Murphy's Law

Tom Murphy

Maybe we're defining PR incorrectly?

When I searched for a definition of Public Relations I found the following description:

The art or science of establishing and promoting a favorable relationship with the public.

As broad stroke definitions go, it’s not bad.  I’d probably add managing an individual’s or organization’s communication with the public.

The Internet opens a range of opportunities for our profession – and a range of challenges.  The one thing the Internet does is remove the elements of security and secrecy that may have once been a part of our daily lives.  Our control over information is dissolving and we must adapt.

The other change the Internet brings is that is opens your communication to a far wider audience than ever before.  Whereas in the past you might have screwed up with a pitch and annoyed a journalist, it pretty much stopped there.

Today, screw up and there’s no guarantee that your pitch will not end up being the joke du jour on media websites. That is a sobering thought and one that should guide you when you’re putting together a pitch. Of course sometimes you’ll be a victim even if it’s not warranted.  Welcome to 2003.

What staggers me is “PR” people who go out of their way to look ridiculous and set themselves and their employer/client up for online crucifiction.

In the past we’ve covered these false posters to popular message boards extolling the virtue of some client or other, using slang and trying to pose as a regular visitor when it’s clear they’re not.  Well it seems these intelligent “Online PR” professionals are now turning their magnificent efforts to weblogs comments.

You can spot them easy enough.  There’s a discussion on watches for example, and there in the comments under the posting someone writes:

 “Hey, you should try out the XCT500 from those great guys over at Acme, it includes feature blah. feature blah, costs under $7,500 and if you sign-up at their website they will sell it to you for $4,000.  I have been using the XCT500 for over six months and I can tell you it is singularly the leading, digital, outdoor, multi-sport time device out there. Check it out at http: //www.acmetimedevices.cs”

You see that’s not PR ladies and gentlemen.  There is no relationship being created, managed or enhanced by this activity.  This is not creating dialogue. This is comment spam.

Jeremy Pepper covers this today and points to Dan Gillmor’s plea to PR people to behave on his weblog. Steve Outing at Poynter follows up with his views on the matter:

“The rules are simple enough: Be on topic when you post a PR pitch, and keep it short and useful to the audience.”

I’d go further than Steve.  It is unethical PR practice to be posing as someone you are not. 

If your contribution to the topic is relevant then you should declare your interest up front and center.  If you don’t think posting that information is appropriate then your views (or spam) are not appropriate either.

We are the masters of creating and managing communication. You are not in a Bond movie, you are not a trained practitioner of industrial espionage. If you want to create long-standing, meaningful and profitable relationships be straight about your angle.

The muppets who contine to post as “consumers” do you no favors. Oh and they can track your IP address.  There’s no place to hide.

Written by Tom Murphy

October 22, 2003 at 10:05 am

Posted in General

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