These are things which are being debated after a UK PR company disagreed with an article by Wired magazine and, in a bold move, blogged about ‘why Wired is wrong’.
Wired wrote that “The Web is Dead. Long Live the Internet”. The piece discussed how, with the rise of mobile technology, applications, internet-ready devices and so on, people spend much of their time on the internet but not necessarily on the ‘web’ as we would have traditionally defined it.
The Wildfire Tech PR Blog responded to the article with a blog post entitled: “Why Wired is Wrong“. The heading of the post has since been changed to the less controversial and more specific: “Why Wired is wrong about the web”.
Editor of Wired.co.uk, Nate Lanxon, took umbridge to their blog post. He is of the opinion that PR bloggers should ‘stick to the knitting’ and blog only about their insights into PR. Raising this point on the Wired blog, he outlined how he felt that it was a bit cheeky of a tech PR company to publicly criticise the work of a publication to which it regularly pitches client’s stories.
Just as the PR blog made a poor choice of title initially for their post on the issue, Lanxon entitled his post: “Why PR Blogs are Always Wrong“. This resulted in people believing the journalist disagreed with PR people blogging in general and so it really got people talking online. Realising his mistake, the Wired.co.uk editor changed the title to ‘Thoughts on public relations blogging‘.
My two cents…
I agree that people would look to a PR blog for industry related posts – trends in PR, new tools and techniques, creative campaigns and issues affecting PR. However PR is all about communicating with people and I believe you can’t communicate effectively with people if you don’t know the issues affecting those people. What motivates them? What interests them? For that reason good PR people, by definition, must keep up to date on current affairs and pop culture to ensure that, regardless of the target audience, a PR strategy can be developed and tailored to that group of people. As a result PR folk may have opinions on things outside of public relations.
I want the blogs I read to be interesting, address diverse topics and have a bit of ‘bite’ to them. Whilst I may not always agree with them, the World would be very boring if nobody expressed a contrary view.
That said the PR firm in this case made a mole hill into a mountain by a poor choice of words. If they hadn’t initially suggested that Wired is ‘wrong’ in their title, without qualifying it in relation to the Wired article, I probably wouldn’t be writing this post. The content of their post was actually quite placid and unlikely to have caused Wired to sit up and take notice. Taking a different point of view and backing it up is understandable and often refreshing. However publicly criticising a publication when you’re a PR professional needs to be done cautiously to ensure that your point cannot be miscontrued.
So, in general, is it good practice for PR people to publicly criticise a journalist or publication? My stance on it is, write nothing online about a person/company/publication that you wouldn’t say to them if they were standing in front of you.