This is a bit late for this year, but all you tech entrepreneurs and PR folk, copy the URL for this post and add it to your calendar for next year, right around the time you start planning for SXSW 2014.
DO NOT LAUNCH YOUR PRODUCT OR MAKE A BIG ANNOUNCEMENT AT SXSW.
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Me: Everyone thinks that. Ever since the concept of ‘This year’s big SXSW hit app’ took hold across the tech media, people have been trying to recreate the success of Twitter and Foursquare. It hasn’t happened yet and it maybe never will.
Even when the group messaging apps were battling it out a few years ago there was no outright winner, and when the likes of Highlight and Glancee got described as possible SXSW hits last, attendees responded with a collective shrug. Maybe the day of the ‘one big hit app at SXSW’ is gone forever.
You: Okay, but with a town full of influential people, it’s the perfect time to make a big splash and let them all hear our news in person!
Me: No it isn’t. There are approximately 845 million events in Austin every day during SXSW (well, something like that, I lost count). That means that even if journalists and other ‘influencers’ spot your pitch email in the sea of identikit SXSW pitches flooding their inboxes, they probably won’t have time for a briefing. Even if they do, they probably won’t turn up because the meeting they were at beforehand overran and they got stuck in some crappy PR stunt flashmob on the way to you.
Or they met an old friend and decided to get drunk in a bar instead.
Even if they meet you, love what you do and write a post, they may not even be able to get a stable enough Internet connection to publish it in the swamp of demand for connectivity that is Austin in March.
You: Yes, but what about the journalists working back at base, away from Austin? They can cover our news for everyone in Austin to read!
Me: Remember that swamp of demand for connectivity that is Austin? It affects our readers there too. And most people are drunk anyway.
You: Okay, we’re going to be clever. We’ll announce the news BEFORE the event even starts! That way journalists can write it and everyone else can read it before anyone’s got to Austin and then everyone will use our amazing app at SXSW and it will be a hit!
Me: Possibly, but to quote Paul Sawers from our team just now: “Getting a crazy amount of email this week, and it’s not all SXSW. It’s like someone has flipped a switch and sent my email address round every PR company in the world.” Yes, we love hearing from startups and covering interesting news from them, but when there’s so much happening, something’s got to give and it may be your pitch. Why risk it?
You: Okay, okay, but I got lucky and got covered. Great, right?
Me: Possibly. Chances are your news got squashed by a load of other pre-SXSW announcements shortly after it went out. Again, why risk it?
I will always advise this to startups: announce big news well away from events of the scale of SXSW. If there’s less noise, you have more chance of getting attention – and we journalists won’t have to open up our inboxes with fear every day.
All that said, see you in Austin!
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