Thursday, April 27, 2006

Pundits Talk, People Listen

When the hockey season began this year - after the lockout - the new salary cap shook up a lot of teams. Most of the NHL pundits talked about how the Detroit Red Wings - who had to cut a lot of their stars, and get under the salary cap - were going to be cellar dwellers, and not do well. Heck, they might even struggle to make the playoffs. Even a Detroit pundit worried (just a little bit) about the team in the new season.

Well, the pundits - and, just exactly who are they anyway - were wrong. The Wings won the President's Trophy this year, and are now fifth on the list for most points in a season. They are in the playoffs, and hopefully can bring home another Stanley Cup to Hockeytown.

It always comes down to pundits. Who are these pundits, how do you become a pundit. It's the proverbial they that always is amusing, like "they say." Great, but who are they? Last year, Slate had a half tongue-in-cheek exposé on how to become a pundit, but while it was all in jest, it was also true. I know people that have used such tactics to get on television news ... and it works.

The pundit world is part of the industry analyst world. We have all seen how analysts are being attacked as paid shills, and the past few weeks analyst Rob Enderle has been under fire. The San Francisco Chronicle's blog had a piece on Enderle, which started with a Register article and Sun questioning his impartiality. And, well, those that follow Apple know the animosity against Enderle - heck, just look up Enderle's name on Google and the first couple links are critical pieces on Rob.

Sam Whitmore did interview Enderle, who was able to give his side of the story - and let's not forget that while Sun is not happy with Enderle, he was called often for his viewpoint on the recent management change at Sun.

How do these pundits become pundits, and is the analyst/pundit game changing because of blogging and consumer generated media. Some would say yes - go read the post, as it says alot about changing roles of analysts and influencers - and that it is not a bad thing. That while analysts are going to have influence, bloggers are also becoming influential, particularly those that are writing on specific issues.

And, well, I would say yes also. But, influencers have always been a valuable part of a PR campaign, whether they were enthusiasts, influential reporters or industry analysts.

Well, am I a pundit? I have no real idea how I am presented to new or prospective clients, or if I am positioned as a pundit (please, no) or an expert (please, no, but that's at least more palatable). I have been blogging for close to three years now, and I don't celebrate my blog birthday because my blog is not who I am. It's just one part of my skills - I am a PR person that specializes in blogging (but can still pick up the phone and pitch with the best of them).

But, it amazes me that there are blog pundits, people that have been blogging for, oh, two years and then pass themselves off as CGM pundits. Why? How? Give me a break - it's all way too new for any of us to pass ourselves off as pundits, or even experts. We are all learning, and it's such a small part of public relations, it should just be part of public relations, not a whole new practice area.

One small anecdote. I was lunching at Coco500 (highly suggested), and since it is SoMa, I ran into Mena Trott. We quickly discussed the Economist survey on New Media ... and while it said nothing new, it's the pure gravitas of being in the Economist that says that new media is here, and that it is influencing how people are interacting with the media and each other.

That's what is important - how PR can work in a changing media landscape, not how we can pontificate about the changing landscape. If we fall into that pundit role, it's just like Pogo: We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us. We should present case studies, present examples of good and bad practices, and help companies because we understand blogs ... as much as you can. That's why you hire PR firms: to be experts in key areas.
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