Who profits?

I’m going to BlogOn today to be on a panel but I have to admit some trepidation. For in the midst of the attendees I want to see and the speakers I respect — David Weinberger, Seth Godin, Mary Hodder, Steve Hall, Steve Rubel… — I also see panels such as this: “Pitching to Social Media…. How do you pitch to bloggers when most spurn overt attempts to influence them? It’s a whole new PR ballgame and you need a new playbook to get in the game.”

Makes my skin crawl. Businesses think they can exploit blogs. But I want to tell blogs to exploit businesses instead: Get what you want out of them. Get advertising money out of them, if you want. Or attention. Or peace and quiet. If a PR company calls you, tell them to have their ad buyers call instead. This is why I generallly won’t do panels at events for PR people. No offense. But there’s nothing in it for us. They want free publicity from us. They want to piggyback on our trust. Well, then, buy an ad.

They’re also having a session devoted to the McDonald’s web strategy. This is the company that created the insulting fake french-fry blog, which is the etiquette equivalent of having Ronald McDonald sit down at your table and snarf your fries. It’s rude. I do hope there’s Q&A so I can tell the man I like his burgers but do not like his web strategy.

This is all the more reason why we bloggers who want to pay for their passion or make a living at this need to get our act together.

  • They don’t get it…they think that blogs will be just like TV news, and that it’s perfectly OK for ABCNEWS to do a fluff piece on “The Magic Kingdom” or “Lost” and call it “news” (since they are all owned by Disney).

    New paradigm for why the web matters besides “conversations” – the web changes all industries that revolve around middlemen – sales, distributing, content creation, bookstores, everything. And PR people are one of those middlemen – an institution that is finding itself more and more irrelavent.

  • Considering all the long-term health risks of eating McDonalds french fries, Ronald is more than welcome to mine. May his mortician get the biggest laugh of all from that clown.

  • Duneview

    When Joss Whedon’s “Serenity” opened a few weeks ago, the blogosphere was littered with buzz (you’ll excuse the expression) about the film. Having been invited to a (no doubt) carefully selected pre-release screening, the bloggo-lemmings brushed aside their Iraq and SCOTUS postings to review it. Glenn even had a post rounding up some of the reactions — I call it Carnival of the Had — and to add insult to injury, I did not see one paid ad on any of the blogs. (There may have been — I just didn’t see any.)

    The screening is tacit acknowledgment by the studios that bloggers are mavens, important to a successful launch. Let them pay for it.

  • Mike G

    I think you’re being too harsh about this… slightly.

    If bloggers are the new media, companies and politicians and everyone else who they write about will want to deal with them. And that means hiring somebody to represent them, a lot of the time.

    Okay, that was my positive spin. Now, of course, 999 of the first 1000 interactions between PR firms and the blogosphere will be as direly sleazy and hamhanded as you suggest, and do no favors to either the companies or the bloggers.

    But companies will learn, slowly, how to do it better. The Serenity example is a good one– they saw something that bloggers would respond to (geek-oriented movie), they gave the opportunity to sample (free tickets), they treated bloggers basically like they do MSM critics. I recently recommended something for a client along very similar lines (before the Serenity example, though as soon as I saw it I used it to help push the idea)– give some freebies and then back away and let bloggers blog, if they want. If the product is basically good, which it mostly is, they’ll say so. If a few folks have a bad experience, well, you’ll learn something.

    As companies learn how to do it better, the interaction of PR and bloggers will start to be a positive thing. I mean, if Dell had actually handled your problems well, rather than in the clueless untouched-by-human-hands way they did (“Blogosphere? How do you spell that, Mr. Jervis?”) wouldn’t you feel that that had been a positive example of PR?

    So, anyway, the intersection of PR and bloggers is inevitable– and so is the stupidity of PR folks the first few times they try it. Hit ’em with the clue stick and make them get better, is my suggestion.

  • BTW, Blogtronix is webcasting all BlogOn 2005 General Sessions:

    http://www.blogonevent.com/blogon2005/community_tools/

  • pdf

    >Makes my skin crawl. Businesses think they can exploit blogs.

    “The Man can’t bust our music!”

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  • Your rant against public relations assumes that anyone who is acting on behalf of an organization has the money for an advertising campaign and is somehow out to manipulate and exploit you.

    Do you apply this attitude to the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, organizations raising awareness about various diseases, consumers’ associations, community action groups, trade associations for journalists, publicists doing pro bono work defending the reputations of homeless people, and all the others who are trying to educate the public, the media and others about their issues and events?

    Or is it just certain ugly, venal PR people who you despise?

  • Jeff – Your experiences with some PR folk may make Dell look customer-friendly, but I think you’re throwing the baby out with the bath water when you call upon bloggers to bypass pitches and focus on ads.

    There are pr folks out there like Rubel that get it. They are part of the conversation. They are not trying to manage it. They also happen to have news stories worthy of media attention, mainstream and citizen alike. They do their job in full transparency without pissing anyone off and an honest, mutual value exchange occurs. The blogger/editor gets a story.

    As you well know, ads pay the MSM bills and content drives reader interest. If the content sucks, ad revenue shrinks. If PR folk were shut out from media, it might stop the incessant phone calls wondering “did you get the release and are you going print it?” But it would also force the issue that there are not enough resources or time to cover everything. There would be a negative impact on content and ads could suffer as a result.

    Have at me on this, but I’m tired of the other half of my industry being held up as some kind of pr poster child. You have hard-earned reasons for this post, but let me simply say there are exceptions to your rule. Bloggers are not helping themselves by shutting out public relations folks. Everyone wants to get involved in the conversation. The true snake oil salesmen will be outed quickly enough and this process will make for more content and examples at which to point.

  • I tend to agree with your angle of attack outlined above. I was approached by a PR person from Warner Bros. for the movie “Constantine” just before it came out, because my blog at the time was titled “Occult Investigator” which was the occupation of the character in the movie.

    Anyway, their initial pitch had to do with me giving away *free prizes* related to the movie – which is ironic because of how many times in the past I’ve gone off on my blog about that same mindlessness of trying to influence people with the promise of free junk. I wrote back saying that if they wanted to buy ad space, I’d be happy to talk to them. They said this was out of their department since they were PR rather than marketing. All in all it was a friendly exchange and I’m sure it works for some bloggers that they approach. I think a better approach for me personally would be to offer both: free stuff for my readers AND a paid ad and then let me choose which model makes more sense or if we could do a hybrid.

    The whole thing is just funny I think. No company would walk into a tv station or a newspaper and ask them to do a free ad. It’s just stupid and doesn’t respect the time and effort that goes into developing an online community.

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