Battling Olympic-scale competition for coverage of a startup launch

The founder of Capstone Hill Search discusses the need for patience, pluck and perseverance in vying for journalists’ attention in the midst of the 2012 Summer Games in London.

Late July 2012, Wimbledon was over and London was rejecting tradition—basking in sunshine and avoiding the rain. 

The not-so-small matter of hosting its first Olympics since 1948 was also proving quite the distraction. As is the norm for Londoners, if it is sunny, you head to the pub. If there is a sporting event, you go en masse (via the pub), and if you can’t get a ticket, you go to the pub.

Over 2 million people attended Olympic events in the first weekend alone, making it the largest crowd event in the city’s history.  This commitment to the games would continue throughout the two weeks.

Ever the contrarian, I had avoided the clamor for tickets to events and cleared my calendar in preparation for the biggest event of my career—launching Capstone Hill Search. 

Months, probably years, of preparation were about to be executed in a seamless plan that covered a website launch, a media and LinkedIn blitz, a sophisticated business development project and various industry announcements.

However, my emails and calls went unanswered; our announcements went unread, and traffic to our website was negligible. Three days into the “launch,” panic began to set in; the exhilaration of starting my own firm was quickly replaced by self-doubt. Once we passed the first-week mark, my resolve was seriously in question.

Now the logical and rational reaction would be to realize the market forces at work and stick to the plan, but this being my first venture (and first experience of being in an Olympic host city), clear thought was not my strong suit. 

But after seeking counsel from business partners and trusted peers, I decided on a number of things. First, use the downtime to rehone my business plan. Second, reach out to a new market outside of my immediate network. Third, stick to my guns; things would work out. 

The last point was most important, as it was very tempting to make knee-jerk decisions: lowering rates and taking on roles, clients or candidates that could have a long-term negative effect on my business today. 

As a result, I rode it out and waited for the market to re-engage. If anything, it taught me hustle, a skill that I needed in spades to succeed throughout a move to New York City and the entirety of my career. 

Jamie McLaughlin is the co-founder and president of Capstone Hill Search, the leading marketing and communications search and selection firm. He has also formed tactical partnerships, establishing Capstone Hill as the first and only PR Council recruitment partner, sitting on the board of Institute for Public Relations and the steering committee of the Commission on Public Relations Education. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.

 

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