Friday, July 02, 2004

There Ain't No Light Switch

Yesterday I met a brilliant fool.

The guy is the CEO of a really cool company. Clearly he understands technology and market trends. But he didn't know jack about PR.

That's fine, by the way; we each have our strengths and areas of expertise. I don't expect CEOs to be PR experts. But I do expect them to respect the expertise of others (after all, they can't be everywhere at once, doing everyone else's job).

In this case, the CEO believed in the "Fallacy of the Light Switch" - i.e., once you hire a PR firm and "flip the switch," feature articles about the company instantly begin to materialize, in both trade journals and the business press. Page A-1 of the Wall Street Journal, above the fold, by the end of the month.

It just don't work that way, as any PR pro will tell you. Even a public company is going to need to put together a compelling story, replete with customer references, an intersection with emerging or prevailing trends, a cool technology, factoids and anecdotes, etc., to get that kind of ink...and even then it ain't a sure thing nor easy to accomplish.

Fine. This is all PR 101.

But here's what gets me: howcum no one ever told this CEO about how this PR stuff works? He must churn through VPs of marketing, since apparently none to-date have been willing or able to communicate the truth about the PR process. I know for a fact that he churns through PR firms: he's already fired two, and this is a start-up company!

Fact is, he has a pretty good story, and it'll only get better as the technology matures and his customers become happy references. Within 6-12 months I think he and his firm could be positioned as emerging leaders in their sector.

The only question is whether he is willing to wait that long. For a brilliant fool like him, 6-12 months sitting in the dark with an inoperative light-switch will seem like an awfully long time.

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