Tuesday, April 24

Educating Companies: Idea Grove

Idea Grove, led by Scott Baradell, which also owns the very popular spin-shaming site Spin Thicket, believes in educating the industry. As a former Fortune 1000 media company executive and award-winning journalist, Baradell understands media relations from both sides of the fence.

Yesterday, he shared an obvious public relations tip that he learned, much like I did, from working a dual career path: Don't ask someone to take down a blog post.

"We just had a call from someone from a company that did not like what we said about them in an earlier post. The company representative was very gracious in acknowledging our criticism, even offering a service discount as a way of making amends.
Then ..... HE ASKED IF WE WOULD TAKE DOWN OUR BLOG POST," wrote Baradell.

Call me crazy, but I think there is a word for this ... um, yep, it's called bribery. A bribe is something, such as money or a favor or service discount, offered to someone in a position of trust to induce he or she to act dishonestly. Of course, I am not sure the service discount was contingent on taking down the blog post. Maybe it only seems that way because a few hours later an anonymous commentator posted: "Why would you mess with a company who could possibly help you in the future. Smart move."

Baradell is not the only one to experience such blogfoolery. I've had my share of interesting e-mails and phone calls.

Two of them provide an interesting contrast. I'll take a page from Baradell's post and skip the names this time.

One CEO, who I opined about on this blog, called me months after a post, but not to ask that the post be removed. Instead, he complimented me on the greater work that seems to be going on here. He said he learned a few things and has become a fan. Who knows? One day we might even work together, but there won't be any conditions to take any posts down. Why? It's called mutual respect.

In complete contrast, after another company smoothed over its public relations practitioner's error and subsequent mishandling of an incident, their public relations person (who is accredited of all things) took time out to write: "Good of you to take a minute to contact me a second time before blasting away. Totally professional approach." And a few other choice quips that I won't repeat here.

For the record, I had contacted him a second time. However, as I noted in my e-mail back then, the burden is not on media,
social or otherwise. It was his responsibility to follow up, not me or his client as he claimed in his e-mail.

While there were no bribes, both provide a pretty clear picture of how to handle bloggers with journalistic backgrounds. In the first instance, I have nothing but good feelings about the company and CEO. In the next instance, I have nothing but bad feelings about the public relations firm.

The fact is that I could have posted the public relations guy's e-mails and commented. Instead, I think I did something more damaging. Despite seeing the potential to write good things about his client (because they do have a few good things going on), I've decided to never write about them again. Hmmm ... maybe no ink is worse than a little you don't like.

So where does this "sense" of social media ethics come from for people like me and Baradell? I cannot speak for him, but I would guess it comes from working as a journalist. You quickly learn some things just aren't done when you work in the media: good public relations practitioners don't ask for story retractions, never mention that they buy (or could buy) advertising in the publication, and appreciate that lavish gifts and extravagant lunches come across as bribes. Why? Because as a journalist, it's irritating to be asked to taint the truth and insulting when someone thinks you'll taint it for favors.

Sure, there are some bloggers who will take down posts upon request (and maybe some who can be bribed), but only because they haven't learned some hard lessons working as a journalist. In time, those bloggers will find that ethics is not for sale.

As for the public relations practitioners who prescribe bribery, huffery, and blackmail, one day they will learn that's no way to manage a practice when asking for a post correction or clarification might just be enough. As for those who won't learn until they learn the hard way, well, you know … thank goodness it's their career and not mine.

Digg!

2 comments:

Scott Baradell on 4/24/07, 10:47 AM said...

Well said. I've always had the belief that journalism is the best preparation for a PR career; what's great now is that even PR people who've never been journalists can at least get a taste for that side of the fence through blogging.

Rich on 4/24/07, 1:12 PM said...

Thanks Scott. And yes, I think you are right on both count. Blogging provides an excellent education opportunity for some public relations practitioners.

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