Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Train or Perish

Training seems not to be taking place in agency life, or for that matter, in corporations. Or, well, PR and communications cannot just move past pushing the message and learning to work. It goes back to when are we ever going to learn?

This past week, Johnson & Johnson pinged a few of the momosphere bloggers to invite them to a camp, and then sent out one of their PR firms, RF Binder, to make more of a mess (although, I am not sure of the order of the mess and who was responsible for what). I thank Erin Kotecki Vest for pointing me to the first post, and for letting me see the whole thing blow up from the start.

You used to be able to see the pitch letter here: one word of advice, if you cannot get a blogger's email address, move on or do it less obviously. Or, just be a good sleuth because you usually can find a working email address (she has since taken down the PR pitches).


I killed Jeremy Pepper
Originally uploaded by tmd.

I am not going to break it down and write what I think of the situation. Susan Getgood did a great job breaking it down, and you can get the full story from Stefania of CityMama / Kimchi Mamas (one point - no one ever reaches out to her as an Asian mom, but only via CityMama).

But, this just goes back to my old post - this is about community relations, not pitching media. That means getting to actually know the community, getting to be a part of it, reading blog posts - and meeting the people. It doesn't mean using the community, and I still laugh at some of the people I have run into at BlogHer over the past years that did not participate, but just walked around. Or when they did participate, did it in such a heavy-handed way, it was embarrassing for PR people that were there to learn, talk and participate.

So, instead, I'm going to bullet out my thoughts and backchannel chatter I hear about PR and marketing firms, and how they think they are working in social media and why they just don't get it. And, I am only naming names on personal experiences, not hearsay.
  • The office will not send us to events like BlogHer because they do not want to spend the money on building relationships, they just want us to pitch
  • The firm tells its junior staff to create Wikipedia profiles and change their clients entries to more complimentary entries, and delete bad information
  • The office's social media expert tells junior staff that it is okay to comment anonymously / fake names on blogs to steer the conversation - and encourages it
  • The firm's social media expert is respected by no one in the office, but seen as an empty suit
  • The firm will not send people to events because they are not billable to clients, and not worth the investment
  • Junior staffer in office decides he/she is a social media expert because they are on MySpace or Facebook
  • Join Twitter and just start adding people! Oh, don't participate in the conversation
  • Just spam people (thanks ContosDunne - I've only called you three times to be taken off your blog list, as well as email and you "verify" that I am off ... just to get pitched again a few months later)
  • Mass email bloggers, because it's no different than press outreach and you just have to cast a wide net
  • Social media is a waste, and all that matters are interactive ads
I am sure there are more examples out there, but this is what I could think of sitting down and not getting overly-frustrated

A while back, I used to write about the Clueless Train. It was great, because I would find some great photos ... but it looks like the train has left the station, and PR people don't care. This is sad, and will leave us in the dust because we won't just look at the landscape and realize that it's back to public relations.

As a note, this is why the Edelman Digital Bootcamp at UGA was so important - it was training the next generation of PR people to think differently and to embrace more than just the usual suspects. This is why SMU, Auburn and UGA seem to be a step ahead, and I cannot speak more highly of the students I have worked with there (and help them when I can): they care about PR, they get it is changing, and they try to embrace the new with the old.

And, while they may be a PITA, they should be listened to by senior staff, because they will have some good ideas.

As an aside, I am going to be speaking at BlogPotomac, and hope to hit on some of these details. It is events like these, though, that are good for both learning and meeting people. If you are in DC, please come by.

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