Eden Spodek

Why PR Professionals Need to Pay Attention to Crowdfunding

By: Eden Spodek | June 28, 2016 | 
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Why PR People Need to Pay Attention to Crowdfunding

Last year I was part of a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign.

I don’t know about you, but at the time, other than backing a handful of campaigns, I had zero experience with crowdfunding.

My responsibilities, described as “accompanying” the founder on the “journey,” included leading a team and overseeing content development, community engagement, and relationship building; including blogging, social media marketing, media relations, measurement, and lots of elbow grease.

Several months of planning led to a wild 30-day 24/7 ride with frequent pivots to the approach to ensure the campaign was successfully funded.

Yay! We made it happen and we learned a ton along the way!

Since then, many people have asked me to share my knowledge about how to build a successful crowdfunding campaign.

The simple answer is: It takes passion, hard work, and problem solving know-how.

Many founders try the DIY approach and fail.

Kickstarter is probably the best known crowdfunding platform in North America, but there are several others including Indiegogo, GoFundMe, Patreon, and Tilt.

Here’s a little primer I’ve written specifically for Spin Sucks readers and hope you find helpful.

Three Reasons Why PR People Need to Know About Crowdfunding

Did you know only 36 percent of all Kickstarter campaigns are funded?

And I can confidently say that it takes a village to get fully funded.

That’s why marketing and PR funds are often needed to hire the right team to help.

Founders who realize this will set aside a budget specifically for consultants or agencies to help, and that’s where there may be an opportunity for PR professionals.

  • Funding for startups (or fundraising for not-for-profits). This is probably the best-known of top three reasons crowdfunding is used. It helps creators fund their passion projects and those in need (or friends of those in need) raise much needed funds in tough times.
  • Creating awareness. If you’re reading this, by now you know traditional media relations doesn’t have the breadth and depth it used to with respect to creating awareness for new products or services. Crowdfunding may be the perfect strategy for reaching your goal and objectives for an awareness campaign. Sometimes startups need consumers to learn about their new products more than they need the cold, hard cash to produce them.
  • Idea validation. Clients and prospects are often looking for ways to validate their ideas through proof of concept. Crowdfunding presents an opportunity to gauge consumer interest before introducing a final product to market. Is there enough interest? Does the product need to be tweaked and if so, how? A backer community also serves as an engaged focus group that’s created organically.

In the case of the first campaign I worked on, all three of these reasons were important to the founder.

He was looking for more funding, he wanted to create consumer awareness for his new product, and he wanted to know what prospective customers thought of his product that was unique to the marketplace.

Three Things PR Can Do for Crowdfunding Campaigns

  • Storytelling and content development. A solid crowdfunding campaign needs to have a compelling story that explains the passion for the project and builds an emotional connection with the audience. The story must be conveyed effectively through video, imagery and text. Who better to help with that than you?
  • Community engagement. Community building is critical during the campaign, but even more important in the months leading up to the launch. This is where you’ll have a chance to develop a social media plan that builds, sustains, grows, and engages a community that converts to backers and brand ambassadors.
  • Relationship building (media, bloggers, other influencers). Typically, your initial contact from a founder will be in the form of a request to help with media and blogger relations. Just beware, some bloggers want nothing to do with crowdfunding campaigns so do your research before reaching out to them. Assuming you provide an integrated approach for your clients, you’ll let them know there are other ways you can help be a part of their success.

My team was fortunate to work with such a savvy founder who invited us to help with all three of these areas and more.

We had little sleep and a steep learning curve which equalled a rewarding experience.

Three Mistakes PR People Should Avoid

There are several mistakes you can make when working on a crowdfunding project. Here are the three you’ll thank me for sharing.

  • Not understanding the crowdfunding culture. Crowdfunding is a unique concept in and of itself. Each crowdfunding platform has its own distinct culture, rules, and regulations. Do your research.
  • Not planning far enough in advance. Ninety percent of the time, when people come to me asking for help with their crowdfunding campaign, it’s because they hadn’t done any planning. In most cases, they thought it would be like Field of Dreams where if you build it, the will come. A platform may have a built in community but it needs your own community to get the platform’s community to take notice. Did you know if you’re launching a product or project on a platform such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo, you’ll need about 30 percent of your funding raised within the first 48-72-hours in order to have a successful campaign?
  • Not having a true news hook for the media (media fatigue). One of the things we struggled with at the start of the campaign was that media is inundated with stories about Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns for the “hottest,” “best,” or “earth shattering” project. Unless you have a real story, such as you funded and exceeded your goal within the first six hours, or have more backers than any other campaign or another unique milestone, most major media outlets just don’t care. Your best bet may be a pitching community interest story with the founder.

As PR continues to evolve, it’s clear crowdfunding will only continue to grow as an awareness tool for businesses.

There’s a huge opportunity for PR professionals to step up, take note and learn how to make a successful campaign happen.

Hey, kids! This is Gini.

I have one thing to add to this awesome crowdfunding article.

Eden is taking everything she’s learned about the process—and, trust me, it’s a lot—and has broken it down in a webinar that will be held on July 6.

If you want to learn more about how PR can help the process or how you can get a project funded, I recommend you check it out.

We had her speak at one of my mastermind group meetings last year and everyone walked away with a to-do list a mile long…and excited to get to work.

You’ll learn a ton!

image credit: shutterstock

About Eden Spodek


Eden Spodek is a founder & CEO of Spodek & Co., an integrated communications firm. Eden has a unique perspective on emerging media and more than 25 years’ experience in communications. She’s happiest helping colleagues, clients and students be a little disruptive. She’s outspoken about the importance of building online engagement and targeted relationships, one influencer at a time. Eden is based in Toronto, Canada and can be found on many places online.

  • Great post Eden, I know nothing about crowdfunding and this is a great starting point.

    • Thanks, Bill! I’m glad you’ve found it helpful and I was still able to teach you something new outside of U of T. 🙂 It would be great to see you next Wednesday and if you can’t attend, as long as you register I can share the video recording.

  • Dawn Buford

    I agree with Bill, nice post Eden! Now I know how to start a Kickstarter campaign to fund my retirement home in Italy. ; )

    • Thanks, Dawn! Do you have a backer community that would help fund your retirement? If so, maybe GoFundMe would be a better choice. 😉 If not, you may have to start saving your pennies now. 😉

      • Dawn Buford

        Thanks for that great tip Eden! I’m sure my family and friends would be happy to see me leave the country and buy a home where there is a spare room for them when they visit on vacation! LOL

        • Brillant, Dawn! LOL! You’re very welcome.

  • Laura Petrolino

    Eden, can you give an really rough timeframe that people should dedicate to putting together a Crowdsourcing campaign. I know a lot of people probably come to you too late (i.e. “Hey our campaign just launched”) What do you recommend?

    • Great question, Laura! The answer is somewhat platform dependent.

      Some platforms like GoFundMe and Tilt are designed for short-term fundraising and relatively easy to launch provided you have a compelling reason for your audience to contribute to your campaign.

      When it comes to founders or creators looking to raise enough funds to fully develop a product, ideally, you should start planning at least six months in advance of the launch of your crowdfunding campaign. That doesn’t mean you can’t do it in three months but a lot depends on whether or not you already have an established and engaged community, and how quickly you can build your campaign collateral.

    • So true Laura! I got that phone call from a friends mom about her book and that is exactly how the conversation started.

  • Great article, Eden! In the past several years, I’ve helped a number of indie musician friends with their crowdfunding projects—from chipping in some money to promoting. We’ve used Indiegogo, Kickstarter and PledgeMusic platforms. I’m happy to report all exceeded their goals.

    As with most any campaign, I agree that planning well ahead of the launch is critical. Three or more months of preparation is not at all unreasonable. The organizer should be prepared to spend time and money before and during the campaign to raise money. (And don’t forget to account for the platform’s fees when setting your goal!) Likewise, it’s important to understand the channels through which you’re promoting the campaign and the segments of the audience accessible on those channels.

    • Thanks Mark and congratulations on your crowdfunding success! I couldn’t agree with you more in terms of planning time, resources and understanding the individual platforms. There’s only so much space in a blog post. I’ll be addressing more in the webinar. 🙂 Keep us posted about your next campaign.

  • Corina Manea

    This is the kind of post you need to print and keep it on your working desk.

    Great, useful post, Eden. It’s clearer than ever that PR pros must wear different hats and be more than good at it.

    Can’t wait for the webinar.

    • Thanks Corina! I’m so pleased we had the opportunity to work together during part of the campaign before you joined AD. 😉

      • Corina Manea

        It was fun working with you, Eden. I am so happy to have been part of such successful campaign.

  • Eden, I never thought about the fact that crowdfunding could actually be used as a metric to gauge consumer interest. Thanks for bringing that new perspective (to e) forward.

    • You’re very welcome, Pete! Let me know if you have an questions in the future.

  • Fantastic post. Many of my film school-oriented friends to crowdsourcing. I am endlessly by the incentive choices. I realize it’s much deeper than that but those incentives came to mind as I read your great post!

    • Thanks, Paula! Yes, incentives/rewards are also a big part of crowdfunding. It’s a huge topic and there’s lots to learn. Like everything else in our world, it’s changing at a rapid pace too.

  • Great article! I was talking to a video friend of mine and he mentioned how he noticed that many of the items that seemed to do well with fundraising had a great, high quality video to showcase the product or person.

    • Thanks Aimee! Yes, your fried is right. Video is a critical part of the storytelling. There is debate about how high the quality should be versus the authenticity of the storyteller. Either way, it requires a lot of thought and planning.

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