Thursday, June 28, 2012

Why is “Lifestyle Business” a Dirty Word?
By Joanna Kulesa

Recently, more than one person has referred to our agency as a “lifestyle business.” For those who are unfamiliar with this term, it’s a veiled dig. defines a “lifestyle business” as one that is set up and run by its founders primarily with the aim of sustaining a particular level of income, and no more. Referring to a business by this name is a roundabout way of saying, “Your cutesy little business will never be big and you don’t take it seriously.” It’s a sly way to ding a business with priorities above growth and expansion.
Because of the condescending implications, my first instinct was to defend my business against the reference. After I did some research and looked at the descriptions objectively, I actually had to agree. Kulesa Faul fits the definition of a lifestyle business. So what?
I originally created my business because as a mom I wanted to spend more time with my children and without being chained to an employer. I did it so that I could work fewer hours, vacation on my own terms, and still pay the bills. But I also did it so that I could create jobs and provide employees with full careers complete with healthy salaries, health care, retirement funds, and the ability to pay for their children's’ educations. 
Building a business that is run primarily around its people and its product, not just capital and growth, is something to be proud of, and it’s something I see more and more people catching onto these days.
For example, I recently read a blog post by a guy called David, appropriately dubbed, “The Lifestyle Business Bullshit.”
In it, David effectively describes the many reasons the “lifestyle business” dig is out-of-date. He explains that the use of this term stems from an archetypical false dilemma.
This false dilemma, he writes, is that “either you 1) Let your business devour your life and you’ll be incredibly successful, or 2) You balance your life with things other than work but are relegated to paying-the-rent success.”
In my view, it has been a long time since there was a direct correlation between the number of hours someone works and the success they enjoy.
As David’s blog notes, “When you’re building products or services, there’s a nonlinear connection between input and output. You can put in just a little and still get out a spectacular lot.”
Kulesa Faul is a “lifestyle business” that cares deeply about employees, products and success of the business, and whose principals and employees simultaneously chose to live a full, enriching life outside of the office. And, I don’t think there’s any shame in that!
Joanna Kulesa is principal of Kulesa Faul, in San Mateo, CA. Kulesa Faul focuses on public relations, social media and communications strategies for enterprise software and consumer technologies companies.—

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Cool Earth Apps—Sparking Interest in Saving the Planet

By Joanna Kulesa
Looking back on “Earth Month,” I am reminded of how many different ways there are to spark a conversation that benefits our planet.

One of our nonprofit clients, Rock the Earth, works with the music industry and its fans, many of whom are concerned with the fate of our public lands, air and water, to advocate for the ensured existence of a sustainable and healthy environment for all. For example, Rock the Earth’s Planet Defender Awards have helped to encourage big names in music to raise their voices for Mother Earth since Earth Day 2006. Kulesa Faul recently helped to announce this year’s conscientious tribute.

The Planet Defender Awards honor individuals who are dedicated to environmental activism, including Willie Nelson (Artist), Amory Lovins (Community Leader) and Lynn Henning (Grassroots Activist). Of course, Willy Nelson accepting an award for his eco-friendly work has large-scale ripples, but famous or not, anyone can raise awareness with (literally) the click of a button.

Take a simple technology like applications (apps)—most everyone today carries a smart phone. National Geographic’s “National Parks” app lets us peer upon the amazing natural landscapes that surround us and, hopefully, sparks curiosity about preserving our planet. Other apps also seem to adopt National Geographic’s long-standing motto, “Inspiring people to care about the planet." Another, the Night Sky app, enables us to gaze upward at the beauty of it all, and map the stars and constellations wherever we are.

Other apps take a proactive approach to preserving our precious resources. The new “Fragile Earth” app takes a serious look at the issues by highlighting areas at risk, while organizations like our client People Power have developed apps to help us easily manage our energy use.

When mixed with social media, environmentally conscious apps can ignite change on a scale never before possible. Like the butterfly effect—“when a butterfly flaps its wings in one part of the world it can cause a hurricane in another part of the world”—when we post an awe-striking photo of the Grand Canyon or Mt. Huang to our Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, you-name-it accounts, our actions may inadvertently give birth to a newfound appreciation of nature, or taking action to preserve it.

Earth-appreciation shouldn’t be confined to a single day or month. Why not begin exploring these simple apps to spread the wonder, gratitude and awareness? 

Joanna Kulesa is principal of Kulesa Faul, in San Mateo, CA. Kulesa Faul focuses on public relations, social media and communications strategies for enterprise software and consumer technologies companies.—

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

New Way to Invest in Startups and Grow Entrepreneurship with the JOBS Act

By Joanna Kulesa

Entrepreneurship is everything in the US. It’s what sets us apart. Schoolchildren are raised on stories about inventors like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison, and entrepreneurs like Andrew Carnegie and Henry Ford. Here in Silicon Valley, we tend to take it for granted that the entrepreneurial spirit literally fuels the economy.

It’s easy to forget the rest of the world isn’t like Silicon Valley.

We’re here in this booming hub where creative startups are everyday clients. We work with the world’s top VCs who fund our clients in the tens of millions. Of course this isn’t the case everywhere. In order to help small businesses thrive on a larger scale, we need to get creative and loosen up national business practices. The new Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act could be just the sort of help US startups need.

In signing the JOBS Act in the beginning of April, President Obama acknowledged the need for what he called “game changing” practices in the business world. An article in Mashable defined the JOBS Act as “a bipartisan bill which aims to make it easier for startups to grow, hire employees and contribute to the United States’ sluggish economic recovery.”

The bill classifies startups as “emerging growth companies,” and says companies under this description may now turn to online investors to raise their startup capital. The idea behind the JOBS Act is based on "crowd funding." Investments would come from online investors, and be implemented in a way similar to websites like Kickstarter or Indygogo, which allow users to raise money for creative projects via online donations.

However, the JOBS Act isn’t for everyone. There are many complexities and responsibilities inherent in taking on investors. As another Mashable article points out, the crowd funding feature of the bill will impact investors as well as startups because the law allows almost anyone to invest. Mashable points out that in the amended bill, the Senate gave the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission 270 days to interpret and issue rules for the public. So, it may not be legal to make an investment through the JOBS Act until 2013.

In the meantime, it’s important for startups to hash out a communications plan for investors. You’re now answering to “many bosses” and they’re going to want to be over communicated to. How is the business executing on its plan? What is the customer adoption rate? Is the product delivering on its promise? Are partners happy? Are revenues growing?

I think it’s great that the newest generation of entrepreneurs will have access to an alternative to the traditional IPO, bank borrowing and VC investing. However, as with any new model, all parties should approach the JOBS Act well educated and with eyes wide open. 

Joanna Kulesa is principal of Kulesa Faul, in San Mateo, CA. Kulesa Faul focuses on public relations, social media and communications strategies for enterprise software and consumer technologies companies.—

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Facebook Draws the Line to Protect Employees’ Online Privacy

By Joanna Kulesa
For many employers, it is standard practice to peruse potential applicants' Facebook profiles, but in some cases employers are taking it a step too far: A number of potential employers have demanded that applicants hand over their Facebook login information so that they can view potential employees’ restricted profiles. In an article I came across recently, Facebook stood up for the rights of applicants. They responded publicly by stating that users should not be required to give up their Facebook passwords or any other private logon information and warned employers that accessing a job seeker's account under such conditions violates the network's policies, infringes on the privacy of the user's friends, and could expose the employer to legal risks.

Now, if you’re in the business of national security you should expect different requests from your potential employer. If you go to work at Lockheed Martin, you should expect and accept that full disclosure will be necessary for gaining security clearance at any level—even if you’re just applying for a maintenance position. This includes more than just handing over a Facebook password. When my sister applied to a big government contractor, personnel physically visited the neighborhood she grew up in and interviewed neighbors who knew her as a child. People now have "digital public personas,” and it’s assumed companies of this type will inspect your public life online just as closely as offline.

However, unless a company is in the business of national security, I don’t feel they have any right to this kind of information. If you’re Proctor & Gamble, for example, you have no business requiring full access to a person's Facebook account. In fact, if an applicant sets up their account to allow access only to approved friends, this serves as notice that they want their privacy maintained in the online world. In this case, potential employers should respect the privacy of applicants. Of course, anyone with a fully open account is notifying the world of the inverse. A company certainly should take a look at a prospective employee's behavior online as long as that information is publicly available.

That said, as the online social world matures, things that seem shocking or career ending today aren't going to raise eyebrows tomorrow. I don't think ten years from now an indiscrete photo of a person found online by a company manager is going to decide whether she gets hired or fired. Rewind 12 years and I required employees to cover their tattoos at all client meetings. Now? No bid deal. The young people out there today doing stupid things online are the future managers who will handle hiring and firing at corporations, so chances are they'll be more compassionate and understanding of youth's virtual follies.

Joanna Kulesa is principal of Kulesa Faul, in San Mateo, CA. Kulesa Faul focuses on public relations, social media and communications strategies for enterprise software and consumer technologies companies.—

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Is Business of Interest on Pinterest?

By Joanna Kulesa
The latest social media craze is the pin board-style social photo sharing website, Pinterest. This fast-growing company entered the top 10 social networks in Dec. 2011 with 11 million visits per week, and in Jan. 2012 it drove more referral traffic to retailers than LinkedIn, YouTube and Google+. This year, ComScore reported it as the fastest site in history to break the 10 million unique visitor mark.

With the mission statement to "connect everyone in the world through the 'things' they find interesting,” Pinterest is clearly a fantastic opportunity for companies whose products translate well into images, but my question is this: How does the image-based design of Pinterest translate to enterprise software companies with products that are not as easily transformed into eye candy?

Companies with particularly gripping photos, such as jewelry, cookware, and clothing retailers, have been especially successful via Pinterest. This could have something to do with the site’s general user base. Almost directly in answer to Google+, whose users are predominately male, Pinterest’s users are almost entirely female. In fact, 97 percent of Pinterest’s Facebook likes are women. Lo and behold, it’s not entirely surprising that the most successful companies using the site are marketing glitzy, fashion-forward or home-care-based products that are more traditionally marketed toward women.

So, how are companies with less compelling product photos—tech companies for instance—competing on Pinterest? One way to do it is to make serious use of infographics and eye-catching charts. For example, Constant Contact has a relatively successful presence on Pinterest but their products—email, event and social media marketing—are not naturally converted into imagery. So, they’ve posted a board of infographics, and an array of charts that spruce up their “boards” (which are set up like bulletin boards) on Pinterest. Their Pinterest presence is more focused on displaying their company's overall culture than specific products. In the end, you get a “feel” for, and hopefully connect with, the brand.

So when it comes to Pinterest, if your product doesn’t translate directly into compelling, brightly colored photographs, think about what your product or even your company or team represents and start pinning. For instance, does the company have regional managers with unique backgrounds to share? If so, display those visual stories on Pinterest boards. Post images from seminars or company events, or “day in the life” photos that show off the office culture and individual personalities. Consider getting the feedback of an experienced graphic designer or art director with a keen eye for image, who can help translate your company’s mission, vision, values or culture into something of interest on Pinterest.

Joanna Kulesa is principal of Kulesa Faul, in San Mateo, CA. Kulesa Faul focuses on public relations, social media and communications strategies for enterprise software and consumer technologies companies.—

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Making Room for Nonprofit Work: Every Day is Payday

By Joanna Kulesa
With the various day to day tasks we all have to finish, it is easy to fall into a “business as usual” pattern and forget to make time for those under-the-radar projects we truly want to engage in—like working with a nonprofit whose work maps to your values.

In this social media-driven climate, a company’s overall image matters more each day. What we choose to make time for, on top of what we must do, isn’t only rewarding and fun, but it matters. Many companies are trying to achieve more than mere profits, and people are paying real attention to businesses with a ‘work for good’ side.

I’m a huge fan of Sir Richard Branson and recently downloaded his new book, Screw Business as Usual. In this book, he illustrates how “doing good is good for business.” In the past few years, I’ve come to learn first-hand that setting aside time for nonprofit work is not only fun and rewarding, but also an important component to overall success. The benefits of nonprofit projects are threefold: the nonprofit benefits as a result of the collaboration, you feel good for contributing to something you care about, and your team enjoys a richer work experience.

I’ve always had a passion for animal, environmental and other issues close to my heart. But my interest in working with nonprofits professionally was piqued three years back after my daughter and I watched a PBS special on the story of Koko the gorilla, and the Gorilla Foundation’s efforts to save gorillas from extinction. I was moved by Koko’s story and found myself wishing I could contribute something beyond money to their cause.

So, when an email from the Gorilla Foundation arrived by chance in my inbox asking Kulesa Faul to potentially partner on PR and social media efforts, there was no question in my mind. The Gorilla Foundation became our first nonprofit client.

Both passion and profits can drive you, and I’ve found that the two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. By doing good and contributing our talents to causes we care about, we’re building a richer business, a diverse network and an even more passionate team.

And now Kulesa Faul is proud to announce our second nonprofit client, Rock the Earth. Rock the Earth is a fantastic organization that works with the music industry and its fans to encourage advocates of the ecological future of the planet. We are energized by the pro bono work we do for our nonprofit clients and their causes, and every day feels like payday!

Joanna Kulesa is principal of Kulesa Faul, in San Mateo, CA. Kulesa Faul focuses on public relations, social media and communications strategies for enterprise software and consumer technologies companies.—

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Congrats, CMO! Your startup has been acquired at 10x revenues. You now have enormous goals to hit. And, your PR agency has been terminated.

By Joanna Kulesa
I’ve seen this over and over in my years of running PR agencies in Silicon Valley. Entrepreneurs and marketing executives work with agencies to help put them on the map, develop their brand as ‘one to watch,’ get them short-listed with key analyst firms, and win all the right awards. When consolidation begins, they’re one of the first to be considered for acquisition by the ‘big guys.’ Cisco, CA, HP, Sybase, Dell and EMC, to name a few, have acquired our clients.

The acquisition goes through. Everyone is joyous. And then it settles in. You go from owning the entire marketing function for your company to relying on a large marketing organization that may regard your product as a mere ‘blip’ on the radar. Your success is number one priority for you; however, global marketing organizations need to contend with hundreds of products, and tens of internal clients.

Your company got acquired because it filled a crucial need for the acquiring company, completed a missing component of their suite, or helped them gain entry into a new market. Now, you’ve been given big marketing and revenue goals to hit. And, the acquiring company has – as a matter of course – terminated your PR agency. It happens almost without fail that all existing vendor agreements are cancelled at the close of an acquisition. It isn’t personal. It’s what acquiring companies do.

Here’s the rub. Why do CMOs and CEOs let this happen? You’re burdened with reaching aggressive goals and milestones, yet you’re losing an important part of your team. There are many, many important items to be negotiated during the acquisition process. I would argue that, if you feel strongly that your PR agency has played a key role in the growth of your business and brand, this is a negotiating point worth ‘going to the mat’ for.

A very large technology company bought one of our clients in recent years. They are one of the first companies to chart a different course. They’ve kept our agency onboard even though the parent company has an excellent global agency of record. We have continued to act like the aggressive startup the acquirer first fell in love with and it has been enormously successful. Both parties have progressive executives who innately understand the relationship and importance of the team as a whole. It’s a valued ‘team’ relationship; not your typical ‘vendor’ relationship.

Here are three things to consider before agreeing to your new MBO’s at an acquiring company: 1) Which of your vendor relationships can’t you live without in order to achieve your goals (and ultimate payout?) 2) Who on your startup marketing staff is essential to that success? And, 3) Is there a growth path for you at your new company once the typical 18-month payout is completed?

Joanna Kulesa is principal of Kulesa Faul, in San Mateo, CA. Kulesa Faul focuses on public relations, social media and communications strategies for enterprise software and consumer technologies companies—