Brooke Hammerling on NYT Story: Reporter Did an “Excellent Job”


The P.R. world – at least the tech P.R. world – is abuzz this morning about a cover story in the Sunday business section of The New York Times by Claire Cain Miller, titled, “Spinning the Web: P.R. in Silicon Valley.” While the story looked at a number of agencies, including OutCast Communications and Spark PR, the feature focuses mainly on 35-year-old Brooke Hammerling, founder of Brew Media Relations. We learned a few things about Hammerling in the story:

She once dated a member of R.E.M.

She left Zeno Group to start Brew after her boss told her, “There are no stars in P.R.” when she requested to spend more time on media relations.

Brew is her childhood nickname.

She can get Oracle CEO Larry Ellison on the phone when even some business reporters can’t.

When asked about her take on the story Hammerling told PRNewser, “I think Claire did an excellent job. My one thing is that this was a case study. Roger’s suggestion was indeed the correct one so I recognized that rather than be stubborn. He was totally right about how to handle the launch of Wordnik. Now that’s not the case for all businesses.” Here Hammerling is referring to a change in media strategy for one of her latest launches, Wordnik, after investor Roger McNamee suggested not pitching “cynical” blogs such as TechCrunch and AllThingsD.

TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington posted his own response in which he said, “I know Brooke well. I guess you could say I’m one of her many thousands of “very close friends.” And I don’t dispute that she is well connected, or that those connections help her get clients. I believe Brooke’s client have been better served if she stood up to McNamee and told him that Wordnik would have had a better launch if they hadn’t ignored the blogs that are interested in covering new startups. Instead she became a ‘yes woman’ and told McNamee exactly what he wanted to hear.”

We’ll say this: changing one’s mind on one piece of strategy at the suggestion of an investor may or may not make someone a “yes woman” or “yes man.” However, we are interested in the premise of the Times story as it seems to also imply that going around traditional media “gatekeepers” and reaching new influencers via “whisper campaigns” and on Twitter is a new phenomenon. Sure, while the medium – Twitter, Facebook – may be new, there is nothing very new about reaching the people that matter for your client, whether they be media, analysts, partners, investors, or remember: the public. Isn’t that what P.R. is supposed to do, after all?

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