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 http://thinkdifferently.ca/right-sized-services

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