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Gini Dietrich

PR People Suck

By: Gini Dietrich | December 8, 2010 | 
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Alright. That’s a gross generalization. After all, I’m a PR professional. And I’m pretty darn good at my job. But this blog isn’t named Spin Sucks because we don’t like DJs. It’s named Spin Sucks because there are far too many PR people who do, indeed, suck.

It’s a joke in our office. I always say, “I love it when other PR people make us look so good.” And it happens more often than one would think (like daily).

Which leads me to a downright offensive blog post written last week by an “actual employee at an actual PR company; one you’ve heard of if you’ve heard of any.” And she goes by the anonymous pseudonym of “Sarah.”

You see, I was stalking Danny Brown (as I’ve been known to do a time or two) and I found “When PR Has Its Head Up Its Ass.” I went on to read that Danny had been reading Mom Blog Magazine (still trying to figure out what he was doing there) and found a post titled, “Why PR People Get Paid and You Don’t.”

The post was directed to bloggers. Allow me to take some excerpts from the post for your entertainment…and perhaps to get your blood boiling, as it did mine.

“You’re writing a blog post. Let’s stop pretending your blog is a world-changing event and recognize it for what it is–something transient that may be gone tomorrow if you flake out or change your mind or your Uncle Vinny finds your blog and you realize you don’t really want him to know where you live because you still owe him money.”

“There’s no contract. You don’t promise to say nice things about the company. The PR person does. They have to sell a product no matter what that product is, and they sell it with a smile even if it kicks puppies and makes babies cry. You don’t have this obligation. You have the freedom that comes with NOT having a paycheck to answer to.”

“You are not expected to show up at 8 a.m. dressed business casual and go to countless meetings.  You get to do and say whatever you want as long as you plop a disclaimer at the end.”

“You don’t get to decide to be a professional blogger but then decide you want the lifestyle, paycheck, and perks of having an out-of-the-house PR job.”

“No one I have ever talked to in the PR industry judges a blogger for choosing to be a stay-at-home mom who makes money or gets stuff for the kids and family by blogging or decides to be a blogger because they were laid off and wanted to create a portfolio. But the minute you flash a me-too mentality by saying, “You get paid, I should too.” THEN we judge you.”

I’m sorry. THEN we judge you?! Since when is it OK to judge anyone for anything? Ever heard the saying, “Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”??

But that’s neither here nor there. This was a week ago and my blood pressure still rises when I read this crap. And it’s crap. We’ve talked here before about how bad it is to treat bloggers like second-class citizens because, I’m sorry you guys, but bloggers are today’s media. No matter how you feel about them. You can’t do your job without them…and that means treating them with the same respect you treat traditional reporters.

So I asked two of the nicest people I know, Joe Thornley and Martin Waxman, to calm me down in today’s episode of Inside PR. I’m not sure they did a great job of that, mostly because they were having more fun feeding the fire. You can listen to our debate here, but please come back and tell me what YOU think about Sarah and her anonymous blog post. Perhaps you can calm me down. Or not.

Image courtesy of Danny Carlino

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

64 comments
RandomShelly
RandomShelly

LOL!! all I have to say on this is a picture is worth a thousand words and you picked a GREAT picture.

eggmarketing
eggmarketing

You took a lot out of context on that post. Sure it was harsh, but it does provide bloggers tips on how to get paid. And face it: how many of them ask you for payment on a project? I'm guessing not many. Most don't have the business savvy to know how to do it or the confidence to ask. Her point about "everyone starts in the mailroom" is true. I'm in PR and work with bloggers but I'm not going to pay someone with 10 visits a month when I would pay someone with 10,000. It was harsh, but true.

eggmarketing
eggmarketing

You took a lot out of context on that post. Sure it was harsh, but it does provide bloggers tips on how to get paid. And face it: how many of them ask you for payment on a project? I'm guessing not many. Most don't have the business savvy to know how to do it or the confidence to ask. Her point about "everyone starts in the mailroom" is true. I'm in PR and work with bloggers but I'm not going to pay someone with 10 visits a month when I would pay someone with 10,000. It was harsh, but true.

FranchiseKing
FranchiseKing

Hi Gini,

My hair is getting grayer just waiting for the day when I get a Personalized pitch from a PR professional that includes the following;

"And Joel, we'd love to find a way to compensate you for helping us spread the word with your post and/or interview of our client. We're open to your dollar amount suggestions."

At least I'm not going bald. Yet.

The Franchise King®

JefferyBialek
JefferyBialek

For a conversation starter, it was obviously a good one... The issue lies in the authoratative nature of the post...as if Sarah, from the PR world, has the right or the insight to make pronouncements, let alone judgements(!) on behalf of the PR world...

The danger in these posts, if the ensuing conversation is not studied and consumed, is that some folks will take Sarah's thoughts as gospel and run with them without exploring alternative thoughts or ideas...obviously this can be said for any blog, for any post...which all ties back to traditional media and the importance of not believing everything you read. But when the blog begins with the assertion, "...who works at an actual PR firm and has smart advice and keen observations to share" that guidance may slip by the wayside in a rush to learn "keen observations."

Gini...love to see you riled up and the great image you chose for your post.

Owhit
Owhit

This is the kind of post that I'm going to hear about at the dinner table with family over the holidays. "Whitney, why do you want to work in a field where people are so negative and self-righteous?" I don't want to use the word "hate" but honestly, this is my biggest pet peve with people who don't take the time to really consider what PR is about. (Especially those people who are PR practitoners!)

I don't know if your blood pressure has calmed yet Gini, but I know mine has now sky rocketed.

Thanks for this post :) I love when a post can counter an unfounded negative opinion.

Whitney

Daleus
Daleus

As neither a PR person, or a blogger, this was the line that sent rats up my colon:

"You don’t promise to say nice things about the company. The PR person does. They have to sell a product no matter what that product is, and they sell it with a smile even if it kicks puppies and makes babies cry."

If that's what makes anyone good at anything, then burn baby burn. What kind of person will do something that's morally reprehensible, just for a buck.

To me, that's the kind of attitude that makes a lot of PR people AND bloggers, suck.

Daleus

rwohlner
rwohlner

Gini at the risk of getting blood pressure back up I found nothing wrong with the post, it made total sense to this neophyte blogger.

beckyjohns
beckyjohns

I read that post too, and as both a PR professional AND blogger, I was a little conflicted with how I felt about it. While I understand she was trying to use a sarcastic tone, she didn't do a very good job of treating bloggers with respect while she tried to make her points.

Maintaining a blog is a labor of love. Most of the time, it's not going to pay the bills. If a blogger does get to a point of having their blog support them financially, then they should realize they've struck a gold mine and not confuse that for anything else. Yes, it takes work. Yes, it take strategy. Yes, it takes commitment. Yes, it takes a little luck. But the truth is, most blogs aren't full time jobs in terms of paychecks...but can feel like full time jobs in terms of effort.

Let me be clear, her post was written in bad taste. BUT, she does make some valid points. There are some bloggers (a lot, actually) that do feel entitled to free product, money, gift cards, etc. There are many bloggers that don't understand that the dynamic of their relationship changes with the brand/product once they've accepted some form of payment for their coverage. There are many bloggers that don't understand that when they become paid media they're an advertisement. There are many bloggers that don't understand that if they demand compensation on a post-by-post basis, they can't also maintain autonomy the way they once could. There are many bloggers that don't understand what the real role of a PR professional is and what their relationship is with a company or client.

On the other side of the coin, there are many PR pros that don't take bloggers seriously (yet, bust their asses to pitch them). There are many PR pros that don't really like the client they're working for or the company they're paid to represent and bring a bias to the table before a pitch even happens. There are PR pros that just aren't good at media relations, period, and it doesn't matter what type of media. There are PR pros that get bitter when they feel the media has the upper hand. There are PR pros with crappy people skills. But there are also PR pros that are great and understand the role bloggers play in their success for the client or company they represent. And they know how to be helpful, know how to communicate effectively, don't make crappy pitches and yet still are treated like absolute dirt from bloggers. Part of a PR pro's job is to be a caretaker of a brand, and in a case when a blogger demands payment or some other compensation that would ultimately reflect poorly upon the brand via it tainting the resulting coverage, it is their job to be a strategic enough thinker to recognize that and adjust accordingly.

This is long winded, and I probably should have just written a blog post myself, but, in short, though this was written VERY distastefully, it doesn't mean she's totally wrong in what she was trying to say. She just was an idiot about how she wrote it.

griner
griner

I was following the "Sarah" fiasco as it was exploding (even got to see her sauciest and most immature replies before they were deleted).

I find myself wanting people to just ignore such obvious attention-baiting, but after reading your post (and several more from the mom blogger's perspetive), I think it was good in this case to give the blogger what she wanted....an offended and incensed audience. And I'm especially glad to see your response. It's always important to show bloggers that there's never something so simple as "our side" and "their side."

Timmermans
Timmermans

It's good to realize that the same 'problems' occur all over the world. Even though one can figure it out, it's good to get the affirmation from collegues. Thanks for the insight
Cheers from The Netherlands.
Marike

CLGraphics
CLGraphics

Hmmm... It seems I've stepped in something. Any one have a stick to scrape this off the bottom of my shoe? Oh, wait, never mind, it's just 'Sarah's' post. ....

Gini, and all the rest, ... You're dead on. It's a ridiculous post, puerile at best. Frankly, it's so ludicrous that it can't be taken seriously in any way - unless perhaps as a bit of failed satire.

And now I'm going to do one of the things I like to do... Enter the Devil's Advocate ...

Gini, your post and all these comments, including mine, as well as your Inside PR broadcast (listing to it as I'm typing this) are all case in point... Didn't 'Sarah' do exactly what we pay PR firms to do? She got a conversation, a very emotionally charged conversation going. And to that, I say, Sarah, well done.

From the inane dribble to hiding behind an anonymity, 'Sarah's' post was the perfect fuel for the fire that is this conversation. It's a piece of work that's perfectly designed to make all PR firms look good, even those that don't need help because they're already heads and tales above the rest. Right, Gini?

***By the way, THANK YOU for commenting on your Inside PR broadcast that Social Media isn't the end-all be all ... "Integration is crucial!" (said with a Ross Perot accent)

wabbitoid
wabbitoid

"May you live in interesting times" is generally taken as a curse. The attitude that you are commenting on clearly comes from someone who has become fascinated nearly into oblivion. :-)

It's also worth noting that some of us who blog write carefully, thoughtfully, and regularly. The pay remains lousy no matter how professional the effort is. We all have something to gripe about.

KristenDaukas
KristenDaukas

So I'm not sure which angle to comment on.. I read this article last week as well and understanding the stance of the site owner (who I know personally) which is "mom bloggers shouldn't blog about products for free", I see where she was going with having "Sarah" give her "PR perspective". That being said, when I read it with my marketing hat on, my reaction was.. Sarah and other PR peeps like her would love nothing more than to have Mom bloggers give their products a thumbs up FOR FREE and then take all the credit themselves. Have the heavy lifting done while they're out having coffee.

On the rare occasion that I make time to review from my personal blog, I'm not writing because I expect or anticipate rewards. I'm doing it because I either really like or hate the product or service. Although, if Maytag would like to offer me a new washer & dryer to test and review, I'm not going to say no :)

Thanks for a great and FIREY write up!
Kristen

apegan
apegan

It seems to me that some of the most self-righteous PR people also tend to be the biggest hacks who pay the least amount of attention to the fact that things have CHANGED. Bloggers are very much a part of the new media. In my PR experience, I've seen bloggers steal the online authority right out from under professional medical associations simply because they blogged, tweeted and started a conversation.

Here's hoping things change soon! Great post!

rachaelseda
rachaelseda

What annoys me more is Mom Blog Magazines intro for the anonymous Sara, "Don’t miss this post from our only anonymous columnist, Sarah, who works at an actual PR firm and has smart advice and keen observations to share." Smart advice?! Maybe they need to double check her credentials or is that anonymous too?

josgovaart
josgovaart

Gini, What if I don't want you to calm down on these kind of issues?

lenkendall
lenkendall

To me this is a pretty simple issue. It's not about good PR people, or bad PR people. It's just about good and bad people period. There are plenty of arrogant and ignorant individuals spanning every industry and although I realize this blog is intended for (I'm still not used to calling it) "our" community, it's really just a lesson in knowing the line that spans between provocative and detrimental to both self and industry.

abarcelos
abarcelos

Sarah's anonymous post was one of the most self-righteous posts I've ever read. Sarah (burns me, because that's my daughter's name; why couldn't she have picked another name?! I digress...). Quite simply, she should be fired, and she probably would've been, which is obviously why she wrote anonymously. Most importantly, the feeling I got from the whole post - the arrogance, rudeness, condescension - is a typical representation of the traditional PR agencies, even today. We run into them every week (for those who work with them). There are professional ways of dealing with situations, and "Sarah" must be junior because the girl doesn't know how to deal. I wish the agency was uncovered because it would open up a can of whoop-ass on the networks, and that's exactly what any agency who hires someone like that deserves.

JulieWalraven
JulieWalraven

Hi Gini, I commented on Danny's post and then went and read the orginal post. Since there have been many edits and apparently comments deleted on the original post, it was hard to get a clear defition of who Sarah was, and why she chose an anonymous facade to write her thoughts. I do agree with Jon below and know from my own hometown that there are many marketing firms and PR firms that are challenged by the visibility of so many bloggers who can convey a message faster than ever before. However, this new media or whatever we call it, still needs a mentoring and coaching direction for corporations to make the right decisions. Using today's strategies doesn't work for most companies straight out of the box. If Sarah is fearful of her place in the market, she needs to change strategies. Judging or attacking are never effective in building consumer trust or market share.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@eggmarketing You're absolutely right that it gave tips at the end on how to position yourself with a PR pro. But I couldn't get past the condescending and self-righteousness of the tone. I don't think I took it out of context at all. The copy and paste I did were straight paragraphs. I didn't paraphrase. I do agree that you wouldn't pay a blogger to review something if they only had 10 visitors. But you would if they had 200 and those 200 were the exact, right people for you to reach. It's all about personalization and reach. Not about A-listers.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@FranchiseKing But are you gray?! :) As a PR pro, we would never offer money, but you get we'd give you free trips or product or access to services in order to review them. And I HOPE we personalize every pitch that comes out of Arment Dietrich. Everyone here knows that's a firing offense.

Owhit
Owhit

@ginidietrich @Owhit Oh it's still up there when this topic comes up at least. Especially after taking time to read some of the comments on the blog post in question. Holy cow, my pinks my just be getting cheeked too...(great saying, sounds like a great one liner from a little one. :) )

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Owhit How's your blood pressure now?! I can still feel my pinks getting cheeked (as we say in my house - long story).

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@rwohlner You didn't think the "we get up and go to meetings in our business casual at 8 a.m. and you don't" attitude wasn't condescending??

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@beckyjohns I think you should copy and paste this comment into a blog post! I agree with you and @griner that there both sides of the coin. But the perspective that I'm coming from is I didn't take the time to read the comments - I solely reacted to the condescending manner in which the blog post was written. Did she have a few good points? Yes. Was the end of it helpful? Probably. But I couldn't get past the us vs. you mentality.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@griner Your reaction is exactly why I let it sit for a week before I blogged about it. But every time I thought about it, my blood boiled just a little bit more. So, even if everyone had disagreed with me, I had to get it out of my system. Really awesome to see you here, BTW!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Timmermans Hello the the Netherlands! I guess @lenkendall is right - there are good people and there are bad people. Even halfway across the world.

PeterGault
PeterGault

@ginidietrich @CLGraphics Gini, I get your point, and agree with you. I really do. I'm simply, as my great grandfather used to say, "poking the bear".

Still, the fact remains that 'Sarah', poor dimwit, sparked a massive conversation. And, even though there's just no way to take her seriously, she's done a very positive thing. She's envoked your passion. And this ain't 'spin'.

Gini, it's obvious you care about what you do and about what other quality PR folks do. And that's a very very cool thing. It's very cool that her post inspired your fire. And that, as Devil's Advocate, is well worth pointing out. ;)

In the blogging world I'm first and foremost a ghost. Her post simply didn't seem to have any direct relevance for me. See - I read her post. It inspired nothing in me. My thoughts were... "Here's another idiot with a keybord... meh... moving on" ...

You, however, took the spark 'Sarah' offered, touched your torch to it and then lit a bonfire. And that was pretty darn cool of you to do ;)

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@CLGraphics See, Peter, this is what bugs me about PR (and why we named the blog Spin Sucks). There is such a thing as bad PR (ask the DecorMyEyes CEO) and, while people are talking about this, the publicity around it is mostly negative. I don't know - I've always been of the belief that there is good PR and bad PR and you don't want the latter. As Warren Buffet says, "You can lose the firm money and I'll be understanding. But if you lose the firm reputation, I will be ruthless."

And...you're welcome! :)

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

@wabbitoid And some of us are like cruise missiles writing neither eloquently, tactfully, or with thoughts of reprecussions. But trust me, we wish were capable of otherwise!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@KristenDaukas Oh I'm not disputing that mom bloggers shouldn't blog about products for free. I think we all have jobs to do and if that's how they make their money, more power to them! But I think you're right with your marketing hat on...we have to think about bloggers as media. And we would have no qualms about sending a washer and dryer to the NY Times. Why do we have to be squirrely about sending it to the right five to 10 bloggers?!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@apegan Great, great point! It's like PR people working in the digital departments at big agencies and being treated like they don't know what they're doing. Um. They have the same education and experience as those in the PR departments...but they've taken their expertise and applied it to the new technologies. They're not the ones who don't know what they're doing.

rachaelseda
rachaelseda

@ginidietrich Too funny, just read it! Oh grr...sorry to say I can't help you calm down because you have not gotten me all riled up!

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

@ginidietrich @josgovaart If you move A-D to California Gini you can get a Legal Medical Prescritpion for those ultra-aggro days. Just make sure you keep the kitchen loaded with snacks. Or if you insist on staying in Chicago because its easier to keep your party yacht on the Lake vs the Ocean, try some Genmaicha Green Tea w/ Roasted Brown Rice. It has that warm rich earthy taste of comfort with just the right amount of caffiene to sooth the aggro soul.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@josgovaart Then, by all means, feed the fire! I'm way more fun when I'm angry about something.

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

@ginidietrich @lenkendall Yay Len came into the SpinSucks house! I think every industry and profession there are good and bad. Some its innocent. They either excel or are inept but somehow don't get forced into a new line of work. Others are truly good and bad. I see this in Advertising. On the one hand you have agencies stealing brands blind, then hiding under 'its a creative industry you shouldn't use traditional ROI tools to judge our success". Which is the biggest crock of shit outside of LoanSharking and Politics.

We just happen to be in industries with low barriers of entry and no accreditation requirement aside from your resume and brains. Seriously we can all name 1 or 5 people making a ton of jack with their books and speaking engagements when it comes to Marketing and Social Media who are selling a pile of shit. And getting rewarded for it.

I once walked into a past life Corp. HR department for a happy holidays moment and interrupted a discussion on how Sales People are the slimiest people....and while it was not aimed at me...at the I had a fairly high ranking sales position with the Corp. I used to hate shaking Sales people's hands very often at Trade Show/Conferences because the HR people were right!

My big problem is why aren't the more ethically oriented people and businesses rewarded more for being so.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@lenkendall You're absolutely right. And maybe it's because I'm in the industry, but it feels especially rampant in PR. I don't know if it's the lack of any real accreditation or the fact that it's not tangible, but people in our industry tend to get on their high horses a lot.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@lenkendall You're absolutely right. And maybe it's because I'm in the industry, but it feels especially rampant in PR. I don't know if it's the lack of any real accreditation or the fact that it's not tangible, but people in our industry tend to get on their high horses a lot.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@abarcelos And that's why, Anna, we always joke about other PR people making us look good. For the same reasons you cite about what you run into daily. AND you have my permission to smack me if I or anyone I work with behaves this way. It is a firing offense in my book. And let me see what I can about her choosing a different name. :)

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  1. […] weeks ago no Gini Dietrich, one of my PR idols, wrote a blog post called PR People Suck. It was commenting on a post written by an anonymous PR blogger. The way the anonymous post was […]