Blogger Blacklist (and Other PR Pipe Dreams)

Remember the blogger-PR fiasco last year? The one where Wired Editor Chris Anderson published a list of over 300 email addresses from PR flacks that pitched him unsolicited? It caused quite a stir. In fact, around here, it got the PR Roundtable going where Marshall Kirkpatrick, Cathryn Hrudicka, Brian Solis, Doug Haslam and the late Marc Orchant discussed the quandry of PR relations with bloggers. Yes, that incident.

Well, it’s happened again. This time, the “outage” has occurred on a publicly editable wiki and lists PR Firms.

It’s caused quite a stir.

The story, in a nutshell is that Gina Trapani, lead editor of Lifehacker got tired of being spammed by PR agencies send press releases and pitches to her personal email address, despite notices “everywhere” to pitch tips@lifehacker.com. So she published a wiki with agencies that have pitched her personal email address (later made it editable only with attribution) and provided details on how to filter that list through Gmail filtering.

The topic has now been floated by some in the PR industry who have their panties in a bunch over this thing, that a blacklist be created for bloggers. I’ve avoided the whole controversy until last night when Geoff’s lunatical rant pushed me over the edge.

In those comments, I welcome the concept of a blogger blacklist. In fact, I want to be at the top of that list. See, it’s not that I don’t want to be pitched. I do. But pitching should come from some sort of rapport or relationship, not simply because of social ranking in the blogosphere. Even if the criteria were based on status in a particular niche of the blogosphere that was relevant to the pitch, that would be much more palatable than cold call spamming in the name of public frikkin’ relations.

Please put me on this blacklist. In fact, can I start it for you? Done.

I hope and pray this keeps the riff raff out of my inbox. Riff raff includes PR professionals or agencies who have not taken the time to understand us as bloggers. They don’t take the time to read our blogs. To know our audience. They leave voicemails about super secret meetings associated with events that we’re not registered for in cities that we aren’t in. They send us form letters addressing us as Site Owner. They don’t pay attention to how we want to be pitched.

See the PR agencies and professionals that can pitch me any day of the week know me or have some kind of professional rapport with me. They don’t need a blacklist. They wouldn’t even know I was on the blacklist. They don’t need to.

Is this too much work? Maybe. Should PR people care? Probably. I mean, really… If you’re spitballing top tier bloggers hoping to get the vehicle for the message, then you probably don’t want to include those top-tier bloggers, the biggest complainers, the most vocal advocates for change, in that list.

Some bloggers, like myself, will put our own names on that list.

Putting away all the foofoo, let’s think about some practical solutions to this problem. I think it’s high time that the PR community finance the creation and support of a third party broker that would maintain the authenticity, privacy, trust and relationship with the blogging comunity. I’m talking about an OpenID sort of trust-based system that includes the trust-relationship management as well as a CRM tool/plugin-in for sending communications in a standardized way. This tool would provide the recipient a means of “opt out” as well as trust-based ratings, reviews, advocacy and management.

PR Agency A sends me a press release via the system. I approve and can either create positive feedback or abstain (neutral feedback). If Agency B pitches and I don’t want it, I provide a negative feedback item that stays on an Agency’s permanent record.

I will gladly work with PR firms to create this tool. I think it’s essential for the healthy relationship between bloggers who legitimately want or need to be pitched and PR professionals who need to make a living and want to do it in a constructive, productive, ethical and moral way.

In the meantime, this stuff is not going to end soon. Agencies need to recognize that. Jeremy Pepper rightly points out that training is not happening. Spitball pitches or pitches in a way non-conducive to blogger cooperation (Gina’s issue) will not help.

As much as I’m a blogger, I have a degree of communications savviness too. We all want this to work well. Let’s create the tools to do it.