Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Ain't That a Kick in the Head

I've blogged somewhat about transparency and other requirements of PR in new marketing, but today's bruhaha is more about the crossover between traditional PR and the blogosphere. The line between journalists and bloggers has always been a blurry one, especially when many journalists themselves have begun to blog. And I can say from working on the inside that when it's crunch time before a big outreach effort, it's doubly-important to make sure you've got things right.

Like say, for example, not sending a briefing bio to the journalist rather than the client. Oops.

All things considered, this is really just a minor screw-up. Someone at Waggener Edstrom sent Fred Vogelstein of Wired his own briefing bio. Other than a rare inside look at the machinations of corporate PR, there really wasn't much relevant information in there. Fred posted about it online, and posted the bio itself (PDF). Chris Anderson blogged about it at the Long Tail, and Wagged responded on their blog.

My first (and snarky) thought was "thank God it wasn't me/us!" But I have to wonder if this even would have been a story if it had happened before the blogosphere. Chris Anderson (full disclosure: I am a big fan of the Long Tail theory of online distribution, and I was involved in some outreach to him when I was on the Xbox corporate account) titled his post "Some choose radical transparency, some have it thrust upon them." As PR evolves and we try to find our footing with a top-tier blogosphere that consists largely of journalists like Anderson and Vogelstein who are actively (and rightly so) blurring the lines between traditional journalism and blogging, our internal machines will change as well. Does that mean us PR types are going to stop creating briefing documents? I seriously doubt it - as some of the comments on Anderson's post indicate, that's what our clients pay us to do.

But just as we can't expect to create a blog supposedly by 12-year-olds for a video game system, we also can't expect that kind of information to stay secret - and thus the need even for internal transparency. This would have happened eventually, whether it was a bio accidentally pasted into an email or some less-than-scrupulous person stealing the information and posting it online.

The interesting thing to watch here will be the blogosphere's response to this: will they act like journalists and see it for what it is? Just as PR is taking its steps out of childhood and into our awkward adolescent phase when engaging with bloggers, so too are bloggers looking across the dance floor at us. Both "sides" (and I use that term loosely) are gangly and not quite sure of themselves yet, but it'll be interesting to see whether we can manage to hold hands and dance for a song or two.

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