Monday, August 25, 2008

Silicon Alley Insider Says You Should Fire Your PR Firm – I Disagree

Silicon Alley Insider, Jason Calacanis tells readers that they should fire their PR company if they want to get PR for their start up companies.

Jason tells us in the first paragraph that he’s been a journalist. That fact alone makes it much easier for him to reach out to other journalists and get media coverage. He also has something newsworthy to say when he says it. Not all CEOs know the difference between what the media considers newsworthy versus self-serving hype – and for that reason alone, they should not all run out tomorrow and start pitching the media.

But Jason has some great suggestions on how you can better communicate and build your brand although I have some cautions and comments to share.

Jason says, “Be the brand.” I agree. Then he says, “Be everywhere.” I caution you on this one – if you are everywhere, you may be in places that don’t make sense and cost you time and money in the long run. Be smart and target your message. That’s why good direct marketing has such a solid ROI. So does targeted media relations.

He says, “Always pick up the check--always.” Agreed – when it’s a business meeting with colleagues. Caution – picking up the check for reporters and journalist is frowned upon and can get you into hot water. I add that you should give your credit card to the host or wait staff in advance of the gathering so that the check never even appears on the table.

Jason says, “Be a human being.” He then goes on to say that “journalists hate PR people and they hate being pitched.” What Jason doesn’t tell you is that journalists often rely on “PR people” to provide them with experts, to feed them stories, and to assist with story development and research. We get calls and emails from the media every day asking for experts and stories. I’m sure there are many journalists out there who would disagree with Jason’s statement. That said, yes, please be a human being. No barking or growling allowed.

Jason goes on to provide some great tips on how you should pitch journalists (while still putting down PR folks). He’s right – your message has to be targeted and you should always research what has been previously covered by the person you’re pitching. Your PR firm should also encourage your company leadership to reach out to the media directly when appropriate. It’s true that many PR practitioners get in their own way by playing gatekeeper – if the client is media savvy and knows how to speak to the media then help them reach out directly.

He goes on to say that “There are a handful of journalists I will speak to on the phone or in person because I know they are not going to spin me.” And he knows this because he has existing relationships with those journalists and because he too was a journalist. All too often, companies don’t engage PR experts and as a result – they say things that they regret, they get misquoted or improperly paraphrased and then they call a PR firm to clean up the mess. Why not do it right from the start?!

He says, “My philosophy of PR is summed up in six words: be amazing, be everywhere, be real.” But he makes is sound like public relations is the same thing as media relations.” The two are not synonymous – media relations is just one thing that PR firms do.

Public relations firms should be helping their clients with the positioning of their products and services, opening doors with key target audiences (not just the media), positioning their clients as experts in their respective fields, garnering speaking engagements, integrating their news into their marketing and social media programs, building relationships with strategic partners, helping bring in new business, planning and executing important events, creating and managing crisis communications plans, getting articles published, implementing community relationship development programs, assisting with employee relations, and so much more!

On a final note, what Jason doesn’t say is “take a stand” or “be controversial.” When you do either, your message is heard, loud and clear – and it gets attention. You see, Jason knows this. And he’s smart. He’s getting responses to his post, it has more than 200 Diggs, and look at me, I’ve written a blog about it.

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