July 5, 2009
Spinning the Web:
P.R. in Silicon Valley
By CLAIRE CAIN MILLER
Menlo Park, Calif. — Brooke Hammerling (publicist) and Erin McKean (entrepreneur) are in a Sand Hill Road conference room, hashing out plans to unveil Ms. McKean’s new Web site, Wordnik.
Ms. Hammerling, while popping green apple Jolly Ranchers into her mouth, suggests a press tour that includes briefing bloggers at influential geek sites like TechCrunch, All Things Digital and GigaOM.
But Roger McNamee, a prominent tech investor who is backing Wordnik, is also in the room, and a look of exasperation passes across his face at the mere mention of the sites.
“Why shouldn’t we avoid them? They’re cynical,” he says, also noting his concern that Wordnik would probably appeal more to wordsmiths than followers of tech blogs. “That’s where I would be most uncomfortable. They don’t know the difference between ‘they’re’ and ‘there.’ ”
Without missing a beat, Ms. Hammerling changes course, instantly agreeing with Mr. McNamee’s take. “I love you for that,” she intones. “I’ll leave the tech blogs out. Let them come to me.”
Instead, she decides that she will “whisper in the ears” of Silicon Valley’s Who’s Who — the entrepreneurs behind tech’s hottest start-ups, including Jay Adelson, the chief executive of Digg; Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter; and Jason Calacanis, the founder of Mahalo.
Notably, none are journalists.