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PR rants – a reply

August 14, 2008

The latest in the string of rants against PR practitioners has taken on a life of its own today, with more noted contributions from the likes of RubelScoble among others, and frankly what’s disturbing is that these “industry leaders” who have reached the fame and respect they have today are people who got there because they thought differently, operated on the cutting edge of new trends and technology, and recognized that what they brought to the table was unique. Today, not so much.

No, today they stooped down to the age-old gripe that PR people are hacks, trafficked in making gross generalizations about an industry that employs hundreds of thousands of professionals worldwide and managed to prove once and for all that this upper echelon of the blogging community is so self-absorbed and self-important as to imagine that the entire industry of public relations should be done away with simply because a few tech bloggers would rather get their news elsewhere, as if PR practitioners have nothing else to do every day than pitch TechCrunch, and have nothing else to offer any organization ever.  In fact there are, and if pressed I imagine even these leaders would admit to it, a large number of PR people who do it right, and who interact with on a daily basis with bloggers in a personal way, listen to them, bring them valuable and targeted information, and in general provide a valuable connection between the company and the blogger. But we do also have to remember that PR does have more value-add than just blogger relations.

In fact, kudos to former colleague Mark Nardone for calling this point out so succinctly on the TechCrunch comments board:

There are so many other critical elements that emerging growth companies must focus on with their PR agency in order to stay visible and communicate effectively to the target audiences — wouldn’t you agree? What about the company’s messaging/positioning, influencer relations (analyst relations, etc.), and other thought leadership programs (speaking, bylines, awards)? Do they have a regional, national or global business strategy? Are they selling direct or indirect and what type of communication effort goes into play to support these business models? Don’t get me wrong, blogs are critical components and I’m not saying that one approach outweighs the other right now– but that an integrated view of the entire communication program will be the most effective strategy for early stage companies.

Let’s face it, many in the PR industry have come under fire for basically spamming reporters and bloggers. But there are many more PR people who have carefully studied their craft, bring immense value to their clients, operate in many myriad roles, most of which are outside of simple media relations and are not the people spoken of in these posts. That is what becomes so frustrating to those in the industry. Arrington etc. should know better than to let these few provoke them into making generalizations so broad that they bring the ire of an industry down upon them, and deservedly so! It shows a complete lack of business sense, beyond anything else, to argue that PR holds no value. And that calls into question, in turn the value in many of the other interpretations these bloggers place on the posts they publish. 

In the end, I realize these rants will continue to take place, and I know from my own completely amiable interactions with bloggers that there continues to be a healthy understanding between the two professions. My greatest hope is more that those who we interact with frequently take the time to realize that the street will always go both ways, and using your already-in-place platform to bitch is at best disappointing. We too are often frustrated by any number of bad behaviors exhibited by the media. Notice there are far fewer instances of PR practitioners making lists of badly-behaved, petulant media types who think their two-bit publication is the best thing since sliced bread and doesn’t mind telling you to your face where to go. A little understanding on both sides would go a long way. And that needs to start both at PR firms, AND at these top blogs and media outlets.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Megan Lunn permalink
    August 14, 2008 2:45 am

    Very interesting post. I completely agree with you! The rant on TechCrunch makes it seem the only function of PR is to pitch stories. I may not have been in this industry long, but I work with people who have, and we probably spend 25 percent of our time actually pitching stories. The rest of the time is coaching executives and doctors who STILL have not learned how to communicate. There is also an entire aspect of PR that goes along with reputation management and even business advising. True, journalists are not getting as many stories from our tried and true pitching efforts. To me, this indicates that the field of PR is evolving, not dying. We just have to learn to go with the flow (which from my observations, we are doing very well).

    -Megan

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