I was reminded of a post written by Jason Calacanis a million years ago (OK, it was 2008) on getting PR for startups and one of the points he made was that startups should attach themselves to a movement.  His examples (unfortunately, in my opinion) revolved around movements that he started and allowed others to take advantage of.  In my experience with small companies, the opportunity isn’t so much around creating a movement as it is about being smart enough to recognize the trends or movements that your company is a part of.

Doing this involves figuring out what your company stands for.  I know startups that answer the “What do you stand for?” question with vague platitudes like “We want to change the world!” without a concrete definition of how they plan on doing that.  I’ve heard companies that tell me they exist to make money for themselves or their shareholders or that they will “be the greatest software company in the world.”  These statements to me seem like an outcome of what they are doing rather than what they stand for.  Customers don’t care if you’re planning on getting rich or not.  If your mission can’t be expressed from a customer’s point of view, it doesn’t count.

Etsy didn’t start the handmade movement but they are now a major part of it and it’s rare that folks talk about buying and selling handmade items without mentioning them.  Zappos is the poster child for a new kind of corporate culture that embraces employees as empowered human beings and is known almost as much for their corporate culture as they are for shoes.  They aren’t just an online shoe company, they’re starting a customer service revolution.  At a time when we are questioning traditional banking, CommunityLend is changing the way we think about investing and borrowing money.  As we think more about environmentalism and charity, ECHOage is turning children’s birthday parties into a opportunity to teach kids about giving.  At a time when traditional media is struggling, The Mark News is not only changing the way online commentary is created and distributed, but also the economic model surrounding that.

Are you changing the world for your customers?  How do you describe that?  What larger movement are you part of?  Now think about your messaging.  If Etsy is about “Buy, Sell, and Live Handmade” and Zappos is “Powered by Service”, what is your company all about?

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