There’s been a “meme” — a running theme through many blogs lately — about the role of public relations in the world of blogging. Nicole Jordan — who, here in Los Angeles, is well known for her work organizing networking events–and is the PR person behind some of the higher visibility firms here — weighed in on the debate last night. (Disclaimer: Nicole also works with Clearstone Ventures and their porfolio firms, and Clearstone happens to be a sponsor of this blog and socalTECH).
There’s a natural (and I think, correct) tension between public relations professionals and the media. That tension continues — again, rightly so — between PR and bloggers. It seems a little bit on the more public and more hostile side nowadays, but I think that’s mostly because bloggers — many of whom haven’t been dealing with PR folks until recently — are feeling overwhelmed by the pressure of having people pitch them every day, spam them with press releases, and try to influence their coverage. Blogging — which, after all, has only recently grown from a personal effort by individuals for their own edification, into something which is starting to become more professional (ie., run by media companies, by organized teams of writers, for profit)– hasn’t had to contend with the constant pitch of PR folks looking to promote their companies, until recently. A lot of this is public relations professionals treating all bloggers like your old fashioned journalist, which–in most cases–is not the right approach. A couple of the reasons for the recent clash:
Most bloggers are not journalists, and do not want to be
A lot of bloggers — and in particular, some of the more vocal ones — don’t want to be journalists, don’t want to deal with PR folks, and don’t want companies trying to influence their voices. They want to engage with others, create debates on their site, and exercise their first amendment right to free speech. PR folks contacting them is anathema to them — it’s people trying to take away their right to say whatever the heck they want in their blog.
Bloggers want to be trend setters, not news reporters
Most blogs, even the professional ones, are trying to be the “trend setters” or “coolspotters” for their industry or area. They’re really not geared toward reporting the news and happenings, and don’t want to be — most bloggers are looking to be the “guru” for their area (hence the big focus on becoming a blogging “celebrity”) and not really interested in covering day to day news. PR and the pitching drives them more towards the news, and less toward the cool. They want to be the first — and only — blog covering a cool new device or company, or Internet service, not one of six blogs writing a review at the launch of the same firm.
Blogging is more about personal relationships, and social connections, than pitches
Blogging, at its core, is more about personal relationships and social connections, than about responding to pitches and/or tracking news from companies. Most bloggers are more interested in interacting with a community or readers, than having to talk constantly with PR agencies and marketers.
The crux of a lot of the issue — at least from my standpoint — is that PR folks are treating bloggers like they are a reporter at the local newspaper, which they aren’t. Personally, I think that PR folks can be a key part of the media relationship (more on that later), it’s just that you can’t use the same tactics with blogs (in most cases) as you have in the past with the press.