First off, before we begin, a comment about the headline. This article was going to be titled: "How Richard is Single Handedly F-ing Up the PR Business." At little strong perhaps. Actually, no, it's not really. Richard Edelman, CEO of one of the largest PR firms in the world, is in full "leadership" mode trying to court the PR industry to change its very DNA. And the real scary part is that like lemmings, we're just following him! Arrgh.
Well, here's the latest. Last Thursday and Friday Edelman hosted The New Media Academic Summit 2007. The conference was billed as a gathering of "business leaders, academics, journalists, bloggers and communications professionals" brought together "to discuss the challenges facing universities in preparing the next generation of graduates."
Because the writing's on the wall. Like his counterparts in mainstream media and advertising, Richard wakes up with a start every night fearing that all this blogging crap is going to totally disintermediate him. He's convinced: either we become Craig's List or we get eaten by Craig's List.
So... he's out there beating the drum and evangelizing change, i.e. adapt or die. Just how radical is the change he proposes? Jay Rosen, Associate Professor and former chairman of the Department of Journalism NYU was the last panelist to speak. Ironically, he also happened to bring it all together and hit the nail on the head.
Bottom line: Richard is desperately trying to change our DNA. And the purpose of this event was/is obvious. If Richard can convince this crowd, together they'll rewrite the book... literally.
EDELMAN: "This is a time of great opportunity for public relations. We are now able to compete with other communications companies (advertising, promotion) which have historically had the primary seat at the table. Our big ideas are often the program’s central idea. We are also uniquely suited to the present environment, which depends on dialogue, trust and relationships."
INDUSTRY RESPONSE: No. Competing for Direct Marketing business is NOT a good thing no matter how much they are paying you Richard. It reduces us.
Also, we don't do things that rely on trust... we are paid to create and leverage trusted relationships. That's our job. We design and implement programs that deliver market influence to facilitate client objectives. And the ONLY reason we morally get away with it is because our initiatives are vetted through an independent media.
EDELMAN: "The role of the PR person must evolve from a pitching mentality to a listening/learning approach premised on conversations with reporters, bloggers, critics, analysts, employees, and myriad of client stakeholders."
INDUSTRY RESPONSE: No. We are not going to go from pitching an independent media... to direct unvetted unpoliced public manipulation. We are advocates in the court of public opinion. What you are proposing is a court without a judge. Minus the unfortunate fact that anarchy "feels good," it is NOT a business model.
EDELMAN: "The quality of the content we distribute must be high because it is increasingly used as primary source data, without the mediation process inherent in working with a reporter. We need to offer attribution, to give real depth of content and to check our sources, to ensure journalist-level quality."
INDUSTRY RESPONSE: No. At any given time you'll be compromising one or both. Again, you somehow think we can be responsible as both judge and advocate.
Secondly, in an industry that has almost entirely lost the craft of writing, do you really think we can vet our own content independently? That's just plainly preposterous.
EDELMAN: "There is no place in PR for spin. To be deemed a spinmeister is the ultimate insult. We are in the business of presenting reality, both to clients’ stakeholders but also to the client. We advise, develop strategy and listen, so that we help to shape that reality."
INDUSTRY RESPONSE: No. "Spin" is only when you do it badly or get caught. "Perception is reality," coined your father. We're in the business of creating and managing public perception. That's what we do.
We can't change our DNA. But if per chance Richard succeeds, what silly monster will he have created? This is, if we even survive at all.
Blogola reared its grinning ugly face in a big way last week and I am still pissed off about Michael Kempner’s barnyard defense of his firm’s blogola campaign. I speak as a blogger on this issue. I am offended by Kempner’s stance. All bloggers should be. Blogola disrespects bloggers and solidifies public perception that we are easily bought, third-tier amateur hacks. As long as Kempner and his ilk are allowed to get away with cheap blog payoffs, that perception is reality.
Kempner is CEO of MWW, a mid-size PR firm (they don’t release billings to O’Dwyer’s). On his blog he defends his firm’s program to give 50 bloggers Nikon D80 cameras for 6 – 12 months, with the right to purchase at a discount at the end. This is standard practice at major media, said Kempner (wrong), and it showed that they treated bloggers as journalists (really, really wrong). Critics of the program are jealous, self-serving and personally destructive, said Kempner. For background see Strumpette Kempner Puts Blog Program In Spin Cycle, and PRBlogNews Kempner Swallows Blogola Whole …
You wonder how the head of a mid-size PR agency can be so clueless about media relations and blogger relations but there it is. “Staff members who borrow equipment, vehicles or other goods for evaluation or review must return the borrowed items as soon as possible,” says the ethic guidelines of The New York Times. Those of us who deal with mainstream media know how sensitive they are to even the appearance of a gift that might sway their judgment.
“Here, take this $1,000 camera for a year and then you can keep it for $100” – try that line on David Pogue at The New York Times and see if he ever talks to you again.
That leaves Kempner and crew to troll for willing victims in the bottom rungs of blogdom. They did a great job of finding 50 who were just ga-ga over getting this wonderful camera to play with for a year. “I was a little surprised to be picked for this - I actually thought it was spam at first,” posted Joe Moraca on his Sarasota Livin’ blog, about receiving his $1,000 camera in the mail. B.L. Ochman was so thrilled about getting her camera that she did an interview with her benefactors, the team at MWW managing the blogola program.
Joe Jaffee, president of ‘new marketing’ company crayon, in his Thank you Nikon post was similarly exultant and disbelieving that he had been chosen for this great honor. Do we need any more proof that bloggers crave validation from established power and are willing whores for expensive swag? Do we have to look further to see why bloggers are dismissed by mainstream media and the general public as questionable sources of news or opinion?
Kempner was right when he said that his blogola program was: “Simple. Clear. Clean. So clean in fact that 46 of the 50 bloggers we invited to participate immediately accepted. Of the remaining four, two haven’t had a chance to decide yet and two declined as they were engaged by other PR firms and felt it would be a conflict.”
Easy pickins’, those bloggers. What should bloggers ensnared in the MWW blogola trap do? Have a personal set of ethical guidelines and be vigilant against PR payola. Check the camera out, record your opinions on your blogs, return the camera to MWW within 30 days (or a reasonable period). Don’t accept the MWW poison gift. Don’t let Michael Kempner and crew disrespect you, and the rest of us, with blogola. Don’t be blinded by the swag. Not all of us are jealous. Some of us think this whole thing is pretty pathetic.
Blogging about this by Nikon D80 blogola recipients has been sparse and defensive. The program is tainted and demeans bloggers and the product. Maybe if MWW is delivered that message through returned cameras we will see a little more understanding in Michael Kempner’s public communication about influencing bloggers.
Mark Rose is editor of PRBlogNews - a web publication focusing on public relations practices in the digital age.
On Thursday, March 8, 2007 at 7:41 AM, Ronn Torossian, President and CEO of 5WPR, emphatically promised that he was going to sue us. No real reason, he was just irritated by our teasing him about getting in bed with pornographer Joe Francis. Anyway, Ronn gave his obscenity-laced word that we'd see the complaint in 72 hours. It's now late by
Kathleen Durazo about A Measly $2.8 Million Goes Missing, Lawsuit Results Fri, Jul 31, 10:58:34 AM Ray Durazo (the founder) sold the company to Dan in 1999. He was not involved in any of this. He (and I) found out about the lawsuit in the LA Times. In addition to embezzling this m [...]