Does PR add value to the blogosphere?

    November 7, 2006

On November 1, I posted an item to this blog, part of the ongoing Edelman/Wal-Mart kerfuffle. In that post, I noted that the interview Edelman CEO Richard Edelman gave to IT World would be dissected, “the group of bloggers who don’t like PR people being in the blogosphere,” as Richard put it. In response, Amy Bellinger commented:

    I’m afraid I am one of them-in the “group of bloggers who don’t like PR people being in the blogosphere.” Former, disillusioned PR person. Question for you, Shel, what value do you think PR adds to the blogosphere? Not value for companies; value for bloggers and readers of blogs.

First off, I don’t believe PR as a whole provides value. We have seen far too many examples of PR run amok in the blogosphere, engaged in the same deceptive practices that occur outside the blogosphere, the same practices that result in the dubious esteem in which many hold the profession. Just as I don’t trust blogs, but I do trust some bloggers, I believe ethical public relations has a place in the blogosphere. And it’s the same place it has anywhere else. The following is an excerpt from my very first post to this blog, back in August 2004:

    Back when I was director of corporate communications for an ophthalmic pharmaceutical company, I got a phone call one day from a reporter with one of the TV stations in Waco, Texas, where the company operated a manufacturing facility. “The sherrif has arrested a local man for selling contact lenses to school kids on street corners,” he told me. “We want to know if they’re your lenses and, if so, if you have any comment.”

    Bizarre as that sounds, prom night was coming up and girls wanted tinted lenses to match their gowns. I had no way of knowing if the lenses were ours, but I promised to find out. In the meantime, I told him, he’d be doing the community a service if he broadcast a warning to parents that contact lenses can cause permanent eye damage if they weren’t prescribed by a doctor.

Shortly after that, we issued a media advisory to all Waco press outlets.

The point here is that I was able to apply my experience and expertise as a communicator-with the aid and counsel of my staff-to issue an alert to the public that might otherwise not have been communicated. It’s possible that this message saved some the eyesight of some Waco teens. And it’s just one example among tens of thousands of PR that has been applied to the public’s benefit on a company’s behalf. Today, that message could spread much faster in the blogosphere than it did in 1991 or 1992 when we relied on local TV and radio stations.

So, if it’s ethical and candid and transparent, I don’t see how sound PR can do anything in the blogosphere but contribute to the conversation and benefit the community as a whole. PR can-and should-be a vehicle for truth.

But enough about me. Among the many PR bloggers out there, what other answers do you have for disillusioned Amy?



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Shel Holtz is principal of Holtz Communication + Technology which focuses on helping organizations apply online communication capabilities to their strategic organizational communications.

As a professional communicator, Shel also writes the blog a shel of my former self.