Archive for the ‘mainstream media’ Category

Blogger-Journalist Relationships Done Right

April 23, 2008

After what happened last week, I was quite pleasantly surprised to get a very considerate sms from a reporter this morning, saying he was concerned about disrupting me and asking for a good time for him to contact me.

A few things done right:

  • He knew who I was, definitely had read my blog and referenced things I said in context both on my blog, Twitter and at the IDC Conference.
  • He had clear questions and obviously had done research on the topic.
  • He did not seem to just want to hear a quotable soundbyte, but just asked questions and answered. (Note: It doesn’t matter to me if he got off the phone thinking I utterly wasted his 5 minutes and didn’t give him a good soundbye, the point is that doesn’t come across to me)
  • He offered to send me a draft of what his phrasing of what I said would be via email

Again, it’s not that I’m some big shot in the space, it’s just the other party being nice and well…. a human. Not just someone digging for information or a soundbyte.

Unlike the previous two reporters, if this particular journalist asks me in future to recommend him a blogger in a different niche, say food or technology, I will definitely be more than happy to do so because I know he will treat that person with courtesy and respect that I think anyone should get.

Here’s hoping more journalists learn from these experiences.

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Blogger-Journalist Relationships – We’re People Too Dammit.

April 19, 2008

This is thought #4 from yesterday’s quick thoughts on the IDC Conference. But I think it’s the most time sensitive so I’ll get to it first.

I’m a fairly young “serious” blogger. By that I mean my blog has only existed for about 100 days, though I’ve had a “webpage” as they called it back then, since 1996.

In the past 100 days, I’ve loved it when people drop me a message to say they’ve read my blog and find it interesting or they’ve heard about what I’ve done at Social Media Breakfast: Singapore or stuff like that. It’s lead to great conversations, new networks, new friends and even a couple of internship offers. I’m glad that at least some people within my niche feel like I’m adding value to this community, and are willing to talk to me about it.

In last couple of days, though, the ugly side of social media has begun to rear it’s ugly head with people I don’t know adding me on Facebook (without even telling me how or why they know me) and one person demanding for stuff on Twitter, from his/her very first tweet to me.

Needless to say, I categorised these instances as spam and just ignored them.

But then, yesterday took the cake.

Two separate journalists talked to me, one in person at the IDC conference and one over the phone. The first simply came up to me, did not introduce the topic she was writing about, did not ask if I knew anything about the topic she was writing about, or if I would like to say anything about it and just leaped straight into asking me questions.

The second called me while I was having dinner, didn’t ask if it was a good time to talk, but at least identified how she got my number.

Firstly, isn’t this communication 101? You’re calling someone you want to get something out of. The very least you can do is be courteous.

Second, both these journalists clearly have no idea who I am, and what I blog about. I know because both their pieces were on topics with absolutely nothing to do with what I blog about. Why would I be a relevant person to get a comment from? I told the second journalist that I had no idea whatsoever about the content she was asking me about and I didn’t feel like I was the best person to comment. It’s like asking an engineer in to comment on the latest healthcare procedures.

Did they bother to do their research? Or was it just easy access to a blogger – any blogger – that they could milk for a comment for tomorrow’s news? Are they presenting a proper quote with proper representation to the public that actually pays money for that paper?

I’m going to borrow a question from Michael Netzley:

What happened to the journalistic ethic and the grand claims that journalists are different because they actually research their stories and get independent confirmation of the facts?

Reuben, who I was having dinner with, heard my side of the conversation and clearly knew I had no idea what the phone “interview” was about, and told me I should have just said “I’m sorry, I’m having dinner”. On hindsight, I should have, but I didn’t want to be rude.

But I am very certain, that in this case, my extended courtesy to these journalists were not reciprocated in any way whatsoever.

So let me get this out of the way: I do not blog for publicity. I do not need or want to be quoted in the press, especially when it is in no way related to me. I don’t do this for money, I don’t care about fame. I’m here to add value to my immediate community and to spread the word about social media, be it in personal or business use. My goals are community, awareness and education.

Now I’m not a big shot in this space. And I don’t need anyone to treat me like one. If anything else I am astounded by the appreciation people have shown me so far. But I do ask that you show me the basic courtesy when it comes to contacting me.

The one thing I am conscious of in my blog is my personal brand. Yesterday I made the mistake of commenting on issues that I probably shouldn’t have. I don’t know how the articles will come out It could be good for my personal brand, it could be bad. For all I know i come out sounding like a genius in tomorrow’s papers. It doesn’t matter. That’s why I feel the need to post this at 5:20 in the morning, so that you know I’m not writing this in response to whatever comes out in the press later today.

I would like to think these were isolated incidents, and that we have many, many professional journalists out there who hold themselves to a professional code (which apparently is something they pride themselves on). Either way, this has been a learning experience for me, albeit one that has left a bitter taste in my mouth, and it’s not going to happen again.

If this incident means taking some backlash from the journalism community, by all means. I could’ve easily sat on this and kept quiet, let the articles get published and just wait it out, but I think bloggers need to be aware of this.

I personally find it marginally amusing that for all the concern about “control” and “responsibility” and “messaging” and “amateurism” etc in social media, I find these exact things lacking in mainstream media.

Or am I being naive to believe they should exist there in the first place? Because my takeaway from these two instances is that they don’t care about the story, much less me. Grab a contact, get a quote or comment, publish that piece of text regardless of the accuracy, reliability and credibility of the article or the source.

Related Links:

The whole discussion about blogger outreach is in For Immediate Release #336 at around 18 minutes. I think everyone who is considering connecting with any blogger needs to listen to this carefully before going down that path.

Also, you can read about Bryan Person’s frustrations with lazy PR pitches, and draw the similarities easily.

In the interest of full disclosure, another reporter who I met at the IDC Conference was fairly decent and asked if I would be interested in contributing to that particular newspaper. Whether or not that actually happens, I want to lay this out publicly so that other bloggers out there can read this and learn from it.