If PR Pros and Bloggers Played Nice

by | May 26, 2008

PR pros and bloggers love to complain about each other. At the same time, both groups sometimes need each other. But are the complaints and demands of either group fair or realistic?

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of hearing about so-and-so blacklisting PR firms, or PR people blacklisting bloggers. For crying out loud, who the hell cares?

PRs are still going to pitch their stories. We’re like dogs… if our actions are validated, we’re not going to change them. If we pitch to blogs like yours, and most of the feedback is positive (or the results are positive compared to the time and energy put in at least), we’re not going to change much overall.

Bloggers are still going to bitch and rant publicly if they don’t like what PRs are doing or saying. They’re still adapting to the growing pains of the blogosphere – being treated like journalists in a publishing industry they’ve chosen to become involved with (and that trend is probably going to continue to grow).

I can understand both sides. I play on both teams every day. But the back and forth attacks do nothing but make the people involved look ridiculous (and sometimes pretty hypocritical).

So rather than trying to place blame on one side, let’s instead accept that both sides have their share of f*ck-ups, and let’s see what an ideal world would look like if bloggers and PRs could learn to play nice:

PR Firms / Professionals

  • WOULD NOT ever send irrelevant news releases or pitches to bloggers. At least try to be relevant. If you’re not sure if your news is relevant, ask them. If the blogger hops around from topic to topic, forget about them (you should be targeting people with a true niche audience related to your news – a topic-hopper won’t give you that as much as a real niche site / blog will).
  • WOULD thoroughly read a blog to get a better feel for what the blogger’s interests are. Or more realistically, you would at least acknowledge that the search function is your friend – look for related products, news, etc. being discussed there. Do they even cover news at all? You should be able to tell that much from a simple search or looking at the blog’s categories or tags.
  • WOULD interact with the blogger via blog comments to “test the waters” before considering sending them a pitch.
  • WOULD NOT mass-send any pitches for any reason to an email list. It goes without saying that any email list you have should be built on your own, and not paid for. If you’re buying niche email lists, you’re a moron.
  • WOULD always tailor pitches to the blogger individually (don’t just say “hey, I thought you’d be interested in….” Tell them why you thought they’d be interested – you saw something similar on their blog for example – they won’t always remember every post they’ve done in the past, and you may not have the same ideas about what’s relevant).
  • WOULD NOT dismiss all bloggers just because of a few idiots who feel like bitching about receiving news.
  • WOULD take bloggers seriously when they contact them for information, verification of facts, interview requests, review materials, etc. – or at least have some clear policies in place about what you’re willing to give to whom (no excuse not to offer verification, but it’s perfectly understandable if you won’t mail out products for review to a brand new blog with no audience).
  • WOULD include an unsubscribe option in email pitches (although this is really more of a “if you mass-send emails” thing – an unsubscribe link doesn’t really work in a personal email, which is what bloggers say they want – choose your battles I guess).

Bloggers

  • WOULD make sure their blog was well targeted (you can’t complain about people not knowing what you’re interested in if you’re hopping around from topic to topic – if you cover something even once, it’s a reasonable assumption you might be open to talking about something similar down the road).
  • WOULD make sure the blog is fully searchable and categories are easy to find – make it easy for people to find out whether you’re interested in a topic or not.
  • WOULD have a pitching policy clearly in place on their blog (this is especially true for blogs with large audiences – when you turn yourself into a niche media outlet, you not only take on increased responsibility to your readers, but you have to expect pitches to come with that). If you don’t want to receive pitches, or only pitches on certain topics, say so clearly and publicly, and make it easy to find. If you do that, you have every right to bitch (loudly) when someone doesn’t bother to read it (although be careful about where people are finding you – if you don’t want pitches, don’t post your address publicly – Gina Trapani recently bashed quite a few firms claiming they directly ignored her requests, and it turned out not to be true as she was in a media database with that address – always know where your contact info is, and if you don’t want it out there, use a friggin’ contact form instead).
  • WOULD NOT blacklist all PRs or even full firms over the actions of a few idiots (despite how much you hear about them, you’d be hard-pressed to convince me that most PRs are like that – hell, most of us aren’t pitching you to begin with).
  • WOULD NOT bitch about people sending unsolicited contacts and then hypocritically publish a mass email list of the same (is that really even legal?).
  • WOULD make use of the filters the email gods have given them instead of feeling a need to create public blacklists.
  • WOULD understand that they’re far from the only relevant blogger to a firm’s or client’s audience, and therefore it’s not always possible to spend huge amounts of time on every blog that might be interested in a pitch – especially given that most pitches are time-sensitive.
  • WOULD understand that by mass-blacklisting PRs, you won’t get advance news that is relevant, you won’thave any chance to break those stories (plenty of other bloggers will be more than happy to beat you to the punch, build their own rep, and potentially swipe your audience in time), and you won’t likely get cooperation when you want a big interview, review products, event access, etc.
  • WOULD report true PR spam to someone higher in a firm, so they could better understand how to train their newer staff to avoid those problems in the future. Is it our job as bloggers to do this? No. But if we’re not doing anything to try to help the problem, we don’t have the right to bitch about it as loudly.

Are all of these things ever going to happen? Hell no. The point is that no matter what side you’re on, if you’re complaining about the other side, you’re quite likely doing at least something to contribute to the problem. Always? No. Some spam is just spam.

PRs don’t want to be looked at as spammers (and most of us aren’t). So we need to better educate other PRs, weed out the bad apples ourselves, and more effectively target bloggers – even if that means targeting fewer bloggers (leaving out those without already-existing significant readerships) because of time constraints in getting to know them.

Bloggers often want to be respected as legitimate sources for news and information in their niche. As bloggers we have to know when to choose our battles, and we have to know which PR folks to befriend (might we be interested in using that connection in the future?). We have to understand that the ability to immediately and publicly bitch when we’re pissed off doesn’t give us the right to do so without first thinking an issue through and figuring out if there’s a better approach that would still fit our needs. I’m all for bloggers having the right to bitch as much as they want… I just think we need to think before we do it, and make sure our post is proactive in trying to start discussions rather than solely reactive because we’re pissed off.

So what do you think? Will we ever play nice? In an absolutely ideal world, what do you think either PRs or bloggers (or both!) need to know or do?

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