After I have my service up and running, with some private beta testers enthusiastic about the service, how to announce it publicly?
What resources are available, what are the avenues, to make impact on an intended technical audience? Historically I have relied on resources like Elance.com projects to get copy work done, wold that work to prepare a press kit? Should I prepare a press kit actually, or is that something obsolete nowdays?
Do issue a formal press release on a service like PRWire. I would also recommend signing up for PitchEngine, a nominal expense for the benefits you receive.
Regarding resources, try hiring in your local area. You will be surprised at the quality of work you get when you're able to meet and collaborate face-to-face. The job market is very favorable to employers right now. I recently posted a job on Craigslist for a marketing person and received over 30 responses. 10 of them I would consider experienced/talented, and they fit my small budget.
Don't forget to find influencers and potential customers in every relevant social media space, including forums and niche communities that relate to your target audience.
I agree with Julie and her recommended approach. PR is long from being dead, but you'll need to carefully balance the old rules of PR with the new online game. You should save money and see greater results by finding the right person locally to execute both prongs to your approach.
We are a very long way from PR being dead.
New media has created new channels and opportunities, so by all means get your product in front of the leading tech bloggers/Twitters. But don't neglect old fashioned PR!
I'd suggest a 2-pronged approach: use 1 strategy to reach out to the online community, but also invest some time and money in reaching to the old as well. There are some very inexpensive ways to issue a press release without spending a lot of $$ on an elaborate press kit.
With a smart investment in both opportunities, the worst thing that can happen is that you will reach someone in both locations ... but since that will only serve to re-enforce your message that's not a bad thing.