Ethics and PR Blogging

A two-part post: first, thanking everyone that voted for me (self promotion) for the AdLand Battle of the Ad Blogs, and, second, well, the perception that PR isn't ethical.

Yes, I won in the PR category, and for everyone that voted for me thank you very much. I am pretty sure that includes my kids at Auburn, and big thanks to Scott Baradell and Mike Drierhost for their endorsements.

The contest was close, all the PR blogs are great ... but an interesting comment came out during the tallying of the votes by Dabitch.

PR people are pretty honest folk too. Who would have thunk it? ;) (I'm kidding amigos!)

Aptly named POP! PR wins the popular vote, with BL Ochman Whats Next not too far behind. Applause!
Now, I didn't blog about the contest, just added the graphic and then added a line in my signature. I asked some people, did a few emails - never went on the attack against others, because in the end I was doing it for the T-shirt ... and some glory. But, all in all it was pretty ethical, despite people's perceptions of PR ... and not just Dabitch.

Why? PR isn't like it's Guerilla marketing, and in my career I have always tried to be above the board. I am honest with reporters and if I don't know the answer, I say so and try to get the answer.

It's the same approach I take to blogging: I don't think every company in the world needs a blog, and I believe that those counseling such are doing a disservice to companies, to themselves, and to PR. Heck, it might even be unethical because it comes down to firms trying to cash in and not thinking the counsel through. I believe that there are better things that can be done for companies, and sometimes it is better to bypass online blogs and do traditional PR, depending on the company and the product. There is no shame in mainstream media, as, well, it tends to hit the mainstream audiences.

Tom Biro brings up a similar thread in his blog (yes, I'm in the post). Where is PR going with blogs, and are firms just going to goose-step

Now, while I am not sure Biro is supposed to be pissing in the IPG pool, let's forgive him for that one, as he is just pointing to a few good examples that his sister company has the misfortune of being. Which, well, really comes down to "where is the training, where is the supervision?!?" Heck, where is the oversight?

This is an issue across all of PR, and the question of ethics has to be brought up - are we being ethical in letting things go willy-nilly out there? Doesn't all of PR have an obligation - from the smallest of firms to the largest of multinational conglomerates - to give the best counsel, support and PR for its clients? If a PR firm does not get blogs, but is pitching them without even a cursory look, what good is that for the client? It's about transparency, in a way - we need to be honest in capabilities, and teach the staff how to work in such areas like blogs, or even media, especially since media is changing more rapidly than ever before (yes, trite/cliche). This all has to be done top-down, though, from the highest levels to the lowest peons. Only then will firms change.

But, hey, I just wanted to thank you all. :)

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16 comments

  1. You're so right about not every company needing a blog. I'd go further and say that blogs are a communication tool and many more companies will have a use for that tool than will ever need a 'traditional' blog. You can be very imaginative about how you use it, the key being solving a problem or achieving an objective, not just because you can!

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  2. Jeremy: First, congrats on receiving the...the...the...oh whatever award you get (other than a T-shirt) for having the best PR blog.

    People just like to be first, whether it is in a contest or on the bleeding edge of a trend. As part of that, many in PR want to a client to blog and then go out looking for a project or a client to propose a blog to. They have a great solution; now they just need to find a problem that it can solve.

    The same goes for pitching blogs or other media that one is not familiar with.

    PR can be and is a lot of fun. It's a real high to see a successful pitch or project come through. However, we all have to make sure that we are serving the clients' or our employer's needs first; then the high will come.
    -- Mike

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  3. Jeremy,

    Thanks for the shout. Understood about reservations on the IPG "pool," but the point here wasn't as much about taking shots at a fellow company within the family, but about the examples that were most prominent in the marketplace right now. Had I been able to call out others that would have been better primary ones to call out, I most certainly would have, but went with the best thing I knew at the time, and had some personal experience with.

    "Doesn't all of PR have an obligation - from the smallest of firms to the largest of multinational conglomerates - to give the best counsel, support and PR for its clients?" - Great point, and I need not elaborate further. This is what it's all about.

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  4. First and foremost, congratulations!! I know that my fellow colleagues and I at Auburn were really pulling for you. I found (in the beginning) your comment about how you feel that not all companies should have a blog surprising. At first I would disagree with you, but the more I learn about blogging and what it takes I now have to agree. It is like we learned in class; if you do not have the means to keep a website updated, then don't have one. The same thing applies to blogging. If a company cannot keep their continued attention on their blog then they might make their consumers more upset than if they did not have one to begin with. I believe that blogging can be beneficial to the communication of an organization, but without constant care and attention then it can ultimately backfire. I have to admit that I will offer the idea of blogging to my future employer and explain what it could mean for our company. I would strive to make blogging work for my organization because it would definitely take the dedication to do so. I hope that you will have continued success in your blogging ventures and wish to keep you on my list of people that I would love to get advice from in the future. Best of wishes!

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  5. Congratulations Jeremy.

    Does "I didn't blog about the contest" include the your plea in the Blog Run blog last Friday for people to vote for you?

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  6. Technically, Niall, it's true - I didn't blog about it here. And, plea is a little heavy-handed; it was more a tongue-in-cheek request.

    But, wow, the first time you ever deigned to comment on my blog. I'm honoured for this moment.

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  7. Stuart, you are so right, and that's what PR needs to hear: blogs are tools to communicate, not an end-all, be-all. Unfortunately, some of the bigger fools in that camp seem to be getting more power and are going to hurt blogs and PR more than help push either forward.

    Michael, thanks. I love T-shirts. I have way too many, and wear them all. :) And, funny, but yes the clients should come first when pitching, not the blogger.

    Tom, you and I know each other, but how could I pass up a good opportunity to say "piss in a pool" on my blog?! It's all about good counsel, and as we discussed this past week, man, we need more of it out there....

    And, Auburn Christina, thank you and your classmates for going to vote for me (or, at least that's what I was told). Working with you bloggers has kept me real, knowing that while I blog, it is for others like you guys to learn and share ideas with, and that all PR people have an obligation to the next gen of PR professionals. And, yes, if I can present a good argument and sway someone (like I did with you), then I am helping the conversation keep going. And, feel free to email me (Robert has the address).

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  8. Always nice to feel valued. ;-)

    Seriously though, I just thought that on a post about ethics you could have been a little more transparent about using the Blog Run to ask for votes.

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  9. Wow - two comments in one day. Niall, on other person's blogs, you seem to let them get by with way too many free passes. What do I owe this pleasure to?

    Yes, I posted that. No, I didn't mention it here. Oversight? Yes. Should I have? Probably. But, blatantly done, like another PR blogger you seem to slavishly heap praise on? No.

    I try to at least be honest with my readers. Others can't say the same with their "if they read the article, they'll see me there" or "look at my about page" for their claims of transparency.

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  10. Great stuff. Keep up the good work Jeremy. Also check out my blog at www.ReputationDoctor.com

    Mike Paul

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  11. If I didn't know who you were, Mike, I'd say that borders on comment SPAM...

    I'll have to check your blog out.

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  12. Hey congratulations I voted for you! With regard to part two of your post, to some degree I believe your opinion is correct about "not every company needs a blog". For instance in raw materials industry I really can't see necessity to blog. But, from a marketing and branding perspective it could be beneficial. As Katherine Heires points out in her article "Does Your Company Belong in the Blogosphere?' for HBS Working Knowledge, "a blog is an incredibly effective yet low-cost way to: Influence the public "conversation" about your company, Enhance brand visibility and credibility, and Achieve customer intimacy." All very valued reasons to have a company blog. I do love the Stoneyfield blog, the cute little cows get me all the time.

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  13. Once again, Congrats! First of all, ethics in PR is really needed. I know I am not really out in the industry right now, but I see PR everywhere, and honestly the best public relations is relating to the public in an honest and effective way. We learn in PR classes about ethics and how we are the liaisons between what publics need and want and the management of companies. But all we see is Samantha Jones on Sex and the City and PoweR girls on MTV and people do honestly think all PR is lying and cheating to manipulate the public. It would be nice if we could change everyone's opinion by showing them that most PR professionals are ethical and are dealing with honest issues.
    Secondly, I know one of the biggest lessons I am learning in school and, well, in life actually, is that just because you hear a solution in one case doesn't make that the black and white decision-making guide for every situation. Just because a company did something wrong, doesn't mean they didn't have another reason for doing it or that they are all stupid, and while blogging is a wonderful tool for many companies, it is NOT for every company and every public. It's refreshing to have these lessons learned reiterated by other PR professionals.

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  14. Congratulations again. Those of us at Auburn were pulling for you, and voting for you. Anyway, I am glad that you have made it clear that blogs are not always needed by all companies. As I have said before, just because a technology exists does not mean that it has to be used by everyone. Each company or client has different needs and those needs may not be best me by instructing them to use a blog. Ethics in public relations means that each decision should be made in the best interest of the client. We should never do something just because we enjoy it or are particularly good at it. More traditional communications channels may work better for certain customers. Research is absolutely necessary to determine what is needed and how to acquire that. Each case should be considered individually. If a public relations practitioner can make a convincing case that blogging can be use to benefit a particular company, then use that method. Another situation may prove that traditional channels would be better than a blog. I am currently taking a class that forces us to study several different PR cases and judge how it was handled. Few of them are done the same way. If every case was handled the same way, few would be successful. Thanks for your input on the matter. It is always nice to know what a professional such as yourself views these issues.

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  15. Hi Jemery! I just wanted to say that I'll keep reading your excelent articles about the PR profession. I'm a student of PR in University of Sao Paulo in Brazil and I wanted to know more about this profession and the career of PR.
    Keep going with your work and your blog. Success for you! ;)
    Bye, Susana Soo.

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  16. Hi Susana,

    Email me - there's a contact list on the left hand side of the blog.

    Thanks!

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