Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

PR Watch: The British invasion of the Silicon Valley PR sector continues

Posted by Tom Foremski - November 5, 2004

by Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher.com

Bite Communications hosted a party Thursday evening to celebrate its new offices on 345 Spear Street, a neighborhood that is attracting a growing community of PR professionals. Bite is a British PR company and has become a major player in Silicon Valley over the past year or so, especially following its acquisition of Applied Communications.

The usual Silicon Valley Hack Pack showed up -- Quentin, Don etc. I arrived with my former colleague at the Financial Times, Louise Kehoe. Louise, by the way, is doing some interesting work as a media consultant. Louise has been around for a long time and she knows a lot about the underbelly of Silicon Valley. I’m hoping to convince her to write an occasional guest column for Silicon Valley Watcher.

Chris Nuttall, newly arrived off the boat, was also at the party. Chris just started working in the Financial Time’s San Francisco bureau and will be covering many of the same news beats that I used to cover before I left in June to start my own media ventures. For those that have yet to meet Chris, let me introduce you. Chris is a very nice man with a lively sense of humor and knows his way around tech and the telecoms sectors. He used to work at the BBC and various trade papers.

It was also nice to bump into Jeff Lettes at the party. Jeff is head of corporate communications at Applied Materials and has been doing a sterling job at Applied for many years. This has not been an easy position. The chip equipment giant has had to go through several reorganizations to adjust to brutal market conditions within the chip equipment market. I can think of a few other Silicon Valley companies that could benefit from that kind of expertise.

Emma Wischhusen from Text 100 public relations was also at the party and looking very well considering that she had a very unpleasant encounter with some shellfish earlier in the day that caused an allergic reaction. It was also nice to see Whitney Cubbison from Bite. Whitney was absolutely radiant and when I asked what was causing it she told me she had just recently married and she is transitioning to her married name Whitney Burk. Also, I have to mention Daniel Bernstein from Bite. Daniel is a new recruit and has just been in the PR industry for about five months, but I think he will do very well. Plus, he promised to show me one of his party tricks, something to do with drinking beer. “It’s very impressive,” one of his colleagues vouched. I can’t wait.

I also had interesting chats with people from Hewlett-Packard, Cisco Systems and others. And in the spirit of full disclosure as part of our “Up Front” policy, I did pitch them on a foundation sponsorship opportunity for Silicon Valley Watcher and our coming media titles (more on that later!).

The most interesting part of the evening was meeting Tim Dyson. Tim is very unassuming but incredibly well connected. Tim is the main man behind a very bold and aggressive British invasion of the Silicon Valley public relations sector. I’ve known about Text 100, the other large British PR firm operating out here—-but I didn’t realize that Bite was originally spun out of Text 100 to resolve a conflict of interest issue when Text 100 won the Apple Computer account in the mid-1990s (hence the “Bite” name).

I knew Mark Adams, one of the founders of Text 100, when I worked in London in the early 1980s when it was just a two-person shop. Tim Dyson became employee number 6 at Text 100 and recalls working with me on Microsoft stories when I was at Computing, the leading UK trade weekly.

Tim has come a long way since then. He is Group CEO of Next Fifteen Communications Group, the holding company for Text 100, Bite Communications and August.One. Next Fifteen is Europe’s largest tech PR company and is a public company. I had no idea that this relationship existed between Text 100 and Bite. And it is interesting that the two PR firms operate autonomously and are fiercely competitive with each other. It’s a fascinating business strategy and one that seems to be working very well judging by the large clients that they have been winning.

Tony mentioned that Silicon Valley Watcher is getting a lot of traction and is being widely circulated. Obviously, this was extremely welcome news. My philosophy in launching Silicon Valley Watcher, and the other Silicon Valley media titles we have in the works, is that we should not need to spend a dime on marketing. Our community of readers are the ones that will invite others to read Silicon Valley Watcher. And they will only do that if we have content that is valuable and interesting to them.

This is an important point and it is something that I regularly tell my team--if people are circulating our content then we are doing our job. The people that read Silicon Valley Watcher are those that were “invited” by their peer group. We do not want millions of eyeballs—we just want the right eyeballs. The decision makers here in Silicon Valley are deciding on a global future. These are elite insider groups and our job as reporters and editors is to know those communities, be part of those communities, and be known by those communities. We have to produce compelling, quality content, that is our number one job. That is how we will build our readership—not because of marketing. And our readers become our gatekeepers, they are the ones that invite others by spreading our content.

Although we are still very much in beta, when we launch our other Silicon Valley Watch titles early next year, Media Watch, PR Watch, Tech Watch, VC Watch and Silicon Valley Bunion—it has to be the quality of our content that wins readers—not marketing. And in many ways, I think this approach will become increasingly important for many Silicon Valley companies and is a topic I’d like to discuss further in future articles.

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