COMMENT: Thought Leader - Tech PR has been a roller coaster, but weshould still hang on for the ride

I moved to California in 1999 to work for an e-commerce start-up in

San Diego. I had grown up in Oklahoma and immediately fell in love with

the southern California lifestyle. I loved the girls, the surfing, and

the sun. I also loved being the business development director of a

$120 million e-commerce start-up. But one morning near the end of

the company's life span, I received an e-mail from the controller.

His message was directed to all employees stating "the cleaning crew has

been picking up half-empty cans of soda, which means you aren't drinking

all the contents. We will not continue to purchase beverages for the

staff if the privilege is taken for granted."

We were burning more than $3 million a month on infrastructure

and salaries.

I was flying first-class to New York and back on a weekly basis, and all

of a sudden he was monitoring how much Yoohoo I was drinking.

The deals were easy to close during that frenzied internet period, and

the engineering department reached critical mass in a matter of


My whole career focus had been in PR, so I moved over to the PR

department to begin announcing the largest partnerships. I learned from

working at Alexander Ogilvy as an account manager that it was actually

possible to brand a company through its IPO in a matter of months or in

one intense press tour. All I needed was the CEO's availability and a


Interviews took place with The New York Times, Forbes, Business Week,

CBS Market-watch, and Reuters, all discussing our new leadership

position in the e-commerce space. I was exhausted from the back-to-back

meetings and breathless with anticipation of the forthcoming investor

road show that would lead to our public offering. The press came fast

and traffic soared. Then something totally unexpected happened. The

remainder of the press tour with trade publication editors was canceled

by the VP of marketing.

The reason given was the search engine wasn't working properly. Huh?

I lived in a $1500-a-month apartment on the beach that I shared

with the Chief Search Engine Technologist, a 21-year-old whiz kid who

assured me the site was fine. Instead of going forward with the press

tour and completing the PR campaign, I was asked to stop all PR


No more soft drinks, no more press tours, and no revenue. Everywhere I

looked there were lists of dot-coms going down the drain. Everything in

my soul was telling me now was the time for PR - but our leader clearly

didn't see it that way.

I was unsure for a while about what to do with all the exposure we had

received in the national business press. It had to be worth


Otherwise, why was I doing PR for a living? I calculated the exposure

was worth a grand total of $15K, the amount we would have spent

had I used an agency instead of doing it alone. I went to the controller

and told him that I would stop consuming free soft drinks and walk out

the door if he paid me the $15K. He wrote a check for $10K

and we parted ways.

I surfed up and down the SoCal coast for about a year until I ran out of

money and landed a job at a small PR firm in Del Mar. I was fired within

a month for not studying the technology I was supposed to be


The truth is I had - temporarily - lost faith in PR.

After that, I moved back to my original home in Oklahoma City and took a

job waiting tables at a Mexican restaurant owned by Barry Switzer. There

I met a board member of a $3 million dollar online education

start-up who needed help in business development.

I joined the company last summer and quickly closed a few deals. I've

since moved over to become the PR director and have scheduled an

interview with Business Week in late January to discuss these


PR is powerful. It can feed you when you are starving and give you a

flair for the fantastic. It is perhaps the only skill I have to rely

upon to live out my life. It can take its servants to wondrous heights

and dizzying drops, but we shouldn't lose faith in it because the

business we worked for didn't live up to expectations. I wouldn't change

a thing though, would you?

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