Back when longtime eBay executive Henry Gomez began to be involved with Skype as part of the eBay transition team, at the suggestion of now departed Spark PR President Lisa Hempel, I took a meeting with the ex-telco PR person from his Nynex era, who was tasked by Meg Whitman to lead the media efforts at Skype following his Governmental Relations role at eBay. At the meeting I made several points about the blogosphere, and in particular, the importance of working with, not against the influencers that had helped launch Skype and bring it to its zenith. Other bloggers and media types also told them the same thing. Lisa was very supportive of this, but after some chats with other top bloggers, the consensus among us was that eBay was going to do its own thing with Skype. Sure enough that vision has rung true.
Alec suggests that it is Spark PR's fault. I don't think so. Here's why. At the end of the day an agency does what its clients want done. In my agency we have an option. So do other agencies. We can fire the client, or if we don't think that such a drastic approach is necessary, we go along with the client's wishes, if we don't think it's worth falling on our sword over.
In the case of Skype, Spark is not the problem. The problem is how eBay chooses to approach PR. Case in point, I once posed a question to their IR folks around the Skype earn out agreement, a document I have had in my possession for many months, almost to the day the transaction closed. It ended up in my hands, or I should say in my car, one night while I was having dinner at a local eatery I'm known to frequent in San Diego. The response to my question. Stone silence. No return call. Members of the media have also regularly complained to me about the lack of answers to questions when posed to SparkPR. Candidly, since Kelly left Skype, the bloggers, who were targeted in reality by Jeremy Pepper with Kelly, have been tolerated. Some have been told by Skype officials that they don't know how to treat them, being puzzled if we are "journalists, consumers, developers, etc." In reality many are all of the above. Spark PR folks used to get tired of being "Kelly'd" to death. But in reality Kelly made sure people knew what was going on.
Some clients respect the agency's knowledge and the results show it. Take Nokia, SightSpeed, TalkPlus, iotum and Popular Telephony. All have been exceptional at listening, taking our advice and have seen sensational coverage, awards and respect from it. Jim Courtney in his two posts singles me out, to which I told him I'm blusing and flattered. In many ways, we have been the clients' emissary to the blogosphere and the media. Sometimes the story isn't ready and we have to throttle back. Sometimes the news media isn't ready for it, a fact that is hard to swallow for some, but the truth nonetheless. Good clients make for great agencies. We're fortunate that we only pick the good ones. Our Blogger Relations approach for Nokia and others has yielded incredible results.
But the type of public relations issue that Alec and Jim reference doesn't reside only with Skype. It's very much a part of 1.0 company think at T-Mobile, Apple, Nike and elsewhere. It starts at the top and trickles down the organization. Until executives learn what PR 2.0 really is, and why the agency knows more (well some) than they do, the old world ways will guide many companies. My advice to eBay is to not change agencies, as much as Alec and Jim would seem to suggest, but to embrace what the folks at Spark have to say, or just do the job in house, for then there will be no one to take the fall, for their own efforts.