1) All that email
Whereas publicists in other industries have built up many personal relationships over the years, tech PR is rapidly growing and expanding, and—most of all—is relatively new. That means a lot more unsolicited emails. My god, the emails. To reporters, to bloggers, to influencers, to social media managers—tech PR people sit behind their company and fire away. This faceless deluge is largely responsible for the bad reputation of PR folk in tech. Nobody wants more email and the people who send it anyway get a black mark against them.
2) It’s not just the email
Tech PR folks are naturally the most tech-savvy of their peers. That’s bad if you’re a journalist who is just trying to do your job. Because now you have to contend with every facet of your life getting invaded. They follow you on Twitter, they try to connect with you on LinkedIn, they read your blog and try to pretend you are their friend. It’s obnoxiousness on multiple fronts with the help of every ridiculous tool you can think of—Yesware to track email opens, Whenisgood to schedule calls, Google Hangouts to chat. I mean, c’mon.
Ironically, there is very little respect for PR as an art form among tech clients. This contributes to a kind of inferiority complex and deep-seated insecurity in tech PR. Sometimes, I wonder if they realize how unnecessary they might be to their client’s success. Facebook didn’t even have a marketing or publicity department at first—they had a growth team. My theory is that this skepticism from their bosses leads to intense pressure for results at any cost, which leads to more spam, and even more desperate measures.
4) The ridiculous clients
This part is not the fault of the PR people at all—but messengers do get shot. Can you imagine having to take seriously someone who represents clients like KeePass, Choozle, Lawdingo, Chubbies and a million other ridiculously named companies? These PR people may privately think that the companies are a joke, but during the day they have to pretend they’re serious, that their silly app won’t go out of business in two months and that the name doesn’t sound like it was created out of satire.
5) Their targets
One other trend hanging over all of this is the fact that the bloggers that these PR warriors have to pitch everyday are overworked, underskilled, underpaid and generally snarky, rude and entitled. It’s a feedback loop. Blogs look out for themselves and have no real obligations to ethics or objectivity—and then the PR folks have to play with this fire without getting burned.
Needless to say, there is some mutual disrespect and suspicion. Bad clients, bad tools, bad outlets all add up to plenty of distrust, absurdity and resentment. Fair or unfair, it makes the tech publicist a lonely, thankless job. Yet they soldier on, as they must. Besides, did you hear that [Insert ridiculous named start-up] just raised $40 million? Someone has to sign that account!
Ryan Holiday, an editor-at-large at Betabeat, is also an experienced PR advisor himself.