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Why you shouldn’t launch at South by Southwest

Don’t launch at SXSW.

I repeat, DO NOT launch at SXSW.

The reasons for this are many, not the least of which is the logistical nightmare of scheduling media interviews amidst a throng of some 300,000 attendees, a commensurate amount of booze and no shortage of parties for business executives, journalists and other attendees that nearly ensures you get lost somewhere in the proverbial and literal shuffle.

Unless you have the brand recognition of some of the largest companies in the U.S.—and the marketing budget to match—your message will inevitably drown in the endless stream of news, parties and events the conference produces.

Here are a couple mistakes we often see from companies looking to launch at SXSW:

It eats into a company’s marketing budget

Most startups—and companies in general—have to be careful with their marketing spend. Pouring most or all of a marketing budget into sponsoring a party at SXSW or hiring a street crew to pass out leave-behinds simply will not deliver the ROI a company needs to declare the investment a success.

Those dollars would be better spent if implemented across an entire marketing and public relations campaign that stretches for months and targets relevant journalists that aren’t overwhelmed with things to do and people to talk to.

Launching outside of the accelerator or other startup-centric events can be devastating

I’m not advocating that a company refuse to participate in a SXSW-sanctioned startup pitch event or accelerator. On the contrary, if you can land a spot in one of the revered SXSW pitch competitions, pitch away. It’s how Twitter gained near-immediate fame when it launched in 2007, after all.

Debuting without the additional support and gravitas the SXSW Accelerator Pitch Event provides, however, has a few repercussions. Your launch or attempt to increase awareness has no safety net, no additional promotional initiatives surrounding it other than the ones you put in place and—just as importantly—no centralized location where attendees silence their phones and the rest of the outside world to focus most of their attention on the people pitching. That kind of exclusivity is rarely matched at SXSW amidst the constant stream of things to do and see, friends or colleagues looking to connect, and an abnormal influx of emails, social media chatter, etc.

Which brings me to my next point.

Even if journalists want to cover your news, they’re likely too busy

Most news outlets only send a couple of reporters to SXSW every year. The number of emails, tweets, invites and pieces of news they receive during a time such as SXSW is astronomical compared to a normal day at the office, which can already number in the hundreds. So, not only do you have to convince a reporter to write a story or cover your launch, your pitch has to compete with an absurd amount of emails and other communications. The safer, more economic alternative is to wait until journalists have emerged from recovery post-SXSW and gain their attention when they are more likely to find some time to schedule an interview, speak with an executive or spokesperson and file a story.

SXSW can be a useful strategic opportunity for many executives to network, meet potential customers and other stakeholders and just generally be in the center of the tech universe for a few days or weeks. But using it as a platform to launch a company or product few people have heard of risks disaster not only during the conference, but long after as well.

If you’re wondering how to properly allocate resources toward a company or product launch, shoot us a note, we’d be happy to explore how we can help you implement an integrated communications campaign.

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