The Great Internet Publicist Experiment:
In the never-ending saga of using internet publicists, you can always
count on two opinions: those who think publicists suck and, well, the publicists.
After my column outlining my disastrous experience with one publicist, a
number of her comrades rushed to their keyboards and zapped me all kinds
of explanations, rationales and counterpoints.
One said I got unlucky and had picked a loser. Another claimed that I
got what I paid for, being the cheapskate that I am. Still another took
me to task for disparaging an entire industry.
In other words, they took the bait, hook, line and sinker.
Sure, I probably deserved what I got, but my publicist was every bit
a pro. It's just that nobody bats a thousand in this league and she fanned
the ball every time at bat. But let's face it: who really has the big bucks
to pay huge firm? You? Me? Tell you what, we could get the chairman of General
Motors to write about his experiences, but frankly, he's too busy having
his boots licked by some corporate lackey.
So here's the deal: I'm a decent man. A fair human being. Which is why
this week, I want to tell you about my OTHER experience with a publicist.
The really positive one.
This one started in 1993, when a couple of guys came to me with -- I
kid you not -- two disks and a dream. It's too boring to get specific as
to what those disks contained, but the gist of it is that it was a marketing
mightmare: a new software product. Not only new, but written for a category
that didn't even exist. And to top it off, these guys had no money.
We raised a little money. But it was clear that it would take millions
to get this puppy of the ground. And that was just to capitalize the company.
To advertise the product would have taken millions, which weren't even on
the radar screen. So the strategy very quickly became one of out-thinking
the competition. We had just enough money for one marketing resource: a
really great publicity campaign.
And the first result of that brainstorm was Judy.
The first time I met Judy was over a couple of bottles of sake at a Japanese
restaurant, somewhere in Northern California, to interview her for the job
of publicist. It took about a minute to see that even twenty bottles of
sake wouldn't have slowed this woman down. All during dinner I had to check
to see if she was plugged into the wall. The meal lasted for a couple of
hours, with Judy rattling off one incredible idea after another, and me
slumping in my chair, eyeballs glazed and slowly rolling into the back of
The dinner ended at midnight. At one-thirty in the morning, the hotel
notified me that a fax was waiting for me in the lobby: it was Judy's notes
on the dinner meeting.
Jeez-Louise, I hadn't even digested my sushi yet.
Of course, Judy had far more than just energy going for her. She was
bright, funny and strategically gifted. She had a golden Rolodex containing
the names of all the star-makers of the PC industry, and burned through
speed-dialers at the rate of one a week. She knew how to manage e-mail,
fax, snail mail and phone. She knew which stories to pitch and to whom.
She knew exactly which egos to stroke, right on down to their preferred
direction of stroking.
Judy was tireless. Knowledgeable in her field. Incredibly responsible
with follow-through. The kind of person you'd want as your business partner,
but smart enough to have refused every offer ever made. And the weirdest
par was that she was really, really nice. Lots of laughs AND professional.
THIS, I thought, is what you look for in a publicist.
All of these traits were very attractive, but hey -- who DOESN'T look
good when they're courting the client? The rubber meets the road when plans
turn into action. So we hired Judy and went to work.
The first goal was to make the company look big. Okay, not big. How about
"legitimate." The fact is that we would have settled for anything
over and above "pathetic". If you included Judy, our total head
count was seven. Frankel & Anderson supplied the marketing and press
materials, which I must admit, were very impressive. Judy wrote the press
releases and managed the press. We did shows and interviews and demos, and
every one of them was to someone really influential. Not all were home runs,
but her hit rate was so high that by the end of the campaign, we were able
to claim the following results:
- Seven (I think) of the PC industry's leading magazines gave the product
a prominent editorial position with rave reviews.
- The company displaced Wordperfect (this was 1994, by now) as the darling
of one of the industry's most influential shows, and left everyone wondering
"how we were able to keep such a huge company so secret."
- A very influential PC editor proclaimed the product to be "the
best revenue producer of the year."
Did I mention that not long after that, we were able to get the company
funded for $3.5 million -- for only 36% of the company -- from one of the
Bay Area's most influential venture firms?
NOW you know just how good a publicist can be. Even when they're working
out of their virtual closets, as Judy was at the time.The point is that
when it comes to publicists -- internet or otherwise -- there are good apples
and rotten ones.
You just gotta know how to pick 'em.
© 1998, Rob Frankel
In addition to co-hosting the nationally-syndicated radio show LOG ON
USA, Rob Frankel is a regular contributor to Ziff Davis' Internet Business,
a speaker, consultant and president of Frankel & Anderson, America's
first award-winning, 100% digital advertising and marketing agency, providing
Advertising, Marketing & Killer Creative to clients throughout the world.
You can reach Rob directly at http://www.RobFrankel.com or toll-free (throughout North America) at 1-888-ROBFRANKEL, and see/hear
samples of Killer Creative at http://www.frankel-anderson.com