. If you went to PR school like me you learn that what PR really means is changing someone’s mind about something. But the modern definition is media relations.

Great PR is about knowing journalists’ wants, needs and deadlines and actually doing what they ask. It’s so simple: learn what they want and give it to them. For example the IDG media will tell you they value CIO/chief information officer viewpoints on timely trends as well as customer case studies that are interesting and relevant. Henry Norr, formerly with the San Francisco Chronicle said something that stuck with me: “Your client is the media. It’s not the company that pays you. Make the media happy and you will do well in PR.”

Back to not giving reporters what they want. How many times have I seen a PR manager or director try to put a triangular peg into a round hole? The journalist wants a story: they want to discuss a problem and a solution relating to something timely. They want eyeballs on their story. Make sure what you pitch them falls within their beat. If they need to interview a venture capitalist by 4 pm about hot collaboration startups then by golly, get them that exact thing or keep quiet.

What is too common is bad PR people announce a third generation me-too beta product via long press release just to get some news out. It fills up journalists’ inboxes. It gets ignored. It makes it far less likely that they will open an email from that PR person again.

I watch some people crash and burn in their PR jobs by never innovating on what the marketing lead wants which is typically product advertising and churning out press release after press release of garbage.

What are the three main problems contributing to bad PR, and how can you avoid them?

1) Spokespersons cannot tell a story. I have 30 years of PR experience and a boat load of awards for results mostly from IBM. I can lead a horse to water but brothers and sisters, I cannot make them drink. If you are insisting on a boring spokesperson who cannot story-tell or your only key message is boring, you will not get a story. I repeat. An interview does not mean a story. A spokesperson can easily kill a story. I’m very good at securing interviews. If you blow it, I can’t save you. How to fix it: do better media training or use a different spokesperson. When I was working with a large company often I’d “hand pick” my own spokesperson even if they were the non obvious choice. Once in a while the obvious choice was the best one though. (I love when that happens. There was a sales VP in a software division who could story-tell like Burl Ives. He was my favorite.)

2) A boring press release. Issuing a news release with boring non-news will get you blacklisted by some writers. They will open one blah press release and probably ignore your next email. Another route to take: If you need to get something out there so your company gets attention, try a feature press release instead of saying you are on your fourth product version, or “Here’s our beta product.”  Make it an interesting story: tie to something happening in the world that is conversation-worthy. Test the story on a family member. Teens will give you candid advice. I can make a commodity technology product interesting by discussing something interesting related to it. The writer then has a real headline and angle. Did you really expect them to write a story saying, “So and so company announces a second generation beta product with no new technology that is not shipping yet”? If they wrote the truth you’d probably be pretty angry. Unfortunately those types of details are often hidden in press releases. The writer finds this out in an interview and then they drop the idea of doing a story.

3) Re-announcing something. Years ago as a consultant I was asked to pitch a story about a new division of a large Asian company opening  up in the Silicon Valley. I placed a nice story within 30 minutes which made everyone happy. However, I found out a little while later that this was the second time they announced this exact news. Now I did  place that story, a win, but the reporter took my word for it and filed fast. After she found out it had been issued previously she was a bit put off. No one else filed a story. Now I know to do an internet search for that news before I pitch it. If I see an old press release on the same news, I change up the way I talk about it. Perhaps it’s a news pitch, “A look at where this new division is six months later.” The way to prevent this: search the news online before taking someone’s word for it that it is news. If  it’s not change your pitch strategy and tactic.

 

 

So if you aren’t getting press coverage, ask yourself, am I giving journalists what they really want? And review your press release schedule and choice of spokesmen. Tell an interesting story or discuss a trend. Pick the non obvious person to tell it if necessary.

Making a simple change might save your PR program and your job.

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Michelle McIntyre gets attention for companies mostly in the technology space through creative press relations and content marketing. An IBM vet, she’s a micro-influencer on Twitter in the area of future of work and recipient of more than 10 awards for outstanding results. Follow her @FromMichelle

Thou Shalt Follow These 10 PR Commandments

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A commandment is defined as a divine rule. If you want to be a devout public relations professional, follow these 10 PR commandments in 2020.

Thou shalt spell check PR materials. Let pitch notes, press releases, client reports, blog stories, speeches, video scripts and so on sit overnight. Proofread it again in the morning or have someone else look at it. Sometimes editors will share an error-filled pitch or press release over social media to showcase poor communication that they have received.

Thou shalt keep thy PR message brief. Pitches more than 250 words might be hard for a top tier writer to comprehend. Some writers receive 400+ email pitches a day. Get to your point concisely.

Thou shalt surprise thy journalist. When you write a press release, ask yourself, did you include something new, interesting or surprising? Did you explain how it would improve someone’s life or improve a business process?

Thou shalt have a PR coverage goal. When you set out to garner attention for a company, concept or product, set a success bar. How much attention is considered successful? For example, your goal could be one feature print story, two TV news spots and five million impressions.  A tool like Meltwater could help.

Thou shalt not annoy an editor with too much follow up. Too many follow up messages might get you blacklisted by a writer. Use logic when following up. Instead of asking, did you receive the pitch note, ask something else like, are you back from holiday? Or, how was the trade show?

Thou shalt not abuse a mobile phone number. When a writer gives you their mobile phone number, don’t call it unless the situation is urgent. Typically people now can receive an email or direct social media message pretty quickly.

Thou shalt read a recent story by the writer before pitching. Read a recent story by the journalist before reaching out. If you don’t see any stories published in the past couple of years, they may not be worth your time. Maybe they took a job in PR, which is common these days. The exception is someone who edits but doesn’t have bylines. But lately it seems that editors publish as well.

Thou shalt not pitch via public Twitter profile. Journalists like scoops. They are not likely to discuss a solid story idea over their Twitter account for the competition to see. Some read direct messages but to send them a message they have to be following you. So it helps to have a quality Twitter profile and messages.

Thou shalt listen to what the writer wants. If a writer wants to only talk to customers and not the CEO, don’t keep offering interviews with the CEO.

Thou shalt say, “no” and add “try this instead.” When the lead marketing executive demands that you issue a press release on a drab, me-too, follow-on product, don’t be a yes man or woman. Offer a better idea like production of a video featuring a happy customer of the first product. Or write a pitch featuring a happy customer and success story: offer the customer as an interview source to a favorite writer. Mention the new product briefly as an aside.

Save the in-depth new product description for direct communications with customers and prospects and/or the right social media channels.

Boy praying photo:  Shutterstock

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Michelle McIntyre, an award-winning IBM vet and blogger is the president of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC, a tech PR consulting firm in the Silicon Valley. McIntyre has served on several  nonprofit boards and was named VLAB Volunteer of the Year in 2017 for her marketing and blogging efforts. @FromMichelle on Twitter

 

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The First 3 Steps in A Startup’s PR Journey

Publicity matters to your company because it affects reputation and influence and this might surprise you: it also boosts *SEO.

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Because of this, quality media exposure needs to be at the top of every startup founder’s priority list.

Let’s face it. It’s hard to hire and acquire customers without it. Before prospective employees decide to apply for a job, they look up a company online and check out what others are saying. If a company has had coverage, they are perceived as more important to the world.

So what’s a startup to do? There are many tactics to try. Here are three to start with.

1) MAKE AT LEAST FOUR MEDIA LISTS

Junior PR people usually get put on media list compilation duty when they serve a new client at PR agency. Long time clients usually have their lists compiled and updated already. When I worked at a PR agency in Palo Alto, California, in the early 90s at first I spent about half my time working with a database of about 5,000 journalists for a whole agency. This helped me learn how to build and maintain a quality list.

Early stage startup CEOs and their marketing VPs just beginning their PR journeys usually start with list making. And one just won’t do.

Here the types lists you might need: journalists and analysts attending your next conference. Top five to 10 industry-specific publications and newsletters. Thirdly, your regional list. Is there a local news journal that covers companies like yours? Like here it’s the Silicon Valley Business Journal. If you are in Dallas, it’s the Dallas Business Journal.

Lastly make your stretch list. Which media outlets are your absolute favorites? What is your dream headline and where do you want to see it? Did you always want to be quoted in Fortune? If you know what you want, you have a better chance of getting it.

2) ISSUE NEWS

Keep in mind your news does not have to be in the form of a press release. Write a 300-500 story and publish it on LinkedIn or Medium. Post it on your website. Write a few paragraphs and email it with tailored cover notes to 10 key journalists. Make sure it’s hard news. That means real news with details.  As an aside there are things called feature releases but you have to be experienced at PR to be successful with one of those.

The biggest journalist complaint is lack of details. If you are announcing a new product, say ship date and cost. If you have vaporware consider not issuing news about it. Try not to go “backwards” on this tactic. Don’t say, “We need to make some news. What can we issue a press release on?” Read what the local business journal people are writing about. It may surprise you. For example, a writer may be interested that you doubled your office space. They may not care that IDG gave you a newbie award.

3) INTRODUCE YOURSELF TO KEY JOURNALISTS

There are many ways to do this. But keep in mind that they are busy. A Venturebeat writer who covers tech news told me on average he files five news stories each day. That’s really busy.

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You can meet writers at a trade show by walking up and saying, “Hello.” You can go on a multi-city press tour: meet two journalists in four cities and tell them about your company.  You can send a personalized note to a handful of key reporters in your industry as well as a couple of regional ones. Ask, would you like to have a cup of coffee over a 10 minute get-to-know conversation? Say you are new to reaching out to the press and wanted to start out on the right foot.

Note that it’s easier to set up a meeting if you have a high title like CEO, are in a super interesting industry or have some hard news to discuss. Do not send a mass email though. That’s tacky and journalists can tell that when it’s happening.

An infographic in a 2019 Wendy Marx @WendyMarx blog post says mass email blasts are the sixth most offensive act a PR person can commit against a journalist. 

That’s about the gist of it. If you are starting out on your publicity journey do three things: make your lists, issue your news and then introduce yourself.

And if you don’t have time, hire a PR consultant or agency to help.

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*SEO is search engine optimization. When people search for what solution you provide you want your company name to come up high in the search. According to a January 24, 2018 blog post by Dorothy Crenshaw @dorocren “7 Reasons Why PR Matters,” “Established publications that link to a brand will boost search listings due to the sheer power of their digital domains.”

This PR tips article was written by Silicon Valley PR Consultant and President of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC Michelle McIntyre. She’s an IBM PR vet and was recognized as #3 top PR pro to follow on Twitter in November of 2018 (Ragan.com). @FromMichelle Business2community syndicates her PR blog.  The two images used for this story were purchased from Shutterstock.

My 7 Absolute Favorite PR Trends for 2019

I zealously perused several impressive 2019 public relations trend articles and tips today. Here are my seven favorite tips. Most of them list who said it and an associated Twitter handle.

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Some of them are evergreen; others are more timely.  Happy reading!

1) Create your own news.

“Creating news that promotes thoughtful discussion of your brand is possible by commenting or riding on the waves of current news.”

Source: Critical Mention Blog

Follow @criticalmention

2) Artificial intelligence will continue to be a theme.

“AI will continue to be a theme in the new year, as we get a clearer idea of the role it will play and how it can help enhance what PR pros do.”

Who said it: Michelle Garrett

Source: Meltwater Blog

Follow @Meltwater and @PRisUS

3) The micro-influencer finally gets some respect in PR.

“I’m thinking that 2019 will be the year that the micro-influencer finally gets some respect in PR, particularly for those who toil in the B2B sphere.”

Who said it: Lou Hoffman, CEO, Hoffman Agency

Source: Meltwater Blog

Follow @LouHoffman

4) The lines between marketing, PR and fake news blur.

“Another big challenge is how to produce effective storytelling as the lines between marketing and PR blur and fake news and fact continue to battle it out.”

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Who said it: Melissa Hoffmann, Editor, PR News

Source: B2B PR Sense blog

Follow @WendyMarx

5) You can’t wield influence with freebies.

“We all know you can’t wield influence with cookies or taco lunches. You’re not buying a journalist’s favor by doing what most business folks do on a daily basis. But don’t shower journalists with freebies. It’s awkward, so it’s best not to place you or your client in that kind of position.”

Who said it: Ms. Kyle Niederpruem

Source: PRSA blog

Follow @PRSA

6) Make Siri and Alexa your friends.

“PR pros must become knowledgeable in how their clients can use AI for online chat and when their clients should not use it. We’ll be relied upon to help guide the flow of the text being used and when the chatbots should pass the conversation over to human employees.”

Who said it: Ebony Grimsley-Vaz of Above Promotions quoted by Michelle Kane

Source: Ragan Communications blog

Follow @RaganComms

7) Content will always be mobile first.

“The average American looks at their smartphone 52 times per day, according to Deloitte research, and more than a third admit to using their smartphones for work purposes ‘very/fairly often’ when they’re not officially ‘on the clock.’ More screen time means more opportunities for you to reach your (audience). But smartphone screens and mobile experiences are vastly different than what buyers get with a desktop or laptop.

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B2B marketers, in turn, are going to be rethinking the way they approach content experience and design.”

Who said it: Alicia Esposito, Content Strategist

Source B2B Marketing Zone

Follow @content4demand

8) Press relations alone won’t cut it in 2019.

Great public relations professionals will need to understand a myriad of modern communications techniques and adapt accordingly in 2019, if they haven’t already. These include blogging, quality social media engagement, thinking about online communications as “mobile first” and a hyper focus on images and videos. Yes, this means that a PR practitioner without a social media profile head shot or a private Twitter account should be sent to marketing jail.

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Who said it: Michelle McIntyre of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC

Source: Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC blog

Follow @FromMichelle

(C’est moi!)

By the way, it is “who said it” and not “whom said it.” The trick for figuring out which word to use is to replace “who” with “she” and “whom” for “her.” Then ask, which one sounds better? Since “she said it” sounds better, I went with “who said it.”

Have a phenomenal 2019.

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Michelle McIntyre, founder of Michelle McIntyre Communications LLC, is an IBM PR vet. A 2018 Ragan.com article says she’s one of the Top 50 PR professionals to follow on Twitter. @FromMichelle

Photo credits: The top three representing chatbots, storytelling and mobile images are from Canva and the bottom one is mine.

8 Notorious Mistakes Made in Naming Start-ups

By Michelle McIntyre

Naming start-ups can be fun. When I advise clients on name ideas, I just let them know what sounds good and what makes sense based on their target market and growth plans.

However, the biggest mistake they make is naming for the present and not for their business climate many years down the line.

Here’s an example. International Business Machines (also known as IBM) has a name that lends itself to global expansion. It’s more than 100 years old and top investors like Warren Buffet like it. (It’s public knowledge that he owns a lot of stock.)

The name isn’t as exciting as Uber but it makes sense and the acronym is nice.
I love the name Uber. It’s short, cool, easy to say and easy to spell.

After using it recently I’m a huge fan of the private room-or-house-for-rent service Airbnb. But when I tell people to download the Airbnb app to look for their own dream getaway cabin or bargain business trip room, I have to explain how to spell it five or six times before they get it. By the way, you can also rent a houseboat, yurt, hammock or tree house through the service.

Naming a company after its headquarters city may not sound great when it expands globally, especially if that name is hard for someone elsewhere to spell or say.

Or what if the city has a negative connotation somewhere? Suppose I named a store Moscow Chocolates but I wanted to sell them online to the U.S. President? That may not work at this moment.

In any case, whether you are planning to sell software apps or chocolate bars, it’s good to put some careful thought into your new company’s name.

Here are eight of the biggest mistakes start-ups make when choosing a name.

1. NOT SECURING OWNERSHIP. It costs both time and money to take ownership of the new name. Make sure you take care of this early on or you might be sorry later. That doesn’t mean you have to shell out $80,000 to a naming firm although some of them do a great job. A 2013 Mashable article recommends checking your company name here first: http://namechk.com/

2. STEALING SOMEONE ELSE’S. This mostly applies to companies in the same market. If two companies have similar names but sell completely different things, it typically is not a problem. Did you know the game Angry Birds is being sued because there allegedly was already a stuffed animal company named “Angry Birds” in Europe formed years before the popular app came out? Granted the video game came before the “new” Angry Birds stuffed animals came out but if they are both plush toys, it’s definitely a conflict.

3. MAKING IT HARD TO SAY. Do you want people to muck it up when they introduce the speaker from your company at an awards ceremony? Of course not!

4. MAKING IT HARD TO SPELL. This is especially true in the age of social networking when everyone posts news stories and tidbits so quickly. If you are start-up CEO speaking at a trade show and you want people to tweet your awesome quotes and attribute them to you and your company, then make its name clear and easy to spell. When I’m live tweeting at a SVForum event, I get frustrated when I have to leave out a speaker’s company name because it takes too long to look it up.

5. THERE’S CONFUSION BETWEEN THE COMPANY NAME AND THE PRODUCT. The company Facebook is called Facebook but then the company has an app called Facebook and another one called Instagram. Thinking back, maybe Mark Zuckerberg should have made the company name different than the app to avoid confusion. As widely popular as Facebook and Instagram are, “Facebook’s Instagram” still doesn’t roll off the tongue. Same goes for Google’s YouTube. When I think of Google, I think of Google search. Google’s YouTube sounds awkward to me still.

6. IT MEANS SOMETHING AWFUL TO ANOTHER CULTURE. Again, plan for global growth! Most experienced business people know the number or word four is unlucky in several Asian countries. It’s because it sounds like the word death in some East Asian languages. There are a few of these zingers out there. Here’s a great Mental Floss article about this topic: http://mentalfloss.com/article/31168/11-product-names-mean-unfortunate-things-other-languages

7. NOT THINKING ABOUT INTERNET SEARCH ENGINES. Make your company name easy to find when people are searching for that topic. “Quality Dog and Cat Grooming” will likely come up first when people search for that service.

8. MAKING IT EASY TO LOOK SILLY. This story “50 of the Worst Business Names” at http://bestonlinemba.net/50-of-the-worst-business-names has some hilarious but sad examples of naming gone wrong. No offense to the person who owns Hooker’s Funeral Home but don’t they know what the word means? Is this a place for ladies and gents of the evening to be put to rest? Or is Hooker a highly respected family name? Probably the latter.

In any case, tell your name to a few different people before solidifying it. If at least three of them tell you it’s awful, believe them.

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Michelle McIntyre is the president of MMC PR, on the executive team of TEDxSanJoseCA and director of marketing communications of the Silicon Valley International Association of Business Communicators. Follow her on Twitter at @FromMichelle.

Crowdfunding Secrets Indiegogo and Kickstarter May not Divulge

By Michelle McIntyre

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I recently met an entrepreneur named Kitae Kwon who had raised $84,000 three years ago on Kickstarter for his unique docking station called Landing Zone.

This is pretty amazing considering the average amount raised is around $5,000.

There are some other exceptions.

Scanadu, maker of the super cool Scandadu Scout personal health monitoring device, raised more than $1.6 million using Indiegogo.

If you are not that familiar with the concept, here is the definition:
Crowd funding or crowdfunding (alternately crowd financing, equity crowdfunding, or hyper funding) describes the collective effort of individuals who network and pool their resources, usually via the Internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations. Crowd funding is used in support of a wide variety of activities, including disaster relief, citizen journalism, support of artists by fans, political campaigns, startup company funding, movie or free software development, and scientific research. (Source: Mashable.com)

From a technology perspective, usually people who sign up to use the crowdfunding services of say a Kickstarter or Indiegogo ask for monetary donations, not for equity in the company, and in return, send donors a gift. It’s usually their product.

It’s nice because it forces the founder to get his or her marketing act together. This could mean getting professional photos and videos made or simply writing sales messages.

It could also mean a slew of new customers, if the donor gift is in fact the product.

The third benefit is that it’s organized way for friends, families and of course, new contacts to donate to your company.

Crowdfunding typically works better for B2C products by the way. B2B’s should probably just tap angel investor friends directly for funds.
There are some downsides though. Kitae Kwon says watch out for people who make your product look bad by posting terrible reviews which can often be fake. For example, someone posts a negative review before actually receiving the product.

Kwon said they probably come from competitors or random people who just like to write bad reviews.

He added that you have to be strong and confident when crowdfunding. If it doesn’t go as planned, your company could still be successful. Sometimes the campaign was just not planned or executed well.

Additionally, said Kwon, you could have a successful crowdfunding campaign but the product fails.

The net is, says Kwon, don’t let the campaign define your startup’s future.

However, Kwon adds, there are many crowdfunding benefits. For example, when people donate to get your product as a gift, it shows a bigger prospective investor, like a venture capitalist it is in demand.

Since he raised $84,000 for his docking station for the Apple Macbook Air, which is 10 times the average amount raised, Kwon must have had a huge demand.

For more unique crowdfunding examples, check out this story on the website Hooked on Social Networking. For information about Kwon’s company Landing Zone, visit: http://landingzone.net/
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Michelle McIntyre is the president of MMC high tech PR, on the TEDxSanJoseCA executive team, and director of marketing communications for SVIABC. Follow her on Twitter at @FromMichelle  [Photo credit: iStockPhoto.com.]

 

Guy Kawasaki says Entrepreneurs Make these Top 10 Mistakes

ImageGuy Kawasaki spoke at The Startup Conference this week. (Photo credit: Guy Kawasaki)

By Michelle McIntyre

Investor, TED Speaker, startup expert, former Apple evangelist and author of nine books, Guy Kawasaki gave a talk called “The Top 10 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make” at The Startup Conference in Redwood City, Calif., Wednesday. He is currently chief evangelist of Canva, an online graphic design tool.

Kawasaki has a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from UCLA as well as an honorary doctorate from Babson College.

As a PR and business strategy consultant to many startups, nothing he said shocked or amazed me but his side comments and answers to audience were very funny. He has always had a way of giving business advice in an entertaining and highly digestible fashion.

Here is his list of 10 top entrepreneur mistakes:

Mistake 1 Multiply big numbers by one percent to calculate market size.

Solution: Entrepreneurs should calculate from the bottom up and have realistic expectations.

Mistake 2 Scale too fast.

Solution: “Eat what you kill.”

Mistake 3 Form partnerships, or just focus too much on them.

Solution: Focus on sales. Kawasaki says, “Sales ‘fixes’ everything!”

Mistake 4 Focus on the pitch.

Solution: Focus on the prototype. Code writing software is more important than Microsoft PowerPoint.

Mistake 5 Use too many slides.

Solution: Use the 10-20-30 rule. It is 10 slides or less, 20 minutes in length and no smaller than 30 point type. I agree with this. In fact, I tell clients no more than six slides.

Mistake 6 Make serial progress.

Solution: make “parallel progress.” Startups need to multitask and be flexible instead of deciding that everything must be done in an exact order.

Mistake 7 Try to retain control. It’s a mistake to think that if you own 51% of the company, you can call all of the shots. Most decisions voted on in the board room are decided ahead of time.

Solution: Instead of focusing on how much of pie you have, focus on “making a bigger pie.”

Mistake 8 Use patents for defensibility.

Solution: Use success. He cautioned against mentioning patents more than once in a pitch.

Mistake 9 Hire in your own image.

Solution: Hire to complement. If you are a male founder, look for a female to round out the management team. Diversity is good for business.

Mistake 10 Befriend your investors.

Solution: Simply exceed expectations.

ImageEnchantment is one of nine books by Guy Kawasaki. (Photo credit: Guy Kawasaki)

My key takeaway was that early stage startups need to make their top two priorities developing a quality product and building the user base. Nothing else is as important.

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Michelle McIntyre, @FromMichelle, is a PR consultant for tech startups, an IBM vet, on the executive team for TEDxSanJoseCA and director with Silicon Valley International Association of Business Communicators.