Is it OK to blog a reporter's response to a pitch?

Or, how to burn bridges with reporters, analysts and/or bloggers. ;)

Today, Stephen Baker of BusinessWeek wrote that he stepped out of the office, and returned to 25 email pitches, and likely a few phone calls ...

And, then wondered if it would be okay to blog a company's story pitch. As Baker queried:

Now that we're opening up the process and making things more transparent, is it OK to blog our interactions with PR? This would give more perspective on how companies are pitching their line and positioning themselves. My feeling is that blogging pitches is OK, but journalists should make it clear that the conversation is on the record. Otherwise it can look and feel like an ambush.
Well, first on the blogging pitches - I have no problem with it, because my pitches tend to be short and to the point, which is how all pitches should be (in my opinion). Now, blogging pitches is one thing. Would I feel comfortable with a full conversation thread being blogged? Not really, as with email threads the PR person and the journalist go into specifics, and possibly share information that is not for public consumption ... yet. Yes, I have IM conversations with reporters, and go into "background" for stories - and would I want that blogged about? Of course not, but I also believe that most reporters would not want to burn a PR person, or a source, by blogging conversations willy-nilly.

But, will Baker assume that someone has read his blog ... or this post ... and accept that any pitch is on the record? Any call? Or will he state it each and every time he has an interaction? Having worked with Baker, I think he'll disclose each time.

Mike Manuel did bring up a good point in the comments, that David Berlind did have a media transparency blog, where he was blogging full email threads - but, at least according to one person I know who he did blog, he was asking permission first.

This makes me wonder if I do need to add that "not for blogging" footer to all emails.

Baker did continue with an interesting point:
The flipside: How about PR people blogging their interactions with journalists? They certainly have a right to. It's up to them to decide whether doing so is in the best interest of their clients.
This did make me smile, and chuckle. Not a full LMAO or ROFL, but a smile.

Why? Well, because you will never see a PR person blogging who and what they pitched. First, the clients will then see which reporters/bloggers did not "buy in" to the pitch, and well, for some PR people, that pitch ratio would be pretty low and lead to a new agency.

Plus, as I noted above, I am friends with reporters and analysts. Some of them I like, some of them I love, and some I just tolerate and have a voodoo doll that was a gift from Shandwick. Am I willing to risk these relationships by blogging our interaction? While some think I am crazy, I'm not insane. That would be a fast way to work your way out of PR.

Let's not forget that the relationship between PR and journalism is already too incestous in the eyes of the public. For years, I've heard the "80 percent of news stories come from PR pitches" line - I never can confirm this stat - but, think how the public would react if they realized that a lot of what they read/hear/see are from pitches. Truly good PR is behind the scenes, where the public does not know we are operating.

This relationship is a reality, and a necessity. Journalists rely on PR people for research or background on subjects. And, that's part of our job: making it easier for the journalists and getting them information, and research. I have gone beyond normal PR duties for reporters, getting them information on my clients and others, to make the story better. And, that's part of PR.

As for being pitched? Well, any blogger that has a modicum of a following will get pitches. I get good pitches, I get bad pitches, and as a PR person I will reply in a nice manner to say - hey, thanks or hey, read my blog, I don't cover that. Most of the time, the PR person thanks me and makes a note that I want mainly PR related stories. Rubel notes that he wants people to pitch via Del.icio.us - me, I'm not that picky. Just email me - we're all in this together, trying to help make the industry better.

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10 comments

  1. Jeremy,

    Great article. I think this is a very interesting topic that has a profound effect on our business (as well as that of journalists and bloggers).

    Nicholas Scibetta, a agency associate of mine, and I wrote a piece last week for our corporate intranet on a very similar topic. We called it "When the Pitch Becomes the Story."

    This afternoon, I put a copy of it up on my personal blog at www.gumprants.com.

    - Adam Brown

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  2. Oh crap! Maybe I'M "working my way out of PR." I better watch it!

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  3. Just read the article, Adam. I gotta pull it off, and write about it on my other blog - it'd be a good post for small business and PR.

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  4. Well, Scott, that's the luxury of being our own bosses - we aren't under the yoke of corporate masters.

    I think as an individual blogger, we answer to ourselves, and have a little bit more freedom.

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  5. Interesting topic. In my mind, I can see people getting a little upset if they weren't expecting to see their response put in a post on a blog. Personally, i don't think I would do this, or perhaps just leave it anonymous as to who said it. But like you said, I guess it come down to the individual and his/her personal ethics.

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  6. Jeremy: Exactly. That extra freedom is so important. When I was a journalist, my creative freedom was what I valued most about my job -- so I'm counting on reporters to respect that I'm being honest. And not only just honest, but truly unfiltered.

    I have reporter friends and, at least among them, the feedback has been pretty positive. As someone who has been a senior level corporate exec, I know I'm taking some risks in my critiques of both corporations and journalists ...but to me the risks are worth the rewards. We'll see...

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  7. I would love for some journalist to post my pitch on their blog! As long as my news wasn't embargoed, I'd welcome the additional exposure for my client.

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  8. ...I mean his/her blog :)

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  9. While that might be true Dawn, it's more likely that the blogger journalist would redact the client's name, so you wouldn't get that buzz.

    And, if the post was in a mocking tone, it would hurt both you and your client.

    It's a hard thing to judge, truthfully.

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  10. Seems like the story behind the story is becoming more and more interesting to the mainstream public. I think this is evidenced by the appearance of PR people as characters in numerous mainstream TV shows, like what's her name in Entourage and Samantha in Sex in the City. At least we're in better company than we were in the days of Sindey Falco, but not much.

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