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The Top 5 Sins of Insourcing

February 9, 2011

1. In-house PR

Startups that manage their PR by hiring an experienced PR pro on staff need to understand the trade-offs. The argument goes that by hiring a PR professional, a startup gains a dedicated resource that delivers more value than the average monthly retainer for a PR agency of $10K-12K. In reality, we’ve seen that a dedicated PR resource quickly become the go-to person for customer support and other marketing issues. As important, PR targets such as analysts and press often discount input from an in-house resource. And, their PR currency diminishes as they focus on multiple priorities. An in-house PR resource can deliver. But whenever a startup decides to in-source PR, you need to understand the trade-off: you will not get the intensity, focus or market currency of an external PR resource or agency.

2. A Naming Contest

The thinking goes: if Google and Yahoo can become successful brands, surely we can choose a name for our company. Wrong. Having directed the naming of dozens of companies, we know that naming a company requires not only a structured approach to the creative process but vetting the name for cultural and language conflicts globally, securing the domain name, conducting global trademark registration, and considering how product nomenclature will fit with the corporate identity. Crowded Ocean can facilitate this process or bring in a naming/identity firm like StoryHat. The best time for employee input is after building a short list of choices with the input of a naming and branding expert.

3. Cousin Larry, the designer

We used this example for the web, not the logo. The idea was that your UI designer could do your website. In the friends-and-family circle of nearly every startup is somebody’s cousin who is an amateur designer eager to develop the company logo. Or, how about a logo from a free online logo generator? Our advice: just say no. Retain a professional to design your logo who can research and evaluate competitors as part of their process and who can develop designs that will thoughtfully embody your brand attributes while ensuring that their design will render on your desktop and mobile-ready websites. Professional doesn’t mean high cost. Crowd-sourcing your logo can also be a good option but it needs to be actively managed, and not by cousin Larry.

4. DIY PowerPoint

Every startup has their PowerPoint soldiers – the CEO and sales execs – who pitch the company every single day using slides they proudly crafted themselves. Often, these slides include homegrown diagrams, inconsistent icons and too many bullets. A smart investment that we advocate early for our startups is to hire a presentation designer to develop a branded PowerPoint template and icon library that can become tools for the entire management team. Think of it as a PowerPoint makeover. The input of a presentation designer will help to simplify and clarify your value proposition. And in this noisy, competitive world, that’s what it’s all about.

5. DIY Content

If content is king, and fresh content drives inbound website traffic and is essential for a thought leadership program, why is content so hard for startups to deliver? Most startup teams are just flat-out busy chasing leads. One of the top priorities that quickly gets pushed aside is content for the website. Instead of relying solely on the in-house team, we advocate that startups retain an external writer to oversee a content plan (white papers, case studies, videos) for your website and an editorial calendar for your blog and social media channels that directly supports your customer acquisition model. Sometimes, a single writer can partner with the in-house product and marketing teams to drive production, maintain consistency of voice and to plan clever ways to re-purpose content across social media channels. We find that if you leave it to the busy in-house team to do, it often doesn’t get done.

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