As you might have gathered by now, we here at Social Studies wholly encourage our colleagues to push the social media envelope, given the transparency and community it offers our clients and our profession. But there is one aspect of social media that just makes us nervous: “blogger relations.”
“Blogger relations” is the industry term used to describe what is meant by “pitching bloggers.” And while we at this publication have suggested that PR people pitching bloggers is generally a bad idea, we are not going so far as to say it shouldn’t be done. The practice of blogger relations is essentially traditional media relations with an exponential risk quotient. Even well-thought-out attempts have been known to go awry. As for the more, say, half-hearted attempts? Well, read on for the worst cast scenario…
There was quite a dust-up in the blogosphere last week when Gina Trapani, editor of the super-popular tech blog Lifehacker published a wiki entitled “PR Companies Who Spam Bloggers.” The wiki lists the email domains of dozens of PR agencies who have sent pitches to her personal e-mail address, whose e-mails she has now blocked from her inbox. Thankfully, our agency is not among them.
There is no denying Ms. Trapani has a point. Spam is annoying, and PR people should research the blogs they “pitch,” rather than blindly sending press releases to a laundry list of “tech bloggers.” The rationale for outing the agencies is explained as “Gina Trapani… has always respectfully requested that no press releases get sent to her personal email address in the one place where it is published online. Her direct email address at Lifehacker is not published anywhere online. The press releases, however, keep arriving. At her personal and/or direct email address. Which is why she filters these companies.”
Fair enough, right? Well, not exactly. As news of Trapani’s agency blockage quickly made its way through the blogosphere, new posts popped up from bloggers on both sides of the argument — PR bloggers defending agencies because Trapani’s personal e-mail address allegedly appears in a Cision database of tech bloggers. And others saying – well, yeah – maybe her personal e-mail does appear in Cision, but any PR person who did their homework should be aware that Trapani has requested that press releases not be sent to that address. And round and round they go, each blaming the other with equal vigor.
This excerpt from a post on Brian Solis’ PR 2.0 blog, astutely sums up the situation:
“Nowadays, any mistake made in PR is really an occupational hazard where one wrong move can cause a domino effect that has the potential to eradicate months or even years of hard work.”
I mean, really, can’t we all just get along?
I am not condoning the practice of blindly e-mailing press releases to bloggers, but nor do I condone the increasingly popular practice of “outing” entire agencies for the mistakes of a few individuals. The former practice is careless, while the latter is childish. Particularly when you consider that, by and large, industry-specific bloggers need PR people to provide fodder for their posts as much as we need industry-specific bloggers to post about our clients. It’s time we all learned how to work together and bridge the divide between “us” and “them.”
So I am really hoping that both sides will heed the advice of Jeremy Toeman of Stage Two Consulting in his post, “Hey, bloggers – tell us how to pitch you!” The theory is, that if bloggers are explicit about how they would like to receive information from PR people (including if they want to receive it at all), then we PR people have no excuse for making “bad pitch” mistakes in the future.
Seems like a reasonable solution to me. But until the dust settles, tread very carefully my PR cohorts…