Why I Won’t Join Your PR Blog Party

by | Jan 21, 2008

As a new blogger in the PR community, it can be easy to get sucked into cliques that go from courting to a perpetual echo chamber. If you want to stand out, consider less ass-kissing and more thinking for yourself.

I hate PR blog cliques. I find them to be pathetically juvenile. You know the bloggers I mean: the ones that constantly link within their little circles; the ones that feel the need to shower their buddies with praise and thanks for even mentioning them; the ones that can’t post an original thought without being assured that their clique-mates will back them up if anyone dares to speak out against them or their opinions.

I want no part of it. I get especially annoyed with the “courting” I see from some of these groups, trying to align themselves with other bloggers that might benefit them in some way – whether it’s because that blogger runs some kind of ranking system, might interview them, is a good blog to get a nice mention on if you become buddies, etc. Quite frankly, it’s conniving, and we’re not all blinded by it. At least a handful of blogs I used to consider decent went off my radar in the last year due to their “recruitment” into these kinds of groups.

How susceptible are you to these blog cliques? If they suddenly start praising you in their little network, will you feel obligated to rush over and thank them or do them “favors?” If another blogger came to you before posting something controversial, and asked if you’d promise to back them up publicly, would you agree to?

Not me. If you think I’m worth covering, cover me. If not, don’t. If you want to rant about me, do it to your heart’s content. You won’t likely get a reaction… at least not on your blog. At this point, I’d tend to respond on my own, where I control my message (I’ve had enough comments edited or deleted elsewhere to know better). Don’t expect thanks. Don’t think it makes us “friends.” Don’t think saying something nice about me means I’m going to plug you, or that it’s going to keep me from ripping into you if you royally screw up. I don’t owe you favors. Why some bloggers feel like they do absolutely baffles me.

Don’t whore yourself out to the PR blog party crowd. Speak for yourself if you want respect. If your words don’t hold their own, you’re better off finding out the hard way than feeling like your opinion matters with the pseudo-support you’ll get from your new pals. And now you know…. people really do notice when you’ve sold out.

27 Comments

  1. You go, girl. Good points all. While I certainly don’t mind tipping a cap to others offering good stuff out there, I get irked a bit at the collective circle jerk some folks exercise on their blogs. And yes, I’m sure I can come across sometimes like I’m participating in it but strategic networking is one way to grow audience and credibility, so sue me.

    But I love your point. There’s a lot of new good ole boys clubs on the web. Here’s hoping they don’t build walls around themselves and if they do, someone fills the inside with water.

    Heh.

  2. My take on it: one blogger’s clique is another blogger’s community.

  3. Linking to something actually worthwhile is fine in my book. I link to blog posts on PR issues periodically (including ones I think are ridiculous) if I think they’re worth reading to pick up well-rounded views. At the same time I won’t fawn over the bloggers when they drop by just to say thanks. It’s when people classify something as “worthwhile” just because a friend wrote it that royally pisses me off.

  4. Here I was (secretly) hoping your plan was to organize an “alternative” PR-blog party!

    I was planning to bring along some alt music (I know you like the Canadian scene), smart-ass jokes and independent POV. And I’d try *really hard* not to royally screw up…like kissing your ass or anything silly like that. 😉

  5. Geoff – I know exactly what/who you mean and you are spot on.
    BL

  6. Yes yes, butt kissin’ is part of the physical world and social media has assimilated it nicely.

    The issue for me is blogging for the list vs. blogging for the issue. We are in the American Top 40 phase of blogging http://tinyurl.com/yp3mmq

    Discussing issues among bloggers doesn’t seem wrong to me. It’s just a conversation that isn’t in front everyone else. Asking for support seems a lot like lobbying for a bill in Congress. (Oh yeah now I see why it’s a bad thing 🙂

    The whole link love concept is what leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Your point about letting the words stand on their own is spot on the mark.

    I don’t like when people make the ask, vote here, Digg this, Stumble that. But that’s the system being created. It’s driven by money, influence, notoriety, and a whole bunch of other things that are part technology, part human DNA You remember Sally Field’s Oscar speech right? “You like me, you really like me”

    Having said that, let’s separate your “PR cliques” from the sincere elements of forming a relationship. Those elements include politeness, admiration, support, tolerance, and a willingness to listen to another perspective let alone be open to it.

    It’s funny because I was writing articles on communications back in 1995 on a personal website. I’d get emails from people with their comments. The end result was the same back then, now, there is just a whole bunch of bells and whistles around that same purpose, dialogue.

  7. I’m fascinated by this “circle jerk” term – does it mean what I think it does or am I being a pervy Brit? Is it a form of “gentlemen’s handshakes”???

  8. @Judy – PR blog party with independent thinking? Wouldn’t that be the day?

    @BL – Just for clarity’s sake, since no Geoff posted here, what’s “spot on?” Or did you by chance mean to comment on another post (in which case let me know, and I’ll move it where it belongs. 🙂

  9. @Albert – I agree. Discussing issues among bloggers is A-OK in my book too. Discussing issues only with like-minded folks, feeling the need to gang up together in order to make a point, feeling the need to fall all over each other like some drunken blog orgy… that’s not so OK with me.

    As for “blogging for the list,” again, agreed. I’m also big on blogging for the issue. Don’t get me wrong… that’s not to say I don’t blog for other reasons. It’s just my primary reason (I run blogs in several niches, and earn a rather nice income from them, and I fully admit that – it’s a part of my business model, even if not so much here at NakedPR). I can’t imagine blogging about anything I wasn’t already passionate about. What’s worse though are the bloggers who actually come out blatantly asking their readers and fellow bloggers to nominate them for this, or vote for them for that. That always makes me cringe a little bit.

  10. Jenn…

    Since I don’t want to risk being tossed from your “Blogs I Can Stomach” list, I’ll try not to suck up here. But I must react to two of the comments.

    BL’s mention of someone named “Geoff” probably belongs on another post! Right! (Wink, wink!).

    And Heather, I’m fairly certain the meaning of “circle jerk” crossed the Atlantic intact, but I don’t know you well enough to call you a “pervy Brit.” Are you free for dinner?

  11. Your drive to remain independent is one of many reasons I recommend your blog as a fresh voice.

    I also don’t think there is something as sinister as you think when bloggers become friends. Usually it is the real deal, and many of us don’t mind one bit letting our “friends” know when we disagree with them.

    I tend to disagree with a little less venom, but that is just my style.

  12. You’re right Kami in that there’s nothing wrong or “sinister” in bloggers becoming friends. I have friends who are bloggers, so I can’t argue with that. The difference between being friends and being a part of a blog clique though lies in a few things:

    1. Do the same few people constantly link back and forth without need – in other words, do the bloggers tend to focus their discussions around what that group is talking about instead of looking beyond that comfort zone?

    2. Do they link back and forth specifically to build backlinks? Many do (although admittedly that’s MUCH more prevalent outside of PR blogs).

    3. Do they feel a constant need to publicly pat each other on the back? If people are “friends,” there should be nothing stopping them from dropping a private email. Public ego-bolstering on a regular basis just demonstrates a sad state of affairs.

    4. Is there a group / mob mentality at play? Do the bloggers speak out on issues without having their group jump to support them and every little point they want to make. In other words, do they have a voice of their own, or are they just little echoing drones?

    So yes… there isn’t a problem in the world with being friends with other bloggers. Pushing each others’ agendas constantly goes beyond that.

  13. I much prefer someone to talk about issues, or to extend the ideas, or to offer constructive criticism than to say, “great post.”

    For one, I try not to post about something unless I feel I have something to add. I also don’t tend to respond to well to the, “please consider posting about this e-mail.” I particularly detest the “let’s trade links” solicitation. But to be honest, I rarely get either of these from established PR bloggers.

    I guess I can’t really address the complete criticism without hearing a specific example, but it seems I am always bumping heads with my blogging “friends.”

    Maybe you see something that I don’t.

    As for people that link to other’s ideas without analysis or other critical thought, they may be blogging for other reasons that have nothing with coming up with new content, maybe they just want a journal of other’s ideas – I don’t know, but I am sure their readership is commesurate to their effort. When I slack off it shows up in the analytics every time.

  14. Jennifer:

    Found my way here from Brendan’s post and wound up being so captivated that I just had to research more about what you do.

    As an independent PR practitioner and blogger, I found many helpful insights in your Punk Rock Public Relations interview with Robert Janelle, including do one thing to market yourself everyday.

    RE: PR Blog Cliques

    At my blog, I started out trying to break into the PR blogger crowd by tracking and commenting on their conversation.

    While this trail was interesting for me, it made little sense to most of my readers: bloggers, independent professionals, writers, meeting planners and entrepreneurs.

    Now my blog is focused on helping my students, clients and the public with practical knowledge they can use to advance their business and realize their virtual brand.

    It’s okay if I’m not in with the in crowd. As long as what I’m writing is relevant and helpful to people I care about, I’m fine with being an independent outsider.

    I’ll be back . . .

    Barbara

  15. @Bill That’s exactly what I was thinking. As soon as I saw the “Blogs I Can stomach” list, I thought “What? Me?” but refrained from doing any thank you or sucking up.

    Jennifer,

    It goes beyond blogs too. Have you checked out the Twitter cliques? All the @ back and forths to the same people? They may as well just be in a chat room.

  16. There will always be people who try to game the system. Linking to other people to expand the conversation or lend crediability to position is not wtong. Link lists are bait. Remove the chip off your shoulder and you’ll see that not all PR circles are cults.

  17. Lauren,

    You’re right. There will always be people who game the system. But if you read the post, you’ll know my gripe goes far beyond just linking….

    There’s nothing wrong with marketing your site (and at least links through most linkbait are natural and not of the “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” variety – that’s the whole point of linkbait). There is a problem when we see the private exchanges, cooing over each other pathetically, etc. from a community of PR professionals that operate in an industry where that kind of sleeze and covertness gives the rest of us a bad name. Considering some of these folks that come to mind (and no, I’m not going to name names) are also touting ideas of transparency, it’s particularly ridiculous.

    Barbara, it’s nice to see someone else working with the same types of groups. For curiosity’s sake, on your end, how willing have you found your audience to be about learning basic PR concepts? I have times where they’re the most amazing group, just willing to learn everything they can get their hands on, and at other times I struggle to get anything to sink in. It’s definitely interesting to see on a daily basis.

  18. I can relate. I also really want to know who you’re referring to?

  19. Like I said, I’m not planning to name names. 😉

  20. This is quite similar in spirit to an op-ed piece I wrote yesterday: “I Don’t Like Peas!” http://tinyurl.com/2ewm67 . I do name names.

    – Amanda

  21. You raise some interesting points. While I agree with your observations, I’m not sure I’d characterize it as negative as you do. It’s not like PR bloggers *set out* to form a clique – it’s just that relationships develop, reading habits stagnate, and schedules don’t permit as much outside influence.

    It results – through no one’s overt or intentional exclusions – in what’s been referred to as the “echo chamber.” In my opinion, it’s neither bad nor good; it just IS. (I am, of course, referring to those who aren’t gaming the system intentionally.)

    What can PR bloggers do to avoid falling into this trap?
    1) Acknowledge that it exists. By being aware of it first, we’ll be able to do something about it.
    2) Know that it’s okay to be part of the clique. There’s nothing evil about it. You might even pick something up along the way. But don’t limit yourself.
    3) Seek out alternative points of view, new sources, etc. by using Twitter, Google Reader’s suggestions, sorting through blogrolls, or asking friends for new and different blogs.
    4) Create some dissonance. Don’t always be the back-slapper. Take an alternative position and defend it vigorously without alienating yourself. If “@Geoff” is who I think he is, he does an excellent job of this. And I think you’ve done an admirable job of this as well, Jennifer.

    I’m sure there are more points that can be added, but that’s all I can muster at the moment. Now, back to the echo chamber… 😉

  22. Great post, and valid points.

    I think it’s vital to surround yourself with people who aren’t just “yes men” – people who call you out if you’re wrong and who challenge you to push yourself. I don’t think it’s any different online.

    I get more out of posts that I don’t initially agree with, but that get me thinking, than I do out of reading posts that completely agree with me. There’s no harm in agreeing with people, but you can have too much of a good thing.

  23. Love the site. Can we link up?

  24. In answer to your question below . . .

    It depends on the client, their need for exposure and the willingness to invest both in an ongoing relationship and their branding future.

    Some walk away right away and others cautiously test out new strategies that may seem ho-hum to us, but are overly edgy to them.

    One trend we’re seeing is a move away from pricey website design/upkeep to a frequently updated blog/newsroom presence.

    Being persistent about what’s best for the company, their brand and their community of clients works even in a brick-and-mortar world – especially when their clients are already online and acclimated to living, exploring and experiencing life on a screen/phone. My clients need to be where their clients can find them.

    “Barbara, it’s nice to see someone else working with the same types of groups. For curiosity’s sake, on your end, how willing have you found your audience to be about learning basic PR concepts? I have times where they’re the most amazing group, just willing to learn everything they can get their hands on, and at other times I struggle to get anything to sink in. It’s definitely interesting to see on a daily basis.”

  25. Heck… I was asked to contribute to another blogger’s turf, and we regularly spar there. It might be funnier if it were scripted, but it isn’t.

    And the models in your clip-art are scaring me. Like they’re about to start singing, part of a revival of Up With People, or Zoom.

  26. I enjoyed your post and am in sync with your opinions. But, as an old-time personal blogger and someone who isn’t even a PR practitioner, I can assure you that this clique-forming process is as old as blogging (older, even). It’s all a bit junior high, really. Back in about 2001, in response to all the “A-List” snarkiness, I changed the tagline of my personal blog to “Top of the B-List!” and it hasn’t changed since. In fact, the name of my blog itself is a nod to the idea of being outside of cliques.

    But online social behaviour is really no different from offline social behaviour.

  27. I thought I saw a pattern, till I saw this post. Now I totally know that I was on to something. New to this sort of thing, I’d hate to get into a clique. Good insight!

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