David Pogue, the NY Times celebrity tech writer, has been reprimanded by the Grey Lady. His crime? Having the audacity to help those of us in PR do our job more effectively, and in turn, his. I speak, of course, of his participation in events sponsored by the public relations industry in which he outlines how practitioners can be more effective with pitching their story ideas.
So, what’s the big deal? Here’s what the Times had to say on their blog:
The “Pitch Me” presentation might strike some as pretty harmless. But there is a reason why The Times ethics policy proscribes it. Times readers deserve to be assured that journalists don’t get too cozy with the P.R. professionals who strive to influence coverage. A virtual army of publicists, media specialists and others stands ready every day to infiltrate the news with stories that help their employers.
Ahh, “infiltrate” the news. You have to love the wording with that one. With one swoop, the Times undermines the entire public relations profession, characterizing our most publicly-known responsibility – media relations – as duplicitous in nature.
Of course, the Times decision also undermines both their own writers, depicting their staffers and freelancers as prone to corruption, and the intelligence of their readers. Anyone with half a brain understands that a story idea doesn’t appear through an epiphany. It must originate from a source, whether from a company itself if it is an original breakthrough, or as an extension from a previous original story.
Before the rise of public relations, the onus was place on companies or individuals to raise the media’s awareness to such stories. PR became a “thing” because of the demand for a more effective information gathering process.
Pogue himself says as much during his presentations:
On a later slide, he displays eight recent New York Times columns and identifies five as having come from public relations people. Pogue explains that, as a reviewer of new gadgets, there is no comprehensive database he can rely on to learn about new stuff. Hence he relies on companies and their hired pitchmen to tell him about new products.
Pogue’s basic advice boils down to two imperatives: 1) “Save me time,” and 2) “Don’t be a robot.” This means that public relations people should tailor the pitch to its audience (avoid spamming, in particular) and avoid jargon and other extraneous matter.
So, has the Times overreacted? They aren’t the first, and certainly won’t be the last media publication to make life more difficult for PR folks. But, its prominence and the public nature of its announcement may make many smaller outlets rethink their decision to participate in industry sponsored events.
As someone who finds incredible value in these “meet the media” panels as a PRSA board member, that’s not good news for anyone.
Commencement for Excelsior College is this week, which means I’ve been swamped in the pre-event planning, leaving little time for blogging or anything else. That is, except for Twitter chats.
If you haven’t taken part, Twitter Chats are a great opportunity to connect with likeminded professionals, collaborate, share and solve problems. Few of my favorites include:
#SoloPR (Wednesdays, 1pm ET)
#HigheredChat (Wednesdays, 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. EST)
#PRwebchat, #measurePR, and #blogchat are a few others I’ve also found to have value. At the very least, it is worth your time to give them a try. Plus, you don’t actually even have to participate. Unlike say, an aerobics class, lurking around outside is accepted, especially if you don’t feel you have the expertise to share an opinion on a certain topic. The focus is on learning and your own professional development. You can get as much from it as you put in.
Twitter Chats are not just for communicators either. Self-esteem, pastries, fathering and even business card digitalization are all topics of regular chats hosted by experts in the field. I recommend using www.TweetChat.com to participate.
Here is the complete list of Twitter Chats.
Who needs gainful employment when you can just force schools to label degrees with low-paying prospects as such?
“Communications 103: This Class Will Decrease Your Lifetime Earnings”
That, at least, is the UK’s plan as outlined by a highly anticipated white paper on higher education released by the State for Universities and Science.
From the Telegraph:
In an interview with BBC Breakfast, (David Willetts, Universities Minister) said: “There are some courses that are far better at preparing young people for the world of work than others. At the moment, the student finds it very hard to get that information.
“In future, they are going to be able to see “if I do biological sciences at one university, I have got a much better chance of a job in a pharmaceutical company than if I do biological sciences at a different university”.”
The White Paper being published on Tuesday will outline plans to force all institutions in England to publish data on 16 different areas to give students greater choice between courses.
For the first time, all universities will be forced to release detailed figures setting out how many students leave with well-paid jobs as well as average graduate starting salaries.
Other data is expected to cover criteria such as teaching hours, lecture sizes, accommodation costs and standards of student facilities.
Under plans, the information will be fed into new price comparison-style websites that shame the worst-performing universities and allow students to apply to the best institutions.
The plan is supposed to be both an attempt at consumer protection and a trade-off for allowing certain universities to charge higher tuition. Of course, as with most government programs, we can probably expect the unintended consequences to be quite high. In this case, the regulation will provide a built-in advantage to established universities and reduce the ability for tier-2 and tier-3 schools to compete with the upper echelon universities for students. (Not dissimilar to many regulations.)
If this passes, lower-tier universities will have quite the public relations challenge on their hands, especially in regards to branding, marketing, and message development.
If this became law in the U.S., how would you respond?
Just in case you’re wondering about how competitive blogging can be, I present the infographic, “Things That Happen On Internet Every 60 Seconds.”
Few points of consideration for aspiring authors: every minute 60 new blog domains are registered and over 1,500 independent blogs published, including this one. Even more amazing? Twenty-thousand Tumblr blogs are also published within that span.