28 July 2013 | 27 Comments
Kickstarter has an interesting impact on you as a public person. The second you launch on Kickstarter, you’re in the public eye in a way that you’ve probably never experienced. It’s different than Facebook or blogging–Kickstarter is currently the 810th most visited website on the internet. Your visibility there is many times greater than normal.
It extends well beyond Kickstarter. From now on, you are in the public eye.
What does that mean for those of us who can’t afford PR firms? It means that whoever you were before your Kickstarter campaign–an amalgamation of thoughts, ideas, and opinions–still exists, but now you will be actively judged by a lot of people. Not just backers, but people in your industry who can be great connections for you if you don’t burn those bridges first.
I have two stories to illustrate this concept. Both fit are related to a leadership lesson I wrote on my public blog a while ago: Praise Publicly, Criticize Privately. Because you never know who’s listening.
The first story happened on Friday. I was recently asked to speak on a panel of local crowdfunding/crowdsourcing entrepreneurs in St. Louis at Washington University, my alma mater. The panel was actually held in a classroom where I took several of my business school classes in undergrad. About 100 people were in attendance.
Midway through the panel, I was asked whether there is any reason I wouldn’t use Kickstarter in the future. I explained that while Kickstarter is great for gauging demand and testing the waters with little capital at stake, it may not be necessary for a well-established company with a loyal user base.
To give an example, I expressed my admiration for the philosophy of Greater Than Games, the publisher of Sentinels of the Multiverse.
They ran several incredibly successful Kickstarter campaigns, but they made it clear that for future Sentinels expansion, they were going to use traditional pre-orders instead of Kickstarter. I applauded them and said that I had adapted a similar philosophy for Stonemaier Games.
Little did I know that Paul Bender, one of the founding members of Greater Than Games, was in attendance! He kindly spoke up to confirm what I had said, and we had a nice chat after the panel ended.
The point is that you never know who’s listening when you’re in the public eye. And it’s one thing if you’re physically in public like I was at the speaking engagement. It’s quite another online, where almost anyone can read what you’re saying.
The second story is about an online encounter I had this weekend. I won’t name names (that’s the point of this entry, right?), but the overall idea is that someone libeled Stonemaier Games on a social network. Note the use of the word “libel.” I never have a problem with people disagreeing with my methods or disliking my games…I mean, it stings a little, because I put my heart into this company, but everyone has a right to their opinion.
Libel is different. Libel is when you spread a untruth about a person or company in a way that damages their reputation. In this case, another project creator said that we overcharged US backers of Euphoria to subsidize games for backers in the EU.
I was quite surprised to read this for several reasons. First, a basic understanding of per-unit accounting shows that while shipping to some backers in the EU will cost more than US shipping, the impact is a reduction in profit margin for each of those games sent to the EU. US backers are paying for their own games, not those of backers in the EU. Who’s paying for the extra shipping cost to the EU? We are. Jamey and Alan are.
Second, the biggest surprise was that the person who said those comments didn’t seem to realize that I have access to the internet and can read what he wrote.
I tried–as politely as I could muster–to point out the discrepancy in his statement. And granted, he didn’t go all-out slander. It was an offhand remark. But it was really disappointing to see someone lie about Stonemaier Games for absolutely no reason, and to think that we somehow wouldn’t notice.
That’s the thing about your public persona once you’re on Kickstarter. If you say something about someone online–someone else’s project, their game, their personal life–they’re going to notice. Is that the type of reputation you want to have? Do you want to build bridges or burn them?
I’ve learned this lesson the hard way. Actually, it’s another good reason for you to start blogging now if you ever think you’re going to run a Kickstarter campaign. You’ll start to get a feel for what it’s like to be in the public eye.
Either way, keep this in mind as you run your Kickstarter campaign and remain in the public eye afterwards. It doesn’t mean that you can’t have opinions. Rather, it means that you need to think of the impact of everything you say online and in public. When in doubt, just remember to praise publicly and criticize privately, with the latter ideally meaning that you address your concerns privately with the object of your criticism.
I found this a tricky subject to write about. I’m curious to hear what others think–feel free to share your insights in the comments section.