Rant: Flacks and Hacks

Monday, August 7, 2006

So as a PR professional I get sent ProfNet’s, which are inquires from journalists asking for help with stories that they are working on and are looking to be hooked up with sources. So yesterday, I saw a request from a New York Times freelancer, Matt Villano, about the tired story of the Perils of Blogging About Work and  how he was looking for bloggers to speak about it. I wrote to him not on behalf of any client but as a blogger and to do a little PR for myself. I wrote that the company I work for actually encourages me to blog and links my personal blog on their Web site, despite the fact that my blog isn’t industry related (tech) and sometimes has questionable content. They also proudly mention my blog to clients and let me bill some of my time working on it under “Professional Development,” which I can’t help but think is pretty awesome and modern of them. I also think it's an interesting story that there is another side to employee’s blogging and how it's perceived in the corporate world.

So Matt writes back and I quote, “Thanks, Tara. I'm curious, but would never quote a PR person. Cheers, mjv.”  

WTF? He admits that he is indeed interested, but wouldn't quote me simply because I work in PR? What makes the public relations profession better or worse than any other vocation that he’d quote instead? As if none of us can be trusted, just because we sometimes deal with spin and help his colleagues with their stories without the byline credit. Well here’s some news to the journalism world, you are spin masters too, and our clients are just trying to ride the wave you start. I’ve also scooped you on several occasions; see two posts down, NY Times Got Nothing On Me

It’s crap like that, which I had to endure from some of my professors and classmates while going for my master’s in journalism at NYU, because in order to pay for the very expensive schooling I took a job in PR. Unlike most of my classmates, I was working full-time and going to school full-time, while most of them weren’t working at all or were only doing part-time internships. Yet, I did both, kept up this blog and also had some of my articles published. Sorry if that’s too aggressive and PR like. In fact, during orientation we were all told by faculty that they discouraged anyone doing the program AND working part-time, never mind full-time like I did. Yes, to some I’ve gone over to the “dark side” but I’m still writing AND paying the rent.
I also find it funny that the media doesn't see how interrelated the two fields are. I've done both though, been pitched by PR execs and worked with them while writing stories for the paper and now as a PR exec where my coworkers and I think up fun stories and new trends. We also write releases that then get picked up directly by many outlets, who are looking to us to fill some of the gaps. Plus, there's a lot more communications to PR than just working with the media.

On a side note, it seems Matt has a website, Whale Head--where he is basically PR'ing his work. But it appears he has a cat and a page of her pictures, he also says he is a Yankees fan, so he can't be too bad...and his photo is kind of cute. I wonder if it would have made a difference if I emailed him from my AOL account instead? I wasn't really expecting him to actually quote me or be interested in my angle, but I could have lived without his comment about my job, especially after a long day.  

UPDATE: Matt took my post in stride and sent me the following note:

"Touche, Tara. Touche.
One more thing -- my cat is a male.
Feel free to pitch me work-related stuff in the future. m" 

Alls well that ends well :)

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