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Online, the NYTimes story on PR in the Valley is interesting but innocuous. In print it takes a whole new sense of import as it spreads cross the front page of the business section. A couple of observations:

  1. PR has and always will be about relationships.
  2. It is also about good counsel and strategy – neither of which Wordnik are getting in any kind of an effective dose. Saying that, and having spent more than ten years doling out counsel, clients usually get what they deserve.
  3. PR is multidimensional – the Blogeratti and Blogmedia are one of the many “messengers” and mediums available. That Wordnik would pursue such a one dimensional strategy is foolhardy and reflected in their prominence. Again, they are probably getting what they are paying for.
  4. Agreed, you’d better be able to plug into the new media elite to get the message out. But if that’s all you are planning to do, good luck.
  5. Nowhere in the story do we see examples of “influencing the social web”. What we see is the age-old techniques employed by flacks of all shapes and sizes – reaching prominent messengers to get the message out. What the savvy are now doing is activating and engaging with communities – that’s very different than opening the rolodex and making a few calls.
  6. Awareness does not equal action. We need a fundamental shift in our focus from awareness to action. Where awareness isn’t activated effectively, businesses starve of traffic and revenue.
  7. Successful engagement through the “A List” will make your clients feel great but isn’t any kind of predicator of success. In fact, they are largely irrelevant. Scoble makes this point nicely – when he quit Microsoft the news first hot through 15 nobody’s at a conference. At the end of the day, the news creates the echo and the social web has democratized distribution. Story over strategic relationships. (his manifesto is still as relevant as ever)

What screams throughout this story is that neither the hacks or flacks necessarily get what the new art of social media relations and community engagement is about. And as Michael rightly points out, you need look no further than the traffic pattern at Wordnik to see this. This is a point reinforced by Margit in the story:

“Few tech companies with absolutely no P.R. have built a user base successfully,” said Margit Wennmachers, a co-founder of OutCast Communications, a P.R. agency in San Francisco that opened in 1997. “They need P.R. to put the booster under that rocket ship.”

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