Why Isn’t Ketchum Blogging?

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So, did I miss anything while I was in New York? Wow. Jay Rosen sets off a flurry of posts that prove out Blog Power.

Jay, we’re listening. But before I submit my excuse, er, hall pass, let me respond to Ketchum’s wrongdoing.

Ketchum’s “pay for play” was wrong and unethical. Unfortunately, it is not the first time they have crossed the line. From video news releases (VNRs) to paid endorsements, they single-handedly call our tactics, and our industry, into question. AdWeek has a great article supporting my opinion that Ketchum misrepresents the industry and the tactics they used so irresponsibly.

The issue is not the tactics, rather how they were used by Ketchum. As I have noted before, VNRs and paid endorsements have their place in the public relations arsenal. Used wisely and responsibly, there is no harm, no foul.

Secrets & Silence? Not Smart.

My big question is why doesn’t Ketchum start a blog to respond to all of this? Is it because they are guilty? Wrong answer. Blogs are perfect for quickly getting out the right information in a crisis. Not to mention, they seed the search engines with your side of the story.

Ketchum should learn from Martha Stewart. She eventually created a Web site that got her on record with her side of the story. Martha used the Web to her advantage, marshalling support and pointing visitors to positive op/ed articles.

Ketchum needs to state the facts, admit their guilt and detail what they are doing to rectify the situation. It will take much more than simply firing a top executive. Ketchum needs to donate money that brings together IABC and PRSA to create a cross-organizational task force to truly, finally, really and seriously look at ethics and accreditation in our industry. What we have currently has no teeth. Ketchum has clearly shown this to be the case.

Maybe the above is not enough. But we need to move quickly as public relations takes over accounting’s role in the media as the most ethically-challenged profession. Much like Arthur Anderson, not everyone realizes that Ketchum does not accurately represent the public relations industry. PR bloggers can help shine light on the examples that prove out this fact.

Bloggers vs. Journalists?

The answers to why the PR bloggers did not cover Ketchumgate with a vengeance are much less interesting and dramatic than the published theories. Take me for instance-I have a day job. While in New York this week I was so busy that I was unable to meet up with any NYC-based bloggers, including Robb Hecht, Steve Rubel and B.L. Ochman. Heck, even my Bloglines account went unread. If I had been reading it, I would have shown up at Grand Central Station to skew Rubel’s anecdotal research.

Secondly, my blog sits at the end of the news cycle. The tail of the news curve is getting longer every day and the Ketchum story is taking on a new life, well-beyond the initial impact. Blogs are working. Unfortunately all of the PR bloggers are not always staring at their monitors, hitting refresh every few seconds in wait for a news ping on their radars.

I prefer to do more substantive posts that hopefully do more than just link to something before anyone else. This takes time-if only because I have a small brain. For the most part, you will find features here and not breaking news. This allows me to enjoy blogging a bit more and throw off the shackles of posting frequency that were forged by this push-button publishing technology. Hopefully it also differentiates Strategic Public Relations from other blogs? You tell me.

So Rosen asserts that blogging vs. journalism is over? I think this flap shows it is not completely worked out. I agree with Rosen when he notes that blogs are journalism-sometimes. I will note that I am NOT a journalist and that the Blogging, Journalism and Credibility conference could not have better timing.

You should check out all of the posts that Jay Rosen inspired. You can start at a few blogs to find all of them. Jeremy Pepper and Tom Murphy point the way for us. They also posted on Ketchum prior to Rosen’s piece. I also want to point out Richard Edelman’s responses. It occurs to me the PR bloggers took Richard to task after he first launched his blog. It not only appears he has settled in and established a nice rhythm of posts; he brings a much needed C-Level perspective to all of this.

OK, now I need to go fill out my expense report and dig out from a week on the road.

Kevin Dugan is the author of the popular Strategic Public Relations blog. Kevin is Director of Marketing Communications for FRCH Design Worldwide.

Visit Kevin’s blog: Strategic Public Relations.

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