Holmes Report 12 Mar 2014 // 5:09AM GMT
By Dean Bender [caption id="attachment_1893" align="alignright" width="150"] Dean Bender[/caption] There has been a spate of articles, commentaries and observations discussing the co-existing challenges of Silicon Valley and content Hollywood. These titans of industry recognize the necessities of working together, but what does it mean for us as public relations professionals? As a firm that has represented and continues to represent both industries, we’ve gained a unique perspective – but I won’t be providing the conclusion this early on. However, suffice to say that the PR role has morphed into is peacemaker, translator and business development broker, among other pivotal positions. The premise begins with the illusion that one industry is smarter and more important than the other. For example, the Silicon Valley exec will say, “we know how critical our technology is and if it wasn’t for our technology, those entertainment content guys would still be relying on DVD sales.” Meanwhile, the content executive looks down at the tech folks by saying, “we all know that content is king and if it wasn’t for us, the tech folks would still be explaining their so-called genius to the local VCs with nothing to show for it.” Granted, it’s not an Israel-Palestinian conflict, but the vitriol is loud, clear and quite divisive. Anecdotally, I have taken many innovative technologists on Hollywood studio lots to establish a relationship that will benefit both companies. Here’s where the PR role quickly turns to interpreter. The technologists, who are very proud of their company’s solution to further engage audiences of the content creator, laboriously walk the entertainment execs through a complicated deck. The content execs -- almost on cue -- fade into dreamland while their eyes glaze over. Noticing this, I’m forced to jump into the fray and begin translating and power selling. It’s a scenario that is being repeated over and over again in both Hollywood and the Silicon Valley. This chasm between the two industries also has an impact on the public relations business, specifically the perception of public relations firms depending upon what part of the state the firm resides. Because our HQ office is in Los Angeles, we have confronted a perception issue from Silicon Valley that we don’t have the tech acumen to represent their businesses. Although a high percentage of us maintain both undergraduate and graduate degrees, the perception of us is that we’re a “content” agency and we’re too closely aligned with the Hollywood vortex. Granted, we primarily work in the consumer tech sector with companies developing new ways to create, deliver or consume content. Interestingly enough, which agencies do these Silicon Valley entertainment-oriented businesses turn to for their public relations needs? In most cases, Bay Area tech firms are retained to provide strategic public relations efforts primarily targeting the influential Silicon Valley tech bloggers. Does an agency necessarily have to reside there to provide the same level of service? Conversely, it’s very rare for a Hollywood studio or SoCal-based entertainment company to consider a Bay Area tech firm. It just doesn’t seem natural or logical for them to reach beyond their comfort zone. They traditionally select firms with strong entertainment pedigrees. Is it the right decision? It may prove insightful to broaden the reach to PR firms outside of the community and experience what these bright and highly-regarded agencies have to offer. Like anything else, it just takes one move to establish a trend. Moreover, when the campaigns broaden to target other audiences or vertical industries – entertainment, advertising or the end user – shouldn’t these companies look beyond Silicon Valley and vet potential PR partners that could provide an attractive alternative to what they’re currently receiving? It just may be worth that extra due diligence to find a very compatible and effective partner 500 miles to the South – or even 3,000 miles to the East. So, can Silicon Valley tech companies and Hollywood content creators co-exist? The answer is yes but they may have to check their egos at the door – and to help do that, it may require the Silicon Valley companies to take a closer look at what’s available to them in Hollywood’s PR community – and of course, vice versa. Dean Bender (@dbender) is principal at Bender Helper Impact based in Los Angeles.