I’ve read and reread Michael Arrington’s screed on the state of PR today. No doubt he’s had his full of moronic pitches from overly enthusiastic types pushing this story or that. Many of the pitches will be totally inappropriate for TechCrunch.
If you’re an entrepreneur, he’s got some great basic advice laid out. He also has some dangerous ideas that, once again, show me that some of the people out there who become somewhat successful in a relatively short time have: a tendency to assume that most aspects of marketing are somewhat frivolous and that all one has to do is follow these small steps.
Let’s get right to what he wrote:
So back to practical advice: what do you do if you’re a startup looking for help in getting the word out about your company? First off, don’t hire PR help until the volume of inbound requests by press are simply too much to handle without help. That’s way down the line for most companies.
Until then, take the time to start reading blogs and other publications that cover what you’re doing. Go to an event or two. This should be fun for you, since they’re writing about stuff that you’re spending all your time on. You’ll start to see links to other relevant sites, and before long you’ll fully understand who’s who in the space, get a feel for people’s personalities and passions, etc. Leave a few thoughtful comments. Better yet, start your own blog and link appropriately. And in your leisure time participate in the fascinating conversations occurring on Twitter and FriendFeed.
Suddenly you are no longer just a spectator with an agenda. You are now part of a community. You are a person that gives and takes. Someone who makes the overall network stronger. And I guarantee that after a few weeks of actually participating in the community, you’ll have far better press connections than most of the PR people we deal with daily.
I highlighted that last sentence because it is so stupid. A few weeks? Please. It’s like telling an aspiring actress that all she has to do is go to Hollywood and hang out at a few cool places for a couple of weeks and she’ll have far better connections than most agents.
Other than that, it sounds like great advice. And it is, for the most part. But it’s unrealistic for many. And it consistently spewed out views – seconded by many of the repondees that they’ve got in all under control as far as marketing goes. I’ve seen many a crash and burn from those who take on this mindset. That’s because they don’t think beyond the mindset.
If there’s a shitload of competition out there to break through the noise, then there’s a shitload of competition to break through h noise. Regardless of whom is getting out there amidst the conversations both online and off.
One intrepid PR person, a real fireball by the name of Kel Kelly, came in and told it like it is:
Most of our clients are savvy, Web 2.0-based businesses and they come to us because the “blogosphere only” strategy failed miserably…
…As for having the CEOs do it themselves, I encourage you to get your lips off the crack pipe and step away. Most of my CEOs don’t have time to scratch their ass never mind build and execute a blogosphere strategy or pitch, secure and manage a segment on The Today Show.
Kel is my new best friend. She hit that one out of the park. The problem with Arrington’s point is that applies to so few people. It makes sense, but it often ain’t enough.
I nevertheless think he’s onto something in that entrepreneurs have to be their own evangelists. But I’d say the best thing they could do is enlist the services of a seasoned PR professional that knows the lay of the land…meaning knows the niche industry that the start-up is entering, meaning the key media people and key blogs and bloggers. A sherpa that acts as the initial guide. Press releases aren’t needed. Big pitches aren’t needed. Or at least as much. This type of person should be looked upon at “marketing/PR counsel”, just as an attorney is looked upon as being legal counsel.
Here’s the danger of doing a full fledged DIY strategy:
If you remember, Kel said “Most of my CEOs don’t have time to scratch their ass never mind build and execute a blogosphere strategy or pitch, secure and manage a segment on The Today Show.” Oh, yeah!
So true it’s laughable. Starting and running a business is hard work. It’s a lot of work. It takes boatloads of dedication and time. Getting involved in online conversations and running one’s own blog is hard work. It can be a lot of work, It can take boatloads of dedication and time.
Entrepreneurs are human. I’m going to stereotype, but most of the audience that we’re talking about here are relatively young (under 50). A lot in their thirties. Mostly men. A lot of those have young families. They work 10-15 hour days during the workweek and another 5-8 on a weekend day. When they’re home, they’re going to want to spend time with their spouses and perhaps read their children a bedtime story – that’s if they’re home in time. Spending another 1-3 hours a day reading online mags and blogs is going to be too much. Some can do it. Most can’t.
Timing is everything. A PR person – a good one that is – can see trends coming down the pike. They’ll know editorial calendars. They’ll know when it’s too soon for this or a little late for that. PR people can often get you in the right place at the right time.
They’ll often know which event are worth checking out and which ones may be a waste of time and money.
They’ll know what makes key editors and bloggers take notice. The entrepreneur won’t. Which brings me to my third point…
The reality is that, from what I’ve witnessed, the majority of people behind start ups fall overly in love with their products and/or services that they fail to realize that most other people won’t give a shit. They overvalue the relative worth of what they’ve created. They’ll enter conversations all pumped and they won’t necessarily contribute the way they should. They won’t “listen” that much. They don’t understand that most people aren’t going to listen them as well.
They’ll think that they should be featured in the today’s business section and on tomorrow’s Wall Street Journal. A crafty PR person can cut through the hubris and blind enthusiasm and set the record straight.
Just like Kel Kelly did.