Bloggers & PR People Should Be Friends

05/16/2008

I've been thinking about this post for several weeks and was inspired by Mack Collier's post on Daily Fix to finally put thoughts to virtual paper.

First a little background: I'm a marketer who blogs. I have never been a journalist nor have I ever worked in a PR firm. I was once a director for a non profit and with that came many hats including media relations. My deep dark secrets are I would have loved to have been a foreign correspondence wearing those cute jackets with zillions of pockets, drinking Scotch and yes, an occasional puff on a cigar. And I covet a real press badge that will get me into concerts and events for free. But I digress ..

With blogging has come many new opportunities, as well as a few surprising new identities. A couple of weeks ago I received a press release that referred to me as part of Atlanta's prestigious media. Maybe I do have a press badge but I just forgot where I put. But I can tell you that some of my best friends are in the PR biz. And I've met people who are true professionals in every sense of the word. What do they do that is right?

1. They know who I am.
2. They tell me who they are.
3. They know what I focus on.
4. They offer background information.
5. They help me provide valued content for Diva Marketing's community.
6. Sometimes they even ask what I would like to make the post more compelling.
7. They offer me more than a vaguely clocked sales pitch.
8. They say "thank you."

For all of you a toss of aPink_boa pink boa!

Girlfriend, since we're talking among friends, here are a few pet peeves ..

1. Emails from people who at first glance seem to be my long, lost, best friend.
2. People who start their emails in the middle of a conversation and it takes me a second to realize I've never met the person in online or offline.
3. Emails that are so much like spam that they never get a glance. Off topic.
4. People who say lovely things about Diva Marketing and then ask for me to be their best friend and write about their stuff.
5. People who forget to tell who they are or who they work for or why I should take my time to promote their product.
6. People who forget to say  "thank you."'

That has me wondering why:

1. Some PR people seem to get it while others do not have a clue.
2. Some PR people seem to understand that bloggers are not representatives of a media outlet that is paying them to write about "news worthy" events.
3. Some PR people treat bloggers with the respect that they would give to an influential journalist from a publication like the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times or even The Star
4. While others do not.

Recently I received an email from a brand manager type who works at a very large company. She had hired a PR agency to conduct a Blogger Relations strategy and wrote ..

"We've discussed the fact that bloggers, by publishing their opinions and inviting readers to comment or contact them, basically agree to open themselves to unsolicited information." The ah ha light bulb moment flashed on.  My response back -

If you take that approach you'll open yourself to firestorms. What we tell clients is that the blogoshere is comprised of many "villages" and each village e.g., the cat pet village, the business village, the golf village, has a unique culture.

Within that culture each blogger has her own sense of what she will post .. how she deals with unsolicited "pitches" and so forth. That means more than identifying a bunch of bloggers who talk about a subject it means understanding the blogger. This post from Diva Marketing might shed some understanding.

The ah ha: People just don't know and some agencies dive into this space with little or no experience positioning themselves as experts .. getting their clients and themselves in Big Trouble. Blogger relations is different from traditional media relations. As BBF Paul Chaney indicated in the comments on Mack's post it seems to be a  training challenge .. or opportunity.

The friction between bloggers and public relations people reminds me of the song from the musical Oklahoma - "Farmer and the Cowhand .. Should Be Friends." So I'd like to propose ..  

Social media folks should stick together. Social media folks should all be friends.

Thinking about more blogger relations I was curious if reaching out to bloggers was in anyway in violation of the CAN SPAM Act. My pal Simms Jenkins, CEO of BrightWave Marketing & EmailStatCenter kindly shed some light.

To begin to work together .. Bloggers and PR People .. this is for all of us. Thanks to Simms who agreed to let me post our email volley.

Simms Jenkins: The CAN SPAM act only requires some key elements, none related to permission.  Best practices of email campaigns are related to the subscriber proving an opt in. So spammers follow neither which means the law is powerless, for the most part.

Regarding the outreach, I think a one to one email provides more  flexibility - after all we all send some unsolicted emails hoping to get press, leads, friends :) ..once it becomes an email campaign, you should be more cautious as that is the brand not just an email sent to an individual.

Toby/Diva Marketing:  So if I'm hearing you right .. if the email from the, call it agency/person, includes a "if you don't want to hear from us again we won't bother you again" statement it would be okay and not fall into the CAN SPAM act?

Simms Jenkins:
I am defining campaign as an email from BrightWave Marketing promoting my book/website The Truth About Email Marketing - I need to follow the letter of can spam...however, if I send you an email from my personal account promoting the book, it allows a bit more flexibility but that is a general grey area and why I include an opt out note at the bottom of all of my emails to people

Social media folks should stick together. Social media folks should all be friends.

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Comments

I am not sure I believe it's possible, but I admire the conversation and hope it leads somewhere. I just think some PR people don't get it, and some bloggers like to shoot their keyboards off. Then there are the rest of us.

Posted by: Geoff Livingston on May 16, 2008 3:25:18 PM

great post Toby! and wow, so great to illustrate it with the South Pacific video.

Posted by: B.L Ochman on May 16, 2008 3:58:15 PM

Once again technology outpaced the training. I hope the PR educators are paying attention and incorporating blogger/PR relations.

Posted by: Richie Escovedo on May 16, 2008 4:07:38 PM

Hey Toby,

This is Ginny from the Arkansas Chapter of PRSA...I hope all is well!

I agree the above post from Richie. Having worked for a remarkably fast-paced agency in the past, I attribute at least some portion of this problem to lack of training. In the agency realm particularly, new PR pro's are run ragged and, let's admit it, often given very unreasonable "goals" for having just entered the PR workforce. Far too often we PR folks get ahead of ourselves and don't take the time necessary to build and foster positive relationships with media. There is a focus on quantity rather than quality.

That's my 2 cents, and it's worth just about what you paid for it :)

Ginny

Posted by: Ginny Wiedower on May 16, 2008 4:35:53 PM

@Geoff - hopefully the 'rest of us' will lead the charge and set the standard. I know that you sure do ;-)

@BL thanks. Love that musical ..perhaps we need a blogger/pr musical?

@Richie - speaking of the PR educators, if more profs take their lead from what Robert French at Auburn is doing with his class the next gen of pr profs will be so much more prepared.

@Ginny - you are so right even more than ever it's about the relationship and that might mean doing business a new way.

Posted by: Toby on May 16, 2008 6:23:33 PM

Great post, Toby! I've done a bit of "blogger outreach" as well as seen some really *bad* blogger outreach done by others. What, I think, gets to some of the p.r. and marketing folk is that there may be a group of outsiders called bloggers who know more about how to talk to one another than they do. It's the same thing that gets to journalists--how could rank "amateurs" know more than the professionals. It's not a matter of knowing more. Rather, it's a matter of knowing how to communicate to a specific group--or subculture--that has its own way of doing things. And your right: the whole subculture of blogging has subcultures within it that speak differently to one another. It's like the difference between a hardcore New England accent and a Southern accent!

Posted by: tish grier on May 18, 2008 6:54:41 PM

@Trish - so it goes back to more than different accents .. it goes back to not respecting each other; or taking the time to know one another to establish that respect.

Posted by: Toby on May 19, 2008 11:45:27 AM

Toby,

Well thought-out post. The CAN-SPAM Act has again been revised, but mostly does not apply to press pitches or press releases. It does apply to a series of e-mails from the same sender that are more sales than information. If a business was soliciting you to buy their products without identifying themselves and offering an opt-out option, that would be an example of SPAM.

The fact that we receive poorly written pitches or press releases shouldn't surprise or upset us. How many poorly written marketing pieces or pitches have we seen. And there are more than a few crappy blogs about, as well.

I prefer to delete the bad, and not spend much time trying to fix it. You can't fix stupid and my time is better spent growing my business than sweating the small stuff.

I felt the same way when I was a newspaper writer and then a magazine editor. I dealt with hundreds of releases and pitches every month. No amount of guidelines nor bitching was going to eliminate the crap, leaving only the good.

Posted by: Lewis Green on May 19, 2008 2:30:10 PM

Cigars? Did you say something about cigars? I can help you with that, having become quite a cigar fancier of late. (Goes well with late night chats in biker bars in fact.)

Perhaps if bloggers and PR people sat down together with a scotch in one hand and a cigar in the other we might more easily work out our differences.

BTW, while I've not visited this issue in a while, I still think there's room for someone to make some cash with a training program on blogger relations.

Finally, once again, great post Toby. You are the indeed a blogging diva.

Posted by: Paul Chaney on May 29, 2008 11:58:55 PM

Toby - although the whole post is fantastic you touched on a foundation basic that a lot of PR folks these days tend to forget...to be polite! Say "thank you" (I'm so glad you mentioned that more than once). Seriously, people, how hard is it to say "thank you". Either for their time to listen to you prattle on and on (I am guilty of that myself sometimes) or for posting a tidbit about their widget/service. I have to say that I'd be more inclined to listen to the person a second time if there was some politeness.

THANK YOU for mentioning it!

Posted by: Donna Tocci on Jun 5, 2008 10:58:58 AM

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