PR-less launch kicks off a stack overflow of praise

This is the way I love to learn about a company.

No, not from a PR firm.

No, not from a CEO (or anyone else from the company) calling me up or writing me email.

No, not on some junket.

No, not on stage at Techcrunch 50 or Demo or Under the Radar or some other conference.

No, not by reading Mashable.

No, not on Twitter. Or FriendFeed. Or Facebook. Or MySpace. (I really hate direct messages, by the way).

No, not in an advertisement.

“OK, Scoble, knock it off, how did you learn about it?”

A beta tester (a developer I know and trust) came up to me today and said “this is the coolest thing I’ve used in a long time.”

He then gave me a peek at his screen. I agreed after seeing what was on his screen.

But instead of letting the world that, I asked Twitter and FriendFeed if anyone had heard anything about the service yet.

They had. And how.

So, what is it?

It’s StackOverflow. A community knowledge exchange, for programmers, that is being built by Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood (both famous programmers).

It’s in a closed beta so far (you can sign up for the beta on the StackOverflow Blog), but look at the replies I received on Twitter:

Joel Gray: “@Scobleizer As a participant in StackOverflow, I have to say that it is great. Good community of folks so far, quite easy to get answers”

Levi Figueira: “@codinghorror Man, I’m loving stackoverflow!! Great resource and userbase!! Let’s hope it doesn’t get wild after it goes “public”… :)” and “@Scobleizer I’ve been following their podcast since #1 and am part of the beta!! It’s the best thing for developers ever! ”

Phil: “Impressed with StackOverflow. They’ve really thought through usability and trying to create a sticky experience.”

Michael Krakovskiy: “stackoverflow beta rocks!”

Chris Benard: “@Scobleizer Here are a couple of screenshots I just took for you: http://is.gd/1nul and http://is.gd/1nuo ” and “@Scobleizer It’s an experts-exchange for programmers, without all the annoyances. ”

schwarzwald “@Scobleizer furthermore, stack overflow is experts-exchange without blackhat SEO techniques (cloaking) and annoying superfluous graphics.”

If you are exciting your early users like this you will get found. I so wish more companies built their stuff this way. Go slowly. Built PR by building a great service and turn your users into your PR agents. Oh, yeah, and blog and podcast about it to get to this point (but look at how they built a community, they didn’t get all “pushy” about what they were doing — they just were informative and inclusive).

Keep in mind that this is only a few days into beta and they only have a few hundred beta testers, but this is going to get big pretty fast because it is a well-thought-out service that already is getting major praise from developers, who are very hard to get to hype anything.

Believe me, we all will hear about your product if it really does rock. There’s no reason to go crazy with a PR firm if you build something that people want. Atwood and Spolsky are proving that right in front of us.

This got me fired up about the tech industry again. It’s been a while since I’ve seen this kind of user passion.

UPDATE: Jeremy Toeman has a good rebuttal to this post (he’s the guy who first showed me Bug Labs and Sling Box).

Comments

  1. “There’s no reason to go crazy with a PR firm if you build something that people want.”

    I think using a product built BY programmers FOR programmers isn’t exactly a great example of why startups don’t need PR. I really take issue with your comment here – there are SO MANY products being built that people DO want that they never find out about. It’s not *about* PR, and it’s not about *going crazy*, it’s about good, solid, well-thought-out marketing. It’s important, and the more it gets diminished by blog posts like these, the more GOOD services will never see the light of day to the real world because they’ll never get beyond the tiny tiny world called the SF Bay Area.

    And there’s PLENTY of passion out there Robert, I think you are just letting the wrong people take too much of your time if you aren’t seeing it…

  2. “There’s no reason to go crazy with a PR firm if you build something that people want.”

    I think using a product built BY programmers FOR programmers isn’t exactly a great example of why startups don’t need PR. I really take issue with your comment here – there are SO MANY products being built that people DO want that they never find out about. It’s not *about* PR, and it’s not about *going crazy*, it’s about good, solid, well-thought-out marketing. It’s important, and the more it gets diminished by blog posts like these, the more GOOD services will never see the light of day to the real world because they’ll never get beyond the tiny tiny world called the SF Bay Area.

    And there’s PLENTY of passion out there Robert, I think you are just letting the wrong people take too much of your time if you aren’t seeing it…

  3. I suspect the size of their combined blog readership – and the fact that it is exactly the audience StackOverflow is aimed at – makes any form of advertising superfluous.

  4. I suspect the size of their combined blog readership – and the fact that it is exactly the audience StackOverflow is aimed at – makes any form of advertising superfluous.

  5. Jeremy: sorry, I am sick and tired of getting pitched crappy thing after crappy thing. I’d much prefer to hear from a real user who got excited any day. And with Twitter and other ways for users to compare notes and get excited, this is more and more interesting of a way for us to figure out what’s really good.

    I’m tired of seeing crap after crap after crap. If someone pitches me another social media aggregator I’m going to scream. Even when you bring me stuff I check out reactions of real users who don’t have some vested interest to see what they think. Bug Labs, for instance, got instant reactions from a wide range of people. Same with Sling Media. I really am trying to be more picky lately about what I cover because the industry is just going overboard with a bunch of crappy me too products lately that simply aren’t that interesting. Even the ones that get popular (like many Facebook apps) are pretty darn lame.

  6. Jeremy: sorry, I am sick and tired of getting pitched crappy thing after crappy thing. I’d much prefer to hear from a real user who got excited any day. And with Twitter and other ways for users to compare notes and get excited, this is more and more interesting of a way for us to figure out what’s really good.

    I’m tired of seeing crap after crap after crap. If someone pitches me another social media aggregator I’m going to scream. Even when you bring me stuff I check out reactions of real users who don’t have some vested interest to see what they think. Bug Labs, for instance, got instant reactions from a wide range of people. Same with Sling Media. I really am trying to be more picky lately about what I cover because the industry is just going overboard with a bunch of crappy me too products lately that simply aren’t that interesting. Even the ones that get popular (like many Facebook apps) are pretty darn lame.

  7. My point was really about your comment that implies PR is useless. You’d never have heard of either Bug or Sling if it wasn’t for PR…

    I completely agree with you re building good products, and I completely agree with you re ‘me too’ products. But neither statement should be interpreted as not needing PR… If anything – it’s the really good ones that need the best marketing work done, to help position and distinguish them from the crowd…

  8. My point was really about your comment that implies PR is useless. You’d never have heard of either Bug or Sling if it wasn’t for PR…

    I completely agree with you re building good products, and I completely agree with you re ‘me too’ products. But neither statement should be interpreted as not needing PR… If anything – it’s the really good ones that need the best marketing work done, to help position and distinguish them from the crowd…

  9. Robert, I think you’re describing the “perfect situation”: it’s the optimum to achieve. And it’s truly the main goal marketing should aim for: getting your users or customers to exitement and to talk about you or your services/products.

    But in my opinion you can’t rely your business communications solely on your customers. Especially not while starting up: What if your early users aren’t “Scobles”? ;) What if they are truly exited but non-communicative? What if they don’t even want to talk because they don’t want their competitors to get their advantage? …

    My 2 cents: If your services *and* your communications are great you’ll win the game.

    Smile! Gerrit – We speak Online.

  10. Robert, I think you’re describing the “perfect situation”: it’s the optimum to achieve. And it’s truly the main goal marketing should aim for: getting your users or customers to exitement and to talk about you or your services/products.

    But in my opinion you can’t rely your business communications solely on your customers. Especially not while starting up: What if your early users aren’t “Scobles”? ;) What if they are truly exited but non-communicative? What if they don’t even want to talk because they don’t want their competitors to get their advantage? …

    My 2 cents: If your services *and* your communications are great you’ll win the game.

    Smile! Gerrit – We speak Online.

  11. Robert, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the beta testing was every bit as much of a PR effort as it was a QA effort. Obviously, you wouldn’t have listened to a PR rep talk to you about StackOverflow, but you’re comfortable with a developer you trust and have a relationship with. It’s not as quick as some other methods, but it helps establish credibility. It is an excellent PR effort, but leaves much to be desired in my opinion.

  12. Robert, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the beta testing was every bit as much of a PR effort as it was a QA effort. Obviously, you wouldn’t have listened to a PR rep talk to you about StackOverflow, but you’re comfortable with a developer you trust and have a relationship with. It’s not as quick as some other methods, but it helps establish credibility. It is an excellent PR effort, but leaves much to be desired in my opinion.

  13. Hi Robert — wow! Thanks for the fantastic writeup. Our (very, VERY small) team is honored.

    I feel like we are cheating a little because Joel and I had such large, high quality communities of talented programmers who read our blogs. If Stack Overflow is working, it’s a reflection of not us, but the strength of the technical communities that have grown up around us.

    In my defense, we are building Stack Overflow as a unique intersection of Wiki, Forum, and voting/reputation (read: Digg/Reddit) systems. I’m not sure there’s any other Q&A system out there quite like it. And we aim to make it as fast and frictionless to participate as possible!

    It’s very gratifying and energizing to read such positive responses to the site. I’ve always enjoyed the community aspect of my blog tremendously, and Stack Overflow is a natural amplification of that community.

  14. Hi Robert — wow! Thanks for the fantastic writeup. Our (very, VERY small) team is honored.

    I feel like we are cheating a little because Joel and I had such large, high quality communities of talented programmers who read our blogs. If Stack Overflow is working, it’s a reflection of not us, but the strength of the technical communities that have grown up around us.

    In my defense, we are building Stack Overflow as a unique intersection of Wiki, Forum, and voting/reputation (read: Digg/Reddit) systems. I’m not sure there’s any other Q&A system out there quite like it. And we aim to make it as fast and frictionless to participate as possible!

    It’s very gratifying and energizing to read such positive responses to the site. I’ve always enjoyed the community aspect of my blog tremendously, and Stack Overflow is a natural amplification of that community.

  15. You have to get users interested. That takes time. Being there to show you something great would be my first choice, always. Having users show it to you, even better. :-)

    In the short term…I feel a tension about contacting you about what we do. I’d prefer it if you contacted us, that’s for sure! But I would not contact you if what I was helping create lacked merit. So, I think there is a difference to consider. In that difference are the people who feel passionate about their product and at the same time are trying to build a user community. I feel like we fit in that camp. We have the goods. We have users who love our product. At this point, we have to reach out so more people know about what we do. Not to reach out just seems irresponsible.

    So, just so you know, the tension is there for me, too. In contacting you and other bloggers, I am just hoping that you give us an honest look. We will smile with your satisfaction or listen intently to your criticism. That’ show companies like iterasi grow and develop user communities that will be glad to tell the world how much they love what we do.

    I have more to say in a short video I posted on my blog.

  16. You have to get users interested. That takes time. Being there to show you something great would be my first choice, always. Having users show it to you, even better. :-)

    In the short term…I feel a tension about contacting you about what we do. I’d prefer it if you contacted us, that’s for sure! But I would not contact you if what I was helping create lacked merit. So, I think there is a difference to consider. In that difference are the people who feel passionate about their product and at the same time are trying to build a user community. I feel like we fit in that camp. We have the goods. We have users who love our product. At this point, we have to reach out so more people know about what we do. Not to reach out just seems irresponsible.

    So, just so you know, the tension is there for me, too. In contacting you and other bloggers, I am just hoping that you give us an honest look. We will smile with your satisfaction or listen intently to your criticism. That’ show companies like iterasi grow and develop user communities that will be glad to tell the world how much they love what we do.

    I have more to say in a short video I posted on my blog.

  17. You still can be helped by a PR firm. The very fact that no one had heard of this impressive service, proves that.

    Also, if that one person had not contacted you, thousands would still be in the dark.

    Since it is closed beta, they may not have been that aggressive and proactive about promoting themselves, but for many Start ups, it is a different scenario completely.

    You may need immediate marketing by focused professionals with contacts.

  18. You still can be helped by a PR firm. The very fact that no one had heard of this impressive service, proves that.

    Also, if that one person had not contacted you, thousands would still be in the dark.

    Since it is closed beta, they may not have been that aggressive and proactive about promoting themselves, but for many Start ups, it is a different scenario completely.

    You may need immediate marketing by focused professionals with contacts.

  19. Public Relation: “The very fact that no one had heard of this impressive service, proves that.” – it is in closed beta, and there are hundreds of users.

    I take it by “no one” you mean “me and scoble”. Jeff has plenty of followers on Twitter, and subscribers to his blog, as well as the association with Joel Spolsky, to know that the product would have plenty of ears listening.

    And Bill Hicks was spot on with his opinion of anyone in marketing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDW_Hj2K0wo (NSFW)

  20. Public Relation: “The very fact that no one had heard of this impressive service, proves that.” – it is in closed beta, and there are hundreds of users.

    I take it by “no one” you mean “me and scoble”. Jeff has plenty of followers on Twitter, and subscribers to his blog, as well as the association with Joel Spolsky, to know that the product would have plenty of ears listening.

    And Bill Hicks was spot on with his opinion of anyone in marketing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDW_Hj2K0wo (NSFW)

  21. Wait, everybody! Define PR. PR is not a press release, or a crappy pitch. It’s the process of letting the right people know something is available — the public for the product. so Robert and Jeremy, you are both correct. Ideally, word of mouth is best, but it’s not fast enough for some publics (the tsunami is coming, run for the hills, quit eating Mexican peppers because they are causing salmonella). For those, press conference and press releases are best.

    –signed, Tired of Fighting to Explain This

  22. Wait, everybody! Define PR. PR is not a press release, or a crappy pitch. It’s the process of letting the right people know something is available — the public for the product. so Robert and Jeremy, you are both correct. Ideally, word of mouth is best, but it’s not fast enough for some publics (the tsunami is coming, run for the hills, quit eating Mexican peppers because they are causing salmonella). For those, press conference and press releases are best.

    –signed, Tired of Fighting to Explain This

  23. Yeah no PR. Are Joel Gray and Palehorse the same person? They both have the same comment.

    Joel Gray: “@Scobleizer As a participant in StackOverflow, I have to say that it is great. Good community of folks so far, quite easy to get answers”

    Palehorse: “@Scobleizer As a participant in StackOverflow, I have to say that it is great. Good community of folks so far, quite easy to get answers”

    Coincidence?

  24. Yeah no PR. Are Joel Gray and Palehorse the same person? They both have the same comment.

    Joel Gray: “@Scobleizer As a participant in StackOverflow, I have to say that it is great. Good community of folks so far, quite easy to get answers”

    Palehorse: “@Scobleizer As a participant in StackOverflow, I have to say that it is great. Good community of folks so far, quite easy to get answers”

    Coincidence?

  25. I think the problem with PR firms is that they don’t discriminate. You pay them and they’ll promote a sack of dung.

    What percentage of companies at TechCrunch50 will be lame?

    What percentage of iPhone apps and Facebook apps are embarrassments?

    I can see why Robert is frustrated by it all. I think I’d have shot myself by now if I were in his shoes.

  26. I think the problem with PR firms is that they don’t discriminate. You pay them and they’ll promote a sack of dung.

    What percentage of companies at TechCrunch50 will be lame?

    What percentage of iPhone apps and Facebook apps are embarrassments?

    I can see why Robert is frustrated by it all. I think I’d have shot myself by now if I were in his shoes.

  27. Regardless of how amazing a product is, a company and its investors would be very remiss to rely exclusively on organic growth fostered by “excited users”. Of course this one of the best ways to spread the word, but it will only go so far and it is hit or miss.

    As an aside, there are still plenty of great PR Pros out there and as opposed to being stale email pitch machines they ARE excited users – with connections to boot. Companies are well-served by seeking out these people as opposed to simply dumping money into a large name firm…

  28. Regardless of how amazing a product is, a company and its investors would be very remiss to rely exclusively on organic growth fostered by “excited users”. Of course this one of the best ways to spread the word, but it will only go so far and it is hit or miss.

    As an aside, there are still plenty of great PR Pros out there and as opposed to being stale email pitch machines they ARE excited users – with connections to boot. Companies are well-served by seeking out these people as opposed to simply dumping money into a large name firm…

  29. It’s really interesting to see people miss the point of the post *completely*!!!!

    Robert start off by saying “This is the way I love to learn about a company.”… It can’t get much personal than that!!

    Furthermore, Robert is talking from the perspective of someone who see PR crap everyday! For me, I’m fine with *some* PR but I am too sick of hearing of the “greatness” of a service (folks, we’re talking about SERVICES here, not products!! – even though it can still apply to products to a certain extent) and then after actually using it, feeling sorry for all of the people who maybe missed the alternatives – less known, but much better!

    As an early adopter and someone who is also passionate about startups and great services, I’m loving Stack Overflow. Heard of it when it was only a podcast and little more, got to know Jeff and Joel after a little research and kept my eye on anything coming from them after realizing how smart and creative they are. They are a real encouragement to me as a developer/designer to really strive for good products and being smart in the way I do business!

    Hope people starting reading blogs as opinions from their authors and not rants all the time. And, Robert, I’m with you on this one! Good post!

  30. It’s really interesting to see people miss the point of the post *completely*!!!!

    Robert start off by saying “This is the way I love to learn about a company.”… It can’t get much personal than that!!

    Furthermore, Robert is talking from the perspective of someone who see PR crap everyday! For me, I’m fine with *some* PR but I am too sick of hearing of the “greatness” of a service (folks, we’re talking about SERVICES here, not products!! – even though it can still apply to products to a certain extent) and then after actually using it, feeling sorry for all of the people who maybe missed the alternatives – less known, but much better!

    As an early adopter and someone who is also passionate about startups and great services, I’m loving Stack Overflow. Heard of it when it was only a podcast and little more, got to know Jeff and Joel after a little research and kept my eye on anything coming from them after realizing how smart and creative they are. They are a real encouragement to me as a developer/designer to really strive for good products and being smart in the way I do business!

    Hope people starting reading blogs as opinions from their authors and not rants all the time. And, Robert, I’m with you on this one! Good post!

  31. Couple things: 1) that that you are just hearing about this shows you are not as plugged in or aware as you or other people think you are. 2) you are delusional if you think FogCreek doesn’t use some PR services.

    Sounds like you don’t know how to “train” PR firms to influence you. Or they don’t view you as all that influential if they are simply carpetbombing you with releases and pitches. The best PR firms know who the REAL influentials are and know exactly how to work with them. I’m pretty confident Mossberg, for example, doesn’t get pitched like you do. That’s because PR firms devote time in understanding how to reach him. Your rant here basically told every PR firm you have no interest in working with them. Good luck getting to be influential with that strategy. PR firms can be your best asset in getting exclusive looks.Alas you’ve basically told to go take a flying f%#£. So down their speed dial list you go. You may be fine with that. And your hubris may lead you to believe you don’t need them. Again, good luck. However my advise would be to listen to Dawn

  32. Couple things: 1) that that you are just hearing about this shows you are not as plugged in or aware as you or other people think you are. 2) you are delusional if you think FogCreek doesn’t use some PR services.

    Sounds like you don’t know how to “train” PR firms to influence you. Or they don’t view you as all that influential if they are simply carpetbombing you with releases and pitches. The best PR firms know who the REAL influentials are and know exactly how to work with them. I’m pretty confident Mossberg, for example, doesn’t get pitched like you do. That’s because PR firms devote time in understanding how to reach him. Your rant here basically told every PR firm you have no interest in working with them. Good luck getting to be influential with that strategy. PR firms can be your best asset in getting exclusive looks.Alas you’ve basically told to go take a flying f%#£. So down their speed dial list you go. You may be fine with that. And your hubris may lead you to believe you don’t need them. Again, good luck. However my advise would be to listen to Dawn

  33. Hi Robert,

    I understand your frustration about being pitched me-too products. Alllow me to introduce a company to you whose products you will love:

    http://www.santegourmet.com/

    The founder/owner, Elisa Nakata, made a switch from a high tech carrier over to food, seeing the need for great-tasting, but healthy desserts. Not only are the products she developped over the period of a couple of years (yes, a lot of alpha- and beta-testing…) absolutely great, but she has a really interesting background as well (PM for AppleWorks on Apple II, PM for MacWrite II (Kanjji version), VP at Pointcast, work with David Bowie and Quincy Jones, MBA in food etc.).

    Give Elisa a call or drop her a mail and volunteer to test….

  34. Hi Robert,

    I understand your frustration about being pitched me-too products. Alllow me to introduce a company to you whose products you will love:

    http://www.santegourmet.com/

    The founder/owner, Elisa Nakata, made a switch from a high tech carrier over to food, seeing the need for great-tasting, but healthy desserts. Not only are the products she developped over the period of a couple of years (yes, a lot of alpha- and beta-testing…) absolutely great, but she has a really interesting background as well (PM for AppleWorks on Apple II, PM for MacWrite II (Kanjji version), VP at Pointcast, work with David Bowie and Quincy Jones, MBA in food etc.).

    Give Elisa a call or drop her a mail and volunteer to test….

  35. Mossberg and other famous journalists tell me they get more email pitches than I ever get. Dan Gillmor, who used to work for the San Jose Mercury News got so many that he tried to train PR people (and failed, he told me).

    Glenn: I don’t track programmer news as closely as I once did. I follow 600 blogs in Google Reader, follow tons of people on Twitter and FriendFeed and haven’t seen anyone else talking about it. It’s only been out for three days (in a closed beta) though, so if I hear about something cool in the first week (and before it gets out to the general public) I figure that’s pretty good!

  36. Mossberg and other famous journalists tell me they get more email pitches than I ever get. Dan Gillmor, who used to work for the San Jose Mercury News got so many that he tried to train PR people (and failed, he told me).

    Glenn: I don’t track programmer news as closely as I once did. I follow 600 blogs in Google Reader, follow tons of people on Twitter and FriendFeed and haven’t seen anyone else talking about it. It’s only been out for three days (in a closed beta) though, so if I hear about something cool in the first week (and before it gets out to the general public) I figure that’s pretty good!

  37. A programming tool for programmers, an insiderish social softwareish doodad for shop talking, oh, sorry, “knowledge exchange”.

    Gee, that will set the world on fire.

    Things that bubble up from the bottom, should sometimes stay there.

  38. A programming tool for programmers, an insiderish social softwareish doodad for shop talking, oh, sorry, “knowledge exchange”.

    Gee, that will set the world on fire.

    Things that bubble up from the bottom, should sometimes stay there.

  39. You wouldn’t have learned about StackOverflow unless your trusted beta friend showed it to you, and he wouldn’t have learned about it unless someone else told him about it. Keep going back, and I 100% guarantee you that ultimately, the message came from a P.R. firm, marketing department or a company employee.

    What I think you’re saying is, “The P.R. message must be at least N hops away from the company for it to be credible to me.” But what about for the person you’re hearing it from who is N-1 hops away?

  40. You wouldn’t have learned about StackOverflow unless your trusted beta friend showed it to you, and he wouldn’t have learned about it unless someone else told him about it. Keep going back, and I 100% guarantee you that ultimately, the message came from a P.R. firm, marketing department or a company employee.

    What I think you’re saying is, “The P.R. message must be at least N hops away from the company for it to be credible to me.” But what about for the person you’re hearing it from who is N-1 hops away?

  41. Beta Testing products usualy have a PR element to them and the PR team are involved in things like the forums and company blogs to Promote the product or service .A Community Eveangelist / Customer Support as yoiu well know Scoble is as much of a PR role as it is a technical role in a company ,

  42. Beta Testing products usualy have a PR element to them and the PR team are involved in things like the forums and company blogs to Promote the product or service .A Community Eveangelist / Customer Support as yoiu well know Scoble is as much of a PR role as it is a technical role in a company ,

  43. I think there’s less disagreement here than it initially seems. Robert, what inspired you about the way you learned about the new site/product was the credibility of the person who shared the information with you. You had trust in the relationship; your buddy wouldn’t say this was cool unless he believed it. That IS the ideal, and it certainly made it special.

    But when PR is done well — however rarely that happens — it achieves the same result. There are PR professionals whom I trust to Not Waste My Time, just as there are flacks who will call me at 7:30am to ask “Did you get my email about the revolutionary new gargleblaster?” The good PR people establish their credibility with me, and if they say it’s cool I can believe them.

    The problem, of course, is that it takes a while to tell the difference. Especially when we know they are being paid to get enthusiastic about their client’s product.

  44. I think there’s less disagreement here than it initially seems. Robert, what inspired you about the way you learned about the new site/product was the credibility of the person who shared the information with you. You had trust in the relationship; your buddy wouldn’t say this was cool unless he believed it. That IS the ideal, and it certainly made it special.

    But when PR is done well — however rarely that happens — it achieves the same result. There are PR professionals whom I trust to Not Waste My Time, just as there are flacks who will call me at 7:30am to ask “Did you get my email about the revolutionary new gargleblaster?” The good PR people establish their credibility with me, and if they say it’s cool I can believe them.

    The problem, of course, is that it takes a while to tell the difference. Especially when we know they are being paid to get enthusiastic about their client’s product.

  45. Great headline and post Scoble. These types of posts will always stir the pot and get people talking. I love controversy, but I must admit this topic is getting old. It’s as tired as the lame-ass pitches you are bombarded with on a daily basis. But I do feel your pain. Trust me, we turn away more startups than we take on, and even then not all of them get to be first-to-market with the latest and hottest app. But that’s not to say that they can’t carve out their place in the market, with the help of PR, and build a viable business.

    People like Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood, or even Loic for that matter, don’t need PR in the light you’re talking about. I totally agree with you on that! But there’s still a case for PR, as both Francine and Jeremy have already pointed out. And I and others pointed out on Loic’s post a couple months ago where he made an argument for startups not needing PR. http://loiclemeur.com/english/2008/05/pr-secrets-bull.html

  46. Great headline and post Scoble. These types of posts will always stir the pot and get people talking. I love controversy, but I must admit this topic is getting old. It’s as tired as the lame-ass pitches you are bombarded with on a daily basis. But I do feel your pain. Trust me, we turn away more startups than we take on, and even then not all of them get to be first-to-market with the latest and hottest app. But that’s not to say that they can’t carve out their place in the market, with the help of PR, and build a viable business.

    People like Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood, or even Loic for that matter, don’t need PR in the light you’re talking about. I totally agree with you on that! But there’s still a case for PR, as both Francine and Jeremy have already pointed out. And I and others pointed out on Loic’s post a couple months ago where he made an argument for startups not needing PR. http://loiclemeur.com/english/2008/05/pr-secrets-bull.html

  47. Not all products are great, but they may serve a need and will find an audience. Not all CEOs are adept at marketing themselves, or have the time to devote to following up on all press inquiries or keeping track of all of the potential venues to get the word out about their product.

    PR is changing. It’s changed many times before. It’s not going to go away. No more than marketing itself is going to go away. Like mainstream media, it’s adapting. Some of the bigger names won’t adapt and will fade away. Some of the smaller names will not be able to provide all of the services companies need, and will go away.

  48. Not all products are great, but they may serve a need and will find an audience. Not all CEOs are adept at marketing themselves, or have the time to devote to following up on all press inquiries or keeping track of all of the potential venues to get the word out about their product.

    PR is changing. It’s changed many times before. It’s not going to go away. No more than marketing itself is going to go away. Like mainstream media, it’s adapting. Some of the bigger names won’t adapt and will fade away. Some of the smaller names will not be able to provide all of the services companies need, and will go away.

  49. The simple use of Twitter for promoting… anything… is PR. Online PR, but PR nevertheless.

    PR is changing. Sending a press release is no longer as effective as it was 2 years ago. But the “customers” who are supposed to be the “impartial reviewers” of a service/product could as well be “employed” to spread the news in social networks.

    Robert, the minute a blogger with your influence went on twitter asking about StackOverflow… imagine the PR effect… You sent traffic just for mentioning it.

    And what about this entry? You help StackOverflow building up a brand and community. I think it is great they got lucky and they got free PR through you. Accidents do happen every day, but some are not so fortunate. Can a startup really afford to wait to be discovered by accident by Robert Scoble?

    I understand your frustration, but direct approach comes with the territory. You are famous, influential and you are a public person. You cannot blame a PR for direct approaches when your contact information is publicly available. Once you publish your email online you basically set up an “open 24 hours” sign.

  50. The simple use of Twitter for promoting… anything… is PR. Online PR, but PR nevertheless.

    PR is changing. Sending a press release is no longer as effective as it was 2 years ago. But the “customers” who are supposed to be the “impartial reviewers” of a service/product could as well be “employed” to spread the news in social networks.

    Robert, the minute a blogger with your influence went on twitter asking about StackOverflow… imagine the PR effect… You sent traffic just for mentioning it.

    And what about this entry? You help StackOverflow building up a brand and community. I think it is great they got lucky and they got free PR through you. Accidents do happen every day, but some are not so fortunate. Can a startup really afford to wait to be discovered by accident by Robert Scoble?

    I understand your frustration, but direct approach comes with the territory. You are famous, influential and you are a public person. You cannot blame a PR for direct approaches when your contact information is publicly available. Once you publish your email online you basically set up an “open 24 hours” sign.

  51. Oh, Robert – I never knew the only way to get your attention was to drop out of the sky, hand you a beer and mention the latest Victoria’s Secret catalog!

    I was doing this blogging job along side you for some time (all be it not quite as visibly), and I identify with getting 4000 worthless press pitches. I think, in a very significant way, that “word of mouth” is really the best way to get stuff. However, minimalizing or marginalizing a whole sector because you got too famous is hardly a kind thing to do.

    Some of the PR people I got things from are the most courteous and informed people I know. This is not to say it is not frustrating to be spammed. I expected more from you however, in that some time ago I developed a method for prioritizing even the RWW tips mail.

    Since working on our own little PR company here, I have tried to accomplish some of the tasks other PR firms do, and some that they would never attempt. Believe me, their job is not as romantic as you might think. People need people to do things they either do not have the time or expertise to accomplish. Like people who come to blogs to read what smart people like you think.

    So, press releases and endless emails are a diminishing part of PR? Still, if a company created the new wheel and could not translate the news into 10 languages, would you want them to get someone to spread the news? Maybe they could hang out at Robert’s favorite mall and hope he walks by?

    I know, instead of occasionally sending you a news bit (in sincerity), I could find out who your friends are and send them stories that might be interesting? Great technology finding its audience naturally? Hmm….kinda like the aids vaccine being sprayed into the atmosphere where everyone breaths it in and is either cured or immunized? Oh no! That precludes someone actually spraying it into the air doesn’t it? I guess the instructions for creating it can be whispered to Robert at a cocktail party and he can choose whether or not to put it on his blog or twitter?

    Excuse me Robert, I have always liked and respected you, but exactly how how on the mountain of bloggers does one have to get in order to dictate like Mussolini how and when news arrives? I suppose their is a natural friction between outlets and people seeking them, but it is interesting how one blog sees news from a source as BS, while another (and sometimes even more viable) says thanks and does a nice story.

    I know, I should contact the STACK and see if they need a good PR? Consider that, given their evident lack thereof, what could be accomplished for them with more people behind them than Facebook and Twitter! But then, Robert would likely not see them so easily. Don’t climb to high Robert, there is no one else there. You will not see God, but might see yourself as one. Disregarding other people, except friends precludes perhaps meeting the best friend you ever had.

    Always, Phil

  52. Oh, Robert – I never knew the only way to get your attention was to drop out of the sky, hand you a beer and mention the latest Victoria’s Secret catalog!

    I was doing this blogging job along side you for some time (all be it not quite as visibly), and I identify with getting 4000 worthless press pitches. I think, in a very significant way, that “word of mouth” is really the best way to get stuff. However, minimalizing or marginalizing a whole sector because you got too famous is hardly a kind thing to do.

    Some of the PR people I got things from are the most courteous and informed people I know. This is not to say it is not frustrating to be spammed. I expected more from you however, in that some time ago I developed a method for prioritizing even the RWW tips mail.

    Since working on our own little PR company here, I have tried to accomplish some of the tasks other PR firms do, and some that they would never attempt. Believe me, their job is not as romantic as you might think. People need people to do things they either do not have the time or expertise to accomplish. Like people who come to blogs to read what smart people like you think.

    So, press releases and endless emails are a diminishing part of PR? Still, if a company created the new wheel and could not translate the news into 10 languages, would you want them to get someone to spread the news? Maybe they could hang out at Robert’s favorite mall and hope he walks by?

    I know, instead of occasionally sending you a news bit (in sincerity), I could find out who your friends are and send them stories that might be interesting? Great technology finding its audience naturally? Hmm….kinda like the aids vaccine being sprayed into the atmosphere where everyone breaths it in and is either cured or immunized? Oh no! That precludes someone actually spraying it into the air doesn’t it? I guess the instructions for creating it can be whispered to Robert at a cocktail party and he can choose whether or not to put it on his blog or twitter?

    Excuse me Robert, I have always liked and respected you, but exactly how how on the mountain of bloggers does one have to get in order to dictate like Mussolini how and when news arrives? I suppose their is a natural friction between outlets and people seeking them, but it is interesting how one blog sees news from a source as BS, while another (and sometimes even more viable) says thanks and does a nice story.

    I know, I should contact the STACK and see if they need a good PR? Consider that, given their evident lack thereof, what could be accomplished for them with more people behind them than Facebook and Twitter! But then, Robert would likely not see them so easily. Don’t climb to high Robert, there is no one else there. You will not see God, but might see yourself as one. Disregarding other people, except friends precludes perhaps meeting the best friend you ever had.

    Always, Phil

  53. PR is Not Dead…

    Let’s not forget that some of the very bloggers who are suggesting that great products or people don’t need PR are also among the first to tell you that they will not cover your news once the first person has already written about it, citing that it…

  54. There are a lot of bad PR pros out there. But there are a lot of bad journalists too. Many can be brought and paid for. Some are just looking to write controversy and will slam a business for no reason. Others write in only 8 word sound bites. So until Journalists improve, all companies need a PR firm to protect their interests. That’s why we have PR, not to be media hounds, but strategic communicators.

  55. There are a lot of bad PR pros out there. But there are a lot of bad journalists too. Many can be brought and paid for. Some are just looking to write controversy and will slam a business for no reason. Others write in only 8 word sound bites. So until Journalists improve, all companies need a PR firm to protect their interests. That’s why we have PR, not to be media hounds, but strategic communicators.

  56. Totally agree with the first comment by Jeremy Toeman. And as a popular blogger or journalist, expect to get bombarded by pitches.

  57. Totally agree with the first comment by Jeremy Toeman. And as a popular blogger or journalist, expect to get bombarded by pitches.

  58. Finding useful information on your blog is what I really like to read Many people read blogs as myself and has a great return for style and look

  59. Finding useful information on your blog is what I really like to read Many people read blogs as myself and has a great return for style and look

  60. I think the value of what a PR firm can do is potentially broader than just pitching – let’s not forget that the world is not yet full of social media and blogging gurus like you, so lots of people need help adapting to the new world.

    I think there are five ways a PR firm can provide value in today’s world:

    1) Research – find good blogs, awards, conferences, dig up info
    2) Training – teach people about PR in a social media world
    3) Create Content – story ideas, writing, video, audio
    4) Pitching / Relationship – maybe more relevant to old media, but it does still work
    5) Monitoring – make sure you comment on the right blogs and don’t miss any news

    Read the full article about the Value of a PR Firm in a Social Media World here:
    http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/4267/The-Role-of-PR-Firms-in-Social-Media-and-Inbound-Marketing.aspx

  61. I think the value of what a PR firm can do is potentially broader than just pitching – let’s not forget that the world is not yet full of social media and blogging gurus like you, so lots of people need help adapting to the new world.

    I think there are five ways a PR firm can provide value in today’s world:

    1) Research – find good blogs, awards, conferences, dig up info
    2) Training – teach people about PR in a social media world
    3) Create Content – story ideas, writing, video, audio
    4) Pitching / Relationship – maybe more relevant to old media, but it does still work
    5) Monitoring – make sure you comment on the right blogs and don’t miss any news

    Read the full article about the Value of a PR Firm in a Social Media World here:
    http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/4267/The-Role-of-PR-Firms-in-Social-Media-and-Inbound-Marketing.aspx

  62. I agree with you Robert when you say you need to personally engage bloggers; not flood them with crappy releases. But as one of the founders of Jellyfish.com (recently sold to Microsoft to launch their cashback service), my experience is that many Tier 1 bloggers like you use good PR firms as gatekeepers. Without an introduction, I’m going to have a much more difficult time getting your attention. That, in my opinion is the lasting value of traditional PR and the method I’m using in my new start up. My full argument is here:
    http://flywheelblog.com/2008/08/the-value-of-traditional-pr/

  63. I agree with you Robert when you say you need to personally engage bloggers; not flood them with crappy releases. But as one of the founders of Jellyfish.com (recently sold to Microsoft to launch their cashback service), my experience is that many Tier 1 bloggers like you use good PR firms as gatekeepers. Without an introduction, I’m going to have a much more difficult time getting your attention. That, in my opinion is the lasting value of traditional PR and the method I’m using in my new start up. My full argument is here:
    http://flywheelblog.com/2008/08/the-value-of-traditional-pr/

  64. [...] Rubel’s post that ruffled so many PR feathers was his reference to Robert Scoble’s blog lauding a “PR-less launch.” Rubel doesn’t necessarily agree with Scoble but he does call out the point that some bloggers [...]

  65. [...] one of the founders so he’s clearly biased. For what it’s worth, Robert Scoble was enthused about Stack Overflow, though it did not make him cry. Still, I was humbled by the way Robert picked this up so [...]

  66. Scoble says: “I’m tired of seeing crap after crap after crap. If someone pitches me another social media aggregator I’m going to scream.”

    It seems that the real culprit here is the client/developer. Reputable PR practitioners do not take on clients who have nothing interesting to say. Yes, there are PR hacks out there trying to get coverage for blah products or services but the blame should also be shared with un-imaginative companies that are too dull to come up with something truly innovative.

    So why is this attack only against PR? Are you afraid of possibly offending a potential advertiser?

  67. Scoble says: “I’m tired of seeing crap after crap after crap. If someone pitches me another social media aggregator I’m going to scream.”

    It seems that the real culprit here is the client/developer. Reputable PR practitioners do not take on clients who have nothing interesting to say. Yes, there are PR hacks out there trying to get coverage for blah products or services but the blame should also be shared with un-imaginative companies that are too dull to come up with something truly innovative.

    So why is this attack only against PR? Are you afraid of possibly offending a potential advertiser?

  68. I spend some of my free time on friendfeed.com, but there is a drawback: friendfeed rapidly became the #1 Google result for my name. All sorts of topics come up there, and I feel constrained in what I comment on to avoid having something come back to haunt me in a future job search or vetting process.

    I’m enthused about the idea of stackoverflow: it looks like fun, and I think the topics which come up there will be related to what I do for a living. Having stackoverflow postings turn up on Google for the next N years won’t be a concern.

    reddit.com’s programming sub-reddit used to be similar, but the comments on reddit have become completely toxic. It is no longer fun there.

  69. I spend some of my free time on friendfeed.com, but there is a drawback: friendfeed rapidly became the #1 Google result for my name. All sorts of topics come up there, and I feel constrained in what I comment on to avoid having something come back to haunt me in a future job search or vetting process.

    I’m enthused about the idea of stackoverflow: it looks like fun, and I think the topics which come up there will be related to what I do for a living. Having stackoverflow postings turn up on Google for the next N years won’t be a concern.

    reddit.com’s programming sub-reddit used to be similar, but the comments on reddit have become completely toxic. It is no longer fun there.

  70. [...] I get your attention? Linkbaiting, of course, is not dead. Nor is Twitter, nor blogging nor IM nor public relations, nor any other service or social media trend that has been blindly pushed to an early grave by [...]