Guerilla Marketing for Tech Startups or PR Hacks

Photo by Adam Kalsey
Photo by Adam Kalsey

I recently moderated a panel of local Sacramento startup founders on guerilla marketing and what we called PR hacks.  How to breakthrough and get the word out without breaking the bank.

Along the way we talked about the use of faux-protests, by when they launched, Oreo’s recent a cappella flash mobs across New York and heard from people on the front lines of making people learn about their business including:

The whole panel runs about an hour and can be viewed on the Social Media Club Sacramento channel on Ustream.  if you don’t want to watch the whole thing here’s a few tips from the panelists:

  • Sure, it’s fun to blow things up, but if you are going to do a stunt make sure it maps back to what you are trying to show about your product;
  • If you can’t be good, be really, really bad. Example, don’t go halfway at a trade show. Stand out, at either end of the spectrum;
  • If you’re measuring, don’t be afraid to try something risky. If you see a positive result, do it again; and
  • Be a source of information for reporters before you ask them to write about you.





I’m a runner. Not a fast one.  Not always for really long distance, although sometimes they get pretty long, but I run. It’s how I exercise, it’s how I relax.  I’ve written about running as a great place to have a meeting, running to be the best in the world, running to raise money and awareness and running for the last time in your life.

Image from

Everyone has a different reason for running.  I read an article over the weekend about a man named Bret who runs.  It’s what he does.  Bret Dunlap suffered a traumatic brain injury when he was hit by a pickup truck at age six.  It’s an amazing story, powered by tremendous writing.  Bret’s a runner, and Steve Friedman is a writer. Together, they have shared greatness.



If you really believe in something it is much easier to talk about it


Bill Gates. Image from

I’ve probably heard hundreds of Bill Gates interviews over the years.  In many of them, he was somewhat awkward, sometimes combative and sometimes he jsut walked out when interviews didn’t go his way.

While driving home tonight, I heard Bill Gates being interviewed on NPR about trying to help eradicate polio (note he gives incredible kudos to Rotary International for their amazing strides in this cause).  His passion for this cause surpassed anything I’ve heard him talk about in those hundreds of interviews.  Accordingly he spoke more convincingly than at any time I’ve experienced.

If you have problems as a public speaker, find out why.  Apparently for Bill Gates, it’s because he cares a lot more about keeping kids from becoming paralyzed than he does about making more software. After hearing him tonight, I’m on board with wherever he is going.

Lesson from Mad Men Episode 605, “The Flood” : Showing Up Is A Big Part of Successfully Managing a Crisis

Christopher Stanley as Henry Francis in an image from

Over the past few years, I’ve written posts about “Agency Lessons from Mad Men.”  I haven’t written about this season yet.  Part of it, is that nothing has jumped out at me.  Last night there was a point made offscreen about crisis management.

A driver of the episode was the tragic murder of  Martin Luther King Jr. and how this impacted the characters and New York.  That night and over the following days, riots ripped through many cities across America, but not New York.  Why?  One of the reasons was planning.  Mayor Lindsay had been building relationships with leaders in the African American community in Harlem for months.  Not just high profile leaders, but the people who were real influences on the streets.

When he heard about the assassination, the Mayor immediately went uptown to Harlem, jumped out of his car and walked through the streets talking with people. This was told through the voice of Betty‘s husband, Henry Francis, a Lindsay aide.  Here’s a great article from The Morning News about “The Night New York Avoided a Riot.”

Why is this applicable to agencies and PR?  I spend a lot of time right now on crisis communications, and one of the core tenets of effectively dealing with a crisis is having built alliances and relationships before you need them.  There’s a line in “Spy Game,” which is a somewhat forgettable movie but has a great quote delivered by Nathan Muir where he asks his assistant, “When Did Noah build the ark Gladys? Before the rain..before the rain.”

The other lesson in crisis communications, is showing up, being real and being accessible.  People are less likely to strike out when the object of their rage is a real person.  If it’s a faceless corporation, or a lack of authority, it’s easier for a mob mentality to take control.  By jumping out of the car and being there, Mayor Lindsay did the 1968 equivalent of a Reddit AMA or Twitter availability to deal with an online crisis in 2013.

So, the lessons from this week:

  • Build the ark, or make friends, before it rains; and
  • Don’t be afraid to be in front, be a person and be real.