Here’s what: The blogosphere is a young medium, still in its adolescence — too young to already be kidnapped by the PR industry. Jeff Jarvis, one of the blogosphere’s respected elders, offered these thoughts on the Times piece: “The Times is merely reporting how PR works. Only the object of this PR is the public, not the press. And some of these people, these bloggers, aren’t as slick as reporters in knowing how to deal with this.” Jarvis went on to offer this advice to his fellow bloggers:
“If you write a post inspired by what you get from a company or its PR agent, say so. If you use facts or quotes from a company, politician, PR agent, or press release, say so (better yet, link to it). If you get anything from a PR agent — things, business meetings, social events — say so. Your public has a right to know where your information comes from so they can judge it accordingly. And then you know what? You will be way ahead of the press.”
What Jarvis didn’t explicitly say is that the best journalists are masters at cutting through PR fog and now bloggers — at least the ones who want to maintain their credibility — will have to become the same to avoid being fooled, or tooled, by the bigger PR juggernauts. As the Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz wrote yesterday, prompted by the Times piece: “The better bloggers are going to have to figure out their own standards for dealing with corporate and political flacks, and those who blindly carry water for outside groups will probably lose credibility over time. But I expect them to be in the minority.”
We’re glad Kurtz has such faith. Us? We’re not so sure. The number of press releases showing up in our email in-boxes is certainly on the rise. (Here’s an example of one we received just this morning: “With award-show season in the midst of Winter and the Academy Awards having just finished, I’m sure your CJR Daily readers wonder, ‘How do celebrities keep their great tans?’” Accompanying this teaser was an offer to book some interview time with the CEO of Darque Tan.)
There is a category at the PRWeek awards (the “Spinnies”) celebrating the “Best Use of Internet.” This year, the winner made blogs the focus of its campaign. We’re guessing it won’t be long before “Best Use of Blogs” merits its own, stand-alone “Spinnie” award category.
(Personal aside: There is also a category at the PRWeek awards for “Best Use of Broadcast,” “honoring VNRs [Video News Releases] in terms of their creativity, cost-effectiveness and overall impact.” It is a travesty that Karen Ryan Group Communications did not take this category last year for its work in 2004. Why the snub? What in the world did the winner — Zeno Group, on behalf of the National Association of Music Education — have on Ryan’s “In Washington, I’m Karen Ryan reporting” series on behalf of the Health and Human Services Department? If the Spinnies are the Oscars of the PR world, then Karen Ryan’s work is surely the “Saving Private Ryan” of PR.)