Bloggers, PR and spam

First morning of “semi-retirement.” Not bored yet. And I ran this morning at 5 a.m. in the rain. I guess habits are tough to break. Good.

But just to demonstrate that I really don’t have much to do, here I go into an area that I really know nothing about: contacting bloggers with information about stories. I won’t say “pitching.” I hate that term. But I recognize that it is an important part of the PR business — and maybe becoming even more important these days as bloggers move under the publicity tent along with so-called traditional journalists.

Anyway, I came across two interesting perspectives and conversations on bloggers, PR and spam. One is a post by Brian Solis on his PR 2.0 blog: “Making Mistakes and Amends in Blogger and Media Relations.” The other is by Todd Defren on his PR Squared blog: “Open Letter to Gina Trapani of Lifehacker.” I’ve been reading both blogs regularly based on the recommendation of Bill Sledzik and ToughSledding.

And I don’t know Gina Trapani — and I’ve never read Lifehacker.com, where she is the lead editor. For all I know Lifehacker is a site for cigarette addicts. Probably not. Apparently Gina is one of the growing number of bloggers who are influential in a host of industries. For PR people: Batter up!

So here’s the rub — as described by Todd Defren. Gina Trapani has “blocked” e-mails from a number of PR firms and individuals — because the “pitches” were, in her view, unsolicited and not relevant. And I think equally to the point, the e-mails were going to her personal e-mail address rather than the one at Lifehacker designed for news releases, etc. (Although Todd Defren in a post this morning raises some questions about that.)

I’m not sure that Brian Solis is looking at the same situation or writing about spam in general. But in any event, if you are interested in this subject take a look. Both Todd and Brian make excellent points. As does Kevin Dugan on The Bad Pitch Blog. Sledzik recommended this one as well. Is there a pattern emerging here?

I guess Gina feels– like Chris Anderson before her — that some PR people have been pitching her curveballs. Sorry, couldn’t resist that.

Now if Bill Sledzik were writing this post, I’m sure he would have some insights to share on public relations. Some lessons learned. I won’t attempt to head down that high road. But I have to chuckle because in many ways this situation strikes me as a cross between deja vu all over again (Yogi Berra knew something about bad pitches) and Jerry Seinfield’s Soup Nazi.

Here’s why. It seems to me that we are going over the same lessons that should have been learned way before Web 1.0. Know the publication. Establish — to the extent possible — a relationship with the reporter (blogger?). Send him/her only information about stories that are likely to be of interest. Have the balls, oops, to tell clients or employers that some stories are just never going to make it in print, online or anywhere else. And I guess in this new world of Web 2.0 — if he/she doesn’t want e-mail to come to a personal e-mail account, don’t send it to a personal e-mail account. Gee folks. This isn’t rocket science. But unfortunately many PR people are shameless when it comes to, ugh, pitching. They have no clue. Too bad. It’s been my experience that most are ethical, professional and hard working.

And I give Todd Defren credit. He goes out of his way to apologize and make the case that what happened was the exception not the rule. And Brian Solis provides an equally compelling explanation as well. In an era when TV talking heads are in bed with the Pentagon this doesn’t strike me as the most important media relations issue facing this nation. But then I never had to earn my income based on client or employer expectations of story placements. Thank God.

I hope we are not heading down the road to the day when bloggers or traditional journalists think that blocking contacts from PR people is the right or only way to go. That won’t work. Seems like this should be a mutually beneficial arrangement — based on mutual respect and professionalism. Gee, just like the old days. Before Al Gore invented the Internet.

And Gina — and others — c’mon. Give us a break. Do you really want to be the blogging equivalent the Soup Nazi? That didn’t turn out so well for anyone. Remember?

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2 responses to “Bloggers, PR and spam

  1. Loved this post. Thanks for the perspective!

  2. Todd,

    Thanks for your comment. I enjoy reading your blog — and this is just the latest interesting and important issue that you have highlighted.

    Rob

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