Tech PR Agencies Advise “Radio Silence”

In the wake of Tuesday’s tragedies, Internet and technology public relations firms around the country are asking their clients to hold off on debuting campaigns and releasing news during the week, and are reconsidering their plans for the near future.

At the very least, companies say that holding off makes good business sense, said Jon Boroshok, president of Westford, Mass.-based TechMarcom.

“As PR counsel, I think anyone making news announcements about something other than this week’s tragedy runs the risk of having their news ignored and drowned out by current events, so business-wise, it would be better to wait,” Boroshok said. (He added that for his agency, advising clients to postpone messages was a non-issue, since they hadn’t planned to release any news for this week anyway.)

While many public relations professions said it was important to not let terrorism cripple U.S. businesses, they weighed in similarly on holding off for the week.

“Were I a reporter getting pitches during this past week, I would probably have blocked all further emails from whoever was insensitive enough to send them,” said George Simpson, a 30-year PR industry veteran and head of his own New York-based firm. “It hasn’t been necessary to advise clients to hold back on announcements. Without consulting them I know my clients agree this is not the time for releases or pitches. It is a time for prayer, reflection and grief.”

But other agencies haven’t found their clients so understanding. A media director at a major New York-based PR and strategic marketing firm said that some of his agency’s broadband/telecom clients did “the most soulless things.”

“When we came back [on Wednesday] … they sent us emails that didn’t even ask how we’re doing, how we’d been affected by this. Just one-line sentences — ‘we need to get this release out,’ or ‘we need to get these press materials together’ … I was like, ‘Are you kidding?'”

“Everyone’s coming together in a big collective effort on this, but nothing rips that apart more than someone … demanding stupid stuff like this,” he said. “It just shows that you’re totally clueless and totally don’t understand public relations.”

That’s evidently not the only concern for some PR firms: while this week’s course seems to be clear for most firms, coming weeks, however, are proving more problematic.

“Postponing releases that were originally slated for this week was a no-brainer,” said blast! Public Relations president, founder and master blast!er Kathleen Bagley. “That said, holding releases and PR plans originally planned for next week is obviously a complex issue and one that needs to be addressed and customized per client.”

After all, companies don’t want to appear too ready to get back to business — at the risk of seeming insensitive. But at the same time, agencies and clients say they’re eager to show the world that the nation isn’t paralyzed by the news.

“blast! stands firm that we will not allow cowardly acts of terrorism to cripple the U.S. economy,” Bagley said. “But we also feel that we need to work with our clients on a one-to-one basis to determine the appropriate course of action.”

Others said they were similarly uncertain of what to do for the coming weeks.

“There will be plenty of time for marketing,” said Elliot Sloane, chief executive of Sloane & Company, a New York-based corporate communications firm. “I’m not sure when the green light goes on again.”

Added Stu Ginsburg of FAVA Public Relations, “While I believe that it is important that we all carry on as best we can, this is not the time to think about what’s best for our individual businesses, rather it is a time to mourn, a time to try to help our friends and colleagues who need it and talk to our children.”

“Our business will resume their activities, but not right now,” Ginsburg said, adding that he didn’t have to talk to advise any of his New York City-based clients — including the Interactive Advertising Bureau, rich media ad firm Unicast and management and technology strategists Handshake Dynamic — on delaying news. “After we all spoke to be sure that we were OK, they all said that whatever we had planned was in fact meaningless when put in context of the awful events of the week.”

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