Fear and Loathing Online: A PR Tale

This Internet business is an interesting thing, a true wild West of the business world. Here, there are no true rules of the game anything is possible. In fact, the advances in this business happen so rapidly that your ability to mutate and change your “expertise” at the drop of a hat is really what keeps you afloat. That, and a great product to take to market. Oh, and a little luck for good measure.

How do I know this? Because I have first-hand experience in being hired to ride shotgun on a wagon train heading West. Let me explain.

My tale begins four months ago. Then, I came on board an Internet start-up company thinking I was hired as the internal public relations person. But overnight, I became the expert in public relations, marketing and advertising, as well.

Imagine my feelings. Or I’ll describe them they were something like fear, fear and more fear. But getting past fear is the immediate hurdle to clear there is simply no room for it. The immediate job at hand was to create the public relations department, which would then be charged with announcing a new product. And this is the Internet .so it would be all from scratch. No Bacon’s, no Publicity Guide, no nothing. Even my old Rolodex was useless here.

So start from scratch I did .canvassing magazines in the Internet space like Internet World, Red Herring, and Silicon Alley Reporter to find out all I could about each magazine and their staff.

Amazing how easy it is to forgot how time-consuming such ground-level research can be. It took me years to master that in my previous career as a Hollywood press agent. Yet here I was expected to know it all in less than 24 hours.

Eventually, I was ready to start writing a pitch letter. The advice I’d gleaned was that the best way to infiltrate an editor’s cyberspace was to send an email. What happened to old-fashioned pitch letters complete with mailings and postage? Didn’t anyone do that anymore? Frankly, I wasn’t sure.

But this is the Internet, I understand. And it has its own rules for doing business. So I complied and sent an email.

In the first email pitch I sent, I got so anxious to do it correctly that I pushed send by mistake when I meant to push spell check. I hadn’t even signed my name on the bottom Yet off it traveled to this editor who never met me before and probably now wouldn’t want to meet me at all.

The next email missed the mark because of content a similar article had appeared in its paper just a few months prior. Close, but no cigar. The third one I sent received no reply at all. After the two previous experiences, I felt defeated. I could just hear the sound of my pitch being flushed down the cyber-toilet.

I’d forgotten just how hard it was to start over, to build your own list, make your own contacts, learn on the cuff. I’d been a celebrity press agent for 10 years prior to this. That business was very fast and on the cuff. Yet in this arena, I suddenly wasn’t fast enough? But I forgot that this is the Internet. It is younger that I am old. My strategy became to find a mentor. And in the meantime, keep trying.

So keep trying I did. I networked. I attended lectures and read email newsletters like ClickZ. I sought out so-called experts in the field and built my own contact list. (You would be amazed at how many people will talk to you at a conference if you corner them while shaking a sliver of goat cheese on a cracker in their face!)

Then about three weeks later, I tried again. This time, via telephone. The editor actually answered. He hadn’t flushed my pitch down the toilet after all. In fact, he was interested in my pitch; he was just so busy covering the Microsoft case that he forgot all about it. He was actually excited that I had called.

Was I dreaming? No, it was true. And by the time the conversation was over, not only did I get an article out of him, but I had the cover of the business section for that issue.

Score one for the neophyte. I was so worried about learning the new technology that I forgot what I was doing and why. But then I remembered rule number one: PR is always PR never give up. It’s all about perseverance, skill and a little luck.

That first story can be everything it’s really when the big campaign begins. It’s easier to pitch editors now, certainly, although I admit that I still get scared on occasion and still don’t have the Bacon’s guide (although the budget department tells me the book is coming soon).

Until then, I will just continue to build my new Rolodex, make contacts and learn. Learn until I master this new technology industry and can talk about it accurately in my sleep. Try until I achieve the company’s ultimate goal to attract enough attention to woo a few investors. (And then I can start all over again and do it for someone else not!)

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