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PR in the age of blogging

Here is what I have learned as a blogger, and what you should know as a press agent.A great blog post must stand on its own. It needs to be Tweeted and Re-Tweeted. It needs to be big, to say something no one else has said.

I will be moving down this page full-time after Memorial Day, to Rethinking Healthcare. But before I leave you in Deborah's capable hands, I want to talk to the PR folks in the audience a moment.

I take as my text a recent release from Appcelerator, for whom I have fond feelings owing to the fact they were born in Atlanta. (Picture from Wikipedia.)

A week ago they called with big news, secret news. Don't tell until we say so, they ask. OK, I reply, not that I care. Embargoes have been part of this business for years -- what's the news? Appcelerator is helping with the Gulf spill. OK, then.

Then came the panic. No, wait. We can't put it out right now. We have to wait a little. How little? A day, maybe two. Days later, well maybe next week. OK, then.

So finally it arrives.

Oil Reporter, an iPhone app that lets people report soiled beaches, with pictures and video, linking the data to map coordinates, creating an adhoc social network from the reports and reporters.

For me the best angle is the API, which could help in other corporate disasters, to coordinate corporate response. (The folks who bring you Tylenol will like that.) Come to think of it, it might be a great thing for an editorial staff working a big story together.

Oh (this time apologetically) someone broke the embargo. D'oh! Or it would be D'oh! if I really cared. Because I don't.

Here is what I have learned as a blogger, and what you should know as a press agent.

Public relations has grown up in an atmosphere where reporters mostly organized their beats. Publications wanted all the news they could fit. What mattered to advertisers was a stable audience, built from those devoted to the market, industry or lifestyle being advocated.

Good times, but not these times. These times are quite different. But they're not unprecedented.

Remember The Front Page, made most memorably with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell as My Girl Friday? (The picture is a publicity still for the movie.)

It's the kind of story reporters love to romanticize, about doing anything for "the scoop," because scoops sell newspapers, and selling today's paper is what it's all about. Reporters are treated like dirt. They're hard-drinking, hard-boiled, cynical. Editors are entrerpreneurial, unscrupulous, self-centered, practically thieves. Ethics? We don't need no steenkin' ethics.

That's what blogs are. A great blog post must stand on its own. It needs to be Tweeted and Re-Tweeted. It needs to be big, to say something no one else has said. Gutter to gutter above the fold or it's worthless.

Here's the thing about most tech stories. They're not big news. Product announcements, job hops, reorganizations, things that mean an awful lot to companies and their PR people, they really don't mean much to a blogger.

There will come a time when we're organizing our beats again, a season to be professional again. But this medium is too new, and the money in it too small, for us to afford this business of organizing or being professional.

Everybody's a start-up now. This blog is a start-up. As a writer, I'm a start-up, a one-man band, an entrepreneur. So is everyone else worth reading.

We want a scoop. You got a murderer hidden inside a desk? Give it to me exclusive and I'll run with it.

The stolen iPhone sold to Nick Denton's Gizmodo is a story of this type. Maybe we can get George Clooney to play Denton in the movie, an update of the original play. But sorry, Jason, you have to go. You're not box office. Is Amy Adams available?

Boom goes the dynamite. That's what I'm talking about. Yeah, baby!

A new app can't compete with that, unless it's even dirtier than the BP oil slick.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com