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

Thought Leader Interview: - Sabrina Horn Says "Sell Like Hell!"

Posted by Tom Foremski - October 1, 2008

Sabrina HornMonday evening I caught up with Sabrina Horn, head of the Horn Group, one of my favorite PR mavens. Ms Horn runs one of oldest and feistiest Silicon Valley/New York boutique PR firms and in 17 years in the business she has survived the many ups and downs of the local and global economy.

Obviously, we talked about the financial crisis and how it might affect the PR industry. Ms Horn's response was typical: "If we are heading into a recession, bring it on. We've been here before and we know what to do."

Earlier in the day she addressed the San Francisco office and talked about the potential effects of the financial crisis. "I think its important to let my people know that we know how to handle these types of situations."

She finished the meeting with three four-letter words: Sell like hell!

Ms Horn lives in New York and her agency spans both coasts, with about 45 people and $10m in revenues. Over the past few years she has diversified the company into web development and graphic design--services that help her clients.And now social media is a key driving force for the company.

"Eventually social media will replace a lot of traditional PR but there will still be room for both," says Ms. Horn. And companies need to understand the best combination for their business. She says some clients want to rush into "social media" without considering what it means and the commitment that has to be made.

Every company is a media company . . .

I've often spoken about how every company is now a media company and needs to master the new media technologies at our disposal, such as RSS, blogging, Twitter, social media, etc. But being a media company requires a commitment, it is not a "campaign" that runs for a few months and finishes--it is a long term commitment and not everyone understands this aspect and what that means.

I love to remind people that these are fascinating times for professional communicators, whether they are media professionals or PR professionals because there is so much change going on. There are still so many questions about the best use of the new media technologies. What are the best formats, the best practices? And we all get to figure out how this all works, we all have a hand in helping to create the future.

It is this aspect of the PR business that excites Ms Horn. "I'm fed up with the animosity that you see between some journalists and the PR industry. If they think we don't do anything of value I challenge them to spend two days in our shoes, sitting in on our meetings and seeing what we do."

No one has taken up Ms. Horn's challenge. I said I would do it, I'd love to know more abut how things are done in the PR world.

I look at the PR industry as a partner to what I do. I would not be able to do my job if it wasn't for people in the PR industry paying attention to what I'm writing and offering top CEOs, and pitching interesting stories. My problem is not the many bad pitches, which seem to anger younger journalists, it is all the great pitches that I don't have time to get around to.

Horn Group is one of the PR companies that I'll be watching as one of the thought leaders in a rapidly changing industry--with or without a recession.

- - -

Please see:

Horn Group Weblog

Sabrina Horn: Horn Group Weblog: A Nickel for Your Thoughts

. . . There is this undertone in a lot of blogs that what PR folks do in this role is largely intelligence-free. It is true that if I had a nickel for every time in my 17 years at Horn Group I interviewed a starry-eyed professional who pronounced they “like working with people” I’d be sitting on a beach somewhere. But I’m not. Here’s the deal: to all those nay-sayers, those folks who are dare-i-say-it, too complacent and comfortable, all those jaded Doubting-Thomases, THOSE DAYS ARE GONE. Call it a call to arms, or an all hands on deck to our colleagues in PR. We need to embrace the changes seeping through our walls. The reality is, many of us have been leading the charge for some time now.

. . . Are we doing PR? Yes, and no. Its just that PR has changed and taken on a much broader role as a communications discipline. In fact, with some clients, there are times when the last thing we actually talk about is PR. Now its more about how we can help our clients be “social”. But that’s the new PR of today, and the Communications business of the future. To discuss the many aspects of this topic further, we’re co-hosting a panel discussion with Girls in Tech, date TBD. I also invite you to take Dee Anna’s challenge and come spend a couple days with us. It's inspiring, it's awesome, and if we don’t surprise and delight, I’ll give you a nickel.

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