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Op-Ed: Mark Cuban: don’t hire a PR firm advice comes with an asterick

It’s amazing how much clout people give to email addresses, especially when it comes to the media.
Friends are always asking me for email addresses to reporters like it is the gift that will launch their successful PR campaign.

It doesn’t work like that with the media. You can have the email address to the top editor or senior producer, but if you don’t have a strong narrative or angle, you aren’t getting coverage.

As much as I respect Mark Cuban as an entrepreneur, I honestly think he is hurting start-ups and entrepreneurs by telling them to never hire a PR firm. He gives them the false hope that they can pick up the phone and pitch their ideas to reporters. He’s Mark Cuban. Of course reporters will take his call, but if his last name were Smith, Garcia or even Macias, I guarantee you, his PR game would not make the playoffs.

During my time as an Executive Producer with NBC and Senior Producer with CBS in New York, I used to begin my day with more than a hundred emails full of pitches from strangers. As much as I wanted to find the next big idea, I didn’t have time to read every one of them. It’s even harder today as the start-up community blasts reporters with ideas that aren’t newsworthy or relevant.

Yes, it’s possible to do PR yourself. You can also do your taxes yourself, sell a home without a broker, or defend yourself in court. But that would be foolish.

But after I read Cuban’s business book, How to Win at the Sport of Business, I had to call him out on his poor business advice.

I sent Cuban an email and he actually took the time to respond. Here’s the unedited email of what I wrote him, along with his reply.

On Sun, Dec 18, 2011 at 9:38 PM, mark macias wrote:

Hi Mark,

I just finished reading your new book, Sport of Business. I heard about it on this morning’s Maria Bartiromo show, ordered it during the Jets game, and finished it by 10pm eastern. As a former journalist, I will tell you it was a great read.

I do want to correct you on an objective mistake from page 828 – Never Ever, Ever Hire a PR. You lead readers to believe that getting ahold of journalists is an easy feat. You are Mark Cuban. Doors open for you, but calls and emails won’t be returned by your typical or even exceptional small and large business owners. A great news placement requires persistance as well as a great story idea. Most entrepreneurs don’t know how to frame or uncover that news story. Pitching it requires even more insight.

I say this from experience. I was an Executive Producer with WNBC as well as a Senior Producer with WCBS in New York. I approved story ideas from publicists, reporters, producers and viewers. Do you know how many emails and calls I got each day? Strategies and tactics matter with publicity.

You are right – there are some PR firms that do only send out emails and those PR firms should never ever ever be hired, but you can’t make a blanket statement like that and here is why.

I am willing to bet your $2 seats that you did not have the time to call Maria Bartiromo and pitch yourself for the show. If you did, then you are even better at budgeting your time than I expected, however, no other small or large business owners will have the time, media expertise to get through, or the resources (most reporters now give out generic news email addresses because they are spammed by everyone). There is a time when you are saving time and money by having the professionals do it.

Other than that, loved your book. I already quoted a section and hyped your book to my 450 some odd facebook friends. That is the power of PR. I do hope in your second version, you amend that quote and add in the word “almost” in parenthesis.

And if you did personally email Maria, then I lost the bet and will donate $500 to buy Dallas inner city youth tickets to your game. I wish I could give more, but right now I am financing my PR company myself and you know what that is like.

Mark Macias

On Sunday, December 18, 2011 11:37 PM, Mark Cuban wrote:
“i agree that if you want to go through an exec producer to get on a big show, you are right. The reality is that for most businesses there are trade journals and trade related websites. If you show any initiative and can offer somewhat of a unique perspective you will be heard
thx for reading !”

And that’s where his email ended.

It’s not exactly the same PR advice that he shared with Business Insider and others, but at least he took the time to clarify that he was referring to trade related websites and trade related journals.

Cuban is obviously business savvy and he has the track record to prove it, but not every start-up entrepreneur has the same level of clout, fame or wisdom. For those people, you may want to read between the lines and reassess the value of hiring a PR firm for your startup.

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