We don't need no PR control…..

The question for the class this morning is: Can I be bothered to continue with this blogging lark?

I’m all for opinions, everyone has them, and everyone has the right to share them, but has there ever, in the history of man- or womankind, been so many people expressing so many opinions, based on so little knowledge or understanding? [Well obviously one has to make allowances for politicians, but they’ve always been that way inclined and it’s enshrined in most democratic consititutions].

Not that all the recent commentary has been ill-informed. Anil Dash‘s criticisms about ill-judged PR pitches was a fair and constructive criticism of a problem that is often at the root of PR’s perceptional problems. After all, it was OK to inflict appalling pitches on journalists (we like to think of it as part of their job), but when the PR masses descend on Joe Bloggs (pun intended) then the problem becomes more public.

Then Rustle Beetie goes polar. No more needs to be said on that. A quick Internet search for “Russell Beattie” and “Moron” will bring up all the information you need on that particular subject. In fact if you type those words into the search engine you won’t even have to hit the “search” button.

In the meantime the PR herd is restless. Many people are giving out about too much blog-related PR navel-gazing going on. Now I agree there is an awful lot of that. But there’s also some good opinions on other matters, interesting links etc.

I’d also make the point that it’s important we address the nutters. After all they have as much right to a search engine ranking as you or I. A lesson I learned early on was that rumors become fact in a vacuum. So we should be all addressing these subjects.

Then yesterday, all seemed well with the world. The clouds cleared and the sun (the large orange disc in the sky as opposed to the hardware vendor) came out and low and behold the RSS feeds were quiet with no bad tidings for the PR business.

This morning was similarly calm. I even discovered a sensible post written in response to Rustle’s meanderings from Jupiter analyst Michael Gartenberg:

“Let’s face if it. If you’re a popular blogger in the space, you’re going to have PR folks after you. The good ones will be of great help and the bad ones should just be ignored (I get lots of shotgunned emails from PR folks looking for coverage from folks who clearly have no idea what I do or cover.). I’ve met Steve a few times and he doesn’t seem like the type to spam inappropriately but then again, we all make mistakes. Bottom line, PR folks don’t waste time with folks that don’t matter so be flattered by the attention, let the good ones help you with what you do and let evolution take care of the poor ones.”

Ah some common sense. There is good and bad everywhere in the world. Unfortunately in the blog world, if a dog bites the hand that feeds, then all dogs must die.

Sorry I digress (well it’s my blog). Anyhow so I’m slipping into a false sense of blog security. I’m thinking that maybe we’ll just get back to discussing the brave new world on online communication. We’ll just have intelligent discussions on the intersection of traditional tools and new tools, have a snigger at attempts at building buzz where 35 year old PR and marketing folks pose as ‘cool’ and ‘rad’ college students. Life is never that simple.

It didn’t take long to destroy my little dream world. Soon after I get in today I see a post from long-time PR guru Tim Bray. Tim is a PR veteran, he’s been working in a variety of PR roles for over twenty years, has worked in both in-house and agency roles and pioneered new PR techniques such as…. oh sorry. Tim Bray isn’t actually a PR guy at all. Nope. Tim is an engineer. A fine engineer. One of the pioneers behind XML and now an executive at Sun Microsystem. Not someone you would immediately identify as a guru on the changing face of public relations. But hey, you’re wrong. Tim has seen the future of PR and he likes it.

Now at this point, I should share with you that Tim does make some valid points.

  • He believes the days of big brother command-and-control PR are coming to an end. I agree and while of course it still goes on, the Internet is breaking down those barriers.
  • I think he also has a valid point that there will be changes in the trade magazine industry, as there will be elsewhere, until we find an equilibrium between print, online, blogs etc.
  • Finally, the idea that employees can make a real contribution to the corporate communications efforts is definetely a trend we will see come mainstream.

OK. So it’s not all bad news.

However, Tim then takes a long, deep, drink from the Blog Kool Aid. He believes that in fact not only will employee blogging become more important, it will actually replace the entire PR function. (While his post only really discusses trade magazines, he has framed his post around the theme “The New Public Relations” so therefore we should take him at his word.)

Yes sir, in Tim’s brave new world, PR people will move from communications to event management:

“we still need events—conferences, unConferences, seminars, beer bashes—and they take a lot of organizing and stick-handling and I suspect that PR pros have the right sort of social-convener skills to deliver value from such things.”

Oh my word….

Ahem. So blogs are going to take over the world, kill magazines, remove the need for PR, do remote diagnosis of rare skin diseases and walk the dog for you. What particular part of the solar system is this blog being broadcast from?

So there’s no longer any need for internal communications, investor relations, crisis management, media relations, messaging etc? TV stations will just scan a couple of blogs and read them out? Or will the TV stations just show a screenshot of a blog? Radio stations will move over to podcast programming?

Blogs make communication more important not less important. PR people are going nowhere Tim. Yes blogs are important, yes there are changes taking place, but your picture of the future is simplistic in the extreme. Your argument about PR is about as informed and accurate as my attempt at explaining the benefits of SOAP as against RMI (don’t ask).

Why is that everyone thinks they are an expert on PR because they’ve done a press tour, a couple of press interviews and been quoted in a press release? What is that about?

Thanks for putting up with yet another rant. It’s made me feel better, which although it may not have made you feel any better, was this post’s sole purpose in life. I’ve decided that we aren’t putting out any more press release we’re just going to replace our website with this blog. It’ll save us a fortune on travel, phone costs and IT infrastructure.

By the way, the answer to the original question posed at the beginning of this long rambling post is “Yes”. (You are probably now scrolling up wondering what the question is).