By @. Imsightful interview with Justin Mauldin Founder at Mauldin Consulting / 2016 Business Insider Top 50 in Tech PR / Travel & Concert Photographer / TechCrunch Contributor / Top 250 Instagram Influencer
What is your background?
I’ve always been drawn to marketing so I got my start at Apple. I was brought on to help rebuild and scale their university marketing in the U.S. After a few years I left to go pursue my Master’s in Sustainability at Duquesne University. Afterwords, I came back to the Bay Area and worked for a few different mobile startups as their director of marketing managing everything from email marketing to SEO to events. Marketing has become so complex and diverse that I ended up with a ton of broad knowledge, but not as much deep. The one thing that bothered me wherever I went was PR. It seemed like everyone always hated their PR agency and there was this revolving door where you’d go through a new agency every six months. There is a great article on TechCrunch on the price-gouging they do. One day I just said enough and fired the agency to bring it all in-house. I began developing the relationships myself and that eventually led me to realize how much I enjoy it compared to some of the other things in marketing. I joined one of the best PR agencies in San Francisco (Bateman Group) and spent about a year on that side. Ultimately, I decided the agency model is fatally flawed no matter how good the people. I left at the end of 2015 and started my own company (Mauldin Consulting) where I now run PR and marketing for my clients.
"You must give everything to make your life as beautiful as the dreams that dance in your imagination." – Roman Payne pic.twitter.com/5TCgXeUacD
— Justin Mauldin (@jmauldn) October 23, 2016
Was it a logical progression to what you do now?
I guess you can say it was. Great marketing to me is simply great storytelling. I’ve always had a big imagination growing up and a good bullshit detector, which has helped me tremendously. I intuitively understand what makes a good story and what media find interesting. I never really thought starting my own company was where I’d end up, but it just kinda happened as a result of soul searching and seeing a need in the market.
Tell us about Mauldin Consulting – what’s the goal, what do you do?
Simply stated – I help my clients tell interesting stories. Sometimes that’s what you’d expect like funding announcements or product launches. Other times it’s helping them understand their voice or giving counsel in a pinch. The best part about running your own company is that I get to work with companies that I honestly believe in. Many times when you’re at a startup or an agency you have to shovel the news that’s given to you regardless of if you believe reporters will care or not. Over time I think that’s what destroys credibility in PR people and it sucks having to do it. Thankfully, I’ve gotten to a place where I’m not inventing news for people or spinning. If I don’t find it compelling then I don’t work with them.
You have a lot of interests, what is a typical day like, and how do you balance it all?
Balance is the key. I think it’s so important to mix it up. I run a photography business as well that’s focused on travel and concert photography. Sometimes I’ll spend a week heads down on a big PR push and other weeks I’ll have the freedom to take a trip to Yosemite and capture the beauty of this world. The balance between left and right brain businesses gives me more fulfillment than doing just one by itself. Rather than take on more and more PR clients, I intentionally limit myself so I have the time to recharge. Balance prevents burnout and it’s the most important thing for me. This is something I overlooked this the first ten years of my career.
For your photography what camera(s) do you use?
I shoot with Sony A7RII and have a variety of lenses depending on what I’m doing.
What are the most common tips you give to startups as a mentor?
Pull your head up out of the weeds and step back from your bubble. Try to picture your company as someone without any bias or context. This is hard for so many founders. We are all human. People work crazy hours on delivering version X.X and think the story is all about some feature update. The truth is that most people will never care (especially not reporters). The narrative should be world changing, data driven, future-looking, and impactful. Startups don’t need a new story every few months. They just need one really good one and everything they’re doing just furthers it.
We have reached peak self absorption pic.twitter.com/DeZbXbqYWE
— Justin Mauldin (@jmauldn) November 17, 2016
What are the most common mistakes you see startups making?
You know it still surprises me how much of the basic stuff is missed. I’ve seen startups work on a product for over a year and when it comes to the announcement they only leave themselves one week to get it done. They forget to set aside the CEO’s time for interviews. They don’t think through key messages. They don’t have headshots or product shots ready for reporters. They haven’t thought through giving the demos and logistics needed. They are so focused on making sure the product is ready they leave this stuff till the very last minute and blow it. It often falls on one person in a company who is usually junior and doesn’t have the authority to push back on C-levels to create the space needed for success.
(Including being ‘too busy’ to promote what they do?)
I won’t name any names, but I’ve come across startups who think they are above certain publications. They only want to be in the New York Times or WSJ. They won’t bother talking to anyone else. It’s absurd really. I don’t believe in the mantra – all PR is good PR – but I do believe that all good PR is good PR. Why pass up opportunities to tell your story in a positive way? It makes zero sense.
Writing for Tech Crunch sounds fun, what topics do you like to cover?
I follow what the big tech giants are doing constantly and so I like contextualizing what their moves and motivations mean. For example, I just read today that Amazon has begun testing new retail stores without cash registers. The store has enough sensors and cameras that it can tell what you put in your bag when you walk out. It’s quite brilliant, really. But just think about how many millions of jobs are going to be displaced overnight as this tech becomes mainstream. There is no doubt that technology is making our lives tremendously better and easier. The question for we need to answer is what are the millions of people working minimum wage jobs going to do when nearly every job becomes automated by sensors, AI, and robots? We don’t seem any closer to a solution and things are going to get a lot worse for many hardworking people.
Just stare and enjoy pic.twitter.com/xuvNW5R9zc
— Justin Mauldin (@jmauldn) December 8, 2016