PRs V Bloggers: The Great Debate

Posted: April 7, 2011 in Events, Opinion
Tags: , ,
By Becci Gould, Account Executive, Petersens PR
  

Yesterday evening I was lucky enough to attend the Cardiff Bloggers meet-up, an event that occurs every month or so at Pica Pica on Westgate Street in Cardiff.

Usually the meetings focus primarily on blogging, with, as expected, the majority of attendees being bloggers themselves. However, yesterday’s event was an exception, with the room being almost dominated by an array of PR people from Cardiff, eagerly

Cardiff Bloggers Meeting April 2011 (Image Hannah Waldram, Guardian)

 awaiting a long-anticipated live debate between key representatives from the PR industry and a number of influential bloggers from the Cardiff area.

After following the recent incident between Cardiff Arcades Blogger (http://cardiffarcades.wordpress.com), Amy Davies and Golley Slater, the PR company behind St. David’s, regarding a inaccuracy in Amy’s blog that caused ‘quite a stir’ to say the least, it was obvious why a live, face-to-face and most importantly, open discussion was needed between bloggers like Amy and those protecting the reputation of leading organisations.

Despite being a journalist used to dealing with PR people on a regular basis, as a blogger, Amy explained that she felt ‘scared’ when approached by Golley Slater. Blogs are personal and without the support of an employer behind you, it is often difficult and indeed daunting to stand your ground when approached by PR people.

However, as Matt Appleby of Golley Slater PR explained, in this particular instance, the situation could have been dealt with differently and more appropriately by his colleagues who admittedly saw Amy within her journalistic capacity, forgetting that this was a personal blog. With all issues now resolved through face-to-face meetings, Matt and Amy both agreed that a simple phone-call to a blogger, is the best method of approach for PRs.

PR V Bloggers Panelists (Image from Hannah Waldrom, Guardian)

Despite one issue being settled, this last comment opened up a new debate – how do bloggers like to be contacted, if at all, by PR people?

Troubled by the thought of receiving constant phone-calls from PRs, Cardiff Blogger Rachael Phillips, quickly jumped in to inform the audience that email was her preferred method of contact. She also added that she likes to receive an entire press release rather than a ‘would you be interested in…’ email.

It was refreshing to hear that some bloggers have thought out the relationship they are willing to have with PRs, rather than, as one blogger implied, worrying that using information from PRs will turn their blog into a generic copy of popular media rather than a personal take on a niche subject.

To this point, Kate Sullivan of Equinox Communications, explained that PR people understand and respect that bloggers have their own niche subjects and personal opinions, but sometimes access to additional information through PR companies can help to support and strengthen one’s opinion…and who knows, as a blogger, you may even need help from PR people in the future!  

Clearly, bloggers’ thoughts on PR people are as individual as their blogs, a difficult challenge for the PR industry but one we should welcome and nurture in order to reach a positive and beneficial relationship built on two-way communication. As panelist and Art’s Marketer for St. David’s Hall, Jen Thornton remarked after the meeting ‘Moral of the Story…PRs and bloggers can all be friends, easy. 

Personally, I found the debate extremely interesting and useful – Beforehand I had always assumed that bloggers wouldn’t want to know us PR people but as the meeting proved, in an age of the social media revolution, the relationship between PRs and bloggers is one that often cannot be avoided and it makes sense that we embrace this relationship and, most importantly, respect what each party is trying to achieve.

Many thanks to all the panelists for some great tips, the hosts Hannah Waldram and Ed Walker and to Warwick Emanuel PR for sponsoring my free glass of wine!

 

Comments
  1. Matt Appleby says:

    Hi Becci

    Nice post – very productive debate, I thought.

    The issue of contact is an interesting one. In the instance we discussed last night, where there’s an existing relationship, then a phone call’s probably the clearest and easiest way to sort things out.

    But there’s no hard and fast rule. Bloggers have different preferences and many recognise the value of setting out in their blog how they like to be contacted. The same goes for their willingness (or otherwise) to be contacted about reviewing products and so on. As you say in your post, some are quite happy to be put on press release lists – but many others would regard that as spam.

    With my blogging hat on I occasionally get approached by PR people too – I’ve made it clear in my ‘About me’ that twitter is my preference for contact and so far that’s worked well. It’s not intrusive and it’s up to me whether I respond.

    Where such preferences aren’t so clear, the CIPR has some useful guidance for PR professionals who are considering making a pitch to bloggers:

    – Do your research and get to know the blog as you may be able to work out the blogger’s attitude is to being approached
    – Make sure your approach is relevant – take time to familiarise yourself with the blogger’s interests and those of his/her readers
    – Tailoring your pitch to a blogger is as important as it is in the traditional media space – it gives it a much better chance of being received positively, rather than being viewed as spam
    – Be honest and open about your role and the nature of your pitch
    – The concept of ‘off the record’ doesn’t exist in social media – assume anything you send may be published

    I think last night proved that there is an appetite for bloggers and the PR community to work more closely together – as Wynford said in summing up – to mutual benefit.

    Cheers

    Matt.

    Li ink to the CIPR guidelines (these are about to be updated next week).

    Click to access Social%20Media%20Guidelines.pdf

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