Both Paul and David have known Sam Whitmore since all three were at PC Week (now eWeek) back in the go-go 1980s. Since 1998, Sam has been running his own consultancy for PR firms, called MediaSurvey. We spent some time talking to him about a fascinating series of posts on his site that began with an open letter that purported to be from a fictional agency to its fictional B2B client. The letter explains, from the agency’s point of view, why the relationship isn’t more productive. It inspired several comments, as well our own curiosity about Sam’s motivations.
The letter makes three points, with the basic thesis being that “We need max access and a budget bump,” meaning that PR budgets have to reflect a more approach to what agencies do. The fictional PR firm asks to be given better access to customer feedback and become a more strategic partner of the client’s marketing efforts, and to have better relationships with content gateways that will outlast a point product release. The tone of the letter is snarky, but also to the point, with good suggestions about the brave new world of what Sam calls “content platforms” such as ITCentralStation, ProductHunt, and SoftwareAdvice. Whitmore calls these the “IT version of Yelp,” and notes that they’re increasingly powerful in shaping buying decisions. Do you know about them? David actually contributes product reviews to the first site and has seen impressive results, but Paul had barely heard of them.
Sam’s letter suggests that traditional PR needs to be shaken up in the world of many influences. “Building influence is no longer an easily-delegated linear process of ideation, goal-setting and persuasion” he writes. “It’s now more of a matrix, as we help weave your agenda slowly and steadily across tier-one, trades and communities.” In this podcast, he tells what motivated him to write the open letter and how readers reacted. We also discuss the differences between working with large versus smaller/startup clients and how to develop expertise in new channels at your own PR shop.