SHRM Blogger Beware

For the third consecutive year, I’ll be attending The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) Annual Conference and Exposition as a member of the Press Corps. Each year, the Blogger contingent in the Corps grows. That’s a really good thing – thanks, Curtis Midkiff! For those of you playing this role for the first time, here’s some free advice.


By now you’ve received innumerable Email requests with slick and silky invitations to meet with the Chief-What-Have-You of this or that company. They all contain promises of fireside chats around the newest or best way to turn Talent Management on its head. Yes, some of them are tempting – particularly because you’re feeling a bit sought-after. But if you’re not careful, you’ll look up to find these briefings have consumed your entire conference experience. This happened to me…once.

Here’s an excerpt from a response I recently sent to a Public Relations Company that addressed me as “Dear Blogger” and explicitly requested I write a blog post about their client. The PR Firm and its client, by the way, each have lower Google Page Ranks than HR Fishbowl.

“I’ve found that my readers have very little interest in the vendor briefings I cover and write about. And, quite frankly, the benefits to these briefings are terribly one-sided: if published, you/your clients get some props, SEO, and free publicity. Rarely have I received anything more than a “thank you” in return. And that’s fine with me when I’m covering a topic unencumbered by commerce, hidden agendas, or competing priorities – I would expect nothing more. But when covering a for-profit venture with really only one end in mind (PR), it seems mighty presumptuous…don’t you?”

Yes, these vendors help make this conference possible and, yes, the Public Relations Firms are just trying to do their jobs. It sure would be nice, though, if they did it with a bit more class: take a little time to get to know us, our blog, and our platform; (really) make the connection between our point-of-view and your client’s; ask how you can help us; spread the love; engage. At least make a genuine attempt.

Here’s the more important aspect of this, though. Spending your time sequestered in the Press Room interviewing vendors amounts to holing yourself up in your parent’s dark and dank basement playing Xbox all night with a bag of pork rinds and a two-liter bottle of pop. It’s narrow-minded and self-destructive; and the opportunity cost is really quite tragic. There are something like 200 separate content-rich sessions during the conference. While you can only hit one at a time, most of your readers can’t hit a single one. So why bore them with some poorly veiled sales pitch when you could be sharing some of the really juicy morsels more likely to come from the sessions and their presenters (who, incidentally, you should consider interviewing)?

This is only one side to this argument…it’s a damn good one, but it is only one. So in fairness to the PR Firms I’ve now taken a jab at, I’ve invited one of them to publish their persuasive argument to the contrary right here on HR Fishbowl. And she agreed to do it. Check it here:

Image Credit: numberstumper (via Compfight)

  • hrfishbowl

    As an aside, it is important that you know I have a bunch of vendors that I really like and who I take the time to support. But these are vendors who do more than take…they give a whole lot. They actively engage in our community, lead discussions, and selflessly promote content and ideas across the board. They know who I am and they go out of their way to be connected to me. Their relationship comes first and their commercial endeavor comes second. Related? Of course. But in this case, semantics is everything.

  • Jessica Merrell

    Send an invoice my friend. Cuts through the noise and helps to make the HR Blogger space a little brighter. They are treating us like press and analysts of the past except they don’t pay to play.

  • Dave Ryan, SPHR

    Damn this always happens to me. This will be my first year as an official blogger and I have already scheduled 8 of these breifings. And I thought I was going to be the creative one. There goes the whole conference!

  • hrfishbowl

    Jess, I was hoping you’d comment – I know u r particularly opinionated about this. I of course usually invoice in the normal course of business (ie blog requests throughout the year) but gave up on doing it at conferences. I once actually asked for modest donations; not as a hard sell, but in kind recognition that I took some time to feature their clients, that i incurred significant expenses to be at the conference, and that while i have some influence, i don’t do this for a living Only one firm actually took me up on it. You’re so right, we aren’t analysts, damnit.

  • hrfishbowl

    Cancel some of them, Dave. For real. But that’s just me…

  • Jessica Merrell


    Yep, I’m in a different situation than as you meaning that I do this for a living. While I don’t mind meeting with vendors to see their demos, I’m happy to meet with those that are new and try to build a relationships with them in the hopes of them advertising on the blog or paying for a product review. Since I work and consult with companies that vendors I also have to be careful those that I work with and promote. It’s a silly thing but I don’t want companies using my review or meeting saying that I endorse their product. And I see this coming. Many of us will become spokespeople for these companies. I see this trend happening.

    Looking forward to part 2 from you.


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