This week, I am attending the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco.
The conference is perhaps the most amazing forum for early-stage technology-based companies to gain exposure, and an education in how to be a successful emerging company. While not everyone will end up being the next Twitter or Google, it is wonderful to be part of an ecosystem which certainly could birth the next big thing.
This year's conference has drawn 2,600 aspiring entrpreneurs, venture capitalists and service providers to San Francisco to hear speakers ranging from venture-legend Vinod Khosla to actor-activist-angel inverstor Ashton Kutcher shell out sage advice from the main stage. The program also allows hundreds of companies to present their business ideas and products to an attentive audience of people in-the-know.
This year, for the third time, TechCrunch graciously invited me as "press' to attend, meet, and cover some of the start-up companies.
In the role of "press" comes the opportunity to be "pitched" by quite a number of PR professionals, all vying for some exposure for their clients. I've received several dozen emails and calls from agencies and consultants asking for coverage. Many are polite, some are wily and some are, well--downright incompetent.
Which brings me to the centerpience of this post.
It is a warning to all entrepreneurs and dreamers of one day being the next Twitter or Google.
Be careful of who you hire as your PR representative.
Your PR representitive is an extension of your reputation. And as we all know, reputation is everything.
Make sure you keep a good eye on how your representative presents you to others, and who they are talking to. My advice would be to ask any reporter you meet how they were treated by PR folks--and whether they represent you well.
At this conference, as with many conferences I attend, I am shocked by the lack of professionalism among some of these PR professionals--not all, but some. I have had meetings cancelled with 10 minutes notice, I have had entrepreneurs not show up for meetings, and I have seen clients be totally unprepared (not briefed) to meet with me.
Let me give just one example--for illustrative purposes only. This morning, I was confirmed for a 7:30 am meeting at the conference (confirmation email came in at 5:45 am). Then, the confirmed meeting was cancelled at 7:00 am. Of course, I was alrady enroute. I voiced my displeasure at the late notice, but told her I'd stop by the booth and meet with the CEO casually. Instead of being happy with my flexibility, she encouraged me not to stop by--clearly for fear that I'd say something negative to her client.
As I sat in a cafe with nothing to do at 7:00 am in the morning, I checked out this PR professional's bio on the company website:
"If <XXX> PR were a high school, <she> would be voted homecoming queen, rank captain of the cheerleading squad and chair the school cupcake sale, all while wearing a pink cardigan and a pearl necklace.
But don’t let her “Elle Woods” exterior fool you. Having grown up with three brothers, <she> has a strong competitive side and strives to impress her clients with coverage in the top media outlets. In fact, within just weeks of joining the <XXX> PR team, <she> amazed one client by securing interest from 12 of the top mainstream consumer magazines mere days after they were first introduced.
Her secret? She lives by the words, “keep calm and carry on.”
<she> is an <XXX> University graduate with a degree in Journalism, with a double focus in Public Relations & Advertising and Communications & Culture.
Is this the background of a someone you want holding your future success in their homecoming queen hands?
Be careful who represents your brand reputation.