5 things we learned from the PR trenches in 2013

2013 has been a strange kind of a year. It seems the tech IPO is back, for a while anyway, startups are awash with VC funding, and while no one is willing to call it a bubble, the frivolity and frothiness that would accompany such an unmentionable thing seems to surround us.  Here are the top five things that caught my eye this year:

1. 2013 was a bad year for Silicon Valley’s image

Thanks to longtime startup champion, Chris Shipley, for always calling it like it is -and never more so than around the whole TechCrunch Disrupt debacle this year. In case you missed it, apparently a bunch of entrepreneurs decided the world needed two new apps: one to help us stare at women’s boobs and the other a trainer app for masturbation, and as if that weren’t bad enough, TechCrunch gave them airtime. I sincerely hope this marked Silicon Valley hitting bottom (no pun intended) but fear we will witness yet more dumb ideas in 2014 and beyond.

2. It was a breakout year for content creators

It’s a given. Everyone wants to create content and every company needs someone to do it. From trailblazers like Stephanie Losee, managing editor at Dell, to seasoned business reporter, Michael Copeland, being lured over to Andreessen Horowitz, the grapevine was abuzz this year with big reporter names showing up on the corporate side. Who can blame them given the state of publishing? Let’s hope they continue to champion the kind of quality content that we used to rely on from traditional publishers. I predict this will be a debate we see more of in 2014 as evidenced by this just-published article on Forbes’ content model.

3. Consultants are re-thinking the way they bill clients

For about a million years, clients have been telling PR providers that their budget is fixed at $10k a month. I’m not sure what the magic is in this number, but given that we have inflation and PR has (virtually) been reinvented over the past decade, I don’t think it’s the right number anymore.  Okay, I’m being tongue in cheek, but I think the only way around this is reinventing our billing models so they’re focused on value and expertise. I am not an advocate for payment by results, that may work in advertising but there are simply too many variables in communications to make that fly. The jury’s out on how this will shake out, but it’s happening.

4. We still need better ways to measure our results

So yes, if we are going to change the way we bill, we darn well better change the way we demonstrate our results and impact on the businesses we serve. To date, I haven’t seen any kind of measurement model that delivers this holy grail, but I just got early demo of AirPR’s new Analyst product and it looks promising. It’s early days, and there’s more development to be done, but it’s worth keeping an eye on. Now all we need to do is convince startups to carve out budgets for measurement.

5. Don’t skip the testing phase

I am still amazed by the number of entrepreneurs I meet who are so eager to get their product/app/service to market that they are willing to skip, or seriously underestimate, the research and testing phase. I’ve witnessed numerous companies having to re-trench over the years – although now it’s called a “pivot” because it sounds sexier. I can only urge anyone working on their big idea to test, test and test again. And then do some customer research. Every time you do this, you will learn something invaluable that will make for a better product, which makes for happy customers who want to shout about their experience from the rooftops (which is just about when your PR can really do something for you).

Enough from me – happy holidays and here’s to a prosperous 2014!

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