Steve Jobs Was Wrong! Marketing Isn’t About Values…

Steve Jobs, Public Relations, Marketing, Apple

In a presentation I gave this evening on PR for startups and small businesses I explained why Steve Jobs got it wrong when he said that marketing is about values. Public Relations, in my mind, is about values, while marketing is about communicating value. I explained to a large group of entrepreneurs at a great new networking event, called Entrepreneur Evenings, that the key to a successful public relations program isn’t about media – it’s about delivering the right message to the right audience at the right time and using the right delivery mechanism.

Here’s a copy of the slide deck that I used.

Do you agree or disagree? What PR and marketing tools do you borrow from the Steve Jobs for your startup?

If you have any questions or disagree with anything I say then I’d love to hear from you on, @THINK_Lyndon on Twitter, or call me at +1 647.773.2677.

It’s us, not you! How PR agencies calculate retainers.

Public Relations, Retainers, Retainer, PR, Startups
“The CFO will determine the baseline hours, and the available client hours, for each staff person… [and] can create budgets that will be the basis of your fee quotes.”

You know when you talk with a traditional PR agency and one of the first questions they ask is, “what’s your budget?”.  This question often comes long before important questions about desired outcomes, commercial objectives, the target audience and what you’ve already tried. It should be no surprise then that, when the proposal arrives, it matches the budget you told them you have.

Have you ever wondered how they come up with the number that most PR agencies use for their average monthly retainer?  This article from PRNews explains how it’s more about their needs than it is about yours.  It explains that agencies should use the CFO to use their budget as the basis for setting their retainer fees, rather than one based on value and creating a plan that helps your business achieve its commercial goals.

This is one of the reasons that I started THINK | DIFFERENT [LY].  Your business deserves a PR plan that will help you deliver the outcomes it needs, rather than one that is built based on the number of billable hours the agency needs to meet its payroll.  It’s why we publish our hourly rates, give our customers control over what they spend – down to a single hour – and develop custom plans for each startup and small business we work with.

If your current agency doesn’t pro-actively look for opportunities to reduce your PR costs then we need to talk.  You need to THINK | DIFFERENT [LY]


New Owner. Same Problems Remain For BlackBerry.

The announcement that BlackBerry has entered in to a tentative agreement to sell the company to its largest investor, Fairfax Financial might appear on the surface to be good news.  The deal reported to be valued at $4.7 billion – or $9 a share – will take the company private and likely bring about a clean house.  But, while the deal would bring an end to the public bleed-out of the company it is unlikely to change any of the fundamental problems that face the beleaguered brand.

I’ve written regularly about the problems faced by BlackBerry as it planned what was billed as the start of its renaissance.  I’ve criticized the company’s marketing and public relations approach, it’s focus [if you can call it that] on the wrong audience, it’s attempts to chase a consumer market that had moved on and the abandonment of its core customer – the enterprise user, and its bungled BlackBerry 10 playbook.  New owners won’t fix much of this.

A renewed focus on Enterprise customers, a new marketing team and fresh ideas will definitely help.  The delivery of the right message to the right audience at the right time via the right delivery mechanism will also make a difference. But, the company’s biggest asset – it’s name – is now also one of its biggest problems.  BlackBerry’s new owners need a clean slate and must consider renaming the company as part of its turnaround plan.  The BlackBerry brand is, sadly, tarnished beyond redemption.

Another problem that isn’t fixable is timing.  BlackBerry’s long overdue BB10 launch has only served to make the company and its products more irrelevant in the eyes of many smartphone users.  The company was behind the likes of Apple and Samsung when BB10 was announced; by the time it landed Sure, there are the BlackBerry die-hards, but how many of those remain will become clearer when the company reports its latest quarter at the end of the week.  Of those that remain it’ll also be interesting to see how many switch to a competitive platform within the first six months of the company going private.

So, while many see the acquisition as a new dawn I still believe that it is merely an exercise in slowing the blood-loss and preparing for the inevitable – the transplant of many of the company’s most valuable assets in to the companies that need [or, in this case, can afford] them.

I wrote more than a year ago that I expected Apple to acquire BlackBerry for its patents and I still expect to see BES and BBM as a part of the Cupertino-based company’s ecosystem within 18 months.

Read: Why BlackBerry must die if the company is to live

The 4 Rs of Startup Public Relations and Marketing

At the end of last week I ran a session on the fundamentals of any startup public relations and marketing program.  There are essentially four pillars that entrepreneurs must address in order for PR and marketing to add value to their new businesses  – let’s call them the 4 Rs.

  • The Right message
  • The Right audience
  • The Right time
  • The Right delivery mechanism

Here’s the slide deck that formed the basis of my day-long workshop – please feel free to contact me if you have any questions on or + 1 647.773.2677


Low cost iPhone changes perception of Apple

If, as is being widely reported, Apple launches a low cost iPhone and an update of the iPhone 5, rather than regaining leadership in the segment, it spells the end of the company that Steve Jobs grew from almost bankruptcy in to a technology leviathan. The company that was once a leader in innovating technology, feared by its competitors for the unbending loyalty of its customers and as a company that consumers aspired to own will have gone full circle – and be competing in a commodity market – where price is more of a differentiator than the product itself.

I’ve written about my concerns about Apple’s marketing in recent years. It has gone from being industry leading to being sugary-sweet, self-congratulatory, contrived and a parody of itself – and competitors, most recently Google – have taken delight in poking fun at the company.  This is a slippery slope – just ask BlackBerry.

The Waterloo, Ontario-based company lost sight of what its loyal customers wanted and, as a result, lost many of them. It failed to innovate and the result is clear to anybody who has been following the fate of the company formally known as Research in Motion.  Without an insanely awesome announcement that changes the smartphone industry Apple runs the risk of befalling the same fate as its Canadian rival.

Apple needs to announce a $1000 iPhone, not a cheap handset for the masses in order to regain its market competitiveness and reestablish itself as an aspirational brand.  It runs the risk of becoming the Burberry of the mobile phone industry!

You can read more on some of these topics here:‎

Do you agree?  What’s your take on Apple’s latest announcements?  I’d love to hear your views in the comments section below.

I Have An MVP. Now what?!

I wanted to share some video clips of a session I participated in at Product Camp Toronto 2013 that looked at building a public relations plan for start ups with a minimum viable product and how to apply lean principles to ensure that you deliver the right message to the right audience, at the right time via the right channel.

Please let me know if you have any questions and please feel free to share any strategies that have worked for you.  If you have questions about creating the right go-to-market strategy for your MVP then please get in touch on 647.773.2677 or

KitKat 4.4 – The Best Apple Parody. Ever.

Google announced the name of the next generation of its Android OS yesterday – KitKat 4.4.  Dubbed ‘The Future of Confectionery” Google had some fun, which chocolate bar-maker Nestle fully embraced.

One of my favourite parts of the launch is this – a parody of Apple’s design videos.  It’s not too throw-away, or cringe-worthy; it’s short, and also communicates a very clear message in a fun way.  It also pokes fun at Apple who have, in my opinion, become slightly too self-celebratory and cliched in an attempt to cover the fact that there’s been a lot less ‘insanely awesome’ to Apple’s recent product announcements by over-intellectualizing the process.

KitKat 4.4.  Take a closer look
Take a closer look

Take a closer look here and let me know what you think in the comments below.  Have you ever poked fun at a competitor while trying to promote your startup?

Ogilvy’s Startup PR offering is more Expresso than Espresso

As somebody that is working to change the public relations industry to help startups to understand how best to use communications disciplines to grow their businesses I was quite excited to read that Ogilvy – one of the largest and, by many, most respected, agencies in the world had launched Espresso.

The story in the Wall Street Journal – OK, it was a reprint of a press release from the agency on a webpage carrying the Wall Street Journal header – talked about, “…the launch of Espresso, a new service offering designed to give emerging brands and start-up companies access to big brand thinking, consultation and measurable results.” It talked about, “a range of services from brand narrative and messaging through media exposure and influencer relations, all within a simple, affordable and flexible cost structure” and said it was, “Developed with direct feedback from the start-up and venture capital community, Espresso is individually tailored to meet a company’s specific public relations needs and budget.”  Excellent.  I was getting excited. A mainstream agency that was offering what I had set out to provide to startups.  I clicked the link, keen to find out more.

There was a Presi presentation.  I clicked play – hoping that somebody else had finally had the vision I had. A large, mainstream agency was ready to disrupt the industry… but, as I watched the presentation it was the same old, same old, with some token message development thrown in for good measure.  Developed with direct feedback from the startup and VC communities? Perhaps, but most startups and VCs I talk with have a skewed view of what PR is – and how it works – mainly the result of the traditional view presented by the industry – and, to be honest, most PR people don’t know what PR really is – or are playing stupid.

Ogilvy claims that their program is, “individually tailored to meet a company’s specific public relations needs and budget” – yet it appears to focus on press, analysts and influencers and looks pretty prescribed.  If it really was about helping startups build mutually beneficial relationships with their publics [audiences] how about publishing a fee structure and letting startups customize their program?

Let’s be clear about one thing – the most important audience for a startup is its early adopters and prospective customers – not the media and influencers.

As for the, “simple, affordable and flexible cost structure” – I can’t tell whether it is.  And, nor can the startups that may be interested in the program, because there are no details provided on the link in the press release – only an email address.  I fear it may be another case of, ‘how much is your budget?’ pricing.  For those of you that don’t know how this works, an agency asks you what your budget it and, miraculously, a proposal arrives that matches your budget.  It’s uncanny how that works!

Ogilvy’s Espresso startup PR program also happens in a 45 day window.  Mirroring most startup accelerators and incubators it’s condensing a lot of things in to a month and a half – which, in my opinion, is madness.  It’s also a complete contradiction of the company’s claims that its Espresso program is completely flexible.  Flexible, as long as it happens within 45 days!

Anybody that works with startups knows that no two have the same PR requirements.  No two have the same timescale.  Helping a startup achieve its next set of milestones is not, necessarily, about media exposure and awareness [in reality, it’s rarely about either of these things], and paying lip-service to the community while offering the same, albeit it condensed, PR programs you’ve been offering for years won’t cut it.  What Ogilvy is offering is more Expresso than Espresso.

If you want a truly customizable, startup-friendly PR offering you can check our PR Espresso – available as a single or double – starting at $175 per hour for strategy development and $100 for implementation.  More details of our services, complete with pricing, are available here

Designed by Apple in California

Apple’s once legendary marketing has taken on a new look recently.  It’s cluttered. Wordy. Complicated.  This is not a good thing.

Designed by Apple in California
This is it… more evidence that Apple’s marketing and PR team is losing it!

Once the envy of product marketers around the world Apple’s team – both internal and external – appears to have lost their midas touch.  I’ve seen the company’s ‘Designed By Apple in California’ TV spots and winced at the sugary, self-congratulatory tone of the commentary.  As a self-confessed Apple fanboy [I own an original iPad, a Macbook Air and a Macbook Pro Retina] I’ve felt uncomfortable with the company’s design videos where Jonny Ive attempts to over-intellectualize the fact that the phone design hasn’t changed much – the company claims that they ‘now measure the variances from product  to product [they] now measure in microns’ – for those that aren’t familiar with the term, it’s a unit of measurement that is 1×10−6 of a metre or one-millionth of a metre, or one-thousandth of a millimetre.

Then I opened a recent copy of Wired and saw one of Apple’s iPad print adverts – and couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  It’s an advert that falls in to all of the bad practices that the company’s competition has continued to make for years. It’s everything Apple’s competitors have been doing for years. Not running adverts like this was what set the brand apart.

The advert in Wired has 16 lines of copy, which, I admit, I couldn’t be bothered to read in full until I started writing this post.  The example, above, taken from the Apple website, for the iPhone has 28 lines of copy.  28 lines of copy?! On an advert.  Adverts talk about their passion for producing users’ experience, about focusing on a few great things and about how ‘Designed by Apple in California’ is its signature.

I can’t stand the latest campaign – it’s not an advert that Apple runs!  What happened to, ‘The iPhone you’ve been waiting for’ or ‘This Changes Everything. Again.’ or ‘Get the web delivered. Like you never have before.’ adverts?  ‘Designed by Apple in California’ would be enough to deliver the message – nothing of value is added by 16 or 28 lines of copy! I doubt anybody reads them anyway!

We’ll have to wait until September 10 to see what direction the iPhone is heading, but on the evidence of its current advertising campaign Apple’s signature marketing is heading in the wrong direction!  As product failures of a long list of companies – from $BBRY’s BlackBerry 10 and $MSFT’s Windows 8 – illustrate a good product can fail because of bad marketing and PR.

For Apple this latest change of marketing direction could prove to be disaster. What do you think to the company’s departure from its enigmatic minimalist adverts? Is less more?

How do I create Insanely Simple startup PR & Marketing campaigns?

Want to know some of the secrets of campaigns like THINK DIFFERENT!, the iPod and iMac launches and the Mac vs. PC adverts?

This is a must watch video interview with Ken Segall, a former Apple ad agency guy that worked closely with Steve Jobs on many of the most important campaigns of the company’s renaissance.  Ken’s book is also a must read for budding entrepreneurs looking to understand how to market their products and services to early adopters, prospects and the media.  Simplicity is hard but, with practice, it will help you communicate your startup’s key messages to your target audience[s] more effectively and have them take the actions you want them to.