Boutique PR Firms

Marketing Aug 18, 2007

Mike LevinRegular readers here bear with me. I try to post pragmatic, applicable information—essentially, tutorials and how-to’s. Lately, I’ve been pontificating in an annoying similar fashion to my counterparts in the industry, who have been rolled into the mega-marketing conglomerates. But rest assured, this post is simply to provide contrast to the prevailing trend in the public relations area of marketing.

[Update: Here’s the result of making this post: first page in Google for Boutique PR Firms in under a week!]

Boutique PR firms such as Connors Communications, the creators of HitTail, are increasingly rare, but more important than ever precisely because of their scarcity and ability to execute plans effectively.

Of course the big appeal is that they are able to provide continuous, dedicated staff to a Client in a way that PR firms that were rolled into mega-conglomerate marketing companies cannot. But an unexpected side effect of staying boutique in this Web 2.0 world is that such small firms can harbor small, innovative technology teams.

Yes, modern PR firms have Web 2.0 programmers on-staff to help with viral outreach, custom application development, SEO, social networking, and the like.

Such small teams are great with developing Web applications using agile frameworks in spiral development cycles. In layman’s terms, public relations is rapidly becoming a technology-game because carrying out effective outreach campaigns across fragmented media requires automation and custom tools.

Of course creativity still plays a critical role. But the kitschy PR stunts of yesteryear designed to seize evening news television cameras have gone the same way as those cameras (replaced by millions of home video cameras). Think how much more effective a popular YouTube video is than one-time exposure one some morning TV program. And PR firms who understand this new dynamic are just more effective. Similarly, a webpage that’s drawing in spontaneous new visitors thanks to how Google works is more valuable than a one-time newspaper ad—so PR firms who know how search works are way ahead.

Why is this?

Specifically, human attention has been fragmented and fractionalized right along with the plethora of alternative media—with mega-attention-hubs diminishing in quantity and intensity. Some examples of the last remaining central focuses of human attention include Oprah and The Wall Street Journal. But authoritative hubs are always at risk of being diluted even further, as they lose their independence.

How does a company get its message out these days? Where do you drop your penny to ensure you reach your audience? Mass media is still part of the answer, but so is search.

If money is no object, there’s still the tactic of “buying media” straight across all that fragmentation. I noticed this when watching King of the Hill reruns on FX and noticed a Gatorade commercial. I said to myself, now what business does Gatorade have running commercials on cartoon reruns? And my girlfriend pointed out that they’re buying airtime everywhere—indiscriminately. This impressed me in how companies, given sufficiently large budgets, are still able to live in the pre-fragmented era of 3 big TV networks—because they can still run commercials everywhere. It’s just a larger buy.

But smaller companies are not so lucky. They have to be smarter.

And right as the small companies are becoming smarter, many of the larger companies are losing time preparing for a reality they must soon confront. Intelligently executed low-budget campaigns (that promote superior products and services) cannot be drowned out. They are on equal footing to the big guys.

It’s a double-whammy win for the little guy and a double-whammy loss for the big guy. Why?

Because the big guy is being forced to spend more money to grow at a slower rate. The small company spends less money, and its momentum builds like a self-fueling wildfire. This is a large company’s worst nightmare—a new competitor that doesn’t have to pay much for promotion, and eats into market share or dominates a new market before anyone even knew it existed. Of course, the game plan goes, the big company just buys the new company—but that’s a story for a different post.

Small companies have the edge.

How do large companies remedy this?

Simple: sit down and talk with the small boutique firms who are actually moving forward the state of public relations and marketing. Think twice before hooking up with a company who thinks online outreach consists mainly of blogging and social networking. Try the company that invented HitTail.

UPDATE: Connors has evolved from traditional PR to high end search engine marketing. Click here to learn more about our transition – http://www.connors.com/seo/letter.html

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *