Posted by an Honored Guest
If there's one thing that characterizes the current social media explosion, it's the rush to push the limits. It's absolutely exhilarating... well... that is, until the Gods push back.
This is about the Gods pushing back. It's a must read for everyone in PR and corporate communications. It's a perfect example of when organizational interests clash with the now sacrosanct "conversation". Here, it's simple: When everyone's a potential corporate spokesperson, the potential (read likely) results are nothing short of a type of systemic Tourette's.
The lesson? The phrase "loose lips sink ships" is still in effect. With one little comment on Twitter last Friday, Edelman PR SVP Steve Rubel dissed an audience of 11 million. Now that's PR!
A word to the wise.
UPDATE 4-17-07: Rubel apologizes.
It seems fairly common today to see the media examining the phenomenon of people (especially high school and college students) posting information — to Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, or just personal blogs — that may one day haunt them in ...
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There's something about Twitter that transforms its users into mindless nutjobs that poop out these inane, attitude laden comments without a second thought. This one just happened to bite Rubel in the tushy.
Kudos to Jim Louderback for taking a stand.
How can any reasonably intelligent person take seriously something called "Twitter?"
Twitter lures you into this fake intimacy. It's easy to think you're only talking to a couple of friends, when in reality everyone in the whole, wide world is listening. It's the Metro train effect; someone says something remotely interesting and you can't help but strain to listen in.
Because of this effect, it's easy to say something flippant or in half-context without regards to how your non-Twitter friends might respond. I doubt Rubel really meant to disregard 11 million readers. He probably just wanted to make the point that he was reading more RSS feeds than paper. I doubt even he would admit that he doesn't read PC Magazine in some form.
I caution leaders frequently not to buy into the latest commuication fad without some trial and error. I remember in 1992 telling my new boss that someday all of us would select and create our own newscasts and dump our TVs in the garbage. For a while there I was a pre-Ruble running around telling people to cancel their newspapers, buy a computer, build a website and download WinAmp. Soon I slowed down a bit and tempered my enthusiasm.
In 2007 we can do just as I predicted with RSS, YouTube and other sources, but no one is smashing the video box. So while it might be exciting to talk about using RSS and technology to reduce paper and speed up learning, it would be foolish to say that 11 million who still read paper are to be dismissed.
Steve went on to apologize, probably to keep the pitch channels open, but likely because in the end he understands that he must not turn a blind eye to a large part of his potential audience. While many of those folks likely are as excite about feeds and social media, most of them are buying the paper magazine for some reason and it would be foolish to allow a tossed away comment to alienate them.
Having met you briefly over a year ago, I can tell you that while I may not get your print magazine anymore, I follow everything you folks say online. In an age when everything is online it is hard to get excited as I used to about print. Having ignored renewal notices for quite a while now I am a realist in knowing that when I opened up a print magazine that most of the news would be old to me.
It did not use to be this way as in years past I would look at every page, times have changed and bookmarks, blog post, and del.icio.us links have replaced torn out pages of magazines.
While the Twitter Post was probably said of the cuff the reality is for most net citizens print magazines for many of us have been replaced by our RSS Feed Readers.
Instead of coming down on the guy who was honest enough to tell you the truth, doesn't it make more sense to recognize the problem he's highlighting?
No... it doesn't make more sense. Actually, making decisions based on rudimentary feeling in the moment is what animals do. We have more complex brains so as to be able to manage complex situations.
Whether what Rubel said was right or wrong on the face of it, is not the point. He apologized because now he understands the point. His first responsibility is to his firm. His firm's first responsibility is to their clients. It's not about whatever he may think, it's about what they think and what they value.
I have given Steve all kinds of grief in the past over Edelman's antics, and Edelman too, but people are not companies and people are just human beings.
Let him be a human. Twitter is good therapy for him. He needs it. I like real and Twitter is close as we are going to get.
Good for you Jim. The only thing I don't get is why you'd even accept such a barely sincere-sounding "apology" so quickly?
It was only a matter of time before Rubel's Twitter twaddle got him in hot water. Twitter is a mindless, self-absorbed narcotic that fools you into believing that great masses of people care if you stop to have a latte or stick a Q tip in your ear. You get the sense that being so public and so trite is wearing Rubel, and Edelman, down. It is certainly wearing us down.
PC Magazine isn't aimed at PR executives. It's aimed at technology buyers. So what?
Should cereal company executives pretend to read Nick Magazine?
Only if they provide a service and want to get paid.
Jeremy raises a good point. Apologies just don't bloody cut it anymore -- am I right? What do they accomplish, exactly? Apologies don't give back dignity, or loved ones, or stolen/broken property. You don't apologize to your client for screwing up and making them look like twits -- it has no effect whatsoever.
Well, what he said was that he threw his copy of the magazine away. That's subtly different to not caring about it's content. A VP at a PR firm with no personal interest in the magazine content wouldn't read it and presumably has people on much lower wages to collate the progress of what was pitched when and to do the statistics on what got covered.
It was still a silly thing to Twitter, but it's possible to read too much into it.
I'm sorry Adam, but as a "VP at a PR firm" it matters not one jot what your personal interests are. You are paid good money to provide senior counsel to clients, which you can't do if you don't bother to read the publication. It would be even worse for a VP to think they are too grand/important to do it, and to sub the task to a junior.
Good point. Is Rubel a PR Exec? He is a Senior Vice President probably earning in the $175K range. We know he speaks at conferences. We know he writes a blog to plug Edelman clients and writes a column. We know he merrily Twitters his day away.
Does he do client work? Does he have billable time? He wrote in his blog recently that deleting email message pitches made him feel like a journalist - so we know he knows nothing about media relations. Does he know anything about public relations? He doesn't demonstrate that he does. Maybe he doesn't even need to read. What value can he possibly offer Edelman, except name recognition that is rapidly diminishing.
Personally, I am suffering from apology fatigue - especially when they are as lame and hollow and PR-driven as the one Rubel offered. Maybe he's on his way out.
Even if you wanted to how could you boycott Edelman PR?
Any blog at any time could be singing praises for some product or service as part of Edelman's me2revolution and you wouldn't know it.
Here's a somewhat related article on "transparency." If you look at the comments, you'll see that Richard Edelman weighs in. And then someone immediately busts him for bewing hypocritical.
I think Steve's apology was reasonable and Jim took it a bit more personal. Steve said that he trash the print copy, but that doesn't mean -- "that my magazine (and by extension, my audience) was useless to him. He wasn't even interested in seeing whether we'd covered one of his clients. Did the rest of Edelman think like Steve? Were we no better than fishwrap to the entire company?", as Jim suggest.
I think Steve was just implying that he reads the online version, not print, but the nature of Twitter's 140 chars messages don't allow one to explain oneself appropriately.
I only ever read hard copy when I have a long flight and can't gete information online. What does that make me?
Does anyone not see the brilliance here? At first I thought Steve was foolish but now I get it - he is the utlimate spinster, securing ink on himself and his company at any cost - and it works!
Let's see... one of Edelman's biggest clients is Microsoft, which is -- what? software for, oh yes, PCs. And it's hard to find a magazine that covers Microsoft's doings more thoroughly than PC magazine. Not to mention Edelman's other clients getting thoughtful and thorough ink in PC magazine's pages, as Jim points out -- Mozilla, Palm and more. So, just from a PR standpoint, what Steve Rubel said was idiotic. Seriously idiotic. Any good PR firm and exec -- from the lowliest AC to the top Poobah -- reads online and off, the targets where its clients need to be. Otherwise, how can it know what they want?
And yes, I am in PR.
Wasn't it Edelman that was already in trouble this year for not acknowledging it was a PR firm when posting to blogs about its clients? and Edelman's antics sending MSFT laptops to Linux users was also a little... off. I, too, have apology fatigue, but this one didn't cut it.
Ha - did anyone see the latest issue of Business Week? As they used to say in those Prego commercials, "it's in there!"
More Pioneer Thinking (or Twittering) from Edelman.
I love this story and PC Magazine's reaction. Kudos to Jim. And, of course, to Amanda for this breaking news item.
Imagine if Steve had dissed the New York Times, WSJ, USA Today and other media "customers" they deal with.
It's like the Pope badmouthing God. It just proves my point that these Me2Revolution guys just don't know what business they are in....
I saw Rubel's Twitter post when he ran it and was astonished enough to respond -- simply saying that i do read the magazine. I hoped my tone conveyed my incredulity at the idiotic post. Louderback should probably let it go, as it seems points have been made all 'round.
If Rubel's point was that he doesn't keep print mags around, I hope none of his coworkers borrow his laptop because I'll assume that's what he brings to read in the can.
Even though I do mostly everything online, I still love printed magazines and buy lot's of them (but not PC Mag) every month. Having said that, I believe Jim overreacted with an empty threat he could never go ahead with. Too bad Steve didn't call his bluff and went the PR way instead.
The same reasoning some people used to say Steve couldn't risk the relationship between the magazine and some of Edelmans's clients which are heavily covered by it would apply to the boycott Jim suggested. Does anyone think that if PC Mag and it's sister publications decided to boycott Edelman's clients, their 11 million readers would be happy to miss all the news from the likes of Microsoft, Palm etc? My guess is that it would mean more copies of PC Mag ending up in the trash and advertising from those and other companies being cancelled. Great strategy!
And how does ignoring news that were considered relevant weeks before or badmouthing companies based on personal issues contribute to the credibility of the magazine? If they started boycotting news because of a personal dispute with a PR person, I wonder if the next step would be a decision to print only what their friends (and advertisers) pitch them. They should be thinking about their readers needs, not about getting even with Steve. If the magazine is good, the readers won't care about whatever he says about it.
Good points. I think Jim was flexing a little muscle and feeling insecure. Rubel gets huge traffic on his blog and he is quoted often in mainstream media. I think those competitive pressures showed in Louderback's post. I doubt that Rubel pitches stories and he has referenced PC mag in his posts, backing up his claim that he gets it through a feed.
However, Rubel would have nothing to gain by calling out Louderback, and he has a whole agency to assuage. The episode is a fascinating study of the shifting relationship between mainstream editors/journalists and bloggers.
I hear what you're saying Julio. But personally, I wouldn't mind seeing less coverage of big names in PC Mag/PC World. It's all MS this and Apple that. The wonderful thing about the PC is that there are small dev's out there with products every bit as innovative and worthy of coverage as the big players.
If I see another Top 10 Vista tips, Vista troubleshooting guide, or anti-spyware article again though I'll hurl.