If you were dying to know how to tick off fans of “The Bachelorette,” your wait ended in May. Rachel Lindsay, the latest leading lady to take the reality TV plunge, announced before the show’s season premiere that she had become engaged to one of her suitors. Suffice it to say, her announcement fell about as flat as an eggless soufflé.
Legalities aside — because we know darn well her contract probably addressed spoilers — Lindsay proved how easy it is to ruffle your fans’ feathers. Her faux pas should serve as a lesson to startup entrepreneurs: Be careful what you announce pre-launch, lest your “big reveal” wind up a big flop.
Whether you have a product, service, sale, discount, merger, acquisition or event on the horizon, sometimes it’s best to just zip your lip. As
Loose Lips? What’s the Worst That Could Happen?
Perhaps you’ve forgotten about the Apple iPhone 4 incident a few years ago. If so, allow me to take you on a stroll down Premature Reveal Road.
One of the Apple engineers working in the tech department headed out to a local bar. It was his birthday, and he was ready to kick back and enjoy the occasion. Regrettably, he left an iPhone 4 prototype — which he probably shouldn’t have taken with him in the first place — at his seat.
Faster than you can say “Steve Jobs,” the phone disappeared and eventually landed in the hands of Gizmodo, whose writers promptly analyzed it from top to bottom and revealed it well before the company had planned to release it. The secret was out, the Apple employee was publicly disciplined, and all the momentum behind the fourth generation of the iPhone dissipated.
Not all spoiler alerts are true unpredictable accidents like the iPhone situation; some happen because no one was at the steering wheel to maintain a sense of protocol. Losing control over the way your product or promotion is introduced to mainstream consumers can, and often does, end with disastrous consequences. Early leaks lead to critical scrutiny, overhype, supply shortage, and other nasty outcomes.
Businesses must create plans that outline how and when to release information — and to whom that information should go. That’s where an extra level of patience is necessary, not to mention the know-how that comes with understanding who needs to know, who doesn’t, and what the timeline should be.
Know When to Hold ‘Em and When to Play ‘Em
Feel a little weird about acting like 007? Not to worry: Sometimes you do need to “share and share alike,” as the saying goes.
For instance, everyone who has watched even half an episode of “Shark Tank” knows the disadvantages of keeping financial information from angels and venture capitalists. As an entrepreneur, you have to be ready to share honest financials with investors and partners. They deserve to know this information, minus exaggerations and inflated claims.
Similarly, you should not hide your company expectations from employees; you must be transparent. It’s hard to gain trust and loyalty if your message isn’t well-understood or being executed by leadership. Without your help, workers won’t be able to see the vision and help the company reach its goals. Plus, they’ll be more likely to leak important internal secrets because they feel no team loyalty.
At the same time, you should give out just the right amount of knowledge, but not too much.
Do investors need to know that you’re working from home for a week? Do they even care if your CFO takes a month-long trip to Germany? Probably not. Giving away too much information can hurt your business because people, by nature, form opinions every opportunity they get. Besides, if one group of employees is working on a vital project, do they care about what’s happening on an insignificant level?
Over time, it gets easier to perform this balancing act between what to expose and what to keep under wraps. If you’re looking for tactics to keep mum without being too tight-lipped, take these quotes to heart:
#1. “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” — St. Francis of Assisi
From the beginning, be intentional in your actions. Do what you know you can before you attempt anything else. Set your goals, reach them, and reset them. You’ll begin to gain confidence, and you’ll find it more natural to believe in your abilities, allowing you to achieve the things you once thought were impossible.
As you hit your personal and professional objectives, be sure to share the necessary and stay hush on the rest. Before you make any major announcements, ask yourself a critical question: “Who can use this to help our organization do extraordinary work?”
#2. “From my very first day as an entrepreneur, I’ve felt the only mission worth pursuing in business is to make people’s lives better.” — Sir Richard Branson
Ideas fuel businesses. If you pursue a meaningful idea, you’ll naturally want to use it as a springboard to make life better for others, whether by solving a product or bringing an innovative product to market.
Drive yourself forward through the tough times during your business launch; be sure to dig deep and remember why you started your journey when the road gets rocky. If you discover leaks in your information dissemination system, address and fix them at once so you can continue to make a difference.
#3. “You reach a point where you don’t work for money.” — Walt Disney
At some time, it will hit you: Money isn’t a motivator. What keeps you going and gives you energy is the excitement of the challenge. You’ve done what others haven’t, or said you couldn’t.
Walt Disney knew this feeling deeply. It’s why he chased his dreams. Interestingly, he was silent about his plans to create his Orlando paradise; only those among his inner circle knew what he envisioned, and the public found out much later.
#4. “If you’re a lot smaller than the bigger competitions, you’ve got to use every weapon you’ve got.” — Sir Richard Branson
A business is like a person: It has a name and character traits. It’s also imbued with passion and emotion. No matter how well-known or popular your business is, you need to maximize every opportunity to make a powerful impact.
Each startup is literally one bad idea — or spoiler — away from struggle and strife. Just as you wouldn’t “let it all hang out” about your personal life, you need to use every marketing trick to your advantage, such as “dripping” teasers to prospects.
Will “The Bachelorette” survive the social scrutiny and wrath its current star brought on with her spoiler? Chances are strong that the show has enough of a fan base to keep the love going. But not all businesses are as lucky when it comes to crisis management after an ending is spoiled. As with all leaks, it’s easier to practice prevention than to deal with tsunami-level fallout.
What tactics have you used for keeping your plans under wraps? Let me know in the comments below.