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Why Kickstarter campaigns aren't a PR slam dunk

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David Oates

For the past six months, I've had the true pleasure of being sought after by passionate entrepreneurs wanting help in generating some positive press for their soon-to-be-launched Kickstarter campaign. The businesses have run the gamut; from high tech audio devices and cloud-based pet wellness products to personal versions of dry aged meat lockers and restaurants.

What is not lacking in any of these discussions is the drive and determination from the founders who are looking to bring these ideas to market. What is missing in nearly all cases, though, is a story that I can pitch right away. Here's why. Most of the ideas are new and without proof that the market is interested in the concept. News organizations will decide to cover businesses based on some level of validation that the product or service is of interest to their audience.

By validation, I'm not suggesting that this must come from sales. There are other factors, including who's already backing the company. Take renowned actor and producer Levar Burton and his quest to bring back the children's TV show, Reading Rainbow. His own fame combined with a proven product concept (in this case, a previously-successful program), got him $3.5 million in support – three and one half more than his stated goal. If you have entrepreneurs on the team who were wildly successful in previous ventures, that's also a plus. Otherwise, there's not much I can do for the upstart until after the Kickstarter campaign when the founders have raised the needed capital and are ready to go to market.

When I tell startup executives this, I'm usually met with disdain, as if I just single-handedly killed their business. Nothing could be further from the truth. I'm not suggesting that their new company won't make it. All I am stating is that PR may not be the first marketing tactic available to get interest in a Kickstarter campaign. There are other ways to make it a success, and I'm always happy to talk about it. However, with earned media, news organizations have to be shown there's interest beyond the founders, and that can be a deal breaker.


Oates is the founder and president of Stalwart Communications, San Diego’s only pay-on-performance PR and marketing firm. He can be reached at david@stalwartcom.com.

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