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It’s public, baby, not private

Still learning a great deal about this Internet, World Wide Web, and the blogosphere. Beth and I learned a few lessons early on when we got comments from influential PR bloggers Jeremy Pepper, Elizabeth Albrycht, and Constantin Basturea. Oh, people are actually reading this thing? Uh oh.
It really exemplified for us the idea that people are out there listening. I have the same chance of being read everyday as does the New York Times or other influential PR bloggers. You laugh, but all it takes is a few keywords in a search engine to produce this post. Scary. What’s really scary is how I find out about this. People can comment on your site directly showing that they are not only listening, but that they are joining the discussion. My blog stats tell me when someone has linked to us. I found out that Robert French was blogging about Graduate Observations that way.

Sometimes you find out in unusual ways who is “listening.” I subscribe to the daily PRSA PR Issues and Trends e-newsletter. The first line in the February 15th edition read:

Armour and Farrell’s presentation on Social Media, from the February 8th meeting of the University of Akron’s chapter of PRSSA, are available for download at:
http://homepage.mac.com/lukearmour/PRSSA/FileSharing8.html

I was stunned. “How did they find out about that?” I wondered. Well, duh, it’s on the Internet; it’s public, baby, not private. We had intended that information to be a resource for the people at that PRSSA meeting and for those who couldn’t make it. We never intended for it to be broadcast to the national PRSA and PRSSA membership. It immediately made us a little nervous. What if the presentation was a dud and people are out there pointing and laughing at us. Well, I guess next time we’ll think about that. Robert French tried to persuade me that PRSA wouldn’t have posted it if it hadn’t have been good. He’s assuming that they downloaded and viewed the presentation and the handout, but I appreciated his reassurance all the same. Thanks, Robert.
So what does all this mean for PR?

  1. You never know who’s reading. Monitor the Internet, someone complaining about your product/ service/ company has the same chance of being read as The Wall Street Journal.
  2. Watch what you say. I try to keep this professional, but every time I get a comment or link from a PR person whom I respect I break into a sweat wondering, “have I written anything embarrassing. To be blunt: don’t put yourself in that position if it’s something you worry about.
  3. Have something to say. Bloggers blog to blog. I have a personal blog where I rant and rave and say outrageously ludicrous things. Who cares what I say because my mom may be the only person reading it. It do it for me. But if you’re a business or someone trying diving into social media because everyone else is doing it: remember that having a strategy will indicate if it fits into your plans or is just something you want to do. It will do more harm than good to blog or podcast about something no one cares about or is hastily put together. It’s kind of like a news release. Would you send one out without any actual news? (Of course you would, but it’s never a good idea, that was to be a rhetorical question.) What’s the point? You could save everyone a lot of time, bandwidth, and money if you just wrote newsless press releases, printed them out, and put them directly into the trash yourself.

And another lesson learned.