PR Companies face Backlash from Bloggers
It started out with a post I read on Chris Brogan’s blog a few weeks ago entitled “What Tom could learn about Facebook.”
Note: Chris is one of the most respected Social Media bloggers out there and has an awesome blog filled with tons of useful information. Seriously, I never miss a blog post. I would highly recommend subscribing to his blog and his newsletter if you’re interested in what’s going on in this space.
Anyway, according to Chris, “Tom” had the bad tact to send out a mass PR press release about something or other in a really impersonal way, with no effort to understand Chris’ audience or the topic he usually blogs about. Anyway it started a conversation on the web about the appropriate way for PR people to approach and interact with bloggers.
A vocal contributor to this conversation has been Wired Editor, Chris Anderson who publicly outed several PR firms guilty of spamming him with random press releases. He created the now infamous blacklist. This was quickly followed by a similar list from Gina Trapani of Lifehacker. She created a wiki with her own blacklist including a handy gmail filter you can copy and paste!
Now everyone is getting into the fray with PR execs like Brian Solis are sharing their side of the story and issuing heartfelt apologies.
So it’s clear to me that the issue is that each party has different expectations and that new rules need to be forged in order for new relationships to be created. So what can PR companies do ensure that their names don’t get on similar lists, and more importantly that they build meaningful relationships with people who will find their news relevant?
1) Buying an Email list does not a relationship make! I can tell you this right off the bat, sending mass emails to bloggers you’ve never met, let alone whose sites you’ve never visited is just wasting your time. That’s the fastest way to get on a blacklist. Most blogs that I know of deal with a particular topic and often have certain people who address a particular issue or preferences on what they would like to be contacted about. Unless you are 100% sure that all the people on your list would welcome your email, I wouldn’t risk it.
2) Let’s get to know each other. If you find a blogger who would be a good fit, do yourself a favor and read previous posts. Get a feel for their style and what they like to cover. Leave some comments and share your opinion.
3) Send an introduction email. Send us an email letting us know who you work for and what type of information you would like to share. Most importantly, let us know why we will care about this information.
4) Provide Access. Nothing is more annoying then getting a press release about a product or service that isn’t available.Or a conference that costs $1,000 to go. What do you expect me to do about this? I can’t recommend it without trying it, and I’m not a newswire service who will just parrot information that you give me. There’s a bit of schmoozing involved here, send an early beta invite, or a gadget to try out. Even a few passes would go a long way. Give me access to people within the company who I could interview or talk to. One of the most exciting things I love about blogging is able to share new discoveries with readers.
5) Have a thick skin. Just because we agree to review your product doesn’t mean it will be a good review. Be open to the possibility that as bloggers, are audience depends on us to give them a realistic and unbiased view of your product or service. Warts and all. Take is as valuable feedback and pass along any information to your client.
6) Follow up. Following up is one of the most effective ways of building relationships, because so few people do it. After you’ve sent the same bloggers a few items, send them an email and ask them if they’re finding your information useful. Ask if there is anything you can do to make it easier for them to use the information your provide. (Maybe you can provide embedded links for easy pasting in blog posts for example or links to images that can be used) Get their preferences and stick to it.
I feel for PR people I really do, but I think the era of spinning something is coming to an end. People like transparency and aren’t afraid of calling people out who don’t follow the new set of rules.