November 16, 2007 at 11:37 am (socialTNT)
Yesterday while following Snitter, I noticed some particularly interesting tweets from Marshall Kirkpatrick of Read/Write Web that had an edge of foreboding for Amazon’s PR team. When I read his post this morning on some Amazon news that was given out under embargo and then taken back at the last minute, I was flabbergasted at the route Amazon PR chose to take.
Not only did Amazon go back on an originally agreed upon embargo for some news they had in the pipeline within minutes of the embargo time, but to add insult to injury, they also drafted a statement for Marshall to clarify the situation that was…wait for it…written in the FIRST person. Yes, that’s right, Amazon tried to put words into a blogger’s mouth. Dangerous to say the least. Marshall’s post completely detailed the exchange, even down to providing the exact text that Amazon PR hoped he would plagiarize as his own.
We don’t really know what was going on behind-the-scenes here. Maybe Amazon PR really didn’t know the news was postponed/canceled until the 11th hour and as such weren’t able to notify journos in a timely manner. All too often these types of situations get thrown at the PR team and although it’s not their fault, they’re the ones left to pick up the pieces and salvage the damaged relationships as best they can. We, as PR people, have to remember to be flexible. When stuff like this happens, you have to take a deep breath and move forward. Be honest about the situation and realize that you can’t strong-arm people into handling things the way you want. And as we see in this example, if you try to do so, you’ll just end up making your team and the company behind you look bad. Really bad. Not to mention add to the already loud complaints about the PR industry as a whole.
I think we need to get over the desire to always “control the message” and realize that setting up the relationship for success is far more important. In the age of Web 2.0, you can’t expect to be able to have a one-way dialogue anymore. Two-way communication is key. Setting up the relationship is key. Promoting open, honest dialogue whenever possible is essential. As Marshall pointedly notes, Amazon PR’s actions in this situation really prove that they are neither open nor social. The “gatekeeper” role of PR, while still important in certain situations, is no longer as important as our expertise in facilitating communication. There is a point at which attempting to “control” the situation is no longer practical or advisable and all we can do is help our clients participate strategically in the conversation, sit back, and let the rest unfold organically.
Chris over at SocialTNT also wrote a great post on this issue that is a good read.