PR Roundtable Discussion: Outing Bad PR

Aaron Brazell, Director of Technology at b5media has lined up a handful of well-respected voices on both sides of the PR game to host a “roundtable” discussion on Social Media. It’s a five part series with the third post running today at Technosailor.

The roundtable includes Doug Haslam, Marshall Kirkpatrick, Cathryn Hrudicka, Marc Orchant, and yours truly. Click here to read more about the participants.

Question 4: Is “outing” a wayward PR agency or individual an effective way of dealing with the problem of misfired pitches?

Brian Solis: Quite honestly, I’m surprised this doesn’t happen more often as it has been a serious problem for decades.

Chris Anderson’s post sent a jolt that reverberated throughout the entire industry. It was a painful reminder that complacency and spam do not belong in PR.

There are also several blogs dedicated to exposing spectacularly horrible moments in PR as well as exposing bad pitches and the people behind them – and they’re gaining in popularity.

The game of PR has largely been enjoyed the comfort of existing behind-the-scenes and this exposure and public ridicule is forcing PR out of its comfort zone, which at the end of the day will only make PR stronger and more effective.

Now whether or not running the names and email addresses on the Web was a good thing, however, is complicated to assess as there are many factors and ramifications for doing so.

On one hand, it scared the sh!t out of everyone and brought much needed attention to the need to improve things in PR.

On the other hand, it starts to raise privacy issues and taboos that can lead down a scary path affecting everyone involved in the business of public relations and media publishing. And, all of these conversations at the moment are only addressing the symptoms of much bigger problems that face PR, including unrealistic metrics and a complete misunderstanding of how PR really works by clients and corporate execs.

Exposing names and contact information is a steep penalty to pay and quite honestly, it’s somewhat irresponsible. There are other ways to get the same result and impact without forcing individuals to publicly pay the price for the ills of entire industry. Note, my only reservation here is names versus contact information. Running names is a leap, but I can support it. Running contact information crosses the line.

I think that “some” lazy flacks have learned their lesson and many more have been alerted to the fact that they are the epitome of what’s wrong with PR.

Very few PR “Pros” are out there building relationships with the public or people. Most don’t bother to spend the time to really learn about what they represent, why it matters, and how it’s different than everything else out there. And, without that understanding how can anyone realistically believe that influential reporters and bloggers are going to pay attention to their generic pitch?

The Series:

Question #1 – What do you think the biggest challenge is for the Public Relations industry to fully embrace social media?

Question #2 – What does the concept of “brand” mean to you and how do you see the concept of brand protection (or the concept of “open source brand”, so to speak) being transformed in the internet age?

Question 3 – How can bloggers work more effectively with PR people?

Connect with me on Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce or Facebook.


  • Geoff_Livingston

    Scary stuff. I also think it has benefited us, but is irresponsible on the blogger’s part. Very gray matter ethically.


Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. More so, he humanizes technology’s causal effect to help people see people differently and understand what to do about it. He is an award-winning author and avid keynote speaker who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation and innovation.

Brian has authored several best-selling books including What’s the Future of Business (WTF), Engage! and The End of Business as Usual. His blog,, is ranked as a leading resource for insights into the future of business, new technology and marketing.

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