I read a post over at Mom Blog Magazine that left me shaking my head the further I read, and reinforced why so many bloggers don’t like PR agencies.
Entitled Why PR People Get Paid And You Don’t, it was a post by an anonymous PR professional (“Sarah”) who, in her own words, is “an actual employee at an actual PR company; one you’ve heard of if you’ve heard of any.”
Basically, the post was an “explanation” of why bloggers shouldn’t get too full of themselves and expect cushy blog promotions with companies that are represented by PR agencies.
Some of the gems of wisdom from Sarah include:
But you also aren’t getting hired. You’re writing a blog post. Let’s stop pretending your blog is a world-changing event and recognize it for what it is–something transient that may be gone tomorrow if you flake out or change your mind or your Uncle Vinny finds your blog and you realize you don’t really want him to know where you live because you still owe him money.
You don’t promise to say nice things about the company. The PR person does. They have to sell a product no matter what that product is, and they sell it with a smile even if it kicks puppies and makes babies cry. You don’t have this obligation. You have the freedom that comes with NOT having a paycheck to answer to.
You are not expected to show up at 8 a.m. dressed business casual and go to countless meetings. You get to do and say whatever you want as long as you plop a disclaimer at the end.
Inspiring stuff, huh? It doesn’t stop there – in the comments, Sarah continues to dismiss a lot of valid responses that question her logic (she does also answer politely as well, to keep the balance). She also implies that the post was humorous in some of her comment replies, but I’m not too convinced.
But humour aside, Sarah does absolutely nothing for the case of PR understanding the importance of bloggers, and a lot for the mindset that PR sees bloggers as second-class media.
Bloggers Are Your Marketers
In Sarah’s post, she’s specifically writing about mommy bloggers, but it could be about any blogger from any niche. And Sarah’s implication – which, by default, is indicative of he employer – is that bloggers aren’t really meant to be taken seriously when it comes to PR needs.
So bloggers don’t have to say nice things about a client or their products? Bloggers are fairweather transients? Bloggers get to say and do whatever they want as long as they plop a disclaimer at the end?
It’s exactly because bloggers don’t have to be all fairy dust that they’re so valuable to brands (and the PR agencies that represent these brands). The problem with too many businesses is that they have PR Yes people crawling up their butt saying everything’s great, when it so clearly isn’t. And then they wonder why new Product A failed so miserably on launch.
Getting feedback – honest feedback – from bloggers and their readers is the best focus group a company can ever have, because it is so honest. Want to improve your product? Listen to the folks that matter – the people that use it.
As for being transient? It’s a well-known fact that the PR industry is one of those that has a particularly high turnover rate when it comes to jobs.
One-off projects and cutthroat practices mean a lot of people are left high and dry at the end of a project. Or burned out, from demands of the industry itself.
The saving grace for PR professionals is that this leads to a lot of job hopping, with agencies looking to fill spaces left by previous owners. Bloggers, on the other hand, don’t have the luxury of being able to job hop. The closest they come is getting a new Mac or PC, and possibly a new chair.
And Sarah’s point about not having to go to countless meetings? Perhaps not physically, but that view discounts all the Skype meetings, conference calls, email exchanges and IM chats that regularly happen as part of a blogger outreach program. And I guarantee you that many bloggers would LOVE to be able to sit in on client meetings to offer some more insights and gain a better understanding.
If you don’t like going to meetings, don’t work in a service-related industry.
Open Up and Smell the Bloggers
I look at the whole blogger and PR relationship from both sides. I have a PR background, and Bonsai Interactive offers PR services. Part of that is blogger relations and who should be used for individual campaigns.
I’m also a blogger, and I work with PR agencies now and again to promote their clients (always disclosed) so I get to see firsthand how bloggers are viewed by PR people.
Sarah’s viewpoint is disappointing. In one blog post, she’s basically implying that bloggers should be grateful for anything PR throws their way and that they should also know their place in the pecking order (again, Sarah’s words).
I don’t know if this is just her personal viewpoint, or reflective of the agency she works at, but either way it’s disheartening to see. I know a ton of amazing PR folks that truly value all that a blogger – any blogger – can bring to the promotional table.
People like Gini Dietrich, Shonali Burke, Dave Fleet, Rachel Kay, Arik Hanson and many more. These guys are bringing great successes for both their agencies and clients – all because they treat bloggers with respect and as a key part of any communications strategy.
Perhaps Sarah’s post was meant to be humorous. If so, she missed the funny boat. She also didn’t paint her employers in a great light, as the readers of Mom Blog Magazine made clear in a lot of their replies.
Perhaps bloggers don’t get paid the same way PR professionals do. But the minute a blogger is contracted to write a review of a product, or promote a new book for a PR agency’s client, that’s being hired. As such, you should extend the professional courtesy and dealings you give clients to the blogger.
After all, they’re the ones making you look sexy to the client when they get the jump in brand awareness or sales that a respected blogger can offer.
And that’s got to be worth more than some outdated PR view that “it’s not a proper job”, no?