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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20 comments

  1. Krista Neher1:48 PM

    Jeremy

    Very interesting/insightful post.

    As I read through the article I found myself thinking that it sounded more like a community manager vs. typical PR. Thoughts? Where do the two overlap and intersect?

    - Krista

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  2. As someone who spent over 10 years in agency life, I can say that there is a divide between two camps: "older" staffers and junior staffers.

    Older staffers know they need social networking/interactive marketing but their egos get in the way of the fact that they are clueless about it.

    Younger staffers may get it (they grew up with computers, unlike their senior counterparts), however they lack the strategic understanding in how to navigate the corporate political quagmire in order to accomplish what they believe in (i.e. taking "no" for an answer or being completely hung up on money/revenue only).

    As someone who rose through the ranks from entry level to senior management, you have to carve your own path and not take no for an answer....from your clients, the media or your boss. It should be part of the challenge.....respect your environment and surroundings (i.e. relationships whether political or other), but figure out your own way to do things.

    If a junior staffer wants to attend a conference but their boss doesn't see a clear revenue line/bill back to the client, the staffer should set an example and go to the event on their own time. That demonstrates commitment to better yourself and the agency, despite your bosses shortcomings. That is the sort of action that lends itself to building a reputation within your agency, and the industry at large.

    I left agency life in March of 2007 for this very reason. I was tired of old thinking and the politics that accompanied it. I'd rather strike out on my own and build my own reputation, instead of that of an agency who's thinking I may not agree with.

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  3. Josh Morgan2:36 PM

    The intersection with 'community manager' is a very interesting one in that they seemed to be one of the first groups outside PR 'authorized' to speak for a company.

    Now Pete touches on the fact that I've run into a lot. The big agency model is built on senior staffers making decisions/strategy and the junior staffers executing. This doesn't work in social media as many of the interactions require a wider knowledge base than was required for junior staffers when they were checking editorial calendars.

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  4. Bottom line-NO ONE did their homework. Let's see if they can redeem themselves during the event. Lord knows I'll be waiting to hear. 'cause you know, I won't be there.;)

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  5. Just so everyone knows, that is NOT a picture of a UGA student. ;)

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  6. Thanks for the post - working my way through the list now to make sure I'm not making any of those mistakes - seem to be doing ok, but always want to be aware of the pitfalls out there!

    Ben

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  7. Thanks for the shout out, Jeremy. The Edelman Digital Bootcamp went really well, and we hope that we can help teach more young PR professionals to avoid those mistakes you mentioned above and to teach them the appropriate and ethical ways to use social media tools.

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  8. I guess I would be considered old staffer although I am the owner,at close to 50 I have realized the need for social media, I first thought it was a fad, now it's time to wake up and Rock!

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  9. Great post, Jeremy. Along the same lines, I see so many PR efforts today focusing on creating blogs. Great you published a blog. And? It's all along the same line of pushing the community rather being a part of it.

    Looking forward to meeting you, and hearing you speak soon.

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  10. Jeremy,

    Good post -- I think a lot of this ignorance is going to disappear in coming months/years as PR people get that it's not an option to not grasp social media...Also, just as important, PR agencies and the corporations STILL have to remember the basics: understanding their media audience -- to NOT offer daycare to mommy bloggers shows an amazing, abeit forgiveable, disconnect.

    -- Diane Lore

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  11. that would be "albeit" -- can't shake the editor in me...

    -- Diane Lore

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  12. Really good post! Training is everything, it's one of the most valuable assets for a PR worker. You can always learn something different.

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  13. HTTP://MYDARKPLACE666.BLOGSPOT.COM

    BLACKMETAL ETC

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  14. Great post. Now I know to be weary of those who follow the list of PR "no-no's."

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  15. Always the feisty one. There's merit in your post, in that it might encourage folks to ask WHY suitable relationship building isn't taking place. The bulleted diatribe on why groups don't "get it" doesn't get us beyond finger pointing.

    If we want to solve the issue, consider WHY this isn't always happening...

    In many cases, I suspect it's because adequate resources aren't earmarked to do it. Why? Because communicators haven't justified to their bosses or clients who control purse strings WHY "doing our homework" and serious relationship building are prerequisites for engaging communities.

    We need to do a better job articulating the need and advocate devotion of resources to address it. Literally, "campaign development" line items in every social media program budget to do many of the activities you reference in your post.

    If you think about it, it's not far fetched to seek resources for this kind of preparation.

    If your team plans to pitch the top 25 daily NP tech editors, wouldn't your client pay for time to investigate the right targets, review recent clips, develop a very clean, on-target media list?

    Of course! We should expect (and advocate for) nothing less.

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  16. Anonymous12:46 PM

    I feel like I keep hearing the same points of emphasis in terms of public relations and the communications field in general. I am a College of Charleston and I attended two seminars this semester with award winning communicators such a Marilyn Laurie. The first was on communication in the digital age and the importance of networking/interactive marketing. In order to stay competitive you must constantly blog, network, know what is going on, on the internet at all times. Stay up to date because it only takes a minute for you to fall off another take your place in the heirarchy in any field from a a CEO of a major corporation to someone working from their home. When I first starting social networking it wasn't from my career in any it way it was for exactly what it was created for: social networking. Now, although it may seem like a minor detail, to be on Facebook, Myspace, Wikipedia, and YouTube, is essential to your success and public relations professional must realize that. On that note, I think it is equally essential that those your representation through those networks is a sincere representation of the company and if there is something less representable change it. An honest "brand of you" is admirable and will have great benefits in the long run.

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  17. jmchurch12:48 PM

    I feel like I keep hearing the same points of emphasis in terms of public relations and the communications field in general. I am a College of Charleston and I attended two seminars this semester with award winning communicators such a Marilyn Laurie. The first was on communication in the digital age and the importance of networking/interactive marketing. In order to stay competitive you must constantly blog, network, know what is going on, on the internet at all times. Stay up to date because it only takes a minute for you to fall off another take your place in the heirarchy in any field from a a CEO of a major corporation to someone working from their home. When I first starting social networking it wasn't from my career in any it way it was for exactly what it was created for: social networking. Now, although it may seem like a minor detail, to be on Facebook, Myspace, Wikipedia, and YouTube, is essential to your success and public relations professional must realize that. On that note, I think it is equally essential that those your representation through those networks is a sincere representation of the company and if there is something less representable change it. An honest "brand of you" is admirable and will have great benefits in the long run.

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  18. Connie Bensen8:30 PM

    Bravo Jeremy
    As a community manager - you're totally right on.
    I put out a post today about education & the cluetrain (or clueless as you call it :) )

    Keep on talking - hang in there - it does make a difference!

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  19. Great Post. I often feel as though I am expected to be a social media expert because of my generation. However, I am slowly learning how to navigate the social media world this stuff doesn't come naturally to everyone my age. Training in social media is essential.

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  20. Anonymous7:53 PM

    STFU Beringer - what you know about Social Media couldn't fill a fleas codpiece.

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