critical to growth on the Net
January 18, 1999
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
When fast food was in its infancy, a bold entrepreneur named Ray
Kroc couldn't afford to advertise. He hired a young Chicago public
relations executive named Al Golin to make McDonalds a household
In the realm
of information technology, Silicon Valley would be unknown without
the legendary efforts of publicist Regis McKenna.
relations is reshaping the Internet and the Internet, in turn,
is redefining the practice of public relations. If you're moving
into Interactive commerce, a solid knowledge of public relations
is a must.
Most web entrepreneurs
and their venture capitalist brethren would agree. They know that
the right spin, publicity and public perception is as important
to a high-tech start-up as the product engineering.
Just ask the
newest billionaire, Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay Inc. The on-line
trading company enjoyed an IPO at $18 per share and watched the
price climb to $234 per share on favorable publicity and public
Yahoo! "Daily Pick" can mean thousands of new visitors
to your Web site. Just consider Victoriasecret.com, or webcertificate.com,
two sites Yahoo! touted the day I wrote this column. Or, on a
more cerebral note, having Infoseek Today rate your site with
three stars under the topic "Internet in the Schools"
must help establish the AT&T Learning Network. It made me
click through to their site.
What's a recent
favorable Business Week cover story worth to Jeff Bezos, CEO of
Amazon.com? Does the favorable buzz for Bezos drive shoppers to
Amazon.com and away from the late Sam Walton's Wal-Mart or Arthur
Martinez's Sears stores? You bet it does.
ruling in the Justice Department case against Microsoft will be
important to Bill Gates's pocketbook. But, the lasting image and
the perception of Microsoft Corp. as "predator," "geek"
or "victim" may be more critical in the long term.
perhaps in presidential politics, is public relations a more important
part of the marketing mix than in interactive marketing. But most
marketers get very little training in the methodologies of public
relations, as compared to courses in consumer behavior, market
research or advertising. And, few marketers have much respect
for the power of this sometimes-stepchild member of the marketing
author of Value-Added Public Relations: The Secret Weapon of Integrated
Marketing, has fought for years to ensure public relations plays
its proper role in the marketing and business success of the corporate
enterprise. A veteran senior public relations agency executive
- currently a faculty member in the Integrated Marketing Communications
program at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University
- Harris says, "People will look to the Net for information,
not salesmanship, and that's the real opportunity for public relations."
attention to a recent article in Jack O'Dwyer's newsletter, the
bible of the public relations industry. It claims there's a war
brewing between the public relations agencies and the advertising
agencies for the future "control, "creation and organization
of Internet content.
goes like this. The Web presents a tremendous opportunity for
companies to build one-to-one relationships with customers and
other important stake-holders. Web sites require access to and
the presentation of enormous amounts of information. Public relations
professionals are more capable than advertising professionals
to design and fill extraordinarily large blocks of information.
Therefore, public relations agencies should do the heavy lifting
in supplying content for the Internet, not advertising agencies.
CEO of Weber Group, a leading technology-focused public relations
agency, sees this battle more philosophically and conceptually.
all companies are going to evolve into having their Web site be
a 24- hour-a-day channel that is going to need constant information
in various categories," Weber says.
skeptical. He doubts today's public relations professionals can
step up to the challenge of interactive marketing.
think the PR profession has the horses to pull it off," Weber
adds. "That's the problem. We were built the old-fashioned
way on good liberal arts kids who couldn't get a job and were
able to write. We're going to need management consultants, lawyers
and really good MBA business thinkers to move into public relations."
engaged in the vortex of interactive marketing, public relations
professionals won't have much time to react. Weber sees a whole
host of organizations, like strategy consultants McKinsey &
Co., or systems integrators like Andersen Consulting, as easily
able to migrate into providing a whole suite of services from
technology infrastructure to communications management.
a new crop of marketing communications consultants emerging that
start to be the "masters of the reputation universe."
where the fights are going to come in." says Weber.
out Burson-Marsteller, the largest public relations firm, already
has repositioned itself as a "perception management organization"
in order to align with this marketplace opportunity.
"the smartest, best integrator" should be the leader,
whether they come from a consulting organization, a direct marketing
shop, an advertising agency, a public relations firm or from the
Golin, no stranger to today's technology and communications battles,
weighed in by reinforcing the importance of human behavior and
public relations expertise in the brave new world of bits and
can be depersonalizing, Golin reminded me in an interview. "I
worry that people who work just three offices from me will leave
me a voice mail rather than just come in to have a conversation.
The communication just isn't as effective," he says.
interactive marketers still could learn a thing or two from the
man who helped Kroc build his hamburger empire. Maybe those management
consultants won't displace the public relations agencies so easily
is a partner with Diamond Technology Partners in Chicago.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.