Another Flare up Between PR and Bloggers 1

By George

There’s another storm in the blogging world – this time about PR firms and press releases. It started months ago with Chris Anderson of Wired publishing the names and email addresses of PR professionals he accused of spamming his inbox.

A new front opened recently when Gina Trapani of Lifehacker banned the IP addresses of PR firms she said were sending her unsolicited press releases.

And, yes, Racepoint Group was one of the dozens of firms banned.

It’s been the A topic on PR and media blogs for the last week. It’s unfortunate that some PR firms reacted to this news by begging for forgiveness for the sin of pitching clients to media outlets. One such apology came from Shift Communications.

Here’s an excerpt:

“I have written many times about crummy PR practices, and have acknowledged more than one mistake of our own, over the years. I empathize with your frustration and regret that we added to it… If you can dig up offending email from address, I will publish and critique it on my blog, and will include any of your personal comments as well. We’ll gladly fall on the sword if it’s in service to improving our agency and our profession as a whole.”

I’m not sure what Shift is apologizing for (they have a good reputation in the industry). Gina and her blog cover technology companies and PR people respect her coverage and opinion enough to want to inform her about what their companies are doing. So they send her news releases hoping she’ll take notice.

If Gina isn’t interested in the news contained in an email, she can do what everyone else does: hit the delete button. It takes about one second.

As a former journalist of 12 years, I’m constantly amazed by these flare ups by the media. Being approached by PR people is part of the job – and when I was reporting some of my best stories came out of conversations with PR flaks. They could also annoy me, but I understood that PR people are the gateways into companies, politicians and organizations. It’s the way communications works these days.

At his blog, Stowe Boyd proposes something called “MicroPR” and suggests that PR people engage one-on-one with bloggers and journalists. He wants to be pitched on Twitter – so the pitch can be completely open (clearly here’s a journalist not interested in exclusive news and interviews). The goal of all outreach to journalists is for one-on-one conversations. The point of a pitch or a press release is to vet out which journalists are interested in that conversation and which ones are not.

I’m not sure what these journalists are so angry about. It’s not possible for every pitch and news release to be relevant to them every single time. If they don’t want to work with PR people, don’t want to be pitched story ideas, and don’t want to receive new releases then perhaps these people should consider career changes (maybe in PR? We’re hiring).

With tongue firmly planted in cheek, I was going to suggest that PR agencies and corporate communications departments respond to these media flare-ups by banning journalists who constantly complain about being pitched, write inaccurate news stories, use poor grammar and spelling, and who don’t understand basic technology concepts.

But then I decided that banning people isn’t very nice — or practical.

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