Vendors and Bloggers Locked in Love and Hate

I rant. It’s what I do. But whether it shows or not, I recognize that I’m just one voice among many. And I (really) like it when someone is willing to shout back with theirs.  I published a post this week about the dangers of resigning too much of one’s self to Vendors when blogging from conferences. I did so knowing that one PR Firm in particular had already committed to providing their counter-argument to mine. And so today – as promised – Jackie Abramian tries to get all persuasive in here. Jackie is a seasoned PR practitioner and currently consulting for BridgeVIew Marketing a full-service agency based in Portsmouth, NH, providing media relations, marketing, web development and demand-generation services to the world’s leading technology, clean energy and green data center companies. The following post from Jackie is published in its entirety without any editing on my part.

Having been in the PR world for 20 years, I’m always providing interview sources for editors, analysts and bloggers about new tools/services/products that would, in one way or another, benefit their readers.  After all, the media and bloggers are looked upon by their readers as sources of “knowledge”, pontificating upon the latest and greatest offerings. In retrospect, I find nothing presumptuous about it.

I assume most media, analysts, and bloggers who decide to attend conferences and tradeshows are in search of new innovations to showcase on their venues first. It’s the PR practitioner’s job to assist journalists and bloggers by putting these innovations on their radar—making their job a little easier because they do not have to wonder aimlessly about the show floor in a quest to find the Holy Grail of the latest product or service. OK, I admit, the “Holy Grail” of innovations does not come along too often— I typically reserve that label for items such as the iPad, Twitter and Facebook.  However, coming from the journalism world myself, I make sure that I do not dish out “puff” and always address editors and blogger by name, as I did with this blogger.

Case-in-point: In pitching SHRM attendees about my client ALEX™, the virtual employee benefits counselor and their cloud-based employee benefits communications tool, I honed in on  compelling points relative to how the tool is changing employees’ attitudes toward sitting through boring benefits meetings.  In addition, I assumed that if Employee Benefits News included ALEX in their April 15 cover story, then respected HR Bloggers would be interested to know about the tool and how cumbersome HR communications and confusing insurance jargon can be transformed into a unique exchange of personal information. Now that’s something different!  I bet most HR and benefits folks would love to know how the tool can streamline their work and improve results.  It seemed many bloggers attending SHRM were “very interested” in scheduling a briefing to learn more – and not hung up on Google pagerank.

Indeed, workshop and panel presenters at these events are experts, and writers gravitate toward these people for content. However, as journalists, you shouldn’t gravitate toward stage presence alone.  You should continue to still seek out vendor booths with hidden content/gems.

I appreciate this opportunity and the forum to present a different view.  The forces of PR and media may forever remain locked in a love/hate relationship, but there are mutual benefits to sharing information. And to Bloggers who commented on Charlie’s warning, and said they already scheduled vendor briefings – good for you for mining knowledge that you can share with your readers. You are as valued as the knowledge you share.

Image credit: procsilas (via Compfight)

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  • hrfishbowl

    In response to your reference to Google Page Rank, Jackie: I’m not “hung up” on it. But it’s something PR firms should be conscious of. Your job is to get your clients exposure. Let’s not try and fool ourselves about that. The best way for you to do that is to get them SEO on websites with higher page rank than your clients. And doing so should be valued beyond getting SEO on websites with lower page ranks. That’s how the game works. You believe that a blogger should spend their valuable time with your client, but you don’t recognize that said blogger has worked hard to build their presence, their audience, their following. You don’t place any explicit value on that following nor do you even suggest you and your client would be (or should be) willing to offer a fair exchange for that value. That’s bad commerce, bad business. And that, in my mind, is where it becomes presumptuous.

  • hrfishbowl

    Here’s another important part of your argument that is flawed. You note that “[you] assume most media, analysts, and bloggers who decide to attend conferences and tradeshows are in search of new innovations to showcase on their venues first.” Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. One of these things is not like the other. An analyst may be a blogger. But a blogger is not necessarily an analyst. It is not a blogger’s job, necessarily, to bring the latest innovation to the table. Sure, there are bloggers that carry that mantra. But it is not inherent to their role like it might be to an analyst. That’s my point about your needing to take some time to become more familiar with the blogger’s voice and platform before “assuming” anything about why your client might be interesting to them.

  • hrfishbowl

    there’s an interesting discussion unfolding over in a SHRM12 Facebook Group. i’m not sure if it’s an open group, but here’s the link if you’re interested:

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/allinshrm12/439184452767260/?notif_t=group_activity

  • http://twitter.com/blogging4jobs Jessica Merrell

    This is good dialogue and its a debate that isn’t just limited to HR. I was at a mommy blogger conference this year and the bloggers are feeling the same way. Our blogging community is founded on relationships and conversation. We are attracting to talking with companies who have taken the time to engage in conversation and get to know us before an email blast. If you get to know me as a person and comment on my blog, I will be more likely to check out your product or schedule a demo. It’s the nature of human relationships.

    Most PR and Marketing folks don’t actually understand the products they are pimping let alone the complex industry of HR. That’s why I believe that the PR firms who represent these products should have experience working in HR or specialize in this space. Companies that don’t'work with PR firms who specialize in this area, are losing out. Because of my relationships with colleagues and friends in the industry, I can get more traction for a HR product in non-traditional channels that 99% of PR firms can. You don’t know the space enough to navigate it.

    And yes, I do care about Page Rank but I will link to your company if the price is right. This, blogging and consulting on this topic is what I do for a job afterall and I work specifically in HR.

    JMM

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  • Jackie

    Hi Jessica,
    I find a lot of anger in your comments…..
    I do take offense to your comment about how PR/Marketing folks are “pimping” products. Not sure that’s a professional way to engage – nor assume someone doesn’t have background in HR. I suppose it’s due to lack of knowledge resulting from lack of engagement.
    Also, are you contradicting yourself by saying you care about page rank but you will link to a company “if the price is right?” So the highest bidder wins – no matter what the product?

  • Jackie

    Charlie,
    Thanks for these very valid points…..
    What are the 5 reasons bloggers attend shows?
    Also, bloggers need to engage with PR/Marketing folks. We are a great resource after all.

  • Jackie

    Bad commerce…..that’s an interesting remark, Charlie.
    So am I to assume correctly that most bloggers are out to monetize their blog posts? Whether it’s with Ads from vendors, or outright being paid by vendors so they could write about them?
    Would you say this summarizes all Bloggers out there?
    I’m having a hard time believing that every blogger who is pitched would want to be paid…..I know they don’t because I work with bloggers all the time. They welcome the new info about products/services/vendors and technologies.
    I appreciate all this info and insight of course

  • http://twitter.com/akaBruno Matthew Stollak

    Jackie,

    Thanks for your thoughts. Interesting to look at the different perspectives.

    However, I have to echo Charlie’s thoughts here. Bloggers are large, we contain multitudes. We each have different voices and different backgrounds with different agendas. Grouping us together is like grouping ALEX with Allied Van Lines, Mercer, Terryberry, Humana, and McGraw-Hill, because you are all HR Vendors at the SHRM Expo Hall.

    I am an HR Educator at a small liberal arts college. While my job contains many of the same functions as a HR Generalist (Recruiting, performance appraisal, training, etc.), a tool such as ALEX is about as far from my radar, in terms of my day to day operating, as can be. I don’t buy HR, I don’t sell HR, I don’t process HR.

    The purpose of my blog is to look at the big HR questions (though I do get involved in minituae), and how does HR theory mesh with actual practice. My primary interest in your product for my blog would not be the product itself. Rather, through interaction with HR practitioners, what is going on in the benefits world today so that my students are better prepared for starting a career in HR. SEO has virtually no interest to me, and I get satisfaction that my dad enjoys my writing. If more people like it, even better. I’ve never checked my blog’s Google Page Rank.

    I received an e-mail from you three times over a period of three weeks. Each e-mail contained the exact same wording except for who it was addressed to (twice to “Matt,” once to “Editor”). While it was well-written and very detailed, there was nothing in the e-mail that indicated any personal connection as to why it would be relevant to me, and appropriate for my specific blog. While I am cognizant of your time and having to deal with 75+ with us, it came off as more as a form letter rather than a personal invitation, particularly after the third time of receiving it.

    Just as there are a multitude of us, we are getting inundated as well from a variety of vendors asking for our time. Given the highly condensed time period in which we will be operating, for me, at least, I am more likely to pay attention to an e-mail from someone, as Jessica indicated above, who has read my blog, seen my Twitter account, and saw there was an appropriate connection between their interests and mine.

    Matt

  • hrfishbowl

    jackie, ‘commerce’ defined: “(1) noun, social intercourse : interchange of ideas, opinions, or sentiments.” i merely ask for an “exchange” – no mention of $s whatsoever.

  • http://twitter.com/akaBruno Matthew Stollak

    Just another thought…does a vendor risk negative word of mouth by blindly sending pitches (let alone three times)? Is there potential backlash if a company does not adequately “vet” bloggers to see if there is appropriate fit? You know what gossips we are in the bloggers lounge.

  • http://www.wphebert.com Paul Hebert

    I find this whole discussion a bit forced. Bloggers would bitch if they WEREN’T contacted.

    I can see the rants now… “I have “X” subscribers, “Y” followers on twitter and a “Z” Klout score and the mainstream PR folks don’t pay any attention to me. Don’t they know that blogging is the new journalism? Don’t they know the influence I can have on their products and services?”

    Just ‘cuz you get an invite doesn’t mean you have to do anything with it. I got a few (dozen). Some I answered. Some I didn’t. The one’s I did had a compelling email… mentioned something that linked to my area of interest and sounded like fun. Others I ignored. No harm, no foul.

    Like anything else in this world – remove the friction (I can send 1,000s of requests for basically free) and the usage increases. As long as it is cheap and easy – why not send the emails out? On my end it costs me nothing to receive and delete.

    Lemme ask you this and then Imma gonna let you finish… how many bloggers send their blog updates to my Facebook feed everyday? How is that different? Why would you think all of your Facebook “friends” want to see how you figured out what to do with performance reviews this week or how I-9s are the devil?

    Sauce. Goose. Gander.

  • http://thehumanracehorses.com Michael VanDervort

    People fish for work and leads all the time, Paul. Like that is something you don’t know…duh. As the social media lead at Publix, I probably received five calls a week and twice that many inquiries via email asking me to take a demo on this or that service. I even had call from a Dude at Salesforce trying to sell me a product we already used. It’s a part of he game. Doesn’t mean that dialogue like this is forced. There is at least one PR side person willing to look at some new ideas. Maybe a few more. How’s that a bd thing? Plus HR peeps might learn something too
    Sent from my iPad

  • http://www.wphebert.com Paul Hebert

    I’m not against changing the game and offering up some new options. I love to explore new ideas. That would have been a good post IMHO. The original post however was, “bloggers don’t waste your time with PR pitches.” How is that helpful #1 and #2 – what if I like their pitch? How would I have seen it if they didn’t send me a note? Not all of us are watching everything in the HR space – that’s why I follow you and others – to see the things I’m missing. Some I know about so I move on. Some I don’t – then I pay attention.

    Sure – it’s always better to connect and have a conversation. But frankly – I don’t want a relationship with every HR vendor or supplier. I want an update maybe – but let’s not try to be great friends if the only time I care about your product is once a year when I blog about a conference.

    To all you PR folks – keep sending me the invites. I read them. I ignore a lot of them – but they do get filed somewhere in my memory and you never know when it might come out. If I like you – I’ll connect. If not – we won’t.

    Bloggers are now in the power position IMHO.

  • hrfishbowl

    Paul, my original post was designed to 1) spark a debate (which it has) 2) give the opposing viewpoints a stage (which it has) and 3) ultimately move the needle for all stakeholders (which I believe it will). With that, I believe my post is terribly “helpful” (and relevant). Furthermore, I believe strongly that bloggers shouldnt waste their time with ;most) vendors because they won’t get much out of it and neither will their readers. We have a number of new bloggers at the conf. This year and I genuinely wanted to share that with them. And finally, I know what vendors I want I meet with because they’ve taken the time to engage with me throughout the year, not two weeks before go time.

  • Cjudy

    Booo hooo. The only reason my blog posts hit your Facebook stream is because you’ve chosen to “like” me. And I believe you did that only after getting to know me – and me you. And you did that because we exchanged stuff along the way-we had some commerce, we Communed. I am rantin only about vendors and Pr firms that fail, refuse to do so. What is so hard about that to understand?

  • http://www.wphebert.com Paul Hebert

    I agree that PR firms that don’t do the work may not deserve your attention or mine. I don’t think it is our place to suggest that no one should take a pitch from a vendor because they haven’t. I think the message is – do what you think is right. New bloggers look to “experienced” bloggers – whatever that means for direction and guidance. I don’t think saying “don’t take a meeting if they haven’t built a relationship.” I’ll take a meeting if the product service interests me and I can fit it into my schedule. Will I take more meetings from people I already know? Sure. But I won’t ignore one from people I don’t simply because they didn’t comment on my blog or follow me on twitter. Just a different way of looking at it.

  • http://www.wphebert.com Paul Hebert

    First of all – it isn’t that hard to understand – I’m not stupid.

    I followed you on FB because #1 – you invited me. #2 – I decided to follow you because I got to know you professionally through your blog and twitter. I wanted to know you on a more personal level so I accepted. But… lo and behold – I get more professional stuff. I already RSS your blog and follow you on twitter. Do I need another reminder that a blog post is up? I was hoping to hear how you like BBQ or don’t. How your car is running and other more mundane stuff. I’m not pointing my finger specifically at you – there are many others who do the same. I typically blog all the networked blogs and such so I do have some control. Just not enough.

    Now, that said. You use SM for your desires and needs. I use it for mine. We can’t tell each other how to use it – it’s is “ours.” Social media is what I want it to be with me. I don’t want to use FB for more business. That’s my right. You want to use FB to do more biz. That’s your right.

    I just choose one option – you the other. Same with the PR pitches. I don’t think we should be telling folks what they should or shouldn’t do. You don’t want to take pitches from those without a personal relationship. Your right. I don’t mind. My right.

    Therefore, we are both right.

    And I do stand by my statement that if PR ignored bloggers we’d be bitching about that for sure. We are the future! How can they ignore us!

  • Cjudycjudy

    I don’t intend to use Facebook more for business or personal. I jut use it. My posts automatically feed – its not calculated. I’m glad you follow me and I you. No, there is no right or wrong. But the biggest beauty about blogs – and this you will not deny – is that I can say whatever I want to whomever I want. No one has to listen and no one has to agree. It’s mine.

    …and I love BBQ much more than I love Facebook, PR Firms, or HR Fishbowl. That, my friend, is for sure.

  • Chudy

    I can say with a great deal of certainty that you will never hear me say (or think) “how can they ignore us”. IN FACT, one of the reasons I write is because they control too much of he conversation. I think grass roots, on-the-ground, real-life experience is an under-represented part of the dialog out there. My platform is all about heightening that voice.

  • Jackie

    Hi Matt,
    Thanks for the comments….points well taken. I think this is getting to be a really great engaging conversation long over due. Really!!!! I’m hoping we can continue this ….and will most likely continue the engagement beyond SHRM as this exchange is needed.
    As for multiple emails ….you’ll be surprised how many people said they hadn’t heard from me until the final email and said they were interested in scheduling briefings.
    Stay tuned for some creative offerings…..

  • Jackie

    OK…..my bad for understanding “commerce” in the financial sense.

  • http://www.facebook.com/BillBoorman Bill Boorman

    Charley,
    Thanks for poking the wasps nest. My take on this is quite simple. Bloggers make choices. A few blog for personal passion but most do so to either make money from their blog (through advertising/advertorial), and others, typically consultants, make money because of their blog. I sit in the latter camp, whilst Jessica would sit in the second camp. Even the passion bloggers do so because the notoriety can help with their careers. Bloggers have a combination of reach and influence in niche areas and can trade on this, but we should not get too carried away with our own importance in the market.
    I think PR companies make the mistake of confusing bloggers with journalists. Feature writers want press releases to fill copy without needing to do too much research. Bloggers generally don’t, and PR companies need to learn to understand this critical difference. most bloggers don’t want to be pitched. The approach needs to be different.
    I work in my market, I don’t just write about it, so I find plenty of products to write about. What I want from the clever product/service companies is conversation about their part of the market and expertise. I think the term vendors is actually decisive. We all work in the same market, we just wear a different hat. The pitching creates some of the divide. My advice to the PR companies is connect us. Let us talk, and social beats e-mail every time. It is the place we live. Connect and talk. The content will follow!
    Bill