Public relations and bloggers

We’ll here we go again. A few months ago I sent a question to the public relations staff at the Public Relations Society of America. And I waited. And waited. But finally — a reply. PRSA will respond to questions from bloggers who are members — but not to nonmembers.

That strikes me as the wrong approach, given the massive changes taking place with media these days — “traditional” and “social.” But at least I received a reply. No real information. But a reply nonetheless.

No such luck with AT&T.

Here’s the story. On March 26, AT&T said, as reported by Reuters and other national news media, it was having trouble finding enough skilled jobs in this country to “fill all the 5,000 customer service jobs it promised to return to the United States from India.”

Two issues here: outsourcing jobs and having skilled workers in this country prepared to compete in a global economy. And as a nation we better take a hard look at both. And soon.

But here’s one thing I didn’t see in the Reuters story or hear mentioned even on CNN. How much do these jobs pay? Big difference, I would think, in finding skilled employees at $7 an hour versus $27 (just to make up some numbers).

So since the reporter with Reuters didn’t ask the question — or did but didn’t receive an answer — I thought I would. I sent an e-mail to AT&T’s media contact Michael Coe — not just once but twice. I told him I teach journalism at Kent State University and I write a blog, and I wanted to include some additional information from AT&T about how much these jobs paid and where they are located. How tough could that question be?

Well, I guess Mr. Coe had bigger fish to fry. No e-mail reply. Nothing. Not even one of those annoying phone calls at dinner time.

But admittedly, I’m a small fish. And I’m sure that AT&T gets plenty of inquires from “traditional” media. So does that mean no replies to bloggers? Or only to the ones on the A-list?

I would like to see a discussion about this because it is going to be an issue facing all of us in public relations. Maybe it is already. When I was at Goodrich, we tried to respond to every question and request for information — except those that clearly involved customer service issues. Someone in customer service tackled those. But that was long ago in a galaxy far away. For all I know AT&T gets thousands of requests for information from bloggers and just doesn’t have the staff to reply to them all. Fair enough. But how would I know? No one will reply to me if I ask that question.

In the meantime, in the absence of additional information from AT&T, I don’t believe they can’t fill 5,000 customer service jobs in this country — if they pay a decent wage.

And what happened to the so-called watchdog press in this country? Since it appears that at least some organizations will still reply to their questions — don’t they have an obligation to ask some tough ones? And challenge some of the crap that organizations put out these days?

See how much better things would have been if Mr. Coe would have just told me XX dollars an hour.


2 responses to “Public relations and bloggers

  1. You raised some timely, crucial questions. Blogs can break stories that are (then) picked up by the traditional media outlets, but blogs are still not respected like the traditional media outlets. I’m a member of the SPJ, the Natl. Book Critics Circle, the Comm. of Concerned Journalists, and an affiliate of the Religion Newswriters Association, but I no longer work for a daily corporate newspaper. I’m flying solo, blogging and freelancing. With 10 years in newspapers under my belt, and enough interest in journalism to pay dues to the above professional organizations, I would hope that corporate PR folks would return my calls. As far as blogging is concerned, so far I’ve only interviewed academic types about their new books, and they have been eager to talk. I wonder, however, if we/they/someone couldn’t establish a legitimizing criteria or membership or certification by which bloggers could be recognized as serious -minded journalists among the millions of bloggers. Something between the mainstream BlogBurst (an excellent service of which I am a member, and I love it, but it seems broader in scope than just professional journalists) and the elite Pajama Media group (which seems fairly hard to get into).
    Well, obviously, I appreciated your post!

  2. Colin,

    Thanks for your comments. I really believe this is a legitimate and important issue — but something tells me that the solution is going to have to come from corporations and other organizations that decide it is in their best interest to reply to bloggers. And that won’t come easily or quickly. It’s ironic to me that many of the public relations organizations — PRSA for instance — organize conferences and seminars to help organizations “pitch” stories and information to bloggers. But for the organizations themselves to be more open to answering questions — nah. Not yet.

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