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Gini Dietrich

PR Pros: Stop Treating Bloggers Like Second-Class Media

By: Gini Dietrich | September 22, 2010 | 
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How many of you go to cocktail parties and, when you say you’re in public relations, the person you’re speaking with says something along the lines of, “Oh. You’re a spin doctor.”?  And how many of you own businesses that need external PR help but have spent way too much money for nothing in return?

I don’t have proof of this, but I believe, as industries go, public relations is at the bottom of the heap…with attorneys and used car salesmen. As an industry, we have done a horrible job of doing our own PR, as evidenced by the “PR is not publicity. Publicity is not PR.” blog post I wrote last week.

Last night I participated in #SBT10 chat (or Start Blogging Today), as a guest, with moderators Danny Brown, Grant Griffiths, and John Haydon. Never have I so violently been reminded about how unethical, demanding, and just plain old wrong some professionals are in our industry. The first few questions I received were along the lines of, “As bloggers, how do we pitch PR firms so they pay attention to us?”

COME AGAIN?!

Then, on the heels of that question came, “While I’m not an A-list blogger, I have an engaged audience that fits really well for some companies. Why aren’t PR firms paying attention to me?”

EXCUSE ME?

I began to feel my blood pressure rise as I realized these bloggers, who produce great and revelant content and who have extremely engaged audiences, aren’t being paid attention to by PR professionals because their traffic numbers aren’t as high as the “A-list bloggers.” This is absolutely dumbfounding to me. Why, if you have an engaged audience who trusts you, believes in you, and follows your recommendations, would it matter that you’re not an A-list blogger?

But the kicker for me was this question, “Why do PR pros tell me what to write when giving me something to review?”

That’s like a PR pro calling a reporter at the New York Times and saying, “I’ll send you this book/shoes/iPad if you write exactly what it says in the news release.”

GIVE ME A FREAKING BREAK!

PR pros: It’s called “earned” media for a reason. You have to earn the coverage for your clients (or the companies where you work). We are not in a demanding position. We are not the ones with leverage. Build relationships. With everyone. This includes bloggers. The backbone of our industry has not changed, even with the web. Relationships are earned through selfless acts and through helpfulness and kindness. And, for heaven’s sakes, stop demanding what they write! Most bloggers have an audience. They have people who care what they write. Do you really think if you demand they write a certain way or copy and paste your news release, their readers won’t notice?

Bloggers: Keep doing what you’re doing. It’s not your job to pitch PR firms. It’s their job to build relationships with you and find a way, that makes sense for what you already write and provide to your readers, to fit their client’s products and services into your content. If you write relevant content, the PR firms will find you. We have lots of tools to do just that. Make sure you’re registered on Technorati and that the industries you serve know who you are (i.e. lots of industries will write lists of bloggers to follow in their trade publications). And don’t answer pitches that a) don’t make sense for your blog; b) ask you to write something specific; and c) are very obviously copy and paste emails that have clearly gone to everyone…which means the PR pro hasn’t taken the time to get to know you or your blog.

For both sides: It is the law that you disclose any free items that are given/received for reviews. So, if you receive a book to review, make sure you note that when you write about it. Otherwise both of you can get into a lot of trouble.

#SBT10 is held on Twitter every Tuesday at 8 p.m. CT. It’s not likely there will be PR discussion every week, but join in, if you can. And stop treating bloggers like second-class media. They have just as much (and in some cases, more) influence as the traditional media.

And now I leave it to you…PR pros, what advice do you have for bloggers so they are “noticed” by you. And bloggers, what advice do you have for PR pros so they have a better chance of you writing a review for them?

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.

92 comments
LucretiaPruitt
LucretiaPruitt

You and I are going to have a long conversation over this accompanied by some few close friends and a ready stream of service from the bar.

hgpr
hgpr

Our agency is working hard to catch up on blogs but it can seem daunting because the sheer volume of bloggers makes the environment so fluid and without the old publisher/editor relationship, the content doesn't always fit into neat categories. Bloggers, forgive us if we mess up in our attempts to learn this new media. We hope to deliver value in terms of in depth behind the scenes information for your readers... really, some of us folks in PR really do want to be useful.

jackiej04
jackiej04

Completely agree! PR pros should give thanks to the great publicity bloggers bring to their clients. Great post!

becky
becky

Some friends and I were having a similar discussion recently.

PR firms forget that they can use us, the bloggers, as consultants. Who knows the mom bloggers better than a mom blogger who's been in the social media circles for a long time (ex: I've been on Twitter since 2007)? I'm not an A-lister (or even B or C or D), but I know a *LOT* of moms online -- I read their blogs, their Twitter and FB streams. And I've met a good portion of them at conferences. If PR firms don't have the time or inclination to research the people they're pitching, they could easily find a consultant to help with that.

Christine Perkett
Christine Perkett

On a related note, I asked the PR industry how they build their influencer lists this week - and if they include fellow industry colleagues who are marketing/PR thought leaders and bloggers. I made a similar point - build relationships, approach intelligently. I said if you're pitching such bloggers you might have to be even more personable than pitching media. Is this so hard?

http://bit.ly/b3bpbc

CP

Christine Perkett
Christine Perkett

This stems from the same issue our industry has always had - PR executives being lazy and not doing their homework. They find the "popular bloggers" because it's easy. It would take research and *gasp* billable time to find, read and properly pitch bloggers who aren't written about in INCMagazine or AdWeek every week. And, *gulp* even more time to build relationships with them - oh, and actually read their stuff.

It's the same issue it's always been - the PR industry likes to take short cuts to keep those billable hours high.

This is a great blog post - I love your energy and enthusiasm. But our industry needs a total sea change - starting with agencies and the way they bill their time; what they see as worthwhile. They hand a list to junior executives and then pressure them to hit as many as possible - not to do a good job finding and building relationships.

Ugh.

Christine Perkett
PerkettPR
http://www.twitter.com/missusP
http://www.twitter.com/PerkettPR

Lisa @ Crazy Adventures in Parenting
Lisa @ Crazy Adventures in Parenting

Gini,

I love *LOVE* this. I should probably respond to this with a internet fist-bump of sorts, or something intelligent or business-like, but seriously, I love this so much, I want to hug it. And you. Is that weird? :)

Matt Batt
Matt Batt

There are SO many wonderful comments following a very smart post...thanks Gini! What is most frustrating to me is the failure of marketing/communications professionals as a whole (not just PR) to embrace The Shift we are seeing in communications. The Shift has moved from one-way to two-way, from telling to listening and from disruption to invitation. This particular example around the failure of many "PR pros" and organizations as a whole to embrace the power that these influencers (bloggers) have on thier respective audience...is huge. As Arik Hanson said in his comment, "you don't have to have 100K followers to be influential." The power of WOM can start with 25 REALLY ENGAGED individuals who share, advocate and embrace.
I look forward to having this conversation for a long time to come - let's cross our fingers that the image of this profession (PR) will come along with us:). Thank you again for starting this conversation!

Arik Hanson
Arik Hanson

I love Shonali's the "pitchers have become the pitchee" comment. There's a few blog posts in that statement alone. Fact is, for people like us, we're hyper-aware of how we're pitched based on what we do each day. So, I think our radar's are a bit higher than most.

The big issue for me the other night, as I was following along and participating, too, was how we approach and pitch these smaller blogs. Like I said, you don't have to have 100K followers to be influential.

What's interesting to me is that we know WOM facilitates and influences purchase decisions, right? Then, why do we think "A-listers" are the only ones who can do that? At the core, don't people trust other people like them? Do they really *trust* these A-listers? I'm not so sure. I just think about my own behavior online. Sure, I read the Solis', Shankmans and Brogans of the world. But, do I trust them? Hell, I don't even really know those guys (although I will say they probably influence my behavior in other ways). I'm much more inclined to truly trust folks like David Mullen, Richie Escovedo, Shonali Burke, Amy Mengel and Rachel Kay for starters. If they make a recommendation, I'm definitely listening. Are those folks "A listers"? Probably not. Does it matter? I don't think so.

We need to get over this A-lister exclusivity thing. Now.

@arikhanson

Roy Wells
Roy Wells

Gini,

Sorry I am late to the conversation but I followed the #SBT10 chat and sensed your frustration in one of your early tweets. I knew there would be a blog post coming from that experience.

This "social medium" we are involved in when you reduce it to its essence is about relationships and media. As you correctly note earned media is earned. It is earned because of the client's story and the relationships we have with the reporters, broadcasters, publishers, bloggers etc.

Social networking provides opportunities to exponentially build relationships with the media. If we are good at relationship building we will find the right influencer's to assist us in telling our client's stories. We will notice which bloggers have an audience that would be receptive to our message, and work on establishing and growing the relationship. In the true spirit of the medium, it is about providing them with valuable content and ideas and determining how we can assist them professionally. If they are good, we will find them. If they are looking for us, I wonder just how good they are.

Shonali Burke
Shonali Burke

OMG, Gini, what a great post and what awesome comments! I wish I'd seen this earlier today (you're in my Reader but I had to go out for a day full of meetings). So much to say, where to start, and what can I say that hasn't been repeated?!

This reminds me a little of what I wrote in my BNET post about leaving PR to the pros. At the moment, I publish in three places: my own blog, BNET and I edit/manage a blog community for a client. I cannot tell you how many emails I get from PR "firms" (note the quotes) with a news release cut and pasted, telling me "my readers" would love this story.

Oh, really? Which readers? Why? I'd so much rather a few bullet points as to what's cool about this potential story than this nonsense. Ironically, this is the same advice folks like you and I have received and try to pass on to professionals, and now we're on the receiving end of it.

In a way, that's rather fascinating. The "pitchers" have become the "pitchees." I think your advice for both PR firms and bloggers are extremely salient (that's a word I learned in 6th-grade geography, btw, and I try to throw it in wherever I can ;)).

Firms - and not all pitch this badly, but many do - need to get smart about pitching and stand firm with their clients about who they're pitching and why it's relevant. Often the big wave comes after many ripples, which, especially with search playing such an important role these days, is really something they need to think about. Forget about the numbers. Figure out who's "influential" based on real research and not some crappy list somewhere.

Bloggers need to do one thing: blog. I know this is easier said than done, and I too have struggled with finding focus for my blog; don't know that I've gotten it completely down, but I *think* I'm getting better... you tell me and you're welcome to smack me down! If they/we do, it's not just the firms that will find us, but other opportunities, such as trade media, other platforms (such as BNET for me), and ... to me this is very important - new business and clients.

Natalie
Natalie

Oh, I agree. I have a little blog -- but I'm also in public relations. So when I get pitches for my blog that are just so horrible and off, I'm embarrassed for my profession. Today I got one that was thanking me for a review I did -- and it was addressed to the wrong person! Eye roll worthy.

Julie Walraven | Resume Services
Julie Walraven | Resume Services

Hi Gini, I missed the chat last night, ironically because I was doing a presentation on social media for paralegal professionals. I will have to find the transcript of the chat, it sounds fascinating.

I ran a non-profit (Wausau Whitewater) for 12 years. I worked a little with PR firms for sponsorship but more with reporters from print, radio, and television.

I find it hilarious that now that I am on my own in the career industry in a climate where unemployed, job search, resumes, etc are top news but I am no longer a source. People (reporters) who know what I am doing,know me personally, may follow me on Twitter or FB, have been told I would be happy to be a resource locally... totally forget me. However, I was always on TV, radio, or in print with WW...

Jennifer Devitt
Jennifer Devitt

We hear this a lot. Many of our clients ask us to recommend a good PR person, because they have had bad experiences. We have reached out to many firms to work together to offer our clients & theirs the best solutions, but most are not open to it. We have even run into some who feel they are the web experts and we are the little people they dish orders to, instead of hearing our ideas or solutions.

Davina K. Brewer
Davina K. Brewer

Gini, I caught the chat last night, agree with so much of what you wrote, the comments.

Technorati. Is that the end-all, be-all of blog registries? I quibble only b/c of technical difficulties I can't login, register, unregister, list my blog. And I can't get anything more than an auto-reply from "support."

Love Abbie's point about if a blog hits all the client's happy spots, it IS "A list" no matter how big or small the audience.

Taking it back to your advice to PR and bloggers, it all boils down to doing it "right" and everyone acting professionally. Pitch the right blogs for the client's product/service; accept the right pitches for the blog, etc.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Hey there miss,

First, thank you for being such an awesome guest on last night's chat, and for offering some great advice for both sides of the fence.

Part of me wonders if it's a control issue? To a degree, many PR pro's like to feel they have control of their client - how they present to the media, what questions can be answered, what can't, how to respond to crisis, etc.

With bloggers, you don't (or shouldn't) have that control. Their only commitment is to their readers, and to be honest to them.

If that means giving a crappy review of a product, or calling out the ethics of the client you're trying to promote, that raises alarm bells.

Or maybe it is reach. When you're used to having a slot on NBC, do you really want to have to deal with 100 bloggers that might be the local cable equivalent? (And I use that term with the greatest of respect, as a blogger myself).

Um, yes you do. Because you do not know how far these 100 bloggers may take you. And these 100 bloggers are interested in your product; you may not necessarily have to pitch too hard.

Compare that to your huge wining and dining budget just to get a slot in the local paper...

Just my two cents. And thanks for being the PR agency the bad ones should look to, and the good ones are already emulating.

Gary Young
Gary Young

Gini, In my Vistage group, whenever someone mentions a PR firm, most people rill their eyes. It is like having to get a physical or something uncomfortable like that. And when someone reports back something positive, the first question is; "What was your ROI"? I think there are no standards in the industry so anyone with some college courses call themselves a PR firm or expert. Can you point to some kind of affiliation that helps people qualify the great PR firms form the ones who are hot air? Hope that question does not drive you crazy.

QuatroMama
QuatroMama

Thank you, Gini, for your boldness, insight, and honesty. I truly believe we can build mutually beneficial relationships that will influence and shape the new media world, through following much of this post and listening to one another.

It is discouraging when companies continue to reach out to A-list only bloggers or possibly worse, request free advertisement disguised as a "limited review opportunity" to 100s of bloggers in a spamming type email.

I know you encourage us to continue to create great content and be involved in the blogging business aspect, but are there any other tips or tools you would encourage a blogger to use in order to be "discovered" by potential business relationships? Our blog ( http://4tunate.net ) has maintained a large, loyal, engaged, and compassionate audience that is often overlooked.

Again, thank you for addressing this pertinent issue and raising the bar for both bloggers and PR reps alike!

Davina K. Brewer
Davina K. Brewer

Christine, Wouldn't it the same billable time we spend researching and networking with mainstream journalists and media who cover key topics? I mean, if we only focused on the top 10 or top 100 mass media outlets that cover that subject on occasion, but ignored the 100s of smaller outlets and niche media that cover that topic all the time, we'd be doing a disservice to the client. Agree we can't take short cuts, and the research and relationship building is an important part of the job. FWIW.

Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich

Lisa, I will take that hug! And so will this blog post!

Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich

Matt - perhaps this part of the conversation we can have on the 12th!

Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich

Oh Arik, you and I agree so much! This whole A-lister as the only influential bloggers thing drives me crazy. It absolutely does not matter if you have 100 readers or 100,000. What does matter is how much respect you have from those who do pay attention to what you have to say.

BTW, #MLR next year. You in??

Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich

Ray, we talked about this issue last week when we spoke, but you're absolutely right. After the chat, I realized it's not that they're not good enough...it's that they just don't know. But I set them straight! :)

Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich

Shonali, I read that post you wrote about leaving PR to the pros and I agree with you. You and I may as well have the same brain because I'm yelling "YES!" at every comment you make here...including bloggers need to do one thing: Blog. Yes, yes, yes! I always say that media relations is a thankless job - you get one big wave and everyone is screaming, "What's next?" the very next day. Let's focus less on the big waves and more on driving business goals for our clients. I KNOW you and I agree on that!

P.S. I love salient!

Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich

Natalie, that makes me embarrassed for our industry, too! I received a pitch from a global PR firm a couple of weeks ago that several of us received because we were all on the same blogger list. It was the exact, same email. To all of us. Trust me, we compared notes.

Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich

Julie, those of us in service businesses are in totally thankless jobs. People don't know what they're missing when they don't have us and don't realize, when they do have us, how much value we provide until we're gone. Sigh...

Julie Walraven | Resume Services
Julie Walraven | Resume Services

Gini, you will always make me laugh! One more ironic... I wrote the resume of one of the city editors and he is now re-employed... of course it was his network that did it, nothing to do with a resume that captured his value proposition and made him marketable or the coaching that made him more confident and better able to articulate that value... hmmmm....

Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich

Julie, it's one big circle, isn't it? It is odd, though, that you're friends with reporters and they don't think of you as a resource. I guess it's time to hit them over the head!

Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich

Jennifer, it makes me CRAZY when agencies won't work together. It's like being in the big agency and not being allowed to work with other profit centers or other offices for fear of giving up your budget. Give me a break. If you really are out for the client's best interest, find the right people to work with, no matter where the money goes.

Davina K. Brewer
Davina K. Brewer

I know Gini, just tweaked I never solved my technical issues; frustrated by lack of support and don't have time to try submitting my blog again.

Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich

Davina, I love Technorati simply because I can get a quick snapshot of who writes about tree frogs, no matter how large their traffic. Sometimes I just want to talk to bloggers who write about tree frogs.

Davina K. Brewer
Davina K. Brewer

Agree Danny, that's why I mentioned client training and education. It's up to the PR pro to tell the client what is the right news for the right audience, develop that working relationship.

Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich

Danny, you bring up a very good point about control. In the old days, we would ask reporters for the questions in advance of an interview, we'd message the answers, and we'd rehearse them over and over and over again with the client. And when I say "old days," I mean two years ago. Those days are over. Long over. It's our jobs to educate our clients in the changing environment and help them understand what works and what doesn't work. If we can't do that, you're right, what's the point in them having us?

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

I'd agree to a degree, Davina, but then it boils back to the PR pro having the gumption to tell the client they were hired for a reason.

"I want to get you the best reach possible. If that means taking a hit, and correcting information (or acting on it to say you'll take that on board for the next iteration), that's going to be far better for you than trying to control our outreach. If you want to get that reach, you need to leave the strategy and advice to us."

Otherwise, if you're just letting the client run over you control-wise, why do they even need you?

Davina K. Brewer
Davina K. Brewer

Danny,

I think the control issue sometimes falls back on the client. Clients who assume or insist on favorable reviews, wonder why the media used X picture instead of Y, questioning the PR pro about why they also–heresy–quoted competitors too. And the PR pro not doing a better job training and educating that client.

As far as reach, it's shotgun vs. laser focus. Sure you may have made GMA or Oprah, but if your customer's aren't watching the 100 niche blogs may do a better job earning results. FWIW.

Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich

Gary, I love you for asking this question! It doesn't drive me crazy because I get it ALL THE TIME. In fact, a client just said to me today, "We've never done this before and we're taking a leap of faith. You are going to deliver these results you've outlined?" Of course we are...no matter what it takes. But that's what makes us so different.

There isn't an affiliation that helps business leaders know which PR firm is good and which is full of hot air. But there are PR firms/professionals who understand business. And, if they understand business, the programs they create for you will tie directly to your goals, not to increased brand awareness and impressions. If a PR firm can show you how their work will help you drive sales/leads/traffic (whatever your goals are), and they can prove they've done it with other clients, you likely have a diamond in the rough.

Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich

QuatroMama. HOLY CRAP! You have quadruplets! I just spent some time on your blog; it looks like you're doing exactly the right things. You have some advertisers on there that fit your message, you have contests and information that fit your theme, and you have readers who also have multiples.

To take your blog to the next level, I would sit down (if you've not already done this) and write down the top 10 companies you think have something that would be of great benefit to your readers and, by working with you, will be of great benefit to them. For instance, St. Vincent's is a great organization for you. What do they have/do that you could review or provide to your readers for increased awareness for them and better information for your content? Then go online and find out a) if the companies have their own social networks and b) who does their PR. These are simple Google searches. Once you discover who you can connect with, do so by engaging them online. Just like you do your readers.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] PR Pros: Stop Treating Bloggers Like Second-Class Media is by Spin Sucks hostess Gini Dietrich, and is a continuation of the conversation started last night when she guested for the #sbt10 Start Blogging Today chat on Twitter. The title says it all, and there’s a great conversation in the comments from both sides. [...]

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Gini Dietrich, NicoleDufourDuRocher, Laura Maly, Laura Patton, John Justice and others. John Justice said: RT @ginidietrich: PR Pros: Stop Treating Bloggers Like Second-Class Media via @spinsucks http://ff.im/-qXaVP [...]

  3. [...] PR Pros: Stop Treating Bloggers Like Second-Class Media [...]

  4. [...] focusing too much on the A-listers, not enough on the most logical outreach targets. The post at Spin Sucks takes on this and other bad habits of the PR set, including, according to the post, directions from [...]

  5. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Pinnacle PR, Pinnacle PR. Pinnacle PR said: Advice for both sides #bloggers & #PRpros RT @ginidietrich PR Pros: Stop Treating Bloggers Like Second-Class Media http://bit.ly/9Y17h9 [...]

  6. [...] Danny referenced a post by Gini Dietrich (@ginideitrich) a PR pro who’s work I respect. Gini talks about PR people kind of needing to grow up in their attitude toward bloggers: http://spinsucks.com/communication/pr-pros-stop-treating-bloggers-like-second-class-media/ [...]

  7. [...] on Blogtalkradio. Thanks to a very interesting #SBT10 chat on Twitter and a subsequent awesome blog post on Spinsucks, several great people in PR and Social Media have graciously agreed to form a panel [...]

  8. [...] nothing for the case of PR understanding the importance of bloggers, and a lot for the mindset that PR sees bloggers as second-class media.Bloggers Are Your MarketersIn Sarah’s post, she’s specifically writing about mommy [...]

  9. [...] 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 [...]

  10. [...] you treat some reporters or bloggers like second-class citizens? Naughty. Do you have your head up your ass for anyone not on a so-called A-list? [...]

  11. [...] PR Pros: Stop Treating Bloggers Like Second-Class Media with 84 comments created a great conversation between PR pros and bloggers (and some people who are both) about how to work with one another. [...]

  12. [...] One of them was by Gini Dietrich and looked at how the PR industry is letting itself down when it comes to blogger outreach programs. [...]

  13. [...] Recommended read – PR Pros: Stop Treating Bloggers Like Second-Class Media [...]

  14. [...] no surprise, if you’ve been a reader of Spin Sucks for a while, that I think the way (some) PR pros treat bloggers is ridiculous. And it’s time to educate bloggers on how to work with PR pros in order to [...]

  15. [...] so her posts on the intersection of public relations and social media are her gems.  Check out PR Pros: Stop Treating Bloggers Like Second-Class Media for a taste of her unique brand of [...]

  16. [...] a variety of opinions out there about how PR should work with bloggers. But one thing is certain: We couldn’t do our job as well without them. In fact, I work with bloggers more these days than [...]

  17. [...] good blogger relations while you look down your nose at it. As Gini Dietrich wrote recently in Spin Sucks, bloggers are sometimes still treated like second-rate [...]

  18. […] most traditional PR companies don’t understand how to pitch at bloggers (PR pros tend to send blanket emails because they are ‘too busy’ and anyway bloggers […]

  19. […] focusing too much on the A-listers, not enough on the most logical outreach targets. The post at Spin Sucks takes on this and other bad habits of the PR set, including, according to the post, directions from […]