Jay Rosen wrote about the Ketchum Affair, "this was a moment for them [PR Bloggers] to shine and for the most part they did not show up."
I did not show up. Why?
Before I get into that, I want to say that I think Jay was absolutely correct to draw attention to this silence. It is difficult to hear such criticism, but, if anything, it has reminded us that there are more things to discuss on our blogs then blogs.
Secondly, let me say that Ketchum was wrong and their behavior is a stain on the reputation of PR and makes me absolutely livid. I would guess (hope!) that the vast majority of people who work at Ketchum would agree, and I hope we hear more from them. But I am stunned at the buck-passing response of Ketchum leadership.
I like to consider myself a leader in the PR blogosphere, and I am proud of my partners and my efforts to bring the community of PR bloggers and non-bloggers together to discuss these new communications tools via the New Communications Forum next week. Perhaps, however, that makes my silence even more disturbing.
I can tell you there was no sinister motivation behind that silence. Mostly, I didn't post about it because I have been so busy preparing for the Forum that I haven't been reading blogs in my usual fashion over the past month. The Ketchum issue registered very briefly on my consciousness, I saw that Jeremy had posted about it, but I just didn't give it attention due to the pressure of deadlines. In retrospect, I missed an important opportunity to contribute to the growing knowledge base being built in the PR blogosphere, while offering an insider's perspective to those who watch the PR industry with varying degrees of skepticism.
While I am a blogger, I don't consider myself a "pit bull of reporting" as Ariana Huffington would say. And Jay's description of bloggers doesn't really apply perfectly to me and how I see my blog:
Bloggers are supposed to be a little more curious than most. They are supposed to apply a second degree of scrutiny as they do "their job" in the new ecosystem of news. When the press pack goes that-a-way they ought to look this-a-way more. And they should be alert to events in the moral life of the people whose world they chronicle.
Perhaps it is because we PR people have a specific relationship to "reporting" per se. Our jobs generally put us "here" and journos "over there." We have a habit of discretion that doesn't lend itself to pitbull-style reporting, particularly when it comes to our own industry. I am surely not speaking for everyone in the industry, but I think it is an accurate general observation.
Speaking for myself, to date I really haven't considered myself as a reporter via my blog. In my mind, my blog doesn't exist for me to report news, but rather to explore theories and issues with a rather academic bent. That being said, I have noticed that I am increasingly being approached as a reporter of sorts, and I am beginning to want to do more independent reporting on the industry. I just haven't put that into play yet, given I am up to my ears in Forum preparation.
And another thing: This event has also brought home to me the amount of PR blogging naval gazing that goes on in the PR blogosphere. Hell, lately corporate blogging is all I have been thinking about given that is the theme of the presentations we've been prepping for the Forum. While Steve thinks that focus on blogs gives him a pass, I am not sure that it does for me. THE BLOG as the sole item of discussion makes for a rather one-dimensional conversational space. I aim higher.
So, thank you Richard Edelman for blogging about it so quickly. Kudos to Jeremy, Tom and Shel for being ahead of the game. Trevor also has now blogged the issue as well, calling Jay's post "a wake up call" and Neville just chimed in as well reminding us that he and Shel discussed the issue in their Jan. 17 For Immediate Release podcast.
As for me, I'll try to do better in the future. Expect to hear more from me on issues beyond blogging after I return from our Forum!