Eulogy from all the Ex Startup PR Professionals

19th Dec 2011
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By Shaakun SethiThings that really hooked me on to startups were the energy, the wacko ideas and the gut feeling with which people took chances for what they believed in. But as they say, all good things come to an end, so did my love. Sigh.

I quit my job with stars in my eyes and was smouldered by all the Startup talks, I received from every startup event I attended. With vengeance against my ex-bosses who thought a consultant can execute any number of clients with the pay we get, I thought it was time to show them that I was good. As it is what do I have to lose? I have been over worked, have had a bad boss (exaggeration) already am a chain smoker, what else do I need! All I could think was, I am bang on in the right position to start my own venture. Yes, I decided to be a startup consultant.

The initial ride was as easy as I could have hoped for, a single mail gave me multiple inquires, something which even my last agency’s BD guy would have felt jealous about. So here I am, a one man army, working on research, media lists, client’s list, competitor know-how, trying to change the ideology that though they are really cool but there are other hens who are ready to hatch their eggs( I am not talking about the biggies by the way here, everybody knows about them). So with all the excitement and a weird sense of accomplishment, I started working on my pitch and Voila even managed to win some accounts!

With the credentials I have had from my past jobs, the excitement in the startup circle was anything except infectious and they were ready to “experiment”. Yes experiment that’s what they call it. So okay it’s my first stint and hey I have the complete duration of 2 months to make a dent for them.

By the way I am serious with the time period. Though, it’s success is as unlikely as Mayawati planning on bringing all her statues down. But anyway, no job and suffering from the startup bug, guess this was all I could take.

The initial ride was,as anticipated, bumpy, but still was fun. Come on, as it was, I had no time to think whether I was actually doing anything except work. The time when I realized that all I had done was learn about technology and how not to spend money on clothes, since you don’t have any money was when I looked at my returns. I was in a deficient of few thousands and my savings were almost gone. I still had clients and retainers but I was bankrupt. With a heavy heart, I penned down the reasons for my misery:

  • Very Low Retainer. which can stop coming in anytime
  • No great knowledge about the product, since I could never afford the time to actually sit and learn. What else do you guys expect out of me, when I have to show ROI which usually takes minimum 3-4 months in 2 months flat
  • No clear agenda, come on guys your key points change every week! (exaggerating again)
  • The biggest bomb, we are startups and don’t need time to learn how to communicate, in short zero tolerance for media training

The result of all this was, I quit, took some heavy paying clients and am happy. Cribbing will still be a part of my life but atleast my CA will again start giving me appointments :)

Before I get over for the day and start dreaming about how could I have been the next Shel Israel, here are few tips for my next generation of PR consultants and if few startup guys are listening to this, then nothing can be better :)

  • Be clear from day one that if you are working on a project basis, then the project will take at least 6 months. Something lesser for a newbie is like willingly burning your own hands
  • You are good but not God, so they need to be patient with you at every step
  • You should be in a position that you are aware about all the new changes taking place, last minute bonkers are not good for anyone
  • Even if the pay is low, the feeling that you are a part of something which is going to be big in future really works. So work with people who make you think you are an integral part
  • If a Startup candidly tells you, “Internal resource works better that hiring a consultant”. My advice take him onboard at your own discretion
  • Last but not the least before you jump into a new startup do check whether you have: Key messages, spokesperson, media lists, a proper plan and a continues cycle ready. (Trust me saves time and money both ways)

Startups, what are your views on this piece? Do share your thoughts with us by leaving a comment.

You can contact her via her Twitter handle @shaakunsethi or mail her at shknsethi@gmail.com

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