Siliconcowboy's Blog

Technology, journalism, social media and social responsibility

TechCrunch PR Smackdown Misfires, Blows Up on Blog. Seriously.

TechCrunch blogger Robin Wauters (right) blew it big-time last Friday with an attempted smackdown of PR guy Timothy Johnson, whose pitch for client mig33, while admittedly weak, certainly didn’t deserve a potentially career-threatening blow.

It’s unclear why Wauters even blogged on the pitch, since it wasn’t directed at him. Maybe Wauters, who also owns a speed-dating site called WooMe and is a conference organizer based in Europe, just had nothing better to do after writing 21 stories in the previous five days.

I don’t think it’s even possible to fact-check 21 stories in five days, do you?

Anyway, Wauters somehow felt justified in taking over for fellow writer Leena Rao, who had deflected previous pitches by Johnson. Maybe he saw himself as the white knight. Who knows.

In any event, Wauters was so sure he had a prize-winning smackdown that he posted pretty much the entire email thread between Rao and Johnson.

Unfortunately, many readers disagreed with Wauters’ assessment.  In fact, they felt the smackdown itself was mean-spirited and for the most part, unwarranted.

I have to agree with the respondents (some of whom are copied below). Having worked all sides of this industry – editing, blogging, and in corporate- and agency-side public relations jobs, I’m just not seeing the justification for the post at all.

This comment, from a reader named Dan (not me) got 308 “likes”:

I came to this article wanting to say, “This guy must be a real jerk!”

Instead, your correspondence makes YOU look like the jerks, Leena and Robin. Unnecessarily snarky and holier than thou. You work for AOL, you’re not the kingmakers or career killers you think you are.

And this one, from Jimbo in reply to Dan, got 125 likes:

I agree, TC clearly wrote this article to hurt this guys reputation and frankly all it did was hurt TC’s reputation. What are you guys in grade 8 or something? Such petty juvenile nonsense.

This one from Peter Shen, who lists himself as a founder at, is a bit edgy, but also received over 100 likes also in response to Dan:

So Tim didn’t do a great job of diplomacy but you and TechCrunch did a worse job of being real dicks. Really unnecessary to potentially kill someone’s career just because you are a little peeved at someone’s email response. Seriously, grade A – Assholes.

More than a few respondents noted that mig33 now has far more media exposure than they might have gotten off the original pitch. Good for them. But that’s not the point.

The bottom line?

These days, it’s a very, very serious thing to smack down a PR flak. The guy could lose his job, his livelihood, his house, his career. If he’s got kids, they may end up sharing in his undeserved destitution. Are you sure you want to do that?


As it turns out, Tim Johnson has been self-employed for almost three years after a respectable 20-year career in agency-side PR. From my perspective, his measured tenacity in reaching out to TechCrunch is laudable given that he doesn’t have anyone watching over his shoulder.

Next time, Rao, just hit the delete button. And Wauters, I’d suggest you go back to your hyper-dating and speed-blogging and leave the smack-downs to the pros.


3 comments on “TechCrunch PR Smackdown Misfires, Blows Up on Blog. Seriously.

  1. Pratap
    March 1, 2011

    I agree. I think the attitude in techcrunch staff, is lead by Michael Arrington who thinks of himself as a kingmaker.

    I wrote about that more than a year ago

  2. Interesting
    March 5, 2011

    I think Timothy Johnson deserved it. I would elaborate, but I don’t think that Robin Wauters is doing something that Tim wouldn’t do.

    • siliconcowboy
      March 5, 2011

      Interesting perspective. Maybe they both need to sit down over a beer and talk about it, eh?

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This entry was posted on February 28, 2011 by in Art of Communication and tagged , , , .
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