When PR and bloggers combust

Sometimes us PR people can cross the line a tad, especially when it comes to pestering journalists for this, that, and t'other. There's nothing more irritating than having your personal peace and quiet disrupted by a rouge email to your inbox or a phone call to your personal mobile number. An old journalist colleague even had a marketing person ring their land line at all hours trying to push less-than-stellar interviews. But a 'cold' email to the work account? That's fair enough. I used to get plenty in my inbox when I was a reporter and every now and then a real unsolicited nugget of a press release would crop up. If the PR bod was repeatedly emailing me when it was clear I was the wrong person, they'd get pointed in the right direction.

Now, on the other side of the fence, if I can get to chat to the journalist that I've not had contact with before and give them a heads up, brilliant, but sometimes there's just not the time and a 'cold' release has to do. And if I get a request not to email, or to send the release elsewhere, that's not a problem.

But what to do with bloggers? I'm always of the opinion that if the blog is either good enough or influential enough then I'm happy to treat requests and releases in the same way I would any other journalist or reporter. After all, they're getting the message out there, which is the key part.

Obviously this is within reason - if a national newspaper or broadcaster needed something, be it a response or clip, asap they'd probably get preference. But then if the blog wanted something quickly and the other requests could wait, they'd go to the top of my intray.

But how to make first contact [1]? Now there's the rub. If I was rushing to get a release out and wanted to make sure it got to a blog I'd not worked with before then there's a possibility I may send it to a personal email address by mistake, and incur said blogger's wrath.

One reason some people I've met in both journalism and PR are a bit wary with bloggers is the reaction they may get when they make that first contact, or even second or third contact. If a journalist doesn't like your release, chances are they'll hit the delete button and have a few minutes of exchanging cutting remarks with colleagues before getting back to whatever they were doing.

Bloggers will occasionally take that one step further and take that tirade online. Sometimes this is justified if whatever they've been sent is utter garbage or completely crosses the line. Other times it can be unfair to the PR bod who's put in a lot of work only to see it trashed.

Ok, this isn't that common and a lot of blog editors are happy they're finally being taken seriously as a medium, and from a personal point of view, it's incredibly gratifying both from a journalist and PR perspective when your work does get picked up and discussed around the blogosphere. But getting it out there is always tricky.

At the end of the day, contact has to start somewhere and if it isn't always obvious or clear where to go to, there's always the risk of winding up in a personal inbox.

As a rule, if I'm contacting a blog for the first time, I'll make it clear in the opening email that I'm happy to send material to a different address if I have picked up the wrong one by mistake. I'll also ask them to email back if they don't want releases full stop, or they do want releases just on topic x and not topic y, and so forth.

A little bit of dialogue can often go a long way, and it's as much feedback for me as it is for anybody working predominantly online.

[1] So to speak. Bloggers and blog editors aren't alien lifeforms, although some in the media would have you believe otherwise.