“The Scarlet Letter”

I’ve been out sick for the past few days. When I get back, all heck has broken loose on the Internets.

Within the last week, a few bloggers and reporters have gone on rampages against “bad PR.” Does the punishment fit the crime? Is this a wake-up call? I’m not looking to stir things up, I just want to analyze the situation and see what we can learn from it.

The Times They Are a Changin…

Have you ever read an email, gotten really angry, hammered out a reply and hit send? A day later (or maybe 3 seconds later) you may have felt remorseful, but it was too late. Or what about those break-up emails that get circulated around? Each time I read about Mr X and his demeaning affair with Ms Y, I learned to wait a little bit longer before sending an email. This was part of the process of socialization as we grew into the Internet Age.

W ell, the times they are a changing. Now it’s socialization round two, but this time it’s not just email. It’s learning how to use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or any of the three social networks that have sprung up since I started typing this post. As in round one, there will be some blunders, some embarrassment, but when is it justified?

The Scarlet Letter

We’ve all done it: sent a reporter a bad pitch. Sometimes, not sure which particular reporter to pitch, we email an editor. Or maybe a boss made you use a pitch you weren’t happy with, but, HEY, it’s a job, right? Or sometimes you just miscalculate what a reporter will cover. It’s part of professional growth.

Well, some reporters are mad as heck, and they aren’t gonna take it anymore. Some get bad or poorly-focused pitches. In their blogs, reporters have posted full names and email addresses–or a name, Facebook address and picture. It suddenly feels like colonial times when criminals were forced to wear a letter or be shamed in a town square.

Ok, I’m not a super-star blogger, but I still get pitched. To those that are WAY off, I’ve emailed back “too commercial” or “not the focus of my blog.” It gets annoying, but I don’t want to humiliate anyone; they gave it a shot and they were wrong. In my mind, there are several unethical PR practices that deserve to be exposed and maybe shamed, but sending a bad pitch?

In my professional life, if I write a bad pitch, I hope the reporter lets me know. If I make a mistake, I’m sorry. We all have bad days.

As a blogger, I put myself out there to the world. People can email me, contact me through Facebook, repost my blog or talk about my bad grammar. By standing up to speak in a public forum, I expose myself. Even though this blog is a “hobby,” I put myself out into this forum and, to some extent, I become a public figure. I have given consent. Other PR professionals, however, are just doing their job.

The Internet has now become a record with pages being cached for years. It has also become a great place to stalk people. When you put someone else’s information online, it will be up there and available to anyone for a long time. Not everyone signs up for that.

Reporters and Bloggers: We value your feedback. We really do!! We listen and we adapt. I understand the impulse towards public outing may seem fulfilling, but just imagine if all your mistakes were broadcast to the world in perpetuity.

There are a few sites that expose bad pitches in a constructive manner without exposing personal information. They are quite effective. I read them weekly and have listed them in my blog roll. Your posts have just as much strength without calling specifics out.

In the words of Jerry Springer: “Be good to yourself…and each other!”

PS: Thanks to Marshall for apologizing and responding thoughtfully to comments and trackbacks. 🙂 Proof that people actually do engage in a conversation.

[UPDATE: Read my follow-up piece on blogger relations!]

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Filed under Blogger Relations, Citizen Reporter, It's A Conversation, New Media Masters., Rants

4 responses to ““The Scarlet Letter”

  1. Pingback: “How Media Relations Got Its Groove Back” « socialTNT

  2. mias001

    Utmost respect Chris. It’s still about relationships and being professional about it.

    I’ve read a couple of them as well and as you mentioned it is sometimes beyond the capacity of the reporter which pitches are sent where.

    The internet has become a CV to millions of people (myself included) and sometimes one bad response from an influential person could cause damage for a long time.

    It makes me tread carefully about my blog responses also and sometimes I reserve comment because of that. I don’t feel that is necessary though, because opinions are needed. But the influencers need to realise that it’s all about conversation (I’m getting off topic, still related, sorry) and people learning.

    So whether your a journalist or a regular blog reader eager to learn but reserving comment because of an “ill tempered” blogger, the bigger picture is to get people to engage. We need to keep focus on that.

  3. Pingback: “Luke, I Am Your Blogger:How-To Pitch From the Darkside” « socialTNT

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