I have been Blog AWOL for the past few weeks as work and family life have taken precedence.
I see that Mike Butcher over at TechCrunch UK has asked the ultimate "light fuse and stand back" question:
"Which firm, or which individual PR person, is the best for tech/mobile startups (either in the UK or Ireland)?"
Of course there’s loads of opinions, observations and war stories in the comments. You also see the same old chestnuts and sales pitches, but it’s worth a read while you’re killing time today.
For what it’s worth, from some experience I have in the area of pitching and selecting the right and wrong PR agencies for start-ups, I’d say the following:
- DIY is over-rated: Unless you’ve just invented the first commercially available time machine, or you’re willing to invest in in-house PR resources, you will probably benefit from external PR support. The idea that the CEO will have the time, knowledge or inclination to drive PR is a fallacy
- PR selection is hard: PR is a people business. Your agency will succeed with good people. The search, selection and retention of good people is one of the biggest issues facing every company, start-up, small, medium and large. That’s why PR selection is hard – make sure you meet the team…
- Invest your time: Want success? Then you need to invest valuable time with your agency. You need to brief them, support them, respond to them and drive them. Throwing some VC cash at an agency and waiting for the return is a bad use of shareholder funds.
- Research: Go and talk to your investors, your peers, your family and friends, advisors, media. Look at companies whose profile you admire. Ask around.
- Clarity: Be clear on your expectations. Create a briefing document. Provide it to your short-listed agencies up front. Engage with them in the pre-pitch process. Make sure your own management are engaged and clear in their expectations. Be clear in your mind how you want your agency to spend their time in terms of execution, strategy, messaging etc.
- Your value: There are a number of elements you can bring to the table: a real business proposition, your passion, your story telling and your time. Bring them.
- Remember: A PR firm brings your company a range of things: perspective; objectivity; experience; contacts; knowledge and scale – if you don’t value these things, then see point #1.
Update: Just added the last point.
If you are an "oldie" like me, you probably find yourself using the term "young people" more often every day, but you also probably remember crisis communications being an exception rather than an everyday occurrence.
The advent of the Interweb, along with e-mail, blogs and now social networks, has meant that new previously unseen crises (or maybe we should call them issues) emerge on a more regular basis than ever before. A mis-sent e-mail or a rumour on a blog create a growing number of issues or crises every day.
But this isn’t just a corporate issue. Oh no. This is a personal issue also.
Valleywag has an interesting story [via Peter Shankman] on how a bank worker told his boss that he wouldn’t be able to come to work because "something came up at home". The only problem was that the "something" was a party and he posted photos on his social network page, which of course was accessible to everyone…. including his boss.
It’s an interesting development.
A University lecturer told me earlier this year that students often look for deadline extensions on work because they’ve been "sick" only for their social network pages to tell a different story.
There’s no doubt organisations are facing more "issues" thanks to the Interweb, but the issue of "personal branding" should also be a concern for everyone. What you publish, others can read, whether that’s a blog, a comment or a social network. What do the search engines say about you?
I think we can expect more of this in the future.
Back in March I kicked off the Online PR social network over at Ning.
We’ve billed it as the "lazy person’s" social network – there’s no peer pressure to get involved etc. It just sits there quietly.
There are now 63 members. Now, while I agree it’s not exactly Facebook or MyRagan (which now has over 10,000 members??), it’s sufficiently impressive given the promotions budget and the effort that’s been put into promoting it.
Now, in the interest of true social networking, and taking into account my laziness, all group members can become administrators and drive it anyway they wish.
I don’t expect a lot of e-mail
Greetings from Seattle.
A few hardy souls may remember a post from long ago about the difficulty I usually have travelling through Heathrow due to the fact that my parents didn’t spend a lot of time coming up with an imaginative first name – and the fact that many others share that same name combination.
So it was with some trepidation I ventured through Heathrow on this trip earlier today.
My hope was that UK authorities were up-to-date on recent developments regarding members of the Murphy clan and I’m delighted to report that it appears they are.
For the first time in a long time I encountered no "personal" delays on this trip.
So that’s a good start to the week.
- Listening to For Immediate Release yesterday I picked up on news of a new EU directive concerning unfair commercial practices. As Neville writes:
The Directive is due to become part of EU members’ national laws in early 2008. Social media channels such as blogs – and fake blogs in particular – are included, according to The Register..
Excellent, some good legislation for the consumer at last (well in theory).
- According to a research report from the Arketi Group journalists are increasingly viewing blogs as an important research tool:
84% of journalists participating in the study said they have or would use blogs as a primary or secondary source while researching an article.
Now that’s scary! [Via Mr. Holtz]
Fake blogs: Damien Mulley has kindly pointed out that Ireland already has this consumer protection in place.
Today, I received an e-mail from Emma Wickenden regarding a UK charity project called VAMU (Voluntary Action Media Unit) which was set up with the aim of:
…researching and improving the relationship between charities and the media.
We want to encourage debate about the place of voluntary sector stories in media coverage. Through our research we hope to develop strategies that will radically change the voluntary sector’s media profile and the effectiveness of its volunteer recruitment campaigns.
It’s a very interesting project.
They have created a contacts directory for media to find spokespeople in the non-profit sector called: askCHARITY.
They also have a blog and have released an interesting report that tracks the experiences of two organisations trying to secure media coverage.
Definitely worth a visit.
Interestingly Emma found me through the Getting Ink blog which is also worth a visit.
Silicon Alley Insider reports on a reputed disagreement between two US PR firms.
Please tell me it ain’t so…
NO ONE wins from this.
Well, no one except the voyeurs out there….
Well that’s probably most of us….
And to think we were all worried about poor blog pitches last week…
You see it’s all relative.
[Via Getting Ink]
Pictured: Representatives from two New York PR agencies discussing differences of opinion earlier today.
Over the past week there’s been a lot of discussion about the paucity of good PR practice online.
The recent Chris Anderson and Marshall Kirkpatrick episodes have created a lot of hand wringing across the world of blogs on how PR people "don’t get it".
If you’ve ever listened to a journalist offload their feelings on the quality of engagement they get from PR people in the traditional media world, then the news that there’s a lot of examples of blog relations malpractice shouldn’t come as a surprise. Should it?
What has changed is that poor practice is now quickly and easily published and shared online.
There’s loads and loads of great advice available online about how to conduct effecting "blog relations".
The core tenets are pretty simple:
1) Understand these are bloggers not journalists
2) Spend time understanding what the blogger writes about and if they are willing to engage with you or your client
3) Engage with the blogger, don’t spam them.
That’s boiling it down to the bare bones, Todd Defren’s guide will give you more detail. But the key point here is that good media relations practice is very similar to good blog relations practice.
Therefore the fact that media relations is often so poor, should prepare us for the news that blog relations is equally poor.
Of course blog relations is only the snow crystals on the summit of the iceberg. There’s a lot more to online communications than blogs.
Recently I’ve been doing some talks with PR folks on the question of Web 2.0 and Public Relations and there’s no question that practitioners have identified this as an important professional issue.
I’ll provide my recommendations on how to get started in a subsequent post, but the best place to start is by reading some of the knowledge that’s already online. You can’t lick this off a stone.