What Happens When a PR Guy Scratches His Own Itch? Totem Launches Beta Today

It’s always interesting to see what press people come up with when they try to change their own industry.  There’s often an element of self-serving product pushing that’s borne of a long-standing need for change.  And as an observer and participant of the press industry, I have my own qualms with the way things currently work.  So I was happy to see an old friend and colleague set out to make this industry better.  Josh Dilworth, who left Porter-Novelli to launch his own PR firm Jones-Dilworth a couple years back, is starting a new project aimed at revamping the way the press machine runs.  Opening in public beta today is Totem, a service for building press pages that address many issues and annoyances of the industry.

Totem is a multi-faceted service that can be a useful resource for PR agents, reporters and startups alike.  It centralizes pertinent information about a company so that anyone has access to the information they need.  Information like the company’s mission, their latest coverage, logo and press contact.  Totem lets you package the press release with the images, contacts with the company history–everything you need to learn about a given company.  And the beauty of Totem is that it’s self-serve for every aspect of press these days, whether it’s social media-driven or more traditional.

There’s two initial options for Totem users: a free service with all the basics you need, or a premium account with full customization for a one-time fee of $99.  The founders believe that this type of service shouldn’t be reserved only for the well-funded.  They also believe that the current way news-related marketing works is overdue for a revolution.  As one that digs through press pitches on a daily basis, I’m glad to see someone delivering a high measure of convenience not only for myself, but every person involved, from press agent to the company itself.

Totem hopes that your press page will become a living, breathing entity, readily updated and always accessible.  It’s designed almost as a landing page, combining the press release with a company blog to present a rather evergreen resource.  What’s more, certain aspects of Totem’s pages are embeddable, so they can be placed on a company’s website in an integrated manner, separating the “press” resource as needed.

But what Totem is really doing here is building a database of companies and their information, and Totem’s true value will lie in how this database is leveraged moving forward.  Will Totem target publications in need of embeddable company information to build out their own resources?  That’s something Totem’s considering, Dilworth tells me.  But the next step is really analytics, where users will be able to see how their embeddable data is being received and how content is being shared.

The analytics angle isn’t a surprising one, given Dilworth’s own background and clients.  Even from his days at Porter-Novelli, I often found myself chatting with startups with a heady focus on semantic search, natural language and data analysis.  From Twine to Parse.ly, Dilworth specializes in data-centric businesses, and has always been able to convey this, sometimes better than the startup founders he represents.

It’s important to note that Totem is a separate project from Jones-Dilworth, though there’s an obvious interest in launching a program like Totem–scratching one’s own itch, if you will.  Totem’s a much-needed change in a digital movement that’s already contravened printed media and its traditional subscription model, all the while reforming content distribution, and marketing for a tech savvy people.