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Robert Scoble as J.J. Hunsecker? Wine Me & Dine Me

Robert Scoble doesn’t like PR or journalism.

Robert Scoble: A Citizen Journalist Contradiction

Wine Me & Dine Me (or, I’ll whine about bad PR)

Alice Marshall has a post about Robert Scoble’s recent audio blip heard round the block.

“Last Thursday’s edition of For Immediate Release contained a very troubling rant by Robert Scoble about the clueless PR pitches he has received. Scoble prefers to be pitched over dinner…” (Source) Listen for yourself. (The complete podcast is on ForImmediateRelease.biz.)

I think Alice is on to something here.

Update: George Snell notes, in comments on Alice’s blog, “Scoble should not be preaching to PR people about best practices considering that he just received thousands of dollars from Cisco to cover their news – giving Cisco full editorial control over his content. (Source) More info here.”

Robert, we PR people actually do have codes for best practice. I know you’ll be suprised to learn that most people actually pay attention to them. Remember now, Robert, your tech PR experiences aren’t necessarily representative of all PR practice.

Preserve the free flow of unprejudiced information when giving or receiving gifts by ensuring that gifts are nominal, legal, and infrequent.

Examples of Improper Conduct Under this Provision:

A member representing a ski manufacturer gives a pair of expensive racing skis to a sports magazine columnist, to influence the columnist to write favorable articles about the product.

A member entertains a government official beyond legal limits and/or in violation of government reporting requirements. (Source)

To recap, Robert Scoble wants PR to return to the wining & dining days that brought such an unsavory reputation to the practice, years ago. Well, not exactly. But, if you want Robert Scoble’s attention … oh yeah, baby!

Oh, Scoble tried to wiggle out in a comment, but Alice was having none of that. Hey, they were your words, Robert.

Is Robert Scoble becoming J.J. Hunsecker? May I paraphrase the the tagline, please…

They know him – and they shiver – the big names of technology, venture capital and (shudder) … blogs. They know Scobleizer – the world-famed columnist whose tech gossip is gospel to seventy-four thousand Twits, thirteen thousand FriendFeeders and who knows how many Facebookers! They know the venom that Flickrs in those eyes behind the glasses – and they fawn – like (insert a sheep’s name here), the kid who wanted “in” so much, he’d make a nice dinner to stand up there with Scobleizer, sucking in the sweet smell of success! This is Scobleizer’s story – but not the way he would have liked it told!

Strange thing is, Robert Scoble told the story himself. Hey, he made the audio recording and shared it.

Surely, every practitioner should know his/her audience. Scoble’s right about that. Build a relationship.

Christopher Locke, of Cluetrain Manifesto fame wrote a similar refrain (absent the “serve me dinner” option):

So instead of pitching the product, I started talking to journalists about stuff like that. I figured I’d just pretend to be working until I got fired for goofing off. But something amazing happened. As soon as I stopped strategizing how to “get ink” for the company that was paying my salary, as soon as I stopped seeing journalists as a source of free advertising for my employer, I started having genuine conversations with genuinely interesting people.

I’d call up editors and reporters without a thought in my head — no agenda, no objective — and we’d talk. We talked about manufacturing and how it evolved, about shop rats and managers, command and control. We talked about language and literature, about literacy. We talked about software too of course — what it could and couldn’t do. We talked about the foibles of the industry itself, laughed about empty buzzwords and pompous posturing, swapped war stories about trade shows and writing on deadline. We talked about our own work. But these conversations weren’t work. They were interesting and engaging. They were exciting. They were fun. I couldn’t wait to get back to work on Monday morning.

I imagine Scoble likes that point of view.

If you know that the only way to reach Robert Scoble is to invite him to dinner and court his friendship, then you have a chance to gain his attention. OK, but this dredges up some rather ugly images of media placement from years ago.

Let’s face it, Robert Scoble has expressed his disdain for PR many times. What’s so funny to me is that his area of interest, the technology scene – primarily in California, is such a small bubble in the broader world of PR practice. Don’t expect Scoble to acknowledge that, however. He’s perfectly happy to say “how PR is being practiced” rather than accepting that it is the smaller tech PR sector that is letting him down.

Yes, Scoble was an early adopter. Yes, he has had some great ideas and done some remarkable things. But, it is beginning to seem like he was really just getting a head start on building his fame. I can’t help but wonder if he’s becoming to technology what J.J. Hunsecker was to gossip. Wait, is what Scoble does simply tech product gossip? Oh, my god! Well, if he can get all chummy with you and get invited to your parties, maybe so.

Scoble has also expressed disdain for his own journalism degree. Not surprising, since those journalism classes likely emphasized not taking dinners for your attention (especially for coverage). Back in 2005, Scoble left a comment for one of my students, “I have a journalism degree. It isn’t worth that much, believe me. If you want to get paid there are a lot better things to do with your time in school.”

Robert Scoble, I think you’re on some rather shaky ground here.

I know I’ll be pounded by your loyal followers. I don’t mean it to sound bad, but this idea you have of schmoozing for your attention … well, it’s a bad practice. I hope you wake up before the credits roll.

All I would like to see is for Robert Scoble to, with regard to his PR rants, just once, stop staring at his own tree and look at the forest. Your walled garden has a gate, Robert. Walk out of it and see the entire PR world, please.



5 comments

  1. OK, don’t take my advice to PR people because I’m clearly asking to be “wined and dined.” Let’s ask a real tech journalist, Dan Gillmor. He is one of the guys who helped get the DOJ focused on Microsoft. Look at what he says about email: http://steverubel.typepad.com/micropersuasion/2004/07/dan_gillmor_to_.html

    Every time I get together with “real” journalists they complain about the pitches they get via email. They all suck. Anyone who defends them is defending the indefensible. If you want to do your clients some good figure out something else to do. I don’t really care about the food, I can pay for my own. But the way PR people go about their business really does suck.

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  3. Robert, once again … you fail to address the issue.

    I’ll address your dodge for a moment and refer to Gillmor’s suggested method of pitching. The issue is the “Non-Targeted PR Emails” and not the email itself. A well directed email is a viable practice and if you check the rolls of any major media directory you’ll see that the majority of reporters prefer it. So, once again … please try to be specific. Your broad brush tactics really do make you seem beyond ignorant of PR now, and spilling over into the downright petty.

    You’re anecdotal “They all suck” doesn’t carry weight, Robert.

    Now, the real issues I raised, you don’t address the contradiction of pay/meal for attention (and even play, regarding Cisco) and your trustworthiness as a citizen journalist, blogger, or whatever you call yourself these days.

    You also, again with the Gillmor reference (“real tech journalist”), fail to recognize that PR practice and pitching takes place in a wider arena.

    Robert, seriously, don’t you take offense when anyone broadly paints online practices like your’s as folly? useless?

    Do you have a fair bone in your body, Robert? I’m sorry, but I’m beginning to believe you do not.

    Again …. All I would like to see is for Robert Scoble to, with regard to his PR rants, just once — stop staring at his own tree and look at the forest. Your walled garden has a gate, Robert. Walk out of it and see the entire PR world, please. You expect everyone to visit your’s, why won’t you provide the same courtesy?

    For the record, I teach the targeted approach to students. I preach about learning how each individual should be addressed — and doing so as they desire, not the scatter gun email blasts. What their PR managers do with them after they leave here, I can’t control. So, keep your broad brush generalizations about me to yourself.

    Look, there’s a shark! You just jumped it.

  4. Stay tuned for Thursday’s FIR. One of our listeners, having heard Robert’s rant, forwarded an email pitch that rocked. But wait…how can any email pitch be effective in the eyes of a recipient if they ALL suck?

    Oh, of course…they DON’T all suck. Email is a communication channel that can be used well. To suggest that no use of the channel can possibly produce a positive outcome is absurd.

    On the other hand, it’s worth noting that if you’re trying to pitch Robert Scoble, email probably won’t be the best approach. Heck, I still know reporters who want to get faxed. Any good PR person knows the preferences of the journalist he’s pitching and accommodates those preferences. Robert hates email, so don’t send him any.

    On the other hand, email worked perfectly well for two campaigns I managed, producing only positive results, so clearly the targets of my messages did not believe all email sucks.

    Alas, I suppose it depends.

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