My buddy, Glenn Kelman, the CEO of Redfin, had a strong reaction to last week’s post about PR by Marge Zable Fisher. So much so that he penned an alternate solution to the challenge of a good client-agency relationship: Don’t hire an agency and do it yourself. Here’s what he wrote.

Nobody knows if Charlemagne could read because an advisor always read aloud for him. It was considered humbling for the king to do anything himself. The same fears drive the most captivating, articulate entrepreneurs to hire publicists. Who wants to risk looking like a fool? As a result, hardly anyone in technology ever tries to talk to a journalist by herself—except Guy, of course.

That’s too bad. Just the other day a newspaper’s technology editor told me, “It’s just so hard to meet entrepreneurs these days. You always get their PR people.” A dozen entrepreneurs sprang to mind who would kill to tell their stories. All have agencies. So what I am recommending is not howto manage an agency, but something more radical: not hiring an agency at all. Here are ten reasons why.

  1. The truth will set you free. Over and over, publicists tell their clients to stick to the agreed-upon message to avoid mistakes but this guarantees you’ll never say anything thoughtful or spontaneous. Maybe your company has two and a half customers. So what? If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably not dumping toxins into a river or selling cigarettes to teenagers. Let GE and Philip Morris retain agencies. If you were stripped absolutely naked for the world to see, a few warts might show up, but more people would do business with you. Once you get comfortable with that, you’re ready to deal with the press on your own.
  2. The rolodex is already online. Almost every journalist publishes his e-mail address, and many have a blog. You can also use LinkedIn and Jigsaw. The point is that you can communicate with journalists without a PR person. Usually a sincere note from an entrepreneur is enough to start a conversation. Pick out something good that the journalist wrote and say what you really think. Make a top-five list of what your company has learned in its first six months. Suggest an idea for a story. Keep it short; ask for nothing. It’ll mean a lot more coming from you rather than a publicist. Odds are you’ll hear back.
  3. You don’t have to seem all grown-up and boring. Every entrepreneur feels vaguely disreputable. Maybe you drive a crappy car. Maybe you never went to prom. There are enough stuffed suits in this world to fill fifteen Wall Street Journals a day. As anyone who watches American Idol will tell you, what this spun-out, over-hyped world is absolutely famished for is a little genuine personality. And, outside of your technology, it’s probably the only thing you have. So stop trying to be like IBM and just be yourself.
  4. Ideas are the precious things. Most entrepreneurs are bursting with unconventional ideas: Maybe you think an ad-crazy Silicon Valley has lost its nerve; maybe you’re a grown woman delivering pizzas to diffident recruits in Stanford’s computer science lab; maybe you’ve always wanted to meet the hairy guy living in a trailer park who sends you the inspired spam about mail-order pheromones. These are the kinds of ideas that journalists love.Imagine how you would finish this sentence if you were having two beers with your best friend: “You know the strangest thing about what we’re going through is …” What comes next is your best story idea. Even if the story isn’t about your company, you’ll be a part of the conversation. The rest will come naturally.
  5. Let the fur fly. When proposing a story, consider Michael Jordan’s response when asked how much to bet on golf: “Whatever makes you nervous.” If there’s no drama, there’s no story. Most publicists are terrified of a genuine story with real characters and an unpredictable outcome, so no journalists are allowed into your data center on launch day nor can they mingle with customers at your user conference. As an entrepreneur, you’re going to be more comfortable with risk than a publicist. And you won’t win as a start-up without taking risks, over and over again.
  6. Nerd-to-nerd networks are where it all happens—and value speed in everything you do. Most publicists feel threatened by the Internet’s systems of attribution, glorification and punishment, where Digg can make an obscure posting more important than the evening news. Agencies don’t have the street cred, the technical chops, the instinct for candor, the distinct voice and, above all, the commitment to speed to engage in a meaningful conversation with the blogosphere. In the thick of things, you don’t want to have to coordinate with consultants or get permission from anybody. Just ask John Kerry.
  7. Even bad coverage isn’t so bad. I was once profiled in a national business magazine doing odd things in my underwear. It was terrible; I lay face down on a couch for an hour after reading it. And you know what? It wasn’t that bad. Never whine to the journalist about coverage, avoid narcissistic story-lines, and don’t worry if you make a few mistakes.
  8. Go in alone. It’s hard to make a move when your dad drives you on a date or to sound contrite about the neighbor’s begonias with your mom standing behind you. It’s just as hard to connect with a journalist when a publicist is always at your side. You often need a candid space in which you can say what you really think. Just bring a notebook so you can jot down any follow-up items and you’ll be fine.
  9. Passion + expertise = credibility. A publicist will never have your passion for your project, and she’ll never have as many colorful customer stories as you do. A friend of mine once told me about “the greatest idea in the history of capitalism,” which turned out to be a semi-pornographic massive multi-player video game. A publicist would never have pitched it as well as he did.
  10. Make time. Most entrepreneurs say they don’t have time for DIY PR. Sure, it takes a while to spam 100 journalists with every press release. But that doesn’t work anyway. Focus on a few big ideas, and you can tell them yourself. Use a feed-reader and Google alerts to track industry news and company mentions. Conveying your company’s story in a personable, compelling way is one of your most important jobs.
  11. (Who’s counting?) Hire an employee, not an agency. When you need help, hire a person, not an agency. This is especially important if you’re not interested in journalism. And if you can afford it at all, it’s worth hiring an employee rather than a contractor. You want someone who can dive into what you’re doing whole hog because he believes in it, without all the staff churn and management overhead of an agency.What should you look for in this employee? The worst PR person has contempt for journalists because he either believes journalists can be easily spun or because he becomes aggravated when they can’t. The three best questions to ask when interviewing a publicist are “Who are your favorite writers in journalism?” Why are they your favorites?”—so you can find someone who actually cares about the craft of journalism—and “What is an example of a feature story that you’ve pitched?”—so you can find someone excited about ideas.

    Also, ask for a writing sample. As with any other position, value brains, drive and a soft touch over looks. Most of all, don’t hire anyone fake. Of course, you’ll need to make it clear that the PR person won’t be managing an agency.

A battalion of agency publicists will try to terrify you about the perils of launching your company without their expertise, but anyone who tries to scare you from DIY PR, starting a company, or buying a house online usually isn’t someone an entrepreneur should heed.

By |2016-10-24T14:20:35+00:00May 29th, 2007|Categories: Events, Marketing and Sales|Tags: |59 Comments

About the Author:

Guy Kawasaki is the chief evangelist of Canva, an online graphic design tool. Formerly, he was an advisor to the Motorola business unit of Google and chief evangelist of Apple. He is also the author of The Art of Social Media, The Art of the Start, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur, Enchantment, and nine other books. Kawasaki has a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from UCLA as well as an honorary doctorate from Babson College.


  1. rod/ May 29, 2007 at 9:50 am - Reply

    If you’re going the DIY route, here’s 4 tips to help you manage your online engagement quickly and easily using Technorati,, Digg, Google, and your RSS reader:

  2. Techno Blogo May 29, 2007 at 10:10 am - Reply

    Do It Yourself (DIY) Press Relations (PR)

  3. Gubatron May 29, 2007 at 10:10 am - Reply

    DIY PR

    Hi Guy Kawaasaki!!!,Trackback from on DIY PR at

  4. Engage in PR May 29, 2007 at 10:12 am - Reply

    PR DIY

    Last week we had Guy Kawasaki posting the Top Ten Reasons PR Doesnt Work from Margie Zable Fisher. Today Guy posts a response from Glenn Kelman, CEO of Redfin.
    Glenns synopsis is:
    So what I am recommending is not how to manage an…

  5. Master of 500 Hats May 29, 2007 at 10:22 am - Reply

    Top 5 (or 6) reasons PR doesn’t work. if you’re a geek.

    DISCLAIMER 1: some of my best friends are black work in PR. really. me too. DISCLAIMER 2: i started out as an engineer, then an entrepreneur, then an internet marketer. i probably still suck at all of them, but since 2001 i’ve done my fair share of tec…

  6. David May 29, 2007 at 10:25 am - Reply

    Well said, and I like the linkback at the end. This is a good example of PR (and SEO).

  7. Jennifer Jeffrey May 29, 2007 at 10:29 am - Reply

    Wow – I thought the first PR post was packed with valuable info, and this one is even more so.
    I think there’s room for both approaches – a bit of DIY plus some expert involvement. The most important lesson that I’m taking away from this is: don’t “hand over” your PR function entirely, even if you do retain a firm to do most of the work. PR works when everyone is engaged in getting the word out.

  8. Margie Zable Fisher May 29, 2007 at 11:31 am - Reply

    Wow. Glad there was such a strong reaction to my post.
    Glenn’s points are excellent and I’d like to add to them with some DIY PR Resources I put together.
    – A free chapter of the Do-It-Yourself Public Relations Kit (written by moi) is available at
    – Free article on setting up an online newsroom:
    -Many free articles on a variety of PR subjects:
    And last, but not least, my list of recommended DIY PR resources that you can buy (a few of mine, but mostly from other companies) is available at
    I also have a list of my 10 favorite free press release sites that have helped generate Web traffic for myself and clients and increased site rankings (thanks for the original list from Matt Bratschi of If you sign up for my newsletter, then send me an email with “guy’s blog” in the Subject Line, I’ll e-mail it to you.
    Margie Zable Fisher

  9. Roger Anderson May 29, 2007 at 11:31 am - Reply

    This is great advice Guy. Too many entrepreneurs do not take this bull by the horns and it is a very important bull to wrangle.
    I got a standing ovation a few years ago for a talk I gave to entrepreneurs on handling your own reputation. Many entrepreneurs just don’t understand the importance of getting into the public view. They go too early and give away the game, or they wait too long thinking they will be discovered.
    I don’t know that many newspeople are just waiting to be called and told about your next great paradigm or innovation. They are looking to sell a story. I try to tell the technology focused individuals that I work with that they need to talk about the benefits of a home without mice not how well their mousetrap works.
    You can hear the best 4 minutes of that presentation at your convenience. I appreciate any feedback.
    As always Guy, your efforts to fill Oprah’s roll for the online edification of entrepreneurs are appreciated.

  10. Leslie McKerns May 29, 2007 at 11:39 am - Reply

    The CEO of Redfin is missing the point.
    The purpose of the press release is to let the journalist know that your client is a regular, consistent and knowledgeable source regarding an issue or topic.
    A press release does not work as a one shot effort because it is most likely not the “news” in the release that is of interest to the media. It is that they may have identified a credible source.
    Now, if that credible source can be married to some deeper news or issue that their readers want to know more about–crack out the champagne, because you both have something to celebrate. And if that credible source can be made to contribute to an interesting story with on point, fresh, insightful and colorful comments, why all are practically giddy.
    The PR firm understands that it is a business relationship (with the media), the client does not.
    Ask me how many times I have been asked by a potential client if I have a relationship with the media, and how many times I secretly sigh, and tell them, yes, but it is not a personal relationship. It is that they know that I will send them a source they can use about something their readers want to know.

  11. Brian Solis May 29, 2007 at 11:51 am - Reply

    Interesting…very interesting. DIY PR is something that I highly recommend to startups and small businesses as a way of conserving cash and also engaging with their customers and the communities in which they participate.
    Social media has really changed the entire game for the better and I’m out there trying to help PR people and company executives “get it” day in and day out.
    DIY works to an extent. Ultimately, you’ll have to embrace PR – whether it’s internal or external. There are pro’s and con’s with each however, and one can’t assume that all PR is bad. The saying, “if you want it done right, you have to do it yourself,” still carries some weight, but if you’re responsible for business innovation and growth, then focusing on PR infrastructure should be left to someone who can execute based on your goals.

  12. Steve Spalding May 29, 2007 at 11:53 am - Reply

    The more I blog, the more I write and the more I build my business I am realizing that the real secret to success is getting as close to, “the people” as you possibly can. I think, for young startups especially, that is something that is often forgotten.
    It’s easy to get into the habit of believing that your time is as important as Steve Ballmer but as a young startup most of your time should be devoted to building yourself as a brand, and building a community around you.
    Give the press attention and they’ll come back for more. I guess I’ve been on both sides of the mic, and I’ve found that my favorite entrepreneurs are the ones that are excited enough about their project that they’re willing to take times to answer my silly questions.
    If I had to go through the PR gatekeepers everytime, I don’t think I’d bother. Great article Guy, it really validated some points I’d always had.

  13. PR2.0 May 29, 2007 at 12:07 pm - Reply

    Why PR Doesn’t Work and How to Fix It

    Ask anyone what’s wrong with PR and you’ll unintentionally draft a manifesto
    that consists of radically varied top 10 lists. The answers will
    collectively form the foundation for revolution in the communications
    Rather than highlight…

  14. hh May 29, 2007 at 12:33 pm - Reply

    I have recommended DIY PR myself to bloggers and it is useful to an extent. (
    However, one point to note here is that companies do not hire PR agencies because there are some geniuses there who are going to help craft wonderful story ideas. While ideating and message managing abilities are crucial, PR agencies also leverage their huge resources and networks built over the years of working with the media across a range of industry verticals and clients. While the relationship of a journalist and PR person is professional, the trade secret is that you need clout to do stuffs like kill a negative story that was supposed to appear, get media insides like stories that a particular journalist is working on your competition, which journalist favours whom, etc. Not all stories pitched and published in the media result from a plain simple formula – send an email and have coffee together.
    As business grows, people realise that they cannot do everything alone – they need specialisations and people dedicated to one job – advertising consultants, marketing consultants, event management agencies, finance managers, etc. etc.

  15. Duane Benson May 29, 2007 at 12:45 pm - Reply

    I really enjoyed the post about Margie Zable. Although, I did disagree with a few points. The post by Glenn Kelman just upsets me. A while back, an executive in my company told me that we don’t need to do any PR because that’s just what big companies do to waste money. Mr. Kelman’s post seems to be a continuation of that theme. Well, you can waste money doing just about anything, but PR, if handled properly, can be an extremely cost efficient method of getting attention.
    1. About the truth setting you free. Publicists tell their clients to stick to the “decided upon message” because many folks are simply not capable of coherently answering a question from a seasoned press professional. Public speaking is called, what, the second most feared thing after death? Speaking to a reporter is public speaking – just through a conduit.
    Journalists may tell you that they are after the truth, but, being mostly human, they are really after a “story”, and not necessarily your story. It takes a certain skill to navigate through the manipulation to make sure that your story is actually represented. A good PR professional is only trying to help you do that.
    If you have the skill to take on a seasoned journalist, by all means do so. If not, hire a good PR specialist. Be involved and make it clear to them that you are interested in results and not self-coddling. This is where people get into trouble. They don’t help the PR folks help them or they use the PR folks to boost their own personal egos or as a shield.
    2. Yes, the Rolodex is already on line, but count the hours in the day. If you have the time to sift through every site then you probably don’t need any PR help. You probably need a real job. PR folks do need pressure to be creative and search beyond the top level publicly published editorial contacts, but, in theory, they have the time and expertise to do so. I know how to speak with my customers better than just about anyone else. That’s why I’m successful in my job. Editors speak a different language and a good PR person will speak that language.
    3. “grown up and boring?” Mr Kelman’s challenge is that he likely hasn’t been working with the right PR agencies. The good ones will keep you from sounding grown up and boring. The good ones will take your words and adjust them so that not only will your audience find them exciting, but the editors will hear them and see circulation numbers.
    4. Journalists do love great ideas, but they are busy folks and see a million of them. How you speak to them counts. Again, my voice is targeted at my ultimate audience. If you don’t have any customers, perhaps you can afford to make the press community your ultimate target audience, but it can be a lot more effective to have someone that lives in that world do it for you.
    5, 7. Maybe many PR people are afraid of a controversial or dramatic story. That’s probably true, just as it is probably true for most people in general. If drama and or controversy are good for your cause, or can be made to be good for your cause, make sure your PR people understand that. If they don’t, perhaps you don’t have the right PR people. Get some that will relish it and will build on it.
    8. When I was 16, I had my driver’s license but I wasn’t a good driver. I thought I was, but I wasn’t. I recall a few dates when I was so nervous that my driving made my date nervous enough to just want to get home. That didn’t work out so well. Another way to look at this is the journalist may very well get a charge when the publicist sits back and you take control of the interview. Use the PR resources for coaching before you go in and as a prop when you get into the interview. You can even add some drama by asking the PR person to leave the room or wait outside. Let them clear the way so your passion for your cause won’t be obscured by lousy driving skills.
    9. Most publicists don’t have the same passion that I have for my business. But, they also don’t have the same self-love and ego that I have. The publicist should act like a sounding board and tell me when and where I’m just full of myself. Sure there are times that I’ll fight back, but a good back-and-forth will far better prepare me to really let that passion out without having self-centered glurge interfere with the real message.
    I currently do much of my PR myself. I have an outside contract PR specialist that helps me out and if I had more money, I’d have more outside help. There are plenty of contract / commission / hire options, but the real message should be to pay attention to whom you are hiring, be it an agency, a consultant or an employee. Pay attention to what they are telling you and make sure they pay attention to you. If they aren’t the right person, get a different one. Don’t throw away a great tool based on one or a few bad experiences.
    Duane Benson

  16. Nic Darling May 29, 2007 at 1:05 pm - Reply

    This is a great post. I particularly like the idea of hiring an individual instead of an agency when more help is necessary. At the start up company I recently began working for it is very important to us that everyone involved with our product is excited and fully invested in its success. We like working with people as committed as we are and an agency, no matter how great they are, probably has a few other things on its plate.
    Right now, I am trying to learn the ropes of PR and marketing and this post pointed me in some very helpful directions. Thanks.
    Nic –

  17. Glenn Kelman May 29, 2007 at 2:53 pm - Reply

    Thanks for all the kind comments, and sorry to have been offline for a few hours.
    To Laura McKern, who argues that focusing on a press release misses the point, I couldn’t agree more. We agree that journalists have different motives than their sources, but this does not preclude trusting relationships.
    Duane Benson seems to be upset that I don’t care about the press, but the premise of this post was that I do. We simply disagree on what works. Duane is right that an agency can tell you when your idea for a story is stupid, or when you’re in love with yourself.
    Jennifer Jeffrey’s idea of combining a little DIY with some help from an expert is a great idea. I just tend to prefer an employee to a contractor or an agency.
    There are lots of great agencies out there, but just hiring one go-to person can be easier for a start-up to manage, and is probably more cost-effective too.

  18. Dave W May 29, 2007 at 3:01 pm - Reply

    Great article.. I have been looking around for some good advice on DIY PR, and stumbled upon your blog. I have attempted to look at PR firms, but could not see the benefits when they clearly did not understand what start up companies have to do to build credibility, and that credibility comes with passion, time and experience.
    A single PR campaign will not give instant results, you have to keep trying different things, and if they don’t work straight away then why would you hand out all your hard earned dollars for some one else to test the waters without results.
    If your doing the PR yourself then there is no immediate pressure for results and you can ensure the message is correct.
    I’ll be checking back frequently…
    Dave W

  19. Mike Spinney May 29, 2007 at 3:59 pm - Reply

    Put the emphasis on bullet #9. I’m a PR consultant (an excellent option between agency and DIY!), and if there’s one thing I can NEVER provide my clients — one thing that is arguably the most important element in PR — it’s the thorough familiarity of subject and enthusiasm that an entrepreneur brings to the conversation.
    For all the messaging exercises and strategies I might help facilitate, for all the plans I help put together, for all the writing and editing and backstopping I can do, for all the contacts and insight I provide, it’s all useless if someone without skin in the game isn’t available to pay it off. And if a client needs me to help with the story, they are likely already doomed.
    Listen, there’s plenty I and my colleagues can do to help a company get the word out, and a skilled communicator/manager is important for maintaining a consistent and effective program (assuming that’s what a particular company wants and needs) but it all starts with an owner, principal, or C-level executive willing to mix it up on their own.

  20. Jonathan Fields May 29, 2007 at 4:39 pm - Reply

    When I launched my last business, I had no PR contacts and no money, but I knew an incredibly valuable thing that landed a lot of national PR with no outside help:
    If you want to be “in” the news, you need to “make” news. Editors, producers, journalists and bloggers are desperate for high-impact, powerful content, it’s just that most of what comes across their desk amounts to requests to be “in” the news without really having anything newsworthy to share.
    Make news, real news, tailored and scaled to the outlets you seek to be covered in and getting “into” the news becomes pretty easy. I know this firsthand. Using this knowledge, I was able to create pitches that scored giant national coverage for a business I launched with a $100 PR budget, no firm, no publicist and no prior contacts. I just stopped thinking about how to get covered and started thinking about how to make the jobs and lives of those I wanted to cover me easier and happier.
    There’s another giant benefit to DIY PR. The contacts and the relationships become yours and by facilitating far more direct lines of communication, you may be far more likely to be called upon as a resource upon short notice if a journalist knows they won’t have to jump through hoops to get to you. This has happened to me countless times, where I wasn’t necessarily the “best” source, but I was the easiest one to connect with.
    Much peace,

  21. Kevin Tomczak May 29, 2007 at 5:47 pm - Reply

    Great advice, and excellent comments. If you are a true start-up that’s bootstrapping and have a number of years to any potential acquisition or are looking for first round funding – then don’t hire a PR agency or an employee specializing in PR. If you feel completely solid on your messaging and it’s working, don’t even hire in a consultant. Build your company – focus on the customer and build some momentum in your space. Use the hours between 12am and 2am to identify the key influencers and plan how you might get coverage, while growing your business. Celebrate any coverage that you get, because you have told a compelling story to an overloaded third-party in a very short period of time.
    However, if you’re a little beyond bootstrapping, or you’re trying to court suitors, or even trying to increase brand equity, there are a number of critical things that a dedicated PR agency, employee, or team can bring to a early stage company:
    1. Relationships – which have been discussed in the comments and cannot be imitated by a newcomer to the PR world.
    2. Rigor & Coordination – which can be as simple as identifying the key influencers and analysts for your industry, or as robust integrating your marketing efforts with a schedule of releases, press and analyst tours, and proactively pitched stories or angles that are topical and compelling.
    3. Freedom – as an entreprenur, you don’t want to have to write a pitch, and then make the email and phone rounds to the editors that could be interested in the story. You should focus on your customers, know them, and know how you satisfy their needs. Be available for the media, but you don’t need to bird-dog them. Let someone else worry about where the air cover for your sales force is coming from, or how to maximize the impact of good PR when it comes (or minimize potentially damaging PR).
    4. Cost-effective promotion – think about your PR investment in dollars. Each release, if done through a wire service is $200-$400, but it’ll be the best money spent. If it’s crafted correctly, it’ll be searchable, and will help support a good web presence. Also, convert your hourly time into a billable rate (granted, you’re a fixed cost, but assume that if you weren’t doing PR, you’d be doing something else of a similar value). Then, convert your PR retainer into hourly rate. What’s more effective from a pure financial standpoint? Then, consider the value of coverage that you will get from hiring in the specialty vs. the value of the coverage if you were to do it yourself. For most early stage companies (but not necessarily start-ups), you’ll find that the specialty is the better option.
    I’m much more marketing than PR, but I’ve seen PR done well and I’ve seen it done poorly. PR done poorly can lead an early stage company to bankruptcy. PR done well enhances a brand’s value, puts an organization on the map, and provides excellent references for other marketing initiatives.
    -Kevin Tomczak

  22. Mplans Blog May 29, 2007 at 6:42 pm - Reply

    The Flak Flak

    Really interesting exchange going on about PR at Guy Kawasaki’s How to Change the World. It starts with a guest post last week listing mistakes clients make, which generated comments as interesting as the original post. It goes on today

  23. Amanda May 29, 2007 at 6:54 pm - Reply

    Totally agree, Guy.
    I’m don’t believe in publicists. Who wants a watered down story? Not any journalist I know. That said, you have to be pretty savvy to get by without your “mommy” in tow… these tips are great. I learned many of them when I couldn’t afford a publicist, and now that I can, I don’t want one!

  24. Daniel D May 29, 2007 at 7:13 pm - Reply

    I am in the PR business. I book authors on national shows such as NBC’s Today Show, CNN, etc., along with radio and print. I don’t consider what I do as being “PR,” it’s more “connecting.”
    I agree with Glenn’s comments. One of the main things I do is not to try and replace the client but rather be the introduction between the client and the media. I hear it daily… media professionals (producers, writers, etc.) who are sick of novice “PR” people calling with some canned pitch that is read off with absolutely no regard for the media professionals time or interest.
    The media landscape is changing. People are searching for authenticity and to be able get their truth straight from the source. Media professionals are no different.
    I find the bigger issue with clients has to do with the fear of looking small. They think they need the big PR firm to make them look “bigger” to media which is false. They think if they get on the phone right away with the media or call direct initially that it appears “needy,” which again is 100% incorrect.
    Just be you. Consult with a PR company or someone who has experience in media to help you craft your pitch and understand the process but don’t be fooled into thinking you need them more than they need you. 🙂

  25. David Reich May 29, 2007 at 7:17 pm - Reply

    I don’t have time to respond to every item of Glenn’s post, but there are a few things that I must comment on.
    It seems like you’ve been burned, Glenn, by unprofessional p.r. people. Mass mailing of news releases and shielding the client from the media by the publicist are stereotypes that are not reflective of effective public relations tactics. They’re stereoptypes,unfortunately, because there are many agencies that employ those tactics and, as a result, may not get the best results for their clients.
    While news releases sometimes have to be mass-distributed, a professional takes the time and energy to target both the release and the pitch to appropriate media.
    I never have my clients hide behind me. I always give reporters info on my clients and encourage them to contact them directly by phone, cell or email. I suggest they go through me only if they are unable to reach the client or if they prefer to talk with me first. I try to be a conduit, not a roadblock.
    As far as DIY PR goes, if you have budget, find a good p.r. agency or p.r. counselor to help you. As CEO, CMO or the boss-man, your time is probably best spent on doing things that demand your personal attention, like managing your business or dealing directy with key customers or prospects.

  26. jose nazario May 29, 2007 at 8:05 pm - Reply

    remember, most reporters and press personnel need a story that’ll impress the boss, get people reading, and they need it fast. find out what they need, help them achieve that, and you’ll make a valuable connection. don’t be shy to pass them on to a few friends in the business for additional material or even follow through if the opportunity isn’t suited for you; it may make your position seem a lot more sound if others back you up and it enhances your credibility.
    finally, be accessible, help them understand the story and what’s there (why their readers care or, more importantly, why their editor cares enough to run it), and offer follow up help. chances are it’s not clear to them the first time, so work on that.
    if you’re interviewing someone to do your PR, i suggest a graceful tiger that’s got experience, is savvy in your market position and knows the pubs and people, and who listens to you t help tell your story. you’ll know this person when they show up, and others will gladly point out that they have these qualities.
    these tips have worked for me as a business person working with PR staff around the world.

  27. Dave Platter May 29, 2007 at 10:12 pm - Reply

    Wow, Glen. I am sorry. You have clearly had some very bad PR people.
    RedFin is an impressive business, so clearly you are a very talented entrepreneur.
    That said, mostly a good entrepreneur will know how to find a good PR person to help grow their business.
    A bad entrepreneur will mostly be the person complaining about their PR person.

  28. The New Marketing May 30, 2007 at 2:59 am - Reply

    DIY PR

    Picking up on the previous post.
    Guy Kawasaki rounded out the discussion by posting an article – DIY…

  29. Kevin Dugan May 30, 2007 at 3:21 am - Reply

    Guy – Glenn has obviously been burned and clearly does not understand the difference between publicity and public relations. His mistake was in hiring publicist(s).
    A lot of public relations professionals take issue with the approaches Glenn details. Some of us are trying to educate others about the right way to conduct media relations (a subset of public relations).

  30. Chip Griffin: Pardon the Disruption May 30, 2007 at 8:08 am - Reply

    Should a Startup Entrepreneur Choose DIY PR or an Agency?

    Guy Kawasaki today has a guest post from Glenn Kelman, the CEO of Redfin, arguing that startup entrepreneurs should follow the DIY PR route Nobody knows if Charlemagne could read because an advisor always read aloud for him. It was

  31. Sal and Mark Talk May 30, 2007 at 11:16 am - Reply

    Guy Kawaskis friend – Glenn Kelman posts a great article on PR

    Be sure to go to Guy Kawaskis blog and read this post.  It is excellent for all companies, but expecially the small companies that think they need an ad agency.  This is the type of stuff we help our clients with – making them individual / uni…

  32. VIPeers May 30, 2007 at 12:04 pm - Reply

    Do It Yourself If No One Can Do It For You

    One thing I discovered by being an entrepreneur and creating a start-up, is that it happens very often that something needs to be done and you have no one to do it for you. I mean at the beginning it

  33. bernie May 30, 2007 at 12:26 pm - Reply

    “Nerd-to-nerd networks are where it all happens”. Nuff said!

  34. Anonymoose May 30, 2007 at 12:53 pm - Reply

    Did you realise that “D.I.Y. PR” looks like a phonetic spelling of “DIAPER”?
    Get the Huggies!

  35. Brian Dunbar May 30, 2007 at 2:52 pm - Reply

    How truly cool and nifty to see that what I’ve been doing since 2003 is more-or-less exactly what Guy is saying that I should be doing.
    Brian Dunbar

  36. Morgan Ramsay May 30, 2007 at 4:58 pm - Reply

    Keep in mind that Kelman is a CEO and that being a CEO means being the primary PR guy. Of course he’s going to suggest DIY PR because that’s what he does.
    Also note that Kelman is approaching the subject of PR as though PR means only publicity. I don’t know about anyone else, but Guy’s reinforcement of the misperception that the practice of public relations boils down to publicity is quite obnoxious. Thus far, that’s two degrading posts with no attempt at clarification.
    “Polarize your audience” does not mean “make enemies.”

  37. Micro Persuasion May 30, 2007 at 5:49 pm - Reply

    DIY PR: Bob Villa Doesn’t Always Know Best

    Guy Kawasaki’s blog has had a couple of interesting posts on guest posts on PR. The first explains why client-agency relationships sour. The second more important post, on DIY PR, is authored by the CEO of Redfin. He has done

  38. Glenn Kelman May 30, 2007 at 8:38 pm - Reply

    Hey there,
    We didn’t mean to degrade anyone, and we haven’t had any bad trips with an agency. Really. We just wanted to outline an alternative to hiring an agency, which involves more engagement from the entrepreneur yes, but also at some point hiring someone who really cares about the media too. By working for the company, this person has a good position to understand media relations in the broader branding or strategic context that several commentators have noted is lacking here.

  39. Tyler Martin May 30, 2007 at 8:55 pm - Reply

    Wow, this is a fantastic article. Thanks so much Guy and Glenn!

  40. Duncan Morris May 31, 2007 at 2:48 am - Reply

    I think Steve sums up my view on DIY PR with this comment.
    “The more I blog, the more I write and the more I build my business I am realizing that the real secret to success is getting as close to, “the people” as you possibly can.”
    Like everything in life there isn’t a quick win. It takes time and effort and that is where most people fail. People try to dabble, don’t get any results and decide that PR doesn’t work. Its the same with so much else in business.
    In relation to point 10 – Make Time. I think everyone (not just those actively doing PR) should be monitoring what is being written about their company. Google alerts is a good start, but we found that a high percentage of the alerts weren’t about the company, which in turn wastes time that you could use more productively else where. I have blogged about 10 strategies for monitoring what is being said about you online.

  41. Justin Davey May 31, 2007 at 3:16 am - Reply

    Very interesting article Guy! It brought to mind an article in Wired magazine a couple of months back discussing “radical transparency” and the benefits of being completely and totally authentic in the workplace. DIY PR would allow for trust to build in the buyer-seller relationship to a greater extent than a publicist would be able to achieve. Looking at the article again now, it discusses the philosophies of none other than Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman! Here is the link:
    Justin Davey

  42. Away With Words May 31, 2007 at 7:01 am - Reply

    How to Sell Your Book (Non-Standard Approach)

    Miranda July, a New York performance artist who a couple of years ago wrote, directed, and starred in an unsettling/engaging little movie, Me and You and Everyone We Know, has just published a book of stories, No One Belongs Here

  43. AdPulp May 31, 2007 at 7:03 am - Reply

    Do It Yourself

    Guy Kawasaki’s buddy, Glenn Kelman, the CEO of online real estate brokerage Redfin, has written an eleven-point treatise on DIY public relations. His sixth point about going agencyless in this brave new interworld is well fashioned: 6. Most publicists …

  44. Jon May 31, 2007 at 10:15 am - Reply

    Good article Glenn, I agree with all your points and like others, emphasize #9 to the greatest degree.

  45. Evan Carmichael May 31, 2007 at 1:37 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the suggestions Guy! We just launched a Press Release Builder Tool to help entrepreneurs build press releases and I linked this post as a valuable resource for our readers under the Step 5: More Resources section.
    Keep up the great work!

  46. st_labrat May 31, 2007 at 4:26 pm - Reply

    excellent. care to have “DIY start-up 101”? (just kidding)

  47. James Clark June 1, 2007 at 3:31 pm - Reply

    I couldn’t agree more with the idea of hiring a single individual PR pro to drive visibility for your efforts.
    I wrote two articles last year called (1) Fire Your PR Firm and (2) The Placement Crash – The Failure of PR in a Conversation World, that addresses the issues of knowledge, skill sets and technical abilities lacking in 90% of today’s PR agencies.
    To fix it, PR needs to invest heavily in training for skills in the new age of communications. As a former large agency owner, I know this is one of the few areas PR firms focus on.
    Fire Your PR Firm can be downloaded at:
    and The Placement Crash can be found at:
    Thanks for keeping the conversation active and positive.
    James Clark
    Room 214

  48. Karen Anderson June 4, 2007 at 7:52 pm - Reply

    Brilliant. I’d add only one thing: If you are hiring a PR person for your staff, hire someone with recent journalism experience and connections. They’re the ones the journalists know and will take a call from. Avoid the people with PR degrees like the plague (journalists certainly do).

  49. Michele June 5, 2007 at 8:55 am - Reply

    Great article, because the #1 problem that we publicists see with clients is that they “expect” instant coverage. When we do value journalists, we realize that we must provide what they are looking for, and that may not be instant for the client.
    Entrepreneurs call me because they say they want to “get some publicity.” That is the wrong way to approach the process. This is not Field Of Dreams. Just because you built it, doesn’t mean they will come – journalists or consumers. A little work and time is needed.
    Good thoughts, Glenn and Guy!

  50. Cade @ Write To Right June 10, 2007 at 7:26 pm - Reply

    I have to say that this is such an interesting point. I feel that you do need to have someone because delegation is important. I also believe that you are right that maybe it isn’t even the agency industry as a whole, but that you hire the right employee or agency that will understand what your wants are and maybe read your article so they can screw their head on straight!

  51. Jen McClure June 19, 2007 at 9:20 am - Reply

    Guy –
    This post reinforces the common misconception that “PR” means simply “publicity” or getting clients covered by the media. But PR is so much more than that. PR stands for public relations. That means that the true function of PR is a deep and strategic process that involves listening to organizations’ constituencies, sharing that knowledge with the management of the organization so that it understands its customers perceptions of the brand, needs and desires regarding the products and services being offered and can react appropriately — ultimately creating a stronger relationship with its public.
    The PR function involves helping the organization to create a comprehensive strategy so that it can effectively share its story and knowledge with all its constituencies, not just chasing after media hits. In today’s world of new media and communications, PR professionals have new tools available to them that provide the most exciting opportunity ever to become more strategic and valuable assets to their organizations.
    The public relations function today should be about:
    – Learning to use new communications tools (e.g., blogs, podcasts, online video, RSS, etc.) effectively so that we as communications professionals can become better listeners and help establish our organizations as thought leaders through the use of these tools. The media is no longer the sole conduit for organizations’ communications with their publics.
    – Expanding the number of communicators in our organizations and empowering colleagues across all disciplines to have a voice by teaching them how to use these communications tools
    – Giving up stringent control of the message and sole control of our relationships with media and instead allowing for communications and relationships to develop organically and dynamically and robustly with all our audiences and across all levels of the organization. By promoting our organizations’ many experts – by giving them a voice, the media will find more value in speaking with the representatives of our organizations
    – Fundamentally changing the image of PR and re-educating our organizations, clients and our own industry about what the true role of PR is and always has been – that of relationship-building.
    Jen McClure
    Executive Director
    Society for New Communications Research

  52. Michael Davin June 20, 2007 at 11:00 pm - Reply

    I think there are two lessons here. 1) If you claim people don’t need a Realtor to sell a home, Realtors will bombard your blog…if you say you can create a living trust on, attorneys will say you are crazy, on and on and on. And 2) if you are running a business, you probably have many strengths and a few weaknesses. If you are a sales and marketing whiz like Guy, you don’t need an ad agency…if you are an experienced operations person, you probably don’t need an HR attorney to write your offer letter of employment.
    Glenn is good at PR and clearly doesn’t need a PR firm. He got on 60 minutes by himself, and if that isnt evidence enough, he also got 60 mintues to purposely air a laughable traditional agent rebuttal and not cross examine the critical productivity claim (which I was very quickly able to toss out with 10 minutes of research) that is the center piece of the business model.
    Good news for PR execs, many companies need you, but it is also time to realize some do not.

  53. change:healthcare July 8, 2007 at 9:17 pm - Reply

    ok so the chain of linkage goes like this:  I just read a post on Guy Kawasakis blog that re-published a response post by Glenn Kelman (CEO of Redfin) that was a proposed revision of one of Guys articles about PR. Wh…

  54. Matt July 8, 2007 at 9:28 pm - Reply

    Your commentary on PR is very accurate.
    Although there are a number of business owners that are scared of going to journalists themselves, we see (yes, I work in a PR firm) the main problem is time (lack of it), and lack of cash to pay someone to do it for them (employee or contractor).
    For instance not every business creates its own website, they don’t have the time and skills, so they outsource it, the same applies to PR.
    However the interesting thing with PR is that with very little time you can get some very good results.
    I think the key here is for people to maximise they’re time, they need at least a guide of the things to cover off.
    For instance when do I call a jouranlist so I don’t get flobbed off because they’re on deadline. How do I grab their attention with something newsworthy.
    We discovered this some years ago, and created a DIY PR pack that covers all of this.
    The layout, the text, the headline, when to call, when NOT to call and how to deliver a pitch, and all the templates you’ll need.
    Anyhow, if you’ve got any questions we have setup a forum at
    We’ve also setup a coupon for readers of
    If you visit and enter the coupon code: guykawasaki
    you will receive 30% off.
    Sorry for the pitch, but it’s true, DIY PR gets you results, but a LOT of people need some basic direction.

  55. Frank Borges LL0SA- Broker August 4, 2007 at 9:47 pm - Reply

    I’m all for DIY PR.
    I’ve been in about 15 publications nationwide for my non VC start up. The key is to make the reporters job easier. Hand it to them on a silver platter. Be their free assistant if need be!
    Go get em!
    Frank- Frankly

  56. Eran - NaoriComm Public Relations August 7, 2007 at 1:18 am - Reply

    I beg to differ,
    Companies should stick to their core business. PR is a business that has its own set of know-how and of expirience. Companies can learn how to do this but it takes time and money they would be diverging resources from the core business.
    For instance The Telecom sphear has houndrads of Magazines in the UK alone. getting to know the press, the editors, and reporters is a time consuming process. However PR firms that deal with telecom already have that knowledge. When you are hiring a PR Agency you are hiring knowledge and experience not just a Tele-Marketing service.
    Eran Kolran
    Account Manager
    NaoriComm Public Relations

  57. Steven. August 11, 2007 at 7:33 am - Reply

    Just like everything in the world, you have to take the good with the bad – PR is no different.
    Although not every business needs an agency, some do. They’re there to help with the overall message.
    It may not be ‘fun’ or ‘spontaneous’ in any sense of the word, but at least they offer some clarity on issues that not every journalist can/will understand.

  58. AMAKA December 8, 2007 at 6:59 am - Reply

    i would really love to hear from you

  59. Will clearcut for food March 19, 2008 at 2:27 pm - Reply

    DIY PR or Not

    Back in May, (I’m a little behind on my personal blogging) I ran across a couple of Public Relations-related posts on Guy Kawasaki’s blog. I’m a big fan of PR. I’ve used DIY PR and big-agency PR. I’ve had the

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