In thinking about last week’s blogosphere outburst with another public relations blacklist, this time accompanied by a loud reaction from the PR and blogging world, it occurred to me that the root of the problem lies in a misunderstanding on both sides of the equation. Public relations folks don’t understand the old-school ways of outreach come across as spam, frustrating bloggers. But bloggers also don’t seem to recognize that most public relations folks don’t yet possess the understanding of Web 2.0 technology to cater to them ideally.
If every public relations professional in the world knew that most bloggers prefer the opt-in, pull technique of RSS feeds as opposed to the interruption, push technique of email and outreach, there would be no problem. Outreach would be relationship-based, not press release-based, and bloggers could scroll through the buffet line of relevant information on their own terms.
Solution: Public relations professionals need to learn Web 2.0 technologies as well as new media behavior, but bloggers also need to understand they are ahead of the technology curve and not blame the rest of the world for their early adoption.
We are in a transitional period in the history of media, journalism and public relations. These are the growing pains of that. Bloggers have every right to demand better from the public relations world. Public relations professionals, though, have every right to expect some room for learning and mistakes.
PR Blacklist In Hindsight
More than a week has passed since Gina Trapani‘s PR spam wiki hit the web. When Chris Anderson of Wired first pulled the temper tantrum, it served as a wake up call to the public relations industry. When Trapani launched her wiki, the backlash may have sent a wake up call to bloggers that maybe they aren’t 100-percent right in their PR-bashing. Though I doubt any of the complaining parties will agree they went too far.
Because I truly want to help find a way for bloggers, public relations professionals, media database services and even traditional media members to work through the stayed and stale practices of the public relations industry and come to resolutions and understandings that will create a more positive environment for everyone, I’ve tried to put more thinking behind the topic. Instead of pushing too hard to confront the issue, (My personality dictates I will when met with choppy waters.) I want to make all the issues clear, with less emotion, and help move toward peaceful resolution.
First, an apology.
My reaction of Trapani’s blacklist came across as beligerent and angry, instead of serious and pointed. As a result, my resulting communications with her have been met with a cold reaction, at best. That’s my fault. I’m sure she didn’t mean for her blacklist to come across as spiteful and underhanded. And two wrongs don’t make a right.
I’m sorry, Gina. I’m sorry Matt. I’m sorry Chris, even if you never noticed.
I’ve been graciously invited to speak at next month’s PRSA Digital Impact Conference by the fine folks at Cision, a conference sponsor and (disclosure) a service Doe-Anderson uses. I’ll be a panelist on the session entitled, “Not All Blogs Are Created Equal,” which focuses on blogger outreach, selecting the right blogs for outreach and so on. My hope is that by helping educate public relations professionals, I’m doing my part in making the day-to-day of folks like Gina and Matt better.
On Wednesday of that week, I’ll also take place in an hour-long discussion the matter as part of an episode of “For Immediate Release,” an outstanding podcast from Neville Hobson and Shel Holtz. John Cass and I, along with Hobson and Holtz, have pulled together a panel that includes representatives of three major media database companies, several bloggers, including the impecable Stowe Boyd, who has also been vocally fighting against PR spam, and several public relations professionals.
Additionally, Sarah Wurrey had me as a guest on the Media Bullseye Radio podcast where she, Jennifer Zingsheim and I talked about the PR Blacklist issue, gender in public relations and Twitter.
This educational push was reinforced this week with the Social Media Club Louisville May gathering that resulted in a new focus on education and evangelism. While we didn’t specifically discuss education as it relates to public relations and blogger outreach, the theme of the week grew stronger. I intend to reach out to the local PRSA chapter, of which I am a member, and other professional communications organizations on behalf of the Social Media Club, with blogger outreach as an important first topic.
I’ve also spent some time this week sending some pitch-related advice and approach pointers to the various PR staff members and agency partners of the clients Doe-Anderson works with. All of it has been well-received and in a couple of cases, even solicited before I could send it.
While I’m usually 100-percent pitch friendly, in order to not seem hypocritical, I’ve added a snarky “How To Pitch SME” page to this site. All PR folks should take note. I won’t embarrass you for bad pitches, but you now have no excuse.
And finally, I’m practicing what I preach.
IMAGE: “Two dogs (one old and one pup) play-fighting, but still” by gopal1035 on Flickr.
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