Sunday, July 05, 2009

New York Times: Hey , bloggers matter too!

The New York Times devotes quite a bit of space today to the changing face of PR in Silicon Valley. Not the whole tech sector, mind you. They avoid talking about the outlying areas like, oh, say, Boston, New York, Austin, Seattle, San Diego and the Research Triangle.

Regardless, the piece breathlessly follows PR execs who, shock of shocks, pitch people other than the A-list "journalists" such as the Times itself, Forbes, Fortune, BusinessWeek, etc. Instead, the PR folks pitch bloggers and social media influencers.

Instead, [Publicist Brooke Hammerling] decides that she will “whisper in the ears” of Silicon Valley’s Who’s Who — the entrepreneurs behind tech’s hottest start-ups, including Jay Adelson, the chief executive of Digg; Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter; and Jason Calacanis, the founder of Mahalo.

Notably, none are journalists.

This is the new world of promoting start-ups in Silicon Valley, where the lines between journalists and everyone else are blurring and the number of followers a pundit has on Twitter is sometimes viewed as more important than old metrics like the circulation of a newspaper.

So nice that the Times is now only 2 years behind.

The fact is, the new PR needs to be about creating content, not just pushing it. Hammerling touches on this briefly when she points out that when she represented Flickr back in 2004 The Times touches on this briefly in referencing the 2004 PR program for Twitter headed up by Donna Sokolsky Burke, co-founder of Spark PR: "she never issued a press release for it, even when it was acquired by Yahoo. Flickr would publish news on its company blog, a few more blogs would pick it up 'and two days later, BusinessWeek would call,' she recalls."

In all, the story paints a picture of PR that's straight out of Sex in the City. Attractive women partying up a storm and hobnobbing with the who's who of influencers. It also talks about measurement in terms of followers and number of Twitter mentions, but gives short shrift to metrics such as "traffic driven" or "conversion rates."

In all, the view of PR portrayed in the piece is still about pitching and about having other people tell your story, but less focused on creating a story built on your own content.

There is so much more to do in the trenches, even here in the hinterlands.


Doug Haslam said...

Thanks Chuck-- the article started out to be a possibly interesting piece on how it's not just about pitching journalists anymore- but instead it painted a portrait of PR as more like the Sex in the City party-planning air-kissers. We all know it's more than that.

The Valley focus bothered me too- not because you can't focus on the Valley, but tech PR is not a Valley-only story.

And PR is not just about whipping out your rolodex and showing clients how big it is. What crap.

BobbieC said...

Several years ago I was shocked when I attended a software co's user conference, only to be greeted by with "Oh good, the PR person is here, now the party can get started." As a decidedly non-party-hearty PR type, this floored me. The skill sets needed for PR have nothing to do with parties. I want members of my PR team to be good communicators -- both written and spoken word; I want them to understand what makes a good story (no matter who the target audience is) and I want them to understand business -- what makes a difference to a business? How do you help a business meet its goals?

While I appreciate the "reporters aren't the only targets these days" (heck, one reason I started Mass Innovation Nights) message, I feel like this article just did more to perpetuate the weird PR stereotypes out there.

Unknown said...

Just a quick correction, the quote regarding Flickr was attributed to Donna Sokolsky Burke of SparkPR, not Brooke Hammerling.

Chuck Tanowitz said...

Thanks Fred, I have corrected that in my copy.