PR, Coverage and Unintended PR

Picture 4This is pretty interesting: Spinning the Web: P.R. in Silicon Valley from the NY Times. Its focus is on the PR strategy surrounding a startup Wordnik and the people and investors behind that PR strategy. As an aside it’s also partly a story about the collapse of the prestige hierarchy of traditional media and publishers:

This is the new world of promoting start-ups in Silicon Valley, where the lines between journalists and everyone else are blurring and the number of followers a pundit has on Twitter is sometimes viewed as more important than old metrics like the circulation of a newspaper.

Gone are the days when snaring attention for start-ups in the Valley meant mentions in print and on television, or even spotlights on technology Web sites and blogs. Now P.R. gurus court influential voices on the social Web to endorse new companies, Web sites or gadgets — a transformation that analysts and practitioners say is likely to permanently change the role of P.R. in the business world, and particularly in Silicon Valley.

In this particular case widely read tech blogs were snubbed by the launch too, including TechCrunch. And Michael Arrington responds:

Forget the tech blogs, said investor Roger McNamee. Brew PR head Brooke Hammerling instantly acquiesced, and decided to go with a sort of guerrilla approach instead by “whispering” into the ears of prominent Twitter users like Kevin Rose, Jay Adelson and Jason Calacanis. CNET was also given the story, but it managed to eek out only a single comment . . .

The result? Not much. Wordnik is flatlining at an abysmal amount of traffic. Comscore and Quantcast don’t even register the site as a blip.

Compare Wordnik to Topsy, another recently launch service. Topsy launched on TechCrunch exclusively. The domain now has 577,000 results on Google, compared to 56,000 for Wordnik. And the traffic difference is stunning . . .

Most people, including people in the tech industry, haven’t heard of Wordnik. As Arrington suggests, the original PR strategy failed.

But the irony is that this (traditional media) NY Times article and the related, secondary coverage it gains (e.g., TechCruch) about the PR strategy behind Wordnik will do more for Wordnik’s exposure than the original launch PR described in the article.

Time to rethink assumptions again?

One Response to “PR, Coverage and Unintended PR”

  1. Twitter’s $48 Million in Free Media « Screenwerk Says:

    […] the tale of another PR launch that largely failed, only to see success after the fact based on an unintended article discussing the strategy behind the […]

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