I spent an enjoyable July 4th with friends in San Mateo…doing what you do on this oh-so-American holiday — enjoying the sun, cooking and eating outside, and so on. When I got home I scanned through my Twitter feed to see what was going on in the world, and before I knew it two hours had gone by and I was still following one story arc (which hasn’t yet concluded).
What caught my eye was a PandoDaily tweet that provided an “update” to a story that one of their journalists, Michael Carney, had written about Santa Monica-based startup BeachMint (noted by an article in the LA Times is that the startup is in Santa Monica, not Los Angeles!).
BeachMint is “A next generation social commerce company”. Ok, what does that mean? Well, they were founded in 2010 and have what can only be described as a complicated array of sub-brands: JewelMint, StyleMint, BeautyMint, ShoeMint, HomeMint and, finally, IntiMint (if the company is truly in some strife as is being speculated, expect them to whittle this list of six down to fewer — maybe two or three). Basically BeachMint boils down to celebs hawking products.
The thrust of Carney’s original piece was that he had learned, from six independent sources, that the BeachMint board were going to sack the two founders, and return some funds to investors — not exactly a positive sign. BeachMint quickly reacted and denied any truth to this story, and the next day, on July 3rd, Sarah Lacy published an update.
It’s this update, and the comments below it (especially those involving Paul Carr), that really sucked me in. Two things stood out in what Paul raised.
First, it certainly *appears* as if BeachMint employees, or people close to the company, created accounts to post on PandoDaily with pseudonyms to refute the claims and stick up for BeachMint. We’ll never know if this is truly the case, but it does seem fishy.
Second, it felt like watching a train wreck in slow motion as I read the discussion between Paul and David Oh develop. David got off on the wrong foot by not being upfront about his role at BeachMint (Paul’s response: “David, you should disclose that you are Director of Acquisition at BeachMint. “), and from there he continued to stumble. Paul does verge on pedantic/nit-picky, but he is honing in on some interesting points, and highlighting inconsistencies that may or may not prove consequential.
What am I taking away from all this, besides the pure entertainment value? Well, speaking generally it clearly behooves companies to get truly organized around how they engage with the media, particularly when something like this flares up. Have a plan prepared before you get in this situation — know how your company will react in the case of a PR nightmare.
Be careful too how advisors and other people “close” to the company are involved and, if possible, have a single spokesperson take the lead such that everything can be coordinated. Don’t shy away from (privately) telling people to shut up.
We wait to see how this story will conclude…