Saturday, December 01, 2007

No, really -- THIS is the last take on Chris Anderson's "outing"

At this point, everyone's had their take on the Chris Anderson outing of 300+ PR folks. Here's what I am declaring to be the last of the Wired meme. Jenn has the latest take, which for the most part I agree. Her conclusion is, essentially, that "we all have jobs" and "if you can't handle your job, get out of the business".

I love how she brings it strong (hence the addition to my blogroll and now public, open invite to her to grab drinks the next time she's in NYC), but regardless of whether or not Mr. Anderson agrees with how he's pitched, there are three major issues I have with this topic:

1. Classification. I had a client recent ask me what I thought of the "outing" -- which, is aptly named once you read point #2 -- and that if PR people had that negative of a perception in the blogosphere. The reality is that every marketer under the sun -- interactive, advertising, "all-in-one", in-house, and yes, PR -- is sending out horrible, misguided pitches. Clients want "key messages", "brand attributes" and even "strategic links" that they can account for -- so let's not pretend that everyone filling Mr. Anderson's Inbox "gets it"-- yet they're all being lumped in as being part of Public Relations. (Side note: This the the argument for those who "get it" to make a call for centralization, if not massive education, of rules for ethical blogger relations).

2. Bi-media. Ok, it's a sexual reference -- but Chris has the luxury of having a "traditional" media gig as well as blogger. Hell, make that tri-media once you count "author". And no, I won't try to make a sexual reference to that. Journalism rules and ethics are what he brings to the table, but the ability to be a greedy bastard -- hence the Dennis Miller reference to being "bi, or in this case "tri" - and choose which part of his salary he chooses to follow -- allows him to be snarky like a blogger for 1/3 of the day, a pro journalist for another 1/3, and, like it or not, an author/PR mouthpiece/self-promotional guy the other 1/3. Dennis called these folks "greedy", that they need to "pick a side". I'm not saying Chris should renounce any of his titles or roles, but he brings every imaginable perspective to the business, and that has to be, if nothing else, respected. His journalist role would just not return the email, voice mail or, dare I say, letter. The blogger side would get snarky. And the author side would look for a trend to exploit to publish a book and make a shitload of money (can you sense the jealously in that line?).

3. Wake Up. I don't see the outing as much as a "look who's on [not on] the list", to be honest. Yes, it's nice to say we weren't on it. Whatev. It's not like it couldn't happen to anyone. Every office of every company has a person trying to get ahead mean well but screws up. Most industries don't have public forums like this to discuss it. Hell, it even seems like some companies openly dare you to take your story to sites like Consumerist by pissing customers off. Guy/gal is, as Jenn states, doing their job. That doesn't mean they're doing it well, but they are doing a job.

In the big picture, the media and yes, marketers, have made bloggers what they are today -- and ultimately they, meaning bloggers, set the rules. Nothing new there. I would dare say the media and Google -- although now heavily invested in it -- could take it away just as quickly. Look -- my blog is what it is, and even I get crap pitches. I can only imagine what "popular" bloggers put up with on a daily basis. I easily get over 200 work-related email to answer per day, so I can imagine how, along with the aforementioned "business" mail, must wear on those wearing several hats and being a coveted "target" for outreach. If that doesn't help shed some light to the agencies et al out there on how impersonal it's become, then I don't know what could. It's like the worst part of advertising has become part of the trade -- screw the relationship, it's just about the numbers.

The bottom line is that while as a marketing medium pitching blogs still works for a lot of folks, the reality is that there is a revolt. It might not as public as Chris's, because they don't have the clout, but it's going on because bloggers are tired of the bad pitches. PR agencies, et al, need to wake up and realize that the blogosphere isn't there to do you favors and publish garbage... And they certainly don't have to adhere to traditional PR rules and thus you must adjust your perspective, expectations and business model -- not them.


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