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In Defense of O'Dwyer in the Social Media vs. PR Fiasco

Jack O’Dwyer has been doing PR for 40 years, and he’s a well-known, albeit curmudgeonly, expert in the industry. In a recent interview with Dave Armand at PRSA, Jack denounced social media, saying that PR people’s jobs are to deal exclusively with the press. Likening PR people’s  persuasion skills to a boxer’s fists, or "assault with a deadly weapon," he suggested that they lay off citizen journalists altogether. Since then, a Twitter Intervention (or as I like to call it, a Twittervention) has sprung up against O’Dwyer, calling him "out of touch."

 

I just had to get in on this O’Dwyer vs. Twittersphere sparring match – it’s too good to be left alone. Lots of PR people – in sustainability and other subject matter areas – deal directly with the public through twitter, blogs, and other forms of social media. Many would argue that PR people’s jobs hinge on this very ability to reach consumers (or whatever audience they’re trying to reach) directly.

 

So why do I have this nagging urge to get in O’Dwyer's corner on this one? Well, maybe I just think he’s "right with a caveat."

 

A lot of bloggers out there are modern-day journalists – they’ve built a huge following, and maybe they even made money off of their blogs from advertisers (Think GreenBiz or TechCrunch). For these sites, blogger contact information is listed, and they reach an audience that’s important to my clients. By Jack’s definition (journalists = experts), even though he didn’t say it, I think he would agree with me.

 

Other bloggers are just doing it for fun. For example, I have a food blog that I write in my free time about the creative uses of leftovers. I’m not a food expert, nor do I pretend to be. I would be really weirded out if a PR person mailed me a kitchen appliance. Sure, there are people following the blog on Facebook and it’s an appropriate audience for kitchen products, but it’s just not right to flack anything with me. There are millions of other enthusiast bloggers who’d probably agree. Sending cameras to a camera enthusiast blogger so he or she will give you a good review just isn’t cool.

 

So do I think PR people should stay away from all bloggers? NO. Do I think that we should only deal with "expert" or professional bloggers that are similar to journalists? YES.

 

I am curious to hear the other side of the story in more than 140 characters, please!