Inside Access and Common Sense

What I’m about to say is not earth shattering. It’s common sense. However, despite it being common sense, you’d be surprised how many people don’t seem to understand this concept.

In today’s blogging world, as in the journalism world, everyone wants the early story; the scoop; the information that makes you the source and causes everyone to bow at your feet in humility. Trust me. Everyone wants this. Sometimes, if you play your cards right and happen to know the right people or be at the right place at the right time, you might just get access to information that is not common knowledge. Some of this information would make a heck of a blog entry. It would mean lots of traffic and you would surely end up on Techmeme or on Digg.

Stop. Just stop.

Think. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Will blogging this story cause me to lose friends or relationships?
  2. Will blogging the story cause me to break an embargo I agreed to? (Embargos sent without prior agreement are fair game, in my opinion)
  3. Will blogging the story violate an NDA?
  4. Will blogging the story cause other people not to share information with me?

Like I said – common sense. Personally, I’ve been given intimate knowledge of LOTS of things. Google related things. Early previews of alpha products in stealth. Insider knowledge of how organizational health of some companies. Indications of where key players may end up and who’s talking to who. What employee at a tech company is sleeping with the CEO. Yes, I have access. No I am not blogging any of this stuff. Why? Because… it will hurt my chances of getting other access or it may cause me personal relationships with folks.

Common Sense.

Oh, and don’t share private conversations without permission.

Published by

Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, on his personal blog and view his photography at The Aperture Filter.

8 thoughts on “Inside Access and Common Sense”

  1. Common Sense… the least common of all senses.

    Trust is a hard thing to earn. It can take years to earn someone’s trust, but you can destroy it in a single click. And once you’ve done it, it’ll take longer to earn anyone else’s trust.

    PR pros are familiar with the concept of a “trust account” – each person, product or corporation has a trust account, and every action either deposits to or withdraws from said account.

    The same applies to bloggers. Use common sense and keep your trust account well funded. Someday, circumstances may lead you to make a withdrawal from your trust account. Just make sure the check doesn’t bounce.

  2. Geoff’s Twitter comes off as too touchy for me. It appears the author just wanted to throw a link to an old friend and Geoff shrugged him off.

    I’m pretty rough around the edges but I don’t see how saying “I had a conversation with and old friend and it got me thinking” is a bad or invasive thing. Sure, some conversations need to be moderated, but two friends/colleagues/peers talking about a common interest/vocation is hardly off limits.

    Maybe Geoff should have used a little common sense and not sent that Twitter but rather asked his old friend to remove the offending reference.

    Either way – your last line is the real nugget here – don’t share private conversations without permission.

  3. I know who you are sleeping with! hahahaha!

    Anyways Great post, I think bloggers that end up with cool story end up also paying peace of that story as you said with friends, jail time or life it self.

    Sometimes even the most popular bloggers forget those things.

    You know how it is in America, the more money you make the more chances people take to sue you over bull*sh&*.

    As I said great post !

  4. Livecrunch: I have several juicy pieces of gossip on the whole who’s sleeping with who, which VP of which company is screwing her CEO boss, etc. It’s way too prolific among people whom you otherwise would have no indication about. Heh. But, I ain’t sayin’…

  5. Kyle: The blogger was one of my competitors… I didn’t really want the meeting to leak out to the public marketplace without at least a heads up for a variety of reasons. But you wouldn’t know that if you weren’t in the DC PR business. About 25% of my readerships is local, and of that portion at least 1/3 are my competitors. So excuse me if I’m competitive. :)

    And Aaron’s right about this. I know one blogger who likes to rant about pitches all the time. I’d never, ever give him a scoop unless my hand was forced.

  6. Geoff: We certainly are not in the same circle, and as such I had no idea that he was a competitor or that he was tipping your hand. In that case I would say you are justified to be angry but I’m not sure publicizing it was the best thing to do. It’s far too easy for things to get out of hand and the last thing I (and hopefully you) want is to start losing friends.

    I guess I’m not important enough to have people ask me questions yet…

    Either way, it’s aggravating when people put your business in the street. I wasn’t intending to scold, just trying to understand.

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