I didn't write about Steve Rubel's Twitter gaffe with PC Magazine when it happened. And for most, the story is over. Yet, for me, I'm still considering how it might represent some serious changes in media relations.
Rubel is senior vice president at Edelman's me2revolution practice. Edelman is the largest independent global PR firm. So when Rubel put out a random Twit — “PC Mag is another. I have a free sub but it goes in the trash” — people noticed, especially Jim Louderback, editor in chief of PC Magazine.
Louderback's answer to the Twit can be seen in a blog post (above link). He asks, among other things, "Should I instruct the staff to avoid covering Edelman's clients? Ignore their requests for meetings, reviews and news stories? Blacklist the "Edelman.com" email domain in our exchange servers, effectively turning their requests into spam? If we're not relevant to Edelman's employees, then how could we be relevant to their clients?"
From a pure public relations perspective, Rubel made a mistake and did the right thing by apologizing and offering clarification. (This is precisely the kind of stuff that makes me wonder how public relations practitioners might have to adjust for something like a random thought racing across Twitter.)
However, if we remove this pure public relations perspective from the equation, maybe we come up with a different answer, one that addresses Louderback's original question: "Boycott Edelman, or would that be over reacting?" (sic)
Maybe the question is best answered by the media's long-held position to not be held hostage by advertisers who threaten to pull media buys over unfavorable editorials.
Wouldn't a boycott of Edelman and its clients over an unfavorable comment about the magazine be the same thing? Should Rubel, who has since said he reads PC Magazine via RSS feeds, censor himself on critiquing publications because of his position?
I don't know. But what I do know is that Louderback might have been better off calling or e-mailing Rubel before writing the editorial … just as public relations practitioners prescribe to their clients after an unfavorable media attention. The outcome might have been more favorable for everyone.
Rubel, much like a publisher, could have then retracted, corrected, or amended his statement on his own instead of being "learned." Louderback might have even had an opportunity to find out why Rubel felt that way, enough so, apparently, to fire off the Twit.
Regardless of whether the original message was a good idea or not (it wasn't), the bigger story here, at least to me, is what this means for the relationship between public relations and the media? What does it mean?
The times … oh how they are changing.