The part about PR is particularly interesting, to me, of course. He says:
PR is a distraction - As a matter of principle we tend not to do PR with our partners. Truth is, I think PR is just a distraction. I know what it feels like to be a start-up and craving some public awareness. I have definitely been there and can sympathize. However, PR can be very empty and doesn't add much concrete value to anyone. Focusing on building something cool that users will really dig is the best path for both of us to succeed. Believe me, when that happens, your company and mine will get all the exposure we could want, and more. So, let's avoid the PR discussion for now and just concentrate on making cool stuff work. If it rocks, the world will know soon enough.
I'm a PR practitioner and I should argue him out of this but I won't because I know he's right. I'm sure most people he does business with really want PR so they can put their names with Google's in the headline and show it to their angel network, and maybe won't care if they never get ink.
And danged if we don't see a pattern developing here. Want to get a blogger's attention? Build a kick-ass company. Want to get attention for your deal with Google? Build a kick-ass tool. Want to get media attention? Build something kick-ass.
My friend, the brilliant Susan Crawford, blogs here about a roundtable on blogging and journalism in New York. I can't possibly add anything smarter than what's already there, so I just recommend going to read it. It's excellent.
If you're not reading it, and you want to know what's happening with Web 2.0 companies, you can't miss TechCrunch, overseen by my friend Mike Arrington. Every time I look, there's something new up there, and it's all interesting, insightful and fun.
Mark Twain said not to argue with anyone who buys ink by the barrel. That's still mostly true. But thanks to blogging and other such places to talk, others have some ink in their own barrels.
Which leads to the current and interesting evolution of the relationship between PR and journalism. In its highest form, it's a mutually beneficial relationship. The journalist hopes to find information, trends, and other things of interest on which to report, and a good PR practitioner feeds that need usefully. The practitioner shares relevant information with the jouranlist that is useful for whomever or whatever s/he's representing. That of course is in its highest form.
I'm late to this, but I just ran across a bunch of lower forms that are interesting enough to capture here as evidence of the evolution and good lessons on how both sides can operate with better care:
This Capital Blog post talks about how some writers cast doubt and insincerity to quotes by various means.
Ideagrove talks here about morally superior journalists and the conflicts between PR and journalism. I agree, there are only a few, but those few make you furious.
Mark Cuban tells us about his exchange with The New YorkTimes.
And probably most famously, here is a hellacious exchange between writer Dave Eggers and New York Times reporter David Kirkpatrick. example between journalist and subject.
In 14 years of PR and journalism experience, most of my interactions from both sides of the equation have been valuable, professional and fun. But I've also seen the bad, up front and close. A company I was with was ambushed by a huge financial publicationone time, and I learned how to get clear on a reporter's angle before getting on with the interview. I had a call from a big tech periodical once that accused another of my employers of outright theft -- what galled me about that one was 1) the "tried and already convicted" tone the reporter when he first called me, and 2) how pissed off he was when I disproved his theory. He didn't like that I took away his story -- and I in fact said to him, "You have no story." There was no reason to be confrontational, but he decided on that course, so he needed to be backed down.
All that said, I'll repeat that as a former journalist, I admire the practice of journalism and in my experience most reporters do a great job and perform an amazingly valuable public service. But it's good to re-learn from mistakes so we can act like pros and do our jobs well.
There was a fascinating interview last night on All Things Considered with John Rushing, a former U.S. Marine who was also featured in the documentary Control Room. The link to the interview is here, and there's also a cover story here in USA Today. The Al-Jazeera PR machine is in high gear.
You don't just feel it -- you can see the friction here. A Marine, a ringing example of the best of the United States of America, will work for the television network that is the propaganda machine for the ideology that wants very much to destroy the United States of America. Of course, there's incredulity on both sides -- some Americans can't believe Rushing would answer a phone call from Al-Jazeera, much less contribute something of value and collect a paycheck. And there have to be radicals on the other side that are mortified that an infidel will be among them.
Rushing says he's been assured of broad editorial latitude and that he won't be censored. Surely he's been smart enough to do that due diligence, and then some more. I hope he's right, and I hope those promises are kept. If they're not, he should get the hell out of there.
But if they are, then this is a good thing. Why? Because Rushing is doing what he says he was taught to do in the Marine Corps: Engage. We're short on engagement -- constructive engagement, that is -- in this world. Yes, of course, there are black-and-white issues on which you should never argue (example: the attacks on Sept. 11 were horrific and wrong in every sense and cannot be defended in any rational way by the Ward Churchills of this world), but in the middle, there's room for constructive engagement between ideologies that might could close some gaps. Why not do this if you're a man like Rushing, with a history of honorably defending and protecting the generosity and good will of the U.S., and in a position to talk with others and gain their perspectives?
Engagement, the well-intentioned exchange and understanding of perspectives, the finding of commonality, the generation of mutual respect -- all these would build during a time when too much has been destroyed. I hope Rushing succeeds in his mission, I hope those behind Al-Jazeera reciprocate, and I hope this is a constructive engagement for the rest of us.
I thought this was wonderfully ironic, from the Portland PRSA's newsletter:
On Saturday, October 8, PRSA New Professionals and their friends have the opportunity to socialize and network with fresh faces in the young professionals scene in Portland, all over the evocative and passionate music of Roberta Flack.
Yes, I'm a huge Cardinals fan. That's not why I'm posting this.
Scott Ginsberg tells of running into Tony LaRussa after the Cards had their asses handed to them in four nights last fall, and what LaRussa said after Scott approached him. Refreshing.
There are other celebrities like this, I'm sure. There are some businesspeople like this, too. But not enough. Anyone who knows me well knows I detest pretense of almost any kind, but particularly of the arrogant kind. What a gigantic waste of energy and mindspace to maintain an advance impression meant for a hoped-for conclusion, often in defiance of what is authentic. (Wow, diagram that pretentious sentence for $5.)
I admire -- truly admire -- people of skill, knowledge and achievement who live without pretense. Notice I don't say without confidence or refinement. Without pretense. With authenticity and good humor and approachability. What a mark of real integrity.