Last week TechCrunch ran a story that bears repeating for everyone in PR. As our friend Jeremy Pepper put it:
PR 101 information that celebrity endorsements mean very little outside fashion but tech still has to figure it out. http://t.co/WoeKxFxpwd
— Jeremy Pepper (@jspepper) December 16, 2013
- Everyone has a startup
- Everyone wants his or her startup to succeed
- Everyone knows that exposure is critical to success
- Everyone assumes that celebrity endorsements will greatly magnify that exposure
This isn’t quite true, though. In fact, Alex Wilhelm writes that he “pretty much just expect[s] the company involved with the celebrity to die”. He means companies like this one, which hired the always-reliable Lindsay Lohan for promo purposes.
Here’s the thing: hiring a celebrity spokesperson to talk about your tech product is about as beneficial as hiring the same celebrity as a “creative director”. Most tech consumers are fairly intelligent people (notice we said “most”), and they see such moves as desperate pleas for attention.
While a big name can indeed lead to more media coverage for your startup clients, a lot of that publicity will be negative—especially if your product is nothing special. It won’t guarantee success beyond the initial “hey, look over here” media rush. In tech, success is more about offering a high-quality, cutting-edge product than telling people what the next cool thing will be. They’re pretty good at figuring that out on their own, and you can’t force it with any monetary sum or famous face.
This isn’t to say that paying a C-lister to tweet about a new app will necessarily doom the company. But people who obsess over gadgets also have great noses and very well-developed bullish*t detectors.