My First Date with Press

Techie Tuesdays: My Startup Journey: My one year anniversary with Cliquidity is around the corner so I thought I would share some of my personal highlights from the past year. First up, my pre-Web Summit press rounds.

After just over half a year of hiding out in my bedroom, with most of my human contact (besides Adam) limited to the occasional Skype call from founders and coffee meetup’s with the developer, I had to become the so-called “Face of Cliquidity“.

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With the Dublin Web Summit just over a month away I started using that as an excuse to punt Cliquidity to anyone and everyone who would listened – and it worked ๐Ÿ™‚

Interview with HumanIPO

I met my interviewer, a young friendly ย Nanine Steenkamp, at theย HumanIPO offices situated in the Woodstock Exchange. She offered me coffee and then led me into a tiny meeting room (for those intimate two person meetings) where I proceeded to blurt out anything Cliquidity-related I could think of. Afterwards I left feeling good – I assume the way Catholics feel after confession – having confessed all our sins. And excited to see what she would write. Read it here.

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And so I learnt my first lesson about press: focus the message on one topic, prepare a script and stick to it. Reading the article back now it makes so little sense because so much of what I said ย is quoted out of context – entire 10 minute tangents reduced to a single line of text. Not to mention the fact that some statements were just not true and remain uncorrected. But I guess there is no such thing as bad publicity?

Live TV Interview on Expresso Show

Adam’s previous flatmate’s girlfriend is an account manager at SABC 3’s Expresso Morning Show and recommended Cliquidity for the Nedbank Vote Small Business weekly slot (what a legend – thanks Hannah<3). I sent Mishal (the relevant account manager) screenshots of the website, went in a few days before the live show to record some “filler” footage (sure that is not the technically correct term) and prepared answers to the five questions they sent through.

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On the morning of the live show I arrived half an hour early, with my hair and makeup done as instructed. I nervously sat in the green room watching the show on the TV on the wall with a whole new appreciation for the live television component, amazed by just how chilled everyone else was about the fact that this is LIVE. I didn’t eat any of the freshly baked muffins being offered in fear of getting something stuck in my teeth. I played with the Expresso Frenchies and then sat down to have my TV makeup applied.

About a minute before I was supposed to go on my name got called from the clipboard. I was guided through the passage to the set, pointed in the right direction and left there. Seconds before the cameras were to turn to us, the presenter rushed onto the set area where I was sitting. She politely greeted me and then reverted back to learning the script. A man ran in and mic’ed me. And then the room filled with human-sized cameras and 3… 2… 1… Action!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YU0dLJiepJk&w=600&h=450]

Watching video recordings of yourself is never easy – especially when you were as nervous as I was on the day. But I guess these things improve in time. I regret preparing such long answers – it left me in the awkward position where I had to summarise them on live TV. But all and all this was a great experience – and also (to-date) the single day that generated the most traffic on the website.

Speaking to Grade 11 Students

Knowing that high school students are quite active on social media and that they are a relatively accessible bunch (as teachers are all too willing to hand over the reins) I approached a few schools with the idea of chatting to their Grade 11’s about my career so far, my experiences working at a startup and about Cliquidity (of course).

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I obviously optimised the presentation for their demographic and included:

And they seemed to love it – as measured by their willingness to ask questions after the presentation, bearing in mind they are in high school where seeming interested in anything is frowned upon. Even one teacher complimented me afterwards saying that he took some notes on how to speak to this generation.

Offline Instagram at UCT

Getting university student email addresses is a lot easier than I thought. I devised an elaborate plan to extract email addresses from them: with Adam’s help I fashioned an “Offline Instagram Filter” – basically a cardboard frame that looked like the Instagram iPhone interface. I then bought loads of dress up props and set off to exchange “fun photos with your friends” for email addresses.

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Turns out students, when faced with the embarrassing prospect of having to appear to be having fun on campus, will rather just give you their email addresses if you (a) promise you won’t spam them and (b) you go away immediately. There were of course a few other types:

  • the sweet, hot girls – who asked us to take their photos
  • the group of foreign guys including one American who “might run for congress someday – and is not sure this is a good idea”
  • the social anthropology masters students who wanted to analyse the social impact of another social network and asked me if I can’t teach people not to be “sheeps”
  • the GDA students who still haven’t realised that no one gives a fuck that they are accountants and so special

We ended up getting 20 sharp photos for marketing purposes and 200 email addresses in 2 hours – not bad.

Lessons from my dates with press:

  • The press won’t find you, you must find them.
  • Be news-worthy – the fact that you exist is not news.
  • You can never be too prepared – script it and practice.
  • Ask for a first draft before release and send edits.
  • Live TV is frightening – avoid at all costs.
  • Learn not to say “Uhm” so much on live TV.
  • TV makeup is amazing. Don’t wear white clothing.
  • Schools and universities are easily accessible.
  • If you want people’s email addresses, just ask.
  • Your product/ service is not for everyone – that’s okay.
  • Some people will be blatantly rude.
  • The more you practice, the better you will become.
  • Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.