Why Is the Blogger-PR Relationship So Misunderstood?

Why can't bloggers and PR pros get along?

Another day, another one of those posts. Yes, another blogger has taken to the social media ‘verse with furrowed brow over the way PR pros approach bloggers.

On the one hand, this is Amber Naslund, so she offers excellent advice to anyone in corporate communications, PR or marketing who’s managing a crisis:

“You’ll need to figure out how to rally your own resources and the people that do know and trust you today to work extra hard to be your advocates in your moment of need. They’re the ones you should be asking, anyway, if they know you best and can vouch for your reputation, or your people, or the work that your company does.”

That’s because Naslund is a pro and understands the purpose and value of relationship-building over the long term.

What you read far too much of (and which Naslund does indulge a tiny bit in her post) is this:

“You just found me on some social media blogger list and did zero research as to the content I typically discuss on my blog. That’s obvious. You’re just hoping that I’ll use whatever reach and attention I have for your benefit…Why would I stake my reputation and the valuable attention of my readers on coming to your or your CEO’s defense based on a single email you send me in a moment of crisis?”

My goodness, the chest-beating that bloggers engage in! There are more than 150 million blogs* and, by my completely unscientific guess, probably half of the blog owners have dedicated at least one post to complaining about the way PR people work with them.

Sure there are plenty of blogs with the influence and reach of national newspapers. But, even hardened newspaper columnists rarely waste their readers’ time railing against the PR industry. (It’s such an easy target.) You’d think these blog folks were Norman Mailer or something. Of course, Mailer would have donned boxing gloves and offered the hapless PR guy the chance to duke it out in the ring.

Unless, like Naslund, you can use the interaction to offer some genuine insight, it’s time to pack away these posts. Because here’s what journalists know that bloggers don’t seem to suss: It’s never going to stop.

Even as social media platforms and ever-newer devices allow for more focused and customized targeting of audiences, PR is never going to be 1:1 communication. The crux of the problem is built in to the industry. 1:1 communication would be the PR agency’s client communicating directly with a consumer or stakeholder. Once the client hires an agency, it has already lost the opportunity to build a direct relationship, so PR by its very nature operates on a mass level, spreading the word as far and wide as possible to try to reach consumers with the client’s message.

It’s Not the PR Industry’s Fault

Yes, there are many campaigns that could be more targeted and focus on better relationship-building on behalf of the client. Typically, there isn’t a budget for that kind of individualized, time- and resource-consuming work. Typically, it is the job of an administrative assistant, an intern or a freelance contractor to put together the media and social media lists for a campaign. (Those expensive suits who pitched this campaign to the client? The ones who promised they had “ins” with star reporters, magazine profile writers, and TV hosts? Nope, they don’t put the lists together for the campaign, they don’t oversee the media outreach, and they don’t do 99 percent of the pitching. If they do happen to know a reporter well, then that’s the one call they’ll make. Everything else is handled by a freelancer paid by the agency at about 15 – 20 percent of the hourly billable rate the agency charges the client for the work.)

This is what journalists and PR people know. The PR industry isn’t going to change. If you’re a blogger, it’s time to understand the process. Frankly, you should be pleased your blog made the list; it means you’re out there making an impact.

You don’t have to do anything about a pitch letter. You don’t have to participate in a PR campaign, and no one’s going to shoot you if you toss a pitch letter in the recycling bin and get back to the more important work you were doing in the first place. It’s just like that advice mom always gave you: Ignore them, and they’ll go away.

If you’re a blogger with an active, dedicated readership, you’re already doing exactly what social media was invented for: engagement. Keep up the great work and avoid the stuff that gets in your way.

Further reading: Why Is the PR-Blogger Relationship So Fraught?

*According to BlogPulse, there were 152 million blogs on the Internet in 2010.

2 thoughts on “Why Is the Blogger-PR Relationship So Misunderstood?

  1. This is an interesting post, Vickie. I agree completely with your “mom’s advice” idea. Why can’t bloggers just toss and ignore those PR emails which have nothing to do with them, instead of engaging in battle? Seems like a waste of time.

    152 million blogs on the internet in 2010? That’s quite a lot of competition in the “attracting readers” arena!

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