Money Over Meaning


For a short couple of years, LinkedIn’s Influencers Program was one of the most meaningful publishing initiatives in recent history. All of the sudden users had access to personal insights from Richard Branson, who seemed to immediately recognize the opportunity it provided for personal branding, then Bill Gates joined, and HP CEO Meg Whitman. Tony Hsieh began teaching us how Zappos reinvented customer service, or reinvigorated it, or brought it back to basics: treat your customers how you’d want to be treated. Michael Bloomberg delivered a commencement speech in the form of a blog post. Life is short, he told the class of 2014, it’s also not linear. Arianna Huffington explained how Zen meditation was helping lower suicide rates among Japan’s despairing youth.

It was interesting and fun. It’s not every day that you get to peek inside the minds of some of the brightest and most influential people in the world, and at such a constant rate. Of course there were the occasional promotional posts. Lots of lists. Some topics were beaten to death: how to be a great leader, the fruits of failure, overcoming fear. But overall, it was amazing, and there was nothing else quite like it. (more…)

Should Sources Whisper?

Neetzan Zimmerman - The Daily Show

Neetzan Zimmerman, editor in chief of Whisper, on journalism: “Nowadays it’s not important if a story’s real, the only thing that really matters is whether people click on it” (The Daily Show, July 30, 2014). Whisper is an anonymous app that BuzzFeed and others have been using to source stories, some of them on serious matters. The company has $60 million dollars in funding and is backed by Sequoia Capital, among others. As a reader, how do you feel about news crafted solely from anonymous sources? What are the implications of valuing “scoops” over facts and virality over meaningful content?

As early as March of this year, The Huffington Post was already using Whisper to source stories and BuzzFeed had formed an official partnership with the company.

“Under the partnership, 15 BuzzFeed writers will search Whisper for possible articles. When they identify potential material, Whisper will help them find more information with access to its internal search engines. Whisper will also suggest ideas to BuzzFeed when it notices themes on its platform,” reported The New York Times.

I know what you might be thinking: who cares what BuzzFeed and The Huffington Post think? Think of BuzzFeed and you think of cats, celebrity gossip, and “if you grew up in the ’90s lists.” And The Huffington Post is a giant army of independent bloggers. Credibility immediately questionable. But it was already more serious than that for two reasons, and now for three. (more…)

How I Got Into Techstars, Was Almost Kicked Out, and Fought to Stay In

Techstars applications are open and I’m constantly getting asked the same question over and over: “How do I get into Techstars?” In hindsight, I can clearly see the exact path that got our startup, Good Audience, into Techstars London 2014.


The Application Process

There were over 1,500 applications and only 11 companies accepted into the program. That’s less than a 1% acceptance rate. I know what you’re thinking, “I probably won’t get in.” However, I urge you not to play the percentages; the best thing to do is make your startup look as good as possible on paper.


There are endless configurations of founders and Techstars has seen them all. In your application, it’s important to show that your team can pull off the startup.

Do you have several years of industry experience in your space? State it. Have you scaled systems? Show that you can do it technically. Can you hustle to break through obstacles? Share an impressive story.

Our team managed over 180 social media accounts for businesses, scaled systems to over 600M users at Google & Yahoo, and always seem to be able to hack non-technical systems to our favor (like skipping lines into night clubs without paying the entrance fee). (more…)

How a Focused Niche Company Can Compete in a World of Global Franchises

(By True Contrarian founder and CEO Steven Jon Kaplan)

It probably seems as though the world is unfair. How can a startup company reasonably hope to compete in any field where there are several large, well-known, well-financed, heavily-advertised competitors? The answer is that being small and nimble can work to your advantage, because you can accomplish certain important tasks in a small firm which will greatly benefit clients, and which large organizations are unwilling or unable to do. Based upon the personal experiences of my colleagues and myself, I will describe how to take maximum advantage of being a small, unique business in any industry which is dominated by huge global players.

When you’re small, your uniqueness can be capitalized upon as a special feature.

Given massive advertising budgets and the ubiquitous presence of major global franchises in nearly every field, how is a small startup company able to survive and to become known to potential new customers? Paradoxically, because of the massive presence of the best-known firms, many intelligent, qualified, and often highly talented individuals are discouraged from even attempting to compete. Such people often end up joining a large organization, because they’re intimidated into believing that they can’t possibly create a successful business on their own. The plus side of this situation is that it ensures that there will be relatively few small businesses in your chosen field. Therefore, as long as you can learn how to compete with the famous powerhouses, you will likely succeed.

Imagine a world in which there are relatively few cereals which are available; these few are promoted worldwide, and all of them taste nearly the same. At first, it might seem hopeless to create a new kind of cereal in such an environment. However, since there are so few real choices, any new kind of cereal which is truly different will immediately stand out from the others. If you have a chance of being noticed, then success is much more likely to follow. Having the boldness to be different and to be able to explain why this difference is beneficial to your customers will enable you to be clearly visible especially when you’re surrounded by competitors who don’t even attempt to be meaningfully distinct from each other. When everyone is eager to be like everyone else, being different becomes rare and special. (more…)

The David Brent Factor – How to Attract Gen Y Talent


Ninety-three percent of CEOs believe that to grow effectively they need to change their sourcing strategy. Many are struggling to appeal to today’s applicants. Generation Y tend to be representative of the modern quick fix, instant gratification culture; tactics that might have helped employers connect with older applicants are ripe for disruption. To tackle this problem, companies are adapting their talent strategy to better target younger candidates. G4S, one of the UK’s largest recruiters, is beginning evaluate the Facebook profiles of successful young employees in a bid to better judge future Generation Y candidates for fit.

Different kinds of engagement

Generation Y favour different channels of communication. LinkedIn might be best forum to connect with older candidates but today’s tech savvy applicants expect interaction through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, to name a few. They are straying from the confines of company career pages in search of information on company culture and personal interaction. Candidates are more concerned with their working environment and companies are beginning to use channels previously associated with marketing or social media departments to find them. (more…)

Daily Thought: Can PR Practitioners Work for Clients Without Being Morally Associated With Them?

Should PR consultants select their clients? Can PR counselors, like lawyers, work for individuals or organizations without being morally associated with them?

In a democratic system, every one is entitled to legal representation. But does it follow that every one is entitled to PR counseling and a voice in the public media?

I don’t think so. What lawyers are representing is not an endorsement of their client. Regardless of his crime, the individual deserves legal counsel in the spirit of due process.

There is no such system in public communication. Working for a PR client whose cause you do not believe in is like prostitution. You are selling out your beliefs for money and financial gain. Client selection is one of the ethical issues that PR counselors (with integrity) must always adhere to.

About the Author

Carlos A. Agatep






Carlos A. Agatep is the Group Chairman & CEO at Havas Worldwide Manila and Havas PR Agatep.

Joke: How many straw men can you fit into an Inc. post?

Depends on how long the post needs to be.

In the case of the July 29th masterpiece “Why Personal Branding is a Sham,” at least three.

I could spend my whole career, or even my whole life, correcting everyone perpetrating nonsense about personal branding, and public relations as a whole. Don’t have time. But when an outlet that people trust, in this case Inc., misinforms the public, then over 600 people share that misinformation, it’s worth taking a few minutes to set the record straight.

Will Yakowicz’s entire, and I mean entire, post was simply intended to be a paraphrased version of an interview that took place the same day between Harvard Business Review’s Joan Solotar and Shelly Lazarus, former Chairman & CEO of Ogilvy & Mather.

(You know how digital journalism works these days: wait for someone else to invest time and energy stringing together original thoughts, then read those thoughts, change the wording and produce as many clicks as possible for your own site.)

I’ve read through it several times and I think it’s fair to claim that there’s not a single original thought in the entire piece. If you find one, let me know. It’s all supposed to be based on what Lazarus said in the HBR interview. Unfortunately, it’s largely taken out of context and grossly misrepresents what I understood her to be saying when reading the same interview.

A straw man is a fallacy. This is how it works.

Straw Man 101
















Straw man argument #1


The notion that you need to promote anything except your own authentic personality, opinions, and style is just not true, says one advertising veteran.

  • The author wastes no time in manufacturing a false definition of personal branding.
  • As it turns out, and as personal branding experts know, it’s all about authenticity. This is rarely, if ever, disputed by reputable experts. The way the author presents it, though, would lead you to believe that it’s the prevailing line of thought.