Last year, we tried to buy the Los Angeles Clippers by crowdfunding $600,000,000.

If we were successful, we would have converted the organization into a non-profit so that the community would own and control it. The Donald Sterling scandal was becoming sensational, and we knew PR would be everything. The problem was neither I nor my team had any PR experience.

As you already know, we didn’t succeed and the community doesn’t own the LA Clippers today. However, the crowdfunding PR lessons we learned were invaluable. Today, I’d like to share with you 10 things you can take away and apply to your business from our thrilling journey.

1. PR comes in waves

Initially, we thought we could easily capitalize on the current PR sweeping the news outlets. We thought that if we could just catch one major local news outlet, then it surely would go viral and penetrate the national news. But that wasn’t the case.

We ended up getting the local news we wanted from NBC to FOX, but it stalled there. We learned that in PR, you have to keep on pushing. Getting exposure at FOX in Southern California, for example, didn’t automatically lead to FOX national coverage. In hindsight, we should have leveraged the local exposure better and pushed each wave much more aggressively.

2. There’s always a big boy to battle

We were the first to publicly want to buy the Clippers. “Surely there wouldn’t be another crazy crowdfund campaign attempt,” we thought, but there was.

However, it wasn’t from who you may have expected. It came from Arsenio Hall. He tried to crowdfund buying the LA Clippers too. But it wasn’t a serious attempt and despite his brand and reach, he didn’t raise nearly as much money as we did.

After Arsenio came the likes of Dr. Dre, Oprah Winfrey, and Magic Johnson. They all wanted to buy the Clippers, and we were now battling them too. The point is, when going after PR, expect to battle the big names in your space, the names who have the brand and connections that can slow down your momentum.

3. Sell a story

It all started as a crazy idea, an idea that I could not let go. One day somebody would crowdfund the purchase of a major sports team. Why not today? So the storytelling began.

From the very beginning, we avoided crafting our story around racism. Instead, our story was based on the hopes of a few fans who represented a community. And the idea that alone we couldn’t buy the Clippers, but together we were strong enough to outbid billionaires. United as one, we could win.

Just like any good movie, create a compelling story, link it to your business and sell the dreams and hopes of what your story means to the world.

4. Timing is everything

Had we made this attempt when there was no Donald Sterling controversy, no one would have cared. Had we tried this when the concept of crowdfunding was still unknown, we would have received zero traction.

But in our case, the timing was perfect, so the press caught on. However, even then we were a little slow. My wife and I were in the middle of closing escrow on the sale of our business at the end of that week, and we had just made a cross country move. We lost precious days before making this attempt. Every second counts in the press game, especially if you’re capitalizing off a major news event.

5. Find People or Companies Larger Than You

Attach yourself to organizations and people who are larger than you are. Use their resources to further your campaign (with their permission, of course).

For example, while determining which crowdfunding platform to use, we researched the typical suspects such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, and eventually ended up choosing a well-funded, yet unknown platform named Tilt. We called them, pitched our story, and once we felt their authentic enthusiasm, there was no other choice.

Their resources helped big time. Their team was comprised of passionate people who believed that the power of the crowd could accomplish anything. They latched on to our mission and better yet, they had PR people on staff. They had the connections we didn’t. That gave us a huge boost to start. For example, they got us into TIME Magazine here.

They also had a budget and blanketed advertising around our exposure. We literally went from a small budget with no PR team to a huge budget with a PR team instantly. We kept them in the loop for all major coverage, and they did the same. We had a team now.

6. Reach out to the right reporters

We found out quickly that we were wasting our time just pitching anyone. Once we identified the right reporters who wrote about sports, basketball, crowdfunding, technology, and the like, our pitches gained traction. Identify your potential reporters, view their bio, and read their stories to find the right match.

We also learned that short and passionate pitches worked better than longer crafted pitches. We landed interviews on FOX, NBA and ABC simply by reaching out using direct, to-the-point language. A reporter’s’ time is valuable. They’re getting pitched constantly. Don’t waste their time. Get right to it.

7. Twitter worked wonders

None of us were Twitter users at the time we launched. But at the urging of a content marketing expert friend, we got onto Twitter and learned that it spreads really fast. We landed a handful of opportunities simply by direct messaging reporters. What also worked was plugging our story into the Clippers and Donald Sterling conversations that were already happening.

8. TV is great for brand awareness, but online drove results

Traditional advertising such as TV, radio, and print works really well for brand exposure. You get to tell your story in a very personal way and reach a huge amount of people in a very short time.

But, unfortunately, we didn’t get many results from it. What it did do was keep the volunteer team motivated and excited to see the fruits of their labor on TV and their efforts acknowledged.

Online PR, on the other hand, created the most results. We could measure it, we knew exactly where the traffic was coming from, and what happened when they landed. Email blasts and new mentions turned into donations.

9. Some ideas are too crazy

At first, the news outlets didn’t think what we were attempting was possible, nor did they believe our concept of giving it back to the people. Crowdfunding $600 million! Are you crazy?

When we hit this road bump, we dug in and did some research.

We found out that public ownership of sports teams is a very real concept and it’s been done plenty of times before. For example, the Green Bay Packers is a non-profit. Or, consider Futbol Club Barcelona, one of the largest soccer teams in the world.

We also learned that Newt Gingrich, in light of the events happening, wrote a piece about public ownership of sports teams on CNN. That was a legitimate name advocating what we were!

Sometimes you have to bring your ideas back down to earth by grounding it with real facts, and let that stabilize the naysayers.

10. Get the first believer

After hours of pitching into the wee hours of the night, we woke up half-asleep the next morning with our first call from a reporter. We called her back and left a message. Then another call came in. We said, “Sure, we’ll meet you at Staples Center for an on-camera interview.” When we got there our first interviewer wasn’t there! But there were other camera crews, and once they heard we were being pursued, they wanted in.

Get that first believer in your story and use that to get the other people excited. Get one, and the rest become that much easier.

Conclusion

In the end, although we didn’t succeed, we got thrown into a whirlwind of a journey that exposed us to the world of PR in a way we never thought imaginable. I hope our journey helps you and your business go to the next level.