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Social Media, Public Relations and the “new media” – ValueIreland’s experience

Through writing for ValueIreland.com over the past 6+ years, I’ve come into contact (online and offline) with many who do similar stuff – i.e. write online. Reading a wide selection of blogs brought me to the newer aspects of what’s now known as “social media”. Instead of publishing an html based website, I started using Google Blogger first and them moved to WordPress, and on to hosting the site myself. Those same blogs and writers led me to Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. The first two of which I’m not all that interested in, to be honest, and I’m losing interest

In writing a consumer focused website, I’ve encountered my fair share of public relations type people – and those who claim to be experts in Social Media. The give-away on the quality of many of these so-called professionals is that invariably, they’re searching Google for Conor Pope, they find my site, and since it seems somewhat similar, they fire off their bog standard e-mail asking me to publicise their client/product/event.

I rarely write about anything here on ValueIreland.com where I don’t either have first hand experience or a deep interest. For that reason, I’m unlikely to just copy and paste the press release into an article. If it’s a new service or website for example, I’m likely to sign up to test out the offering. If I come across something that’s pitched to me, then I’ll give it a go, and if I like it, I’ll write about it. And if I don’t like it, I’ll also write about it. Sometimes, not writing about it counts as making a point as well.

I’m actually writing this post now because of recent experiences I’ve had with a couple of PR people, and because of one or two items I’ve been reading on other websites.

Firstly, for the record, my name is Diarmuid. My name is on the About page on this website – it’s not a secret. I’m not doing this anonymously – I have nothing to hide. So, if you’re a PR person going to e-mail me about something, at least check out the details on my website before sending me an e-mail that says “Dear Sir/Madam”, or “To whom it concerns”, or without any kind of salutation or greeting whatsoever.

I only provide an info@valueireland.com e-mail address here to manage spam better. I will respond to your e-mail from my personal e-mail address. When I do, don’t keep e-mailing me back at info@valueireland.com. As a PR person, you’re going to be telling your clients that you build and value relationships – but if you ignore the fact that I’ve made a positive “relationship” building move by giving you my personal e-mail address and phone number, don’t show how little you value the contact by ignoring that.

Remember, you want something from me. That’s why you e-mailed me. I don’t mind one way or the other.

There are times when I think that I should follow up directly with the clients of some PR companies – more particularly some of the newer organisations who claim to utilise social media as a way to bring their clients (or their products) to the people. I’m sure that these clients are unaware of how little they’re actually getting for their money and would be very interested to hear how some approaches being made on their behalf are so half-arsed and amateurish that they’re doing the client and their brand damage rather than promoting it.

Handling e-mail addresses, and knowing who you’re supposed to be talking to isn’t new media, or social media, it’s common sense and politeness.

Here are a few more doozies from just the past couple of weeks:

  1. One PR company e-mailed “valueireland” and asked for a banner advert to be put up on the site promoting a particular product – for free. A simple search of ValueIreland.com would have told the PR genius that I had little time for the particular product having written about it several times.
  2. Another PR company sent a press release to “valueireland” asking that we promote a new consumer grocery shopping website launched recently. The website, to be fair, is something that I am interested in and would have been keen to follow up further on, but I had a few questions. I emailed them through, and as of yet (4 weeks plus) have not received any answers (or even an acknowledgement).
  3. I loved a recent PR company who e-mailed me recently as I was “one of the main consumer focused websites in Ireland” and would I be interested in writing content for their clients website that was being launched soon. While I was considering if I could be of assistance, the same new website published a “Top 10” of Irish consumer websites, but neglected to include ValueIreland.com.
  4. While I said that I couldn’t provide content to their website due to time constraints, I would be happy to help if they had any relevant content that I could publish for them. “Brilliant”, they said, “we’ll send you something straight away” – again, 6 weeks later, and nothing doing.
  5. For the first time ever, a few weeks ago, a social media/PR company offered me a free version of their product to try out. As it happened, I was in the market for such a product, so I said I’d be interested – as long as they were happy that I write about the item afterwards. “No problem, that’s just what we want”, they said, “just send us on your address details and we’ll get one out to you”. A couple of months down the road, nothing!
  6. I’m also quite intrigued about the training received by the PR professional who has sent me the same press release for a product launch three times now. “In case you didn’t get the first one” was followed by “We’ve made some slight changes, so here’s an updated version”.

Don’t get me wrong here. One way or the other, I don’t mind. But if you’re going to take up some of my time asking me to help you out, I’m going to see if I can help you out – but please don’t waste my time after that by messing me about like above. I’m always a small bit proud that someone thinks that its even remotely worth their while following up with ValueIreland.com, trying to get me to write about their client (company, product, service or event).

I’m no public relations expert either, but I do obviously have my personal views on how to contact me and follow up when someone wants me to do something for them. We all have such opinions – people can ask us to do something in a certain way that we won’t like and we won’t be inclined to help them. On the other hand, we can be asked to do something in a different way and we’re only too happy to help.

As a company, if you’re paying someone to get people “on side” and “on message” for your new product, service or event, I guess you’d hope that these people would be aware of how to get people to help out. Its probably unfortunate for many of those PR people who contact ValueIreland that I’m never stuck for content here on ValueIreland.com, and that I’ve no deadlines to meet, so I don’t have to just copy and paste a press release to make copy.

But enough of that – it’s not all negative when it comes to PR people. There are some who seem (in my eyes anyway) to act in a manner which does their clients a lot of good. They’ll write a proper e-mail, they’ll answer questions, and they’ll remember who they’re dealing with.

But unfortunately, in my experience in the past few weeks and months, these are very few and far between.

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