Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Pubs and PR

Here's another guest entry from my colleagues Chris Carleton and Randy Wambold, based on their December London trip.

Part of the fun of traveling abroad is being reminded just how much of what we take for granted in the U.S. is specific to our culture. Stereotypes in both directions end up making for some entertaining exchanges.

For example, many of our industry colleagues presumed that we Americans would be less than willing to share a Guinness or two with them. We were told they thought that because of our country's often-over-the-top focus on health and diet and abstinence from most things enjoyable. We were only too happy to disabuse them of that notion!

On the flip side, we arrived back on U.S. soil with some of our British stereotypes held firmly in place. Their command of English, for example, really does make you want to dig out and dust off your grammar and usage handbook.

But, there are stereotypes and then there is plain fact.

With regard to the latter, we're here to tell you that Brits really are as incredulous about our president's re-election as you hear reported in the news. Combine that with the fact that mixing business with politics is less taboo in the U.K., and we found ourselves talking about taxes and Texas at least as much as technologies and trade pubs.

On the business front, we were struck by the similarities between tech PR in the U.K. and the States. It's not that differences don't exist, though. For example, after our meetings, our sense is that while the U.K. definitely got caught up in the tech boom hype of the late 90s, it wasn't to quite the same extent as in the U.S. In particular, there doesn't seem to have been as much of a VC spending spree. So when the bubble burst, as a generalization tech PR firms in the U.K., like the market on the whole, might not have had as far to fall.

Conversely, the U.S. market seems to remain a bit gun-shy as a result of the still-raw wounds from that rapid rise and equally rapid descent. Not so for our friends in the U.K., who bring an enthusiasm to the table hearkening back to the days when sock puppets were for fun in preschool classes rather than icons of failed on-line ventures lacking that little ingredient called a business model. Their enthusiasm was a shot in the arm coming as it does at a time when our own sense is that cautious optimism continues to grow in the U.S. tech market.

Also on the differences front, and perhaps indicative of the market dynamic just mentioned, there seems to exist a professional collegiality between tech journalists and PR professionals in the U.K. that may have waned in the U.S. We're talking in general terms here. But, whether it be due to U.S. journalists' own experiences getting "dot-bombed," or to the fact that during the boom in the U.S., any bloke with a computer and a press release template was billing himself or herself as a "strategic PR pro," sullying our profession in the process, in the U.K. market journalists and PR professionals seem to have a little more mutual respect and a little less of a wary eye for one another.

But as we say above, we were struck as much by the similarities between tech PR in the U.K. and tech PR in the States as by the differences.

1 Comments:

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