Guest post: How I Used Setback as a Setup for (PR) Success

Ever hear that saying…

“when life gives you lemons, make lemonade?”

Now, what happens if the lemons you get are covered in poop and smell like rotten milk, AND you ran out of sugar?

What then? Drink muddy, bitter lemonade that smells like durian?

Exactly. Believe it or not, it might turn up better than you imagined.

2011 was a really crappy year

  • I started a pet website that wasn’t doing so hot. I already pivoted a couple of times, and they all tanked.

  • I was down to my last few dollars in term of my bootstrap fund

  • I broke up with my ex a couple of months ago.

If shit is how you describe how you feel when you’re down, down I was straight doo-doo.

Now to make things worse, i lost my dog. A bunch of people came into my house to fix a broken door without calling me. My dog spooked and he ran for his life.

As a bachelor living by himself in a loft with his own dog and with his family thousands of miles away on the other side of the country, this was like losing a child.

I mean.. a grown man, crying alone in the dark.. drinking two buck chuck, lamenting over his lost dog.

If you never lost a dog before, you’ll never know the feeling.  Especially for me because my dog was the one real “family” that I had (in California), cared for, and loved.

I read somewhere that if you lose a dog and don’t recover it in the next 24 hours, your chances of finding it are pretty in, never.

The odds were against me.

  1. I didn’t have family who’d help me look during the day (when he’s visible). I had to ask friends for their time after they get out of work.. which by then, was too late.

  2. My dog didn’t have a pet tag on because his collar was being washed, which means no one can ID him even if they found him.

  3. My dog is completely black, which means he’s quite hard to see at night.. especially for car drivers

Of course, as an entrepreneur, i was used to fighting the odds and hoping for miracles.

So in span of first 40 hours of losing my dog, I was superman. I managed to

  1. call every vet, animal shelter, pet businesses in 3 mile radius

  2. (with help from my ex and a friend) posted 250+ flyers, dropped off 150+ posters in people’s mailboxes

  3. place ads on every possible place you can possibly think of, including Facebook ads and Google display ad network ads.

…all this on no sleep.

I even tried hashed up a simple auto dialer software using Twilio and a database I bought off the web, and called everyone in 4-5 zip codes.

Yes, I was on a mission.

I must’ve had 2-3 leads every couple of hours with my ads and with my auto dialer, but they all turned up to be all junk leads.

Until.. I got a phone call from a lady nearby. She told me that she saw my flyer at a nearby park in Willow Glen (San Jose, CA).

At this point, I wasn’t even sure if my dog was still alive. So many false leads, and people were telling me different things as far as where they thought he was heading. On top of that, he probably hasn’t eaten or drank anything. Maybe worse.. he got hit by a car or got attacked by a big dog.. and he died.

Funny how your mind plays all these crazy movies in your head when you’re in dire need.

But I told myself I can feel depressed any time i want. Let’s see if this lead takes me anywhere.

And in fact, IT WAS MY dog that they found…thanks to this awesome couple:

If you don’t know who he is, he’s a NHL San Jose Sharks team player Joe Pavelski.

At the time, I didn’t even know who he was or what he did.

All I noticed was his insanely big house in the middle of Willow Glen (a very posh neighborhood).

So I casually asked him what he did… and he replied “oh i play hockey.”

My initial thought: “What? there’s a hockey team in San Jose? NO WAY. When was this?”

<insert clown music here>

Yes, he was a celebrity. But at the time, I didn’t really think much of it

I just was so grateful that he found my dog that i just wanted to kiss the man.

(But I settled for just a picture with him.)

When my dog and I were reunited back home, I gave him a bath and fed him two HUGE bowls of his favorite dog food. After that, both of us hibernated for 14 hours.

Seize the Moment

When I woke up, I started wondering how I can use this story for my pet website.

Of course, I could’ve just posted this and shared with my Facebook fans and email subscribers at the time.. but I felt I could’ve gotten more of a BANG, so to speak.

So? I decided to email journalists, hoping that it would get covered… and it DID.

If you Google “joe pavelski dog”, the story got covered on NBC sports, CSN Bay area, and BUNCH of other sports sites that have page rank 5+.

Then voila.. i had a HUGE surge of traffic to my site, and because of that surge,

  • my email list increased by factor of 95%

  • i had 50+ backlinks to my funny pet picture website PawshPal

  • i had all these new men Facebook fans for PawshPal (99.9% prior to that were women)

If this were a link bait tactic, it sure as hell worked well.

So did it save the PawshPal business? Nope. It didn’t.

The people that opted in were more interested in Joe and/or sports.. and opted out.. and all those backlinks didn’t help much at all in terms new traffic. Indeed, not all traffic is good traffic.

But I learned a WHOLE lot about PR.

Key Lesson in PR

1) “Rub Off” Popularity

If you are not famous, you can “get” famous just by being next to them.

This is the basis for celebrity endorsement ads.

People seeing your product or service next to a celebrity gives (instant trust.

2) Don’t fight, instead praise

There are SEO and marketing “gurus” that claim that you should pick fights with journalists and bloggers to get some attention.

If not, spam them in the comment section.

Ugh.. here’s a better way.

Instead of fighting popular people, praise them and their fans will praise you.

Negativity can only get so far. On top of that, news is inundated with bad news.

Why join them? Try being positive for once. (Heck, try meditating.)

3) Promote yourself.

Your efforts don’t mean diddly squat if no one knows

Fundamentals of marketing – no matter how great you (or your product) is, if no one knows about it, you might as well have never done it.

Stop staring at the screen.

Start connecting. Start sharing. Start teaching. Start giving.

Then the world will give back.

4) Copywriting matters

If you do any marketing whatsoever, you know about copywriting.

Copywriting is about selling with words, conveying who you are, what you do, and why they should read your stuff.

Copywriting is probably THE most important skill for any marketer these days.

If my copywriting sucked, I doubt anyone would’ve read my story, including the journalists.

Without an interesting email subject line, the email would’ve never gotten read.

Without an interesting email body, the link would’ve never gotten clicked.

Without an interesting story, the journalists would’ve never linked back.

Without the journalists linking back, I would not be here telling you this story.

5) When things are bad, there’s usually a reason.

Like Steve Jobs said, you can connect the dots only looking backward, never forward.

If something bad happens, as long as you don’t stay down and depressed, you can use that story as a way to set yourself back up for something great like all great entrepreneurs do.

You just won’t know unless you fail, dust yourself, get back up, and try something different.

But don’t forget step #1 – dust yourself off and get back up.

Without step #1, there is no step #2.

Most importantly…

If all your marketing fails, “accidentally” lose and find your dog at a celebrity’s house.

Take your dog to your nearest celebrity’s house.

Call him and ask him if he’s seen your dog.

Of course, your dog is magically there.. then you cry.. give him a big hug.. take lots of pictures.. and send them to the press.

And voila! Free PR!

<insert evil laughter here>

Hell, my dog teaches me about business everyday.



TaeWoo Kim is an entrepreneur, a growth hacker, a speaker, and a blogger. You can follow him on Twitter (@TaeWooKim), Google+, and on his blog

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