Social Networking Blog

Guy Clapperton on the evolving new media

Bloggers and press releases

TwitScoop and Twitter search filters in Tweetdeck
Image by Kevglobal via Flickr

Back from the Easter Hols (very nice thanks, few days at mum’s place) and I’ve walked straight into an argument over PR and blogging. It started innocently enough; a blogger who I won’t name puts a note up on Twitter to ask people to stop sending him press releases because they’re ‘not relevant’.

Why this caught my eye I don’t know, but it did. So I check the guy’s profile and there it is, for everyone to see: “Information junkie”. So we have a self-proclaimed information junkie asking professionals not to send him information. I make this point to him.

He responds, saying he doesn’t want spam to his work address, and he’s a blogger not a journalist so if people want his attention they have to mail him direct. He asks me if I haven’t had a release I’d consider spam from a PR in my time.

Well, no I haven’t. I’ve had releases that were badly targeted (I write primarily about small business and technology, so the woman who started sending me releases about female sex aids once was way off the mark albeit she makes a good anecdote); I’ve had those that are poorly written, but no, once I’ve said in public that I’m a freelance journalist I don’t think I can justifiably describe any genuine press release as unsolicited.

Twitter spats aside, there are a few salient points to be made. First, if you publicise yourself – no matter where – as someone seeking information, people who choose to send you this info are not doing anything wrong. The chances are that they are a professional doing a job, and if you imagine that the rest of the world should be instinctively aware of any strictures you’ve unilaterally applied then you’re plum crazy. Second, PRs and marketers have thousands of contacts to manage so if their approach seems a little impersonal that’s probably because it is. If you want a personal approach then pick up the phone and there is every chance a real person will speak to you. Personally.

Second, even if you’re a blogger rather than a journalist (and goodness knows those lines are starting to blur) expect to manage your own online identity. If someone thinks something is going to be of interest to you, the chances are very good that they’ll Google for your name and send their mails to the first address they find. This means it’s up to you – not them – to ensure that the address they find first is the one you want them to use (try searching for Guy Clapperton and I can almost guarantee that every search you perform will produce clapperton.co.uk as the number one hit). And cut the guff – there are no ‘new rules’ for bloggers and other social media users, if you put your head over the parapet as being interested in information then the professional providers of it are going to start sending it. It’s your job to filter, not the PR’s job to hand-check every approach when they have thousands to handle. This means there is a risk to a blogger who is employed by someone else full time – yes, your work mail may become stuffed with information you’d rather went somewhere else. Your employer is not going to listen to stuff about how it’s the fault of an incompetent PR if their mail servers are becoming blocked. You’ve drawn attention to yourself, Pandora’s box and all that.

Not that bloggers are a bad thing. The ructions in Westminster over the weekend, in which some pretty dirty stuff was uncovered (here’s the blog where it all started) by a blog, and regardless of your politics it’s important that smear campaigns and blatant lies are uncovered for what they are. They are invaluable on the one hand, entertaining on another. As I’ve said before, though, there’s a real problem ahead for people who think they can blog without responsibility. In the past I’ve said this responsibility covers accuracy, libel and suchlike; it’s clear after this morning’s spat that this resp0nsibility also includes management of an online identity and not whining when people take you seriously enough to try to make contact.

April 14, 2009 Posted by | social media trends | , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Think your media agency is networked web 2.0 brilliance?

Then you may have to think again. There’s been a slew of people claiming they’re the greatest, they’re the best and they’ve been checked out by ZDNet so they must be superb web agencies of late. Well, yeah, up to a point you must.

Until, that is, the woman who wrote the original blog on which you were basing your claims responds. And points out that at no stage did she offer any endorsement whatsoever.

PRs, selectively using phrases and distorting the meaning so that someone gets a bit of spin. Imagine.

The real surprise is that a journalist wasn’t expecting precisely this.

March 23, 2009 Posted by | Social media howlers | , , , , | Leave a comment