Posted August 13, 2008 11:09 am by with 11 comments

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It must be a least a week since we’ve had a juicy meme to sink out teeth into. Fortunately, one has surfaced over the past few days: Is there still a need for public relations?

TechCrunch, RWW, and Steve Rubel are among those weighing in with their thoughts on the subject. Here are a few choice morsels:


First off, don’t hire PR help until the volume of inbound requests by press are simply too much to handle without help.

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.

You got to love Arrington’s assumption that those involved in a start-up have “leisure time!” 😉


The point is that great technologies probably do sell themselves. The web is mostly filled with bad technologies, though, and it’s the job of the technology press to find the good ones, with occasional discoveries of greatness. Can PR people help us do that? They can. Is it worth the expense and loss of direct experience for many startups to hire PR people? It probably is.

Steve Rubel:

We have to stop spamming people and make sure that companies and products are easy and a joy to discover. That’s no easy feat. Further, it means giving up control. However, in a Google age where self-discovery rules, it’s becoming a must.

How about what I think of PR? If you’ve read Radically Transparent or attended my Reputation Management Workshop, you’ll already know the evolved way to use public relations to promote your brand–so, I won’t dwell on “tips” per se. However, I do want to share my thoughts on where I have found a PR firm to be valuable for my previous start-ups.

  1. The grunt work – sure, PR is now about conversations, but old habits die hard. PR firms are great at crafting press releases, setting up the newswire distributions, and then following the mentions in mainstream media.
  2. Media training – I’ve been on TV and radio a few times. I cannot tell you just how valuable it was for me to receive interview coaching from PR pros.
  3. Research – it takes a lot of time and effort to find the influentials in your industry. A good PR team can help you do just that.
  4. Refine your message – your know what your company is all about, right? Well, a PR person can help YOU deliver that message without sounding like a bumbling idiot.
  5. Filter – there can be a lot of back and forth with a journalist. Your PR firm can act as the middle man–ensuring that headshots, bios, screenshots, are all passed along upon request. Just make sure that they stay as a “middle man”–you still need to be in the conversation.
  6. An extra set of eyes and ears – yes, you should be reading influential blogs, newspapers, etc. But, you can’t spot everything. Typically a PR firm has great resources for monitoring the conversation–tipping you off, when it’s a good time to join in.

Public relations won’t disappear as a profession anytime soon. But, like most industries, you have to evolve or die. Those PR folks that realize their role is not to step into the limelight–but to push their client into it–will never go hungry.

So, what are your thoughts on PR? How does PR help your company? Or perhaps, you think it’s already a dead duck.

  • The thing is, most jobs have “stuff” that can be done by other people or by yourself. PR is no exception. Anybody can email TechCrunch with an idea or they can pay a PR firm to do it. If that’s all PR was, they’d all go out of business.

    The best PR is more about messaging and strategy and this post only addresses tactics. Bad strategy kills businesses all the time… Cuil is a great example of this. BriteKite is another great example. BriteKite had way too many people saying nice things about it before it went live. The do-it-yourselfers can’t see that is a problem half the time. I spent 5 years in PR. From what I’m seeing, I would anticipate the evolvers acquiring some online reputation management firms here shortly.

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  • Of course there’s still need for PR.
    But they will need to understand how things work online and learn their lessons well… I’ve seen many established PR companies in Europe (some even claiming to have online expertise) not having a clue what to do, while charging their clients an arm, a leg and a firstborn.

  • PR will never be obsolete. Trends will definitely change the industry though.

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  • I would suggest that it all depends on the size of your business. If it is still manageable by the promoter and she is focused on one business, it is a waste of resources to seek outside professional help. Secondly, as long as a small business person is getting better instead of bigger all the time, there will be little need for external PR.

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  • PS3

    There’s definitely a need for PR still but PR firms to update some of their strategies.

  • @PS3

    “There’s definitely a need for PR still but PR firms to update some of their strategies.”

    That applies to every discipline.

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  • Let us call it ‘PR 2.0’

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