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Early stage companies better with blogs than traditional PR

Shel Israel, co-author of Naked Conversations : How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers, has an excellent post on the merits of new companies using blogs and not traditional PR for early marketing and communications efforts.

…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

Shel’s bulleted points are compelling.

  • 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. 

I agree with Shel that traditional PR is not dead. But there is simply no way LexBlog would be the leading name in turnkey blog solutions for the legal profession had it gone the PR route, assuming we could afford it, which we could not. This blog has put us on the map and is the lifeblood in getting us new work.

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