PR Guy Says Bloggers Should Shut Up And Take Press Releases

from the well,-then dept

When we first started Techdirt, one of the things I said clearly on the site was not to send us press releases, as we had no interest in writing about them. Yet, so many PR people clearly chose not to read the site and they send them anyway. They don't read the fact that we don't want press releases -- and in most cases they clearly don't read the site because the press releases obviously are about stuff we never write about. And it just gets worse and worse. These days, my inbox is filled with more press releases than regular email -- and I don't post any of them. You would think that PR people would eventually recognize how inefficient it is to send these press releases -- but since it's so easy to just cc every email address in a press list, they never even think about it. This leads me to write posts trashing PR people. But, of course, that does no good, because (as already established) the PR people who send us press releases obviously don't actually read the site.

While there are some PR people who understand this, and with whom I have a good relationship, the vast majority don't seem to care at all. And, now, some seem to be going in the opposite direction. Romenesko points us to a marketing/PR guy who claims that bloggers with large audiences have a responsibility to just accept these press releases -- even if they have no intention of writing about them:
In my view, a popular, well-read blog de facto takes on some of the public trust that the mainstream media have always assumed.... Why shouldn't I send you a press release? If you've got 2,000 readers, you're like a small newspaper. Newspapers don't complain when we send them press releases. They may throw the release away, but they don't write articles ridiculing the person who had the audacity to send it, as some bloggers do when they get an unwanted release.
Well, we've got a lot more than 2,000 readers, and if we have any sort of de facto "public trust" with our readers, it's to write about what we think they'll find interesting -- and they've made it clear they don't care about press release "fake news." And if we ridicule PR people -- it's not simply for sending us a press release. It's for clearly not reading the site where we ask them not to send us press releases and for not understanding what we want to write about.

We do want story ideas. We have always asked our readers for story ideas. But press releases aren't story ideas. They're attempts to spin a story in a positive manner with a bunch of unwanted and useless information that actually makes our job harder.
The fact is, in a very short time, you've become a key cog in our society's communication machine. You're part of something that's destroying the old model; at the same time, you're being given the opportunity to help create something worthwhile to take its place.
Yes, and part of that "something worthwhile" is getting rid of simply parroting spin from a company PR person. It's about having a real conversation. Spamming people with press releases is part of that "old model" that isn't working. Why do you think it's okay that journalism is changing, but it's just hunky dory that PR people do the same old thing?
Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying that you have an obligation to actually write about what's in press releases. The world will go on whether you tell your readers about XYZ Widgets or not. But understand that you have an audience and people are going to want your ear. Accept that as a compliment, and don't be indignant when it happens.
No. You've got it wrong. We know that we have an audience and people are going to want our ear. And that's why we make it clear how to get our ear. You're the one choosing to ignore the very clear terms of engagement that we've laid out -- and thus, you shouldn't get upset when we point out that you weren't paying attention. Since you seem to think our "ear" is so valuable, isn't it up to you to at least understand how to get that ear to pay attention? If you want to be lazy and not understand, that's not our fault.

Finally, the biggest problem with press releases is simple: they're not actually about getting the ear of the blogger. They're about using the blogger as a one-way path to that blogger's audience. It's missing the point of why many (though certainly not all) bloggers do what they do. They blog to be a part of the conversation -- which is more than a one-way path. It's a multi-directional conversation where everyone gets something out of it. If you stop looking at the blogger as a one-way road to an audience, and realize that the blogger, the readers and the company you represent should all be part of a larger conversation, you might realize just how ineffective press releases are for that purpose.

Filed Under: bloggers, pr, press releases


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  1. identicon
    Chris Parente, 11 Jul 2008 @ 10:59am

    Good post. There is no excuse for the "spray and pray" model of PR. It offers no value.

    To commenter Emily's point, a lot of PR people fully realize things have changed, and push back with clients to try and provide newsworthy info. A lot of clients don't understand -- and it's our job to help them to.

    Joan is right that SEO is a big focus now -- all content created for the client should be online and constructed so it raises the organic results of the client.

    And Pete is on to something to -- it would be nice if some tech bloggers covered more actual tech, instead of personalities and following the VC money trail.

    Mike -- can you share an instance when a PR person shared an idea or client news with you, in a constructive and positive way?

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