The other day, one of my clients got a bad write-up in the online edition of a regional newspaper.
My instinct as a PR guy, circa 1999, would have been to write to the reporter to see what the client could do to make amends; maybe write a Letter to the Editor of that newspaper, etc. Standard stuff. In the end I’d have counseled my client to a.) fix the problem and, b.) remember that “this article will be at the bottom of a parakeet cage soon.”
My instinct as a Social Media PR guy, circa 2009, was to tweet about my client’s bad coverage, adding disclosure about our relationship, and assuring my Twitter friends that the client would fix the issue. This impulse arose despite the fact that the negative article will very likely never rise to the top of the Google ranks and will soon subside (just as it would have 10 years ago) as an issue for the client.
In other words: I almost put my personal brand ahead of my client’s brand. Almost. But I didn’t tweet. Instead, I contacted my client and provided some counsel, and moved on.
My friend Geoff Livingston rails against this impulse to promote our personal brands:
“We can finally look at (Social Media) and say, ‘What’s more important? That we become as famous, even more famous than our clients and organizations who we represent?’ … Or should we stop this nonsense and return to basic counselor values?
“It used to be that promoting clients came first … Isn’t it more important that we understand the medium, how to communicate through it, and guide our (clients) through the transition to two-way media and the phenomenal dynamic nature of this toolset?”
I’ve always been an advocate for PR people to slowly but surely become “known” online for being friendly, good-intentioned and smart. Why? Because I believe that such exposure will change the behavior of PR professionals (they’ll think twice before spamming!!) and thus incrementally change the perception of the PR profession. It all falls under the “Sunlight is the best disinfectant” line that I cart out so frequently.
However, Geoff is also right: another line I’m fond of is “Team before Tweet,” and that applies doubly so when considering a client’s best interests. As paid counselors, the PR professionals’ clients must always benefit first & foremost.
PR’s role is in the passenger seat. When you’re riding shotgun, your role is to help the driver navigate and watch for potholes, not to grab the wheel.
Oh, and P.S. for those of you wondering about the incendiary subject line of this post, I was just riffing on this YouTube classic:
Posted on: April 22, 2009 at 9:48 am By Todd Defren