Category Archives: professionalism

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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Public relations and dinosaurs

Sorry about that headline. I read an article recently about search engine optimization. It said to attract readers to your blog you needed to include the main topic (public relations) in the headline. Based on results so far, the wizard behind the search engine optimization curtain must have gotten an early start on the holiday. I’ll keep trying.

Anyway, yesterday I talked about the qualities (values?) that I believe are important for individuals in public relations positions and for the profession in general: character, ethics and professionalism. These qualities to me are still more important than spending all our time and energy worrying about the techniques for search engine optimization or for integrating Facebook and MySpace into public relations plans. Yeah, I know. I’m a dinosaur with a laptop. But that’s what I believe. And yet I want to learn about social media, particularly how social media can be used by organizations to help them become more successful. I hope that those of you reading this blog who are interested in social media will talk to me about your experiences, successes and failures. I really do want to learn.

In the meantime, expect me to talk about character, at least occasionally.

When I first started running, I was an avid reader of Runner’s World. Then over time I stopped reading. Once you’ve read 10 or so articles about the “10 Tips for Running a Successful 10-K” – you’ve pretty much read them all. (I’m experiencing the same problem with many of the issues of PRTactics these days, after being a member of PRSA for about 20 years. That’s another issue.) But my daughter is a runner and a reader of Runner’s World, and I read an interesting article in the January 2008 issue by Kenny Moore.

1984joanbenoit.jpgIt’s a profile of Joan Benoit Samuelson. Talk about a person who demonstrates character. Joan Benoit Samuelson helped define marathon running for a generation of women – and men. In the 1980s, she set a world record in winning the Boston Marathon and then the gold medal in the first-ever women’s Olympic Marathon held in Los Angeles. But Joan Benoit Samuelson never tried to capitalize on her fame. She returned to her home in Maine, raised a family and gave her time, name and energy to a limited number of charities. In the article, Moore says she turned 50 several months ago and plans to run the Boston Marathon this April. The Boston Marathon will be the venue for the U.S. women’s Olympic trials. Moore says Benoit has no expectation of making the Olympic team – but hopes to finish under 2:50.

Joan Benoit Samuelson has character; she didn’t cash in on her celebrity. Consequently, she has maintained her reputation and creditability for years. Gee, it sounds a lot like what we are trying to achieve for our organizations by advocating public relations based on character, ethics and professionalism. Wonder what Brittany Spears will be doing at 50?

When I turned 40 – in 1987 – I completed the Pittsburgh Marathon, running with my friends Walter Herbruck and Matt Para. That was also the site for the women’s Olympic trials that year. And it was a thrill as a middle-of-the-pack (at best) runner to be associated with a world-class sporting event. I’m almost certain that my marathon running days are over. But if Joan Benoit Samuelson can complete the Boston Marathon at age 50 in less than 2:50, well…Maybe there is one long run left for me before being sent off to where the dinosaurs go to retire.