Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Making Lemonade

During the middle of summer’s triple digit heat, few things sound more refreshing than a cold glass of lemonade. And for some reason this summer, more so than in summers past, I can’t get enough of the stuff –preferably the pink variety. But either way, the thought of lemonade always brings to mind the saying everyone has heard a thousand times, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Although somewhat tired, the adage is still a very applicable piece of advice. I’ve thought a lot about this saying as it pertains to businesses dealing with the piles of lemons brought on as a result of the poor economy. As PR professionals, we know what to do with good client news, but it’s times when those good news announcements are few and far between that we really have to get creative. We sometimes need to find the good in not-so-good news. In other words, we make lemonade.

We recently came across an opportunity for the founder and CEO of one of our clients, MileMeter, that demonstrates just this – how to take a business challenge and turn it into an effective PR tactic. The opportunity came in the form of a new feature on NewYorkTimes.com, called “How I Saved My Company.” Essentially, the feature highlights business owners via video features, explaining what it’s like to own a company that struggles but survives. In his feature, MileMeter’s Chris Gay shared stories of obstacles he encountered while getting his business off the ground, including the global financial crisis that hit in the early stages of its development.

Fortuitously, shortly after Gay sent the shut down notice to all his shareholders, MileMeter was named a finalist out of 900 entrants in Amazon.com’s first start-up competition. This ultimately resuscitated his young company, making for a great “How I Saved My Company” story.

In the weeks after we identified this opportunity, we hired a videographer and worked with Chris to film a video explaining his experience, and sent it to the producers of this new NewYorkTimes.com feature. The video was posted, and in the days and weeks following, MileMeter saw dramatic increases in Web traffic, and the post received a number of positive comments.

NYT reader, Katie from Louisiana wrote, “Awesome idea for a company! As an avid bicycler, I was wishing for something like this the other day. It makes sense both environmentally and economically. I hope that this idea catches on quickly in states besides Texas and that we can foster smart entrepreneurship like this.”

In leveraging its near-death business crisis, we were able to secure national exposure for our client, resulting in increased awareness and attention from consumers all over the world. So, don’t be afraid to talk about a client’s business struggles –  sometimes it’s the secret ingredient for the perfect glass of lemonade.

Click here to view MileMeter’s “How I Saved My Company” video on NewYorkTimes.com