Krugle announced a couple days ago that it will be launching at Demo Feb 6-8. They didn't write a press release, they just blogged it. Krugle is addressing search issues for the open source community. It will allow people everywhere to find what they need to develop, alter, hack, tweak or modify code in the name of shared and collaborative innovation. As a blogger, whose enthusiastic about Krugle. I'd love to tell you more and show you screen shots, but we must honor the conference's NDA rules.
Krugle is the fourth company in 12 months, I've helped get ready for this premier venue for startups and companies with new technologies. Jambo, launched at last February's Demo without using a PR agency and generated lots of ink including a six-part series on Forbes.com (before they considered us bloggers a lynch mob I guess). Yackpack has used a blog strategy and achieved DemoGod status at the DemoFall event. Riya will also launch at the upcoming Demo, and chances are you already know who they are and if you read traditional media chances are highly likely you already know about them, even though they have never spent a penny for PR and have not yet issued their first press release. I've induced Krugle to drink the social media KoolAid. They have also chosen the route to ignore traditional media in favor of a marketing strategy that stated simply--is to blog.
We didn't say this in the book, but I have now become convinced that if you are a Web 2.0 early stage company, you are better off going with blogging and NOT using a PR agency until you are further along in your development. I say this without glee, because I spent 25 years doing PR for startups, and remain proud of the work I did for companies in early phases.
But times have changed, and so must PR firms in my opinion, if they are to survive.
I know that I will get in trouble for saying this, but since the early days of Naked Conversations, when I was interviewing founders of ICQ, and FireFox as well as managers at Skype, I have begun to question whether traditional Command and Control PR is a benefit. In recent months, looking at the successes of Riya, TechCrunch, PodTech, Flock and an increasing number of Web 2.0 companies, I have become convinced that having a PR agency at launch is not only unnecessary, it can be a mistake.
The executive summary is that when you have limited time and limited resources, you really need to limit focus. Blogging strategists and traditional PR practitioners will create conflicts for you in human and financial resources; in timing in priorities and so forth. It is very much a channel conflict situation.
Here are a few observations of the conflict:
- Traditional PR will tell you to keep in stealth mode, then get the word out at an imaginary moment which is the technical launch. The blogging strategist will tell you to get pieces of your story out early and often and to ask people who care about what you're doing to to help you make it better.
- Traditional PR tries to control message, to get a company to speak with one voice. Blogging strategy argues that it is more credible and more human to speak with many voices. These voices may be in harmony, but a little discordance just makes your story all the more interesting.
- Traditional PR pushes messages through media to reach customers, considering both to be "targets." Bloggers have ongoing two-way conversations. The company talks, but customers talk back. It's out in the open.
- PR programs cost a great deal of money, usually North of $10 k a month for at least six months to be effective. Blogging costs a great deal of time, but almost no money. What you save by blogging can be put into R&D, or customer support r investor's pockets.
- PR spends a great deal of effort pro-actively pursuing press. They get others to say you are great by writing up case studies about a few customers, then pitching them to the media or splicing them onto websites. Bloggers assume the best editors will find what customers say about you in the blogosphere by using search engines. No advertisement, PR campaign or PR pitch can possibly come close to the impact blogging as on search engines. I would argue that a new company with disruptive technology will get more ink, faster, with less effort and money through blogging, than through a PR campaign.
- Traditional PR's philosophy is top-down. They determine the biggest and most influential in your category, then they target them. Blogging assumes that good news distributed at the grassroots level will emerge very quickly. The examples of stories starting with some unknown blogger and getting to the front page of major national publications are manifold. It happened last week, when a blogging passenger wrote about his experiences on a decompressed Alaska Airlines flight and drew scorn that turned out to be coming from Alaska Airlines employees who did not identify themselves as such. Scoble has twice in recent months gone from a blog to the New York Times for something he posted. In fact, the evidence is pretty compelling that the shortest route from obscurity to prominent coverage in traditional media is through blogging.
No, I don't think PR is dead. Companies will always need relationships with their publics. I do think that the current model is broken and overdue for a reshaping. PR people need to let go of the systems they have in place and realize there has been a flattening of who is important. Because of social media, everyone is now an influencer. In PR, you need to use social media to reach more people, because everyone now has world access and blogging is cheaper, faster and better than owning a printing press.