Oddpodz on the Launch Pad

Karen Post offers branding lessons from a social-networking start-up.

If you just joined in, Oddpodz is a new online community for creatives. Founder and branding expert Karen Post, who writes a regular column for fastcompany.com, brings you the play by play of a start-up brand. For past articles go to Marketing Columns.

It's amazing how time flies when you are building a brand. It starts as a dream, moves to a cocktail napkin, ends up in a business plan, and before you know it, you are on the public launch pad.

Will you soar to great heights, break new barriers, or crash and burn?

For Oddpodz, it's been 12 months since conception, 143 business development presentations later, 4 employees that didn't cut it, 17 vendor disappointments, 205,000 words of written content, 13 investor deposits, 23 important contracts to review, and one giant goal-to make it big, be a brand that makes history, beyond MySpace and even YouTube. It's America. Anything is possible.

In my last article I talked about how we defined the essence of our brand (purpose, points of difference, personality, and promise) and the importance of that exercise as a key driver in most business planning. Now we've got to execute and build an experience that the market associates with those attitudes.

In Oddpodz's case, we are building an online destination, a nation for creatives. We had a grand vision, a virtual space called The Muzeum. Rooms filled with creative expression, stages with performing artists, and chat lounges where friends could talk all night. Our challenge is to build an exciting environment that fits on a computer screen while igniting emotions that make visitors want to invest time, spend money, and, most of all, endorse us to their friends.

During the next six months our team of three worked 80-hour weeks, collaborated with our technology folks, and designed a very intriguing social and e-commerce network. Launching on a shoestring budget, we also were introduced to several important facts of life and brand-building:

Leverage PR. Fortunately for Oddpodz, I've owned a PR firm and understand how this all works. If you don't have experience here, hire a former or freelance journalist to at least help you write your news releases. You don't want to come out of the chute sending out promotionally sappy, bad materials. This will hurt your credibility with an important influence base, the media. Once your materials are ready you can blast them out through online PR services ranging from $100-$500 dollars a release.

Even though we use online services to distribute our releases, we also use snail mail. For the cost of a stamp, it's another chance to get someone's attention. Explore all the angles.

Blog till you drop. Beyond big media, make sure to send your release to appropriate blogs. Identify blogs that are relevant and drop the author a note about your brand and news. You can develop this list by using blog-tracking services like Technorati or www.blogdigger.com . Don't discuss posts to promote your stuff, they will see through and think you are a chump.

Email your list with worthy content. Before you launch you should have a method to gathering emails with permission. These folks have said they want to hear from you, which is a good thing. Just don't ruin the relationship by over-mailing or sending useless junk. Oddpodz set up a splash page months before we launched offering opt-ins a weekly ezine with odd news and other cool stuff. At our launch we had over 10,000 people on our list.

Anything that doesn't kill you makes you stronger. After months of planning, we set a deadline to turn on the lights to our social network, The Muzeum. We'd been promoting the date everywhere, seducing content partners and advertisers with the big idea—and our technology company missed our deadline by one month. Damn, I hate when things like this happen. I suppose this is what NASA feels like when the weather delays it launches. Still, it's important to remind yourself of all of your positive achievements and keep your eye on the prize.

Stay tuned for my next article. I will talk about strategic partners, how to find them and how to get the most out of a relationship. In the meantime, if you have any questions, shoot me an email.


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