Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Publicists vs bloggers

For every article proclaiming blogging to be an unavoidable part of the future of journalism I can give you five publicists who treat bloggers with derision, rudeness and dismissal. Of course to do so they would need to bother to take their phone calls or reply to their emails in the first place which an alarming number don’t bother to do.

I am in an unusual position: I’ve been a journalist and magazine editor for well over ten years, in New York and in London, as well as a blogger for three, so I’ve been on the receiving end of both oleaginous sucking up and jaw dropping rudeness. I very rarely tell people my print identity when I am calling for images or info for LLG, so it’s been an education to see how I am treated when I use my blog nom de plume.

It’s astonishing how few agencies or publicists seem to have a social media policy. They seem thrown when I call for info or for images for LLG, and I can tell that few read blogs that cover their sector, know who’s who in social media, scan lists of popular blogs produced by Cision, newspapers and magazines or utilize tools such as to discover the rankings and reach of particular blogs within their markets.

This stuff isn’t rocket science and to presume that an inch square placement in a glossy has wider reach than a blog with say 100k unique visitors a month & a high GPR is naïve in the extreme.

There are exceptions: some agencies, such as Exposure, (Levi's, Converse), actively reach out to bloggers, and a few companies who had a risible approach to social media back in 2007 have jumped in with both feet. Topshop are a good example of this: my record was twelve phone calls and five emails back in May 07 for a story I was working on, not one of which was returned. Now they host blogger events & hire bloggers for outreach.

Of course there are hundreds of thousands of blogs out there, many with minute audiences, many badly written and many owned by what I call blagging bloggers who are thrilled with the idea that they might get sent freebies, who exercise no editorial judgment and who jump on every gravy train going. I am sure that publicists get justifiably irritated with the bloggers that they consider to be time wasters or irrelevant, but if a blogger is savvy enough to contact a publicist in the first place, then they are probably worth talking to.

Bottom line: whether or not the publicist wishes to engage with a particular blogger, that’s no excuse for not replying to emails, returning phone calls, or being rude. I’ve heard tales from other bloggers that make my hair stand on end.

What many publicists don’t seem to understand is that the blogger will write the story anyway, find poor quality images elsewhere and, ten to one, write about their negative experience. So why not turn the coverage to their advantage by helping the blogger in the first place?

I was so angry today with a particular beauty PR company that I called the head office of one of their clients to ask why I couldn’t get their London PR co. to talk to me, (I’d been trying for five weeks). I was curious to know if they had a specific policy on social media. Turns out they love social media and were horrified to discover that their rep was blocking my advances.

Publicists: pull your finger out, or you may find accounts disappearing.