What does the P in PR stand for?

Dan Gillmor, the blogger / journalist extraordinaire from the SJ Merc, blogged today about a PR pitch that he received about a new tracking tool.

From the posting, here's the PR pitch:

(PR client) is a market intelligence and media analysis services firm. (PR client) is working with F1000 companies who are using our services to Manage and Monitor Digital Influencers (such as blogs, message boards, user groups, complaint sites, etc.) as an intelligence and threat awareness tool. (Person's name), CEO could talk to you about 'What F1000 Companies are doing to take action against bloggers' and 'How companies are taking steps to protect their corporate reputations from bloggers/digital influencers.'
Personally, I wish that he had left the name of the client, so others would know who it was that sent out the pitch.

Once again, though, a pitch like this brings up what Jack O'Dwyer said during my interview with him for the Global PR Blog Week:
Right now, there are very bad forces affecting public relations. We are supposed to be a bridge for the press to get to CEOs, not a barrier, but the industry has fallen into the trap of blocking access for the press. There is this tremendous force that is trying to convert public relations into advertising, especially at the conglomerates, and that will be the downfall of public relations.
Let me reiterate that: we are supposed to be a bridge for the press to get to CEOs, not a barrier.

But, it gets better. PR used to stand for public relations. Not press relations, but public relations. The company that pitched Gillmor doesn't get that. In their pitch, they note that the CEO could talk "about 'What F1000 Companies are doing to take action against bloggers' and 'How companies are taking steps to protect their corporate reputations from bloggers/digital influencers.'"

Small problem here - shouldn't F1000 companies want to learn how to influence influencers, to work with them and find out what their issues are? Shouldn't they want to not take action against bloggers, but work with bloggeres?

Aren't bloggers - despite the media's obsession with pajamas and blogging - part of the greater public? Aren't bloggers just a different type of influencer from years passed, but now with a larger audience?

Instead of trying to control the message, which is what PR has become, how about working with the public to fully disseminate the message? Our industry is PUBLIC relations, and bloggers are another facet of the public that we need to reach out to, and ensure that they are fully apprised of our message.

Here's one example. Back in the day, I would make sure that a client was reaching out to certain enthusiast Websites. Back then, they were just called Websites, but now they would be considered blogs. By being one of the few companies actively courting these sites, the client had a leg up on the competition - they had built relationships, were able to get information and product into these people, and treated them as valuable as print journalists for the market segment.

Let's not be pulling the Heisman move all the time. Let's take back PR, where we help journalists - and now bloggers - get information that they would want or need. Let's take back the industry, and make it public relations once again.

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Other bloggers that have chimed in, and brought great perspectives, include Matthew Podboy, Tom Murphy Shel Holtz, Elizabeth Albrycht, and from the Auburn bloggers, "Les" is More (I don't know her real name!) and Jessica Stephens.

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8 comments

  1. Can we give the man a witness?

    AMEN! Jeremy, Amen!

    So well said. Your observations bounce around in my head every day. It hurts.

    The company pitching that (PR client) did not 'manage' anything. They promoted conflict ("take action against"). You have to wonder if they've ever heard of 'mutually beneficial relationships'. They certainly aren't seeking to develop them.

    Too often, PR efforts are best illustrated by 'stonewalls' - not bridges.

    The company in Gillmor's article is talking about 'circling the wagons'. Instead, they should be opening the fort gates and going out to learn from their target audiences (bloggers).

    If F1000 companies want to protect their corporate reputations, they shouldn't have signed with that company.

    OK, I'm trying to not get wound up. Enjoyed the post very much, Jeremy. Thanks.

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  2. Anonymous8:32 PM

    Jeremy,

    Blogs are giving more people a larger voice in their communities and companies. I've been thinking a lot about corporate blogging and the effects of corporate blogs on internal changes within a company. Particularly Microsoft. I believe that blogs not only allow bloggers to expand and develop ideas (within the cradle of a group of bloggers ideas will rise and fall) but they give greater boost to those ideas once they reach the light of day and critical review. Bloggers who are influencers will have more influence because they blog within a community. And Jeremy you are right companies have to pay attention to their communities. Otherwise they will be right sided with negative comments.

    John Cass
    pr.typepad.com

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  3. Thanks for your post, Jeremy. You are spot on. The pitch that Gillmor described is so bad it makes me wonder if they even knew that he's a blogger? It would be like posting a comment on Gillmor's blog pitching him about how your client is "taking action against journalists." It's that bad. The frustrating thing that it we - the PR community - take one step forward and two steps back when we do things like this. You know what the overarching rule of the blogosphere is? Use your head! If you aren't quite sure how to communicate within the blogosphere, watch for a while and learn. Figure out who knows what they're doing. Stick with the winners and don't take any chances - certainly not on behalf of your client.

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  4. Certainly there are many practitioners who do serve as a bridge. I know far more people in the profession who behave ethically and are intelligent, thoughtful individuals. They strive to understand the environment in which they and their clients exist. They engage in two-way communication.

    Unfortunately, these individuals never stand out. The press never reports about their efforts. Instead, it's the morons like the one in the Gillmor tale who get the media coverage that turns them into representatives for our profession. It's why I get so infuriated when I read or hear the label "public relations" used synonymously with spin and deception.

    Pete Shinbach made an excellent point in his blog. If we're supposed to be so good at branding and influence, why can't we do a better job as a profession of creating a positive perception of what we do? We have two dominant professional associations in PRSA and IABC. Why don't we expect them to do something about this reputation?

    It would be nice if there were no troglodytes like the idiot who pitched Gillmor, but there are idiots and bastards in every profession. Somebody needs to shine a light on the excellent work PR practioners do every day.

    I mean, hell, it's not like we're lawyers...

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  5. Anonymous6:16 AM

    Excellent post. Spot on.

    Unfortunately I think the attitude of the PR practitioner who sent out the pitch to Gilmor is far too common in our industry. Think how easy it is to send out a pitch to a list of 100-200 or 300 journalists using the 'distribute' function on media map? How often do our colleagues in certain (shall remain nameless) agencies even bother to double check and update their lists or ask 'is this journalist (blogger or not) REALLY appropriate for this pitch?'

    Regarding the content of the pitch itself, control is far too often the goal of our clients and it's up to us to push back. I had a client in the consumer technology field

    -david parmet
    dparmet@environics-usa.com

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  6. Anonymous7:29 AM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  7. Anonymous9:07 AM

    The first thing that I thought after reading this pitch is that it violates several PR basics, including:
    * Sent to an inappropriate target (a blogger)
    * Badly written (strangely haphazard capitalization, among other things)

    It seems to me that most of the comments here are criticizing the client's "raison d'etre." The reality is that if the client is positioning itself and marketing its service as a "threat awareness tool," that's what the CEO should be talking about.

    So, the problem isn't one of questionable PR practices; it's the attempt to take a message like this one to journalists at all. I'd advise this client to invest his marketing dollars elsewhere...

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  8. Anonymous4:59 PM

    Nice post. On one hand I think it's great that finally corporations are doing some market intelligence and monitoring networked media including blogs. They obviously admit that bloggers and users commenting in various online forums do have influence.

    On the other hand, I wonder what this phrase implies: "take action against bloggers". If you engage with the constituents - the public - you can get past virtually any negative feedback and probably learn something from the process. Taking "action against" bloggers is a poor response when simple conversation would suffice.

    BTW, I just referenced your post:
    http://evelynrodriguez.typepad.com/crossroads_dispatches/2004/10/story_on_art_or_2.html

    Evelyn Rodriguez
    http://evelynrodriguez.typepad.com

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