Joseph Park's Mom. Nicholas Butterworth's Ma. Aaron Cohen's
Mommie ... All proud of their sons! These were the CEOs of Internet
delivery service Kozmo.com, music site SonicNet and "interactive design
shop" Concrete Media, respectively.
As the agency that built the brands, RLM Public Relations created gobs
of clippings for these mothers from '97 to 2000, after which they all
went in-house. Our staff was disheartened, nonetheless, to see them all
go belly-bye bye in the dot-com bust. PR and the press were responsible
for building up these huge personalities that led to the firms'
Yeah, those were the days when you were supposed to tout youthful
creative geniuses behind wondrous technological marvels.
But no matter how hard RLM tried to educate reporters on how the
businesses worked (and it did work!), no one cared. They wanted to hear
golden-voiced CEOs wax on how many millions they were swimming in and
when they were "gonna be public."
The press felt those young CEOs could do no wrong! They were wrong.
Times - the ones we live in and the newspaper - proved to PR execs that
we can no longer promote top-level folks who are cool and hip just to
give reporters a great story. I'll never forget a quote in New York
magazine: A naive Kozmo investor said, "I have no idea how this would
ever work as a business, but I had to invest because I was so impressed
with Joseph (Park, Kozmo's CEO)."
While media training is crucial to get CEOs into shape to answer
queries, it's not a means to create whole personalities and businesses
from thin air - especially when those bodies refuse to answer the tough
Q's. I doubt Joe, Aaron or Nick answered one of these: Is one-hour
delivery viable?" "Will advertising hold on the Net?" And so on.
In mid-April, I read requiems and obits on Kozmo: The writers suddenly
knew that the concept never would pan out, everyone was merely waiting
for it to die, blah blah blah. While The Joseph Show was raging, more
than 500 articles were published as the currency of this cult. Not one
Kozmo-eyed reporter questioned its inevitable value.
I say "rest in peace, you wild-eyed concepts." It's time to get over the
egos and get into the greatness of the business, not just the
poster-person! Today, non-dot-com companies will not be attempting to
put together huge press-clip books.
It's about the quality, stupid. Our business is promoting ideas that
work, not spokespeople who rock! No matter how much a clip-book might
make Mom proud.