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PR Bludgeons Itself :: Again

Kelli Matthews, of the University of Oregon, has a good post in PROpenMic.org entitled PR Taking it in the Teeth (Again).

I’ll share my response, but ask that you visit her post and read the comments by students (sign up required, membership is free). (After visiting that post, also consider going to Kelli’s blog at PRos in Training. It’s a good one.)

This revolves around a recent wiki (prspammers wiki) created by Gina Trapani of Lifehacker, tips and downloads for getting things done. Gina’s Web site is here: Gina Trapani, tech writer and web developer.

The short story? She’s been getting pitches to her personal e-mail address, whereas she has clearly stated links for pitching her and the other editors of Lifehacker (see left hand column). None of them say, “Write to my personal e-mail account.”

So, she has reacted in a public manner. Her choice to do that, of course. Most of us would likely have just filtered the emails and moved on with our lives. But, sometimes we all feel compelled to make a very public point. Right? So, yea! for Gina’s team. I really don’t see anything about her coming off as being malicious in her approach. So, I don’t have a problem with what she’s done.

Update: Kelli has pointed out something I didnt’ see. Gina did post this in Twitter: Twitter / Gina Trapani – “my PR blacklist: http://tinyurl.com/5xj5qh Feel free to add to it.” Well, by publishing it that way, and not providing any safeguard against people maliciously adding to the list with those that are not guilty, she’s just as guilty as those she condemns. Why? Well, she’s just created a vehicle that can harm others. In fact, it is worse. She has not just bothered people with spam, for instance, she’s created a process that may damage one’s reputation unfairly. Talk about Lifehacking. Sheesh!

Here is my comment to Kelli’s post. A bit long for a comment, so I’m adding it here in case you don’t want to go to PROpenMic. But, I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want to. ;o)

Gina’s process of handling it, and how she’s dealing with it online, is much different than Chris Anderson’s. I’d say she has a valid argument and the nature of online business is that you can feel the backlash in a very public manner.

To me, the days of broadcast e-mails is long gone. It has been gone for over a decade, really. Maybe longer?

An example. That’s one thing I don’t really like about our network here. The invite tool is an invitation to print what many people likely perceive as spam. Scraping your address book to invite people isn’t personal in any way. It isn’t targeted, unless you consider a scattershot approach targeted. I don’t. Facebook’s many widgets are even worse. How many Facebook apps have you blocked? I think I block about 1 every other day.

My point? These practices and strategies (if you can use that term) are still being practiced, even built into the software we use, let alone built into PR firm practices and firm culture.

Years ago, and I mean 20 or so years, you could do a blast mail campaign to newspapers and almost be assured of vast pickup, particularly if you were looking to get into the class C & D papers (local dailies & weeklies). You can still do that today (for class C & D papers, only) and bet on pretty good pickup. But, does this really serve a client’s best interests? I don’t think so. It is lazy. It is unprofessional. It is not PR. Does anyone see any bridges being built through these scattershot approaches? Nope. The key phrase here is “mutually beneficial”, as in the PR practitioner needs to be giving Gina something she wants, not what the practitioner wants to have printed or covered. Why is such a no-brainer concept repeatedly lost on so many PR people?

Everyone holds responsibility here, but the onus is really on management. Is there frequent re-education / training? Is there a vetted process to assure who is using what names from what list? Is there oversight? Sadly, I’m betting the reality is that less than half of firms and organizations actually do that. And, I’m betting I’m being generous, too.

The reality may be a combination of two things. First, firms are trying to get the most out of every possible tactic (billables) and the client’s need for a ROI that they can buy into (retaining your client). These combine to engender a culture furthering these bad practices. Also, note that I’ve used the term ‘tactic’ yet, do we really believe there was any true strategy at work here? No. Strategy leads to tactics. There is no shortcut. You don’t have one without the other.

At least Gina exhibited mature and rational judgement in her effort to deal with the problem. Eh, not so fast … see above. Chris Anderson, on the other hand, well … he just came off looking like a very impudent child. Many of those he outed were not even PR people, some were people he asked to write to him and, worst of all, he uses the term PR and public relations to cover a wide variety of practices, like sales. Finally, his effort – by his own words – intended to do harm. Gina, on the other hand, just dealt with it publicly, yet (with a few exceptions) only published the domains of firms. Anderson is malicious, ignorant and myopic in his approach.

Related Posts:

POP! PR Jots: PR Pitching and Blacklists – by Jeremy Pepper

“Unsubscribe Lifehacker: My Email to Gina Trapani” « socialTNT

A Young Pro’s Take: Media Relations and the New PR Blacklists « PR Interactive

Tech PR Gems: Block & Tackle PR: Tackling the Blocking Bloggers

PR 2.0: Making Mistakes and Amends in Blogger and Media Relations

PR Squared: Open Letter to Gina Trapani of Lifehacker

A Whole Lotta Nothing – Stop asking, start filtering



14 comments

  1. Old damn story. Old damn story because firms are still not doing ANYTHING to train people, and while I know and am friends of both Brian and Todd … re-read the list and notice that both their firms are on the list.

    Maybe less time on the “social media news release” and more time on training is needed.

    By my count, though, this is the third PR blacklist story in the past year. And, well, I might write about it … but in my own personal way.

    (Cross posted on PR Open Mic).

  2. Yeah, it is old, Jeremy. And, getting older.

    Again, I cannot understand why PR people have not clued in and realized that they must interact with people. Read their blogs if it is online, read their stories if it is in print. Do the homework and legwork. First, comment and develop a relationship. Then, and only then, send information *only* if it is truly pertinent.

    Even better, do them a favor. Throw them a lead to a story you’re not even involved with and help them out. Become a resource. Then, when you do have that very pertinent info, it will work for you.

    But, of course, this requires time, doesn’t it.

    This lazy and detrimental practice could quite well do us all more harm.

    Now to trot out all the trite phrases like one bad apple … yadda, yadda, yadda …

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  5. Reprint of comment posted at http://www.socialtnt.com to Chris Lynn:
    Chris,
    I agree. Gina’s blanket vomit of so many PR names was like the mean teacher in middle school who screams ‘detention’ instead of teaching kids how to behave. Very old school and shows she and the author of the wiki are best at knee-jerk anger, instead of cooperative involvement. I understand being pissed, I understand venting, but a wholesale list of the local pr industry is bitchy and destructive. I’d have preferred a blog with ALL CAPS…

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