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Big questions that PR people are losing sleep over

How to track the blogosphere?
How will the PR industry react on those new challenges?

The classical gatekeeper role model must die!

Public Relations is still centered around the old gatekeeper role model because classic media works as a so called ‘relevance filter’ and like every filter can be manipulated in many ways. Offer free travel, transportation, invitations, etc. and you will most likely get friendly news coverage.

The blogosphere works totally different because of the viral character of hyperlinking information.

Let’s see why the gatekeeping theory is old media news only…


Definition: Gatekeeper role model

In human communication, in particular, in journalism, gatekeeping is the process through which ideas and information are filtered for publication. The internal decision making process of relaying or withholding information from the media to the masses. The theory was first instituted by social psychologist Kurt Lewin in 1947 and is still one of the most important theories studied by students of mass communication and journalism. Gatekeeping occurs at all levels of the media structure – from a reporter deciding which sources are chosen to include in a story to editors deciding which stories are printed, or even covered.

Source: Wikipedia Gatekeeping (communication)

Gatekeeping is dead in the blogosphere

Pito Salas from the BlogBridge team posted a Blog article and points out what are the three most relevant questions in the PR industry regarding the blogosphere.

It’s been quite interesting to hear how the ‘blogosphere’ is posing new challenges to Public Relations and Corporate Communications executives. Many of the tried and true ways of delivering a valuable service to clients don’t seem to be working anymore. In fact there are those out there that say that ‘traditional PR is dying”.

He is saying that there are three main fears inside the PR industry:

  1. What are the top blogs that are most relevant for client X?
  2. Finding the coverage that matters and ignoring the noise.
  3. What about metrics? What is the influence of this blogger, or the circulation of that one?

Read the full article. The trembling uncertainty within the PR industry is postulated here: Tracking the blogosphere (I shamelessly stole his great sub-title for my article title – Kudos)

Dear Public Relation folks

  1. Blogs and/or the Internet have no gatekeeper function!
  2. A blog with 10 readers can go viral with bad news in minutes and receive 1,000s of hits just because somebody complained about a product and the story hits a viral nerve.
  3. Is reputation management still a PR task?

A really good PR representative must know when to start/stop to react in public or how to find a behind the scenes solution.

Setting up a working blog monitoring environment is time consuming and an art if you include a reputation management workflow.

Don’t ask for ‘the relevance of a blog’! Monitor the search sources instead.

From my comment

  • Willing to become part of the discussion? Head over or post your own article 🙂
  • What are your experiences with the PR industry?
  • Did some companies try to ‘influence’ you?

Offering a blog monitoring service is a nice business model now!

Author: markusm

8 thoughts on “Big questions that PR people are losing sleep over

  1. > PR doesn’t work by offering freebies.

    That was just a provocative hook. Read the rant at NakedPR (see above) and you will see how it worked out 🙂

    > Other than that, finding top blogs relevant to a particular client is a breeze.

    Yep. But finding the not so relevant streams of information in a timely and cost effective manner is not so easy.

    Let’s say somebody is taking a picture or filming a video of your product and publishing it somewhere. The title of the artwork is ‘See this piece of crap and what it did to my cat’. The problem if this piece of art spreads is the reaction time involved before the manufacturer (or the PR company) is able to react. To me this case sounds like an upcoming reputation management nightmare.

    Classic media is a) bundled and b) will do some basic research and call the manufacturer. Oh, and it is a hierarchy driven system.

    Social media lives from the opposite. Information is widely spread, syndicated, granular, republished and the moment the story becomes ‘relevant’ it is too late and in most cases difficult to handle because of the many frontlines opened up everywhere.

  2. Every blogger knows he/ she is judged by the readers and other bloggers on how credible is his/her writing. If the writing is crap/misleading, then who will continue to read that. That I think is the gatekeeper we are looking for.

    Also I would like slightly digress from what you are saying. PR doesn’t work by offering freebies. It’s about how best to communicate what you have in your kitty or bring in interesting perspectives that will help you influence your audience. Period.

    To the PR industry, I think the social media is more of an opportunity than a challenge. Just as it has empowered individuals like you and me, it has empowered the corporations as well. They are now able to speak out informally and get involved in conversations with their target audience through this medium.

    Other than that, finding top blogs relevant to a particular client is a breeze. We need to figure out who read that particular blog and who are these people? I don’t think the Technorati/Page Rank/linking based judging of a blog is relevant at all though.

  3. If I would want to hurt somebody without falling into the automatic ‘search for a keyword’ trap I would possibly misspell his name. Remember that HAL (the insane computer from 2001) is a one letter shift away from IBM. Or linkback with intended space, set a ‘noindex’ for the article, or, or, or….

  4. Nice tagline “truth not charme” 🙂

    Head over to Do You Really Know a Rat’s Ass About PR?. “Apparently Markus Merz doesn’t. Have you seen the BS blog post from earlier today…”

    I love such personal attacks.

    Damn, I’m getting sick of people not in PR acting like they know what the hell the problems with PR are. I especially get a kick out of tech bloggers and the like running their mouths about it, because it’s usually of the “don’t think you can influence me” variety. If only that were true….

    Hihi… Thanks Jennifer, your rant made my day!

  5. > Ultimately, this is the whole GOAL of public relations.

    I am not so sure about the ‘management’ part

    > it’s about shaping the way the public views and feels about a company and its figureheads

    Copied from a standard powerpoint presentation? 😉

    Don’t you think that the old PR theory of communication channels and media partners is more and more becoming obsolete because of the information routing itself around all those top down models (i.e.: company -> PR -> media -> consumer)?

  6. “We are talking about the very complex issues of reputation management which is definitely something 98% of the PR companies in the industry have no clue about.”

    Ultimately, this is the whole GOAL of public relations. It’s not about getting information out, it’s about shaping the way the public views and feels about a company and its figureheads. If PR companies don’t know anything about this, then they are in the wrong business.

    Is there is difference between bad press on a blog and bad press in a tabloid or on television? Not really. Managing a PR nightmare is not about quashing a story but restoring an image and the trust/faith of the consumer/investor.

    As a long-time high tech PR person, I think it’s a load of hooey. Blogs are just another format – a new media outlet in a new medium.

    • Setting up the feeds is easy but to set up a reaction chain in company communication is not.
    • Between the lines the biggest fear is that classical PR companies are simply not able to find out, recommend and react fast enough if a viral storm hits a client.
    • The 2nd fear IMHO is the effect of a viral hyperlink storm because a classical PR company has no budget to fight on n fronts for their client.

    And so on…

    We are talking about the very complex issues of reputation management which is definitely something 98% of the PR companies in the industry have no clue about.

    Two fine examples:

    • Walmart and their ‘stealth’ PR blog campaign via Edelman. Remember? ‘Camping on Walmart parking losts throughout America.’
    • The viral Mentos/Coca Cola videos and the two different reactions from both companies

    There are so much more examples…

  7. Great Post! An easy way to watch what people are saying about you or your on the blogs is to set up an RSS Feed with your keywords for Google Blog Search.

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