How should PR companies “engage” with Irish bloggers?

I’ll be giving a private talk to a PR company in the next few weeks about being a blogger and the company wants to know how to engage with us blogging folk. Since I have not yet held that coup and installed myself as an evil overlord (Twenty is so going to beat me to it anyway) I thought I’d ask your opinion on it on how you see it. There are two-three PR people that blog in Ireland, Tom Murphy, Piaras Kelly and Rosemarie Meleady, though she blogs about weddings and it would be nice to see more PR people around the blogging landscape.

My own view is that PR companies should all be blogging in some way in order for the “community” to get to know them. Best way of exchanging information is sharing the same space as bloggers while adhering to some kind of politeness rules. No spamming in other words. Even without a blog, all PR agencies should have RSS feeds for all their releases. Sending press releases to bloggers though… are they of value to a blogger or to the PR company apart from an increment in an excel sheet to give to the client? Tom Coates certainly reacts strongly to getting shite press releases from PR companies.

What about events? I think yes, a blogger can still be a blogger and report on the event, if it interests them. The Young Scientist is a good example. How many press invited, how many bloggers? How many links online as a result? How many different opinions on the Young Scientist out there? How many just rewrote the final press release?

A nice initiative was Science Week that encouraged bloggers to blog answers to daily questions. The bribe of a Wii also helped but it is a good start to get people talking about science. I like ideas like that.

I think the unfortunate term “new media” had made PR companies think (lazily) that the same rules of engagement apply to bloggers as to existing journalists. Not that existing journos are very happy with the way some PR companies bombard them with crap. And as I wrote that last sentence I get a press release from an Irish PR company about the opening of a Conrad hotel in China. Jesus.

So fellow bloggers, how would you want to be approached by PR companies?
Not at all?
Should they blog and you can information from them that way? RSS feeds?
Would you be interested in press releases from them?
Would you be interested in free trials of various things that they are sending out?
Would you take ads from their clients or do paid blog posts?

I asked this question on Twitter a while back and Deborah pointed to this very good blog post on the matter from a Mummy blogger.

18 Responses to “How should PR companies “engage” with Irish bloggers?”

  1. Alexia says:

    For me, my blog is rooted in technology, pure and simple. If a PR company wants to send me their releases, then fair enough. I have received some in the past, but I haven’t written about them, as the products didn’t interest me. If I had written about their products, I would have posted a massive disclaimer.

    There’s nothing as anooying as sneaky social selling – yes, it can happen on blogs too. Free trials ought to highlighted in the post also. Bloggers that blog on products ought to be honest and upfront about it.

    As regards ads, I’m dead set against them on my own blog. Sponsorship is fair enough for the right blogs, but it ought to be executed with taste and add to the user experience. Sprinkling AdWord style advertising on a blog is not in good taste. In my humble opinion, it can be insulting.

    I suppose, essentially, I don’t see much of a problem as long as the blogger writing stays independent and doesn’t let green influence their voice. I recognise this is a brave and difficult position to hold for some, but independence must be protected at all costs.

    That said, I will never take advertising or sponsorship on my personal blog. 🙂

  2. Alexia says:

    I’d like to add – the companies that sent the releases don’t see to have a clue how to pitch their releases, either.. The content was exceptionally thin on the ground. And looked like an afterthought.

  3. kirstie says:

    depends on what you’re blogging about really. I generally have no objection to press releases as it alerts me to new products and it gives us a chance to give something back to the user in terms of comps etc – and it’s how the media, in any form really, gets a lot of its info. But then, my day job is also media based and so I’m so used to the whole business of press releases that it’s just a component, to me, of how I get information. And a bit like spam, you can ignore or delete it if you don’t want it.

    But in Ireland, most PR companies aren’t maximising on the potential of blogs at all for their clients – I can think of two that are, in relation to me, and it’s working brilliantly for them. I’d like to see things for bloggers that we can’t afford, where trad media can – like excellent photography resources. I’d also like to see bloggers getting exclusives. The potential is there but we’re slow to catch on here – the UK PR firms are way more savvy.

  4. Orlaith says:

    I work in the PR industry and have some limited experience of engaging with bloggers on a professional basis. The reason for this is simple – as I see it, bloggers and PR companies are essentially antagonistic players. The ‘blogosphere’ exists as a subversive media, people turn to blogs for comment and opinions which run parallel to the traditional media pack. However, PR professionals are alway looking for new and creative ways to interact with the public and blogs are definitely on their radar. Most PR people are understandably wary of incurring the wrath of a blogger by going about it the wrong way so they retreat back to the familiar territory of traditional media. The risk of being flogged to death on someone’s blog would impede anyone from venturing into new territory. But this will change – bloggers are increasingly driving the news agenda in Ireland (they have John Waters running scared!). We can already see how traditional media outlets are adapting their online presence to emulate the participatory culture of blogs.

    The important thing for PR companies is to exercise a common sense approach in relation to bloggers. I would suggest that a popular blog like is a great resource for those PR people working in the beauty and wellbeing sector. However restraint is key, if I was doing PR for Chanel I obviously wouldn’t issue a random press release to every female blogger in Ireland. PR companies should apply exactly the same considerations for bloggers as traditional media. There are key differences though, journalists are generally receptive to press releases as they appreciate the collaborative relationship which exists between press officers and journalists. There is no evidence that a similar relationship exists between bloggers and the PR industry. Fear and mistrust prevail on both sides.

    PR has been described as a “management function that focuses on two-way communication between an organisation and its publics” and that is hardly a concept which is anathema to bloggers. Perhaps there’s hope for us yet.

  5. Every one of the well-focused questions you raise get covered by at least one of the PR or marketing podcasts once a fortnight. I’d expect all the top tier PR agencies would know of those PR and marketing podcasters since they have books and speaking engagements that attract the attention of the Irish PR community. So it’s probably safe to assume that many of the managers of Irish PR agencies have already considered blogging in their own work but only a few feel that it fits well with their client mix.

    I’d be happy knowing that Irish PR companies subscribe to newsfeeds and that they are considering running RSS subscriptions or email newsletters from their websites. Those simple steps might generate the traction you advocate.

  6. Sabrina says:

    It would be nice if PR companies would work with bloggers as media instead of as a distribution channel. When I was doing travel blogging, I liked getting press releases and would cover stuff if it was relevant to my niche, but that was a commercial blog – blog twice a day or die. The reality of the time space continuum being as it is, there are days when all fodder is good fodder if it has a photo attached to it that isn’t just a logo.

    That said, when dealing with people bloggers instead of commercial bloggers (and people bloggers make up most of the Ireosphere currently) it is a good idea to give people an experience to write about. Put the product in their hands. Give them preview access to your website. Personalise something. Use the shocking new media communications channel of… the post!

    And for the love of God, do not not not follow up someone’s post about your product with a reply post that is basically a press release for your shit. I got your press release and that isn’t what I blogged. Guess why?

  7. @Damien:

    1. Listen
    2. Watch
    3. Respond

    and don’t send press releases unless you know what I write. If you do, you’ll be blocked.

    BTW – I don’t see a need to write any form of disclaimer about receiving press releases.

    To the blogger – never, ever, ever take the press release as saying anything of value. You must do your own research.

  8. Tom Murphy says:


    Good post, it’s no harm to get this question out in the local market.

    I’m a PR person (and a blogger) and to me it’s quite simple, Public Relations, when you boil it down, is about good communications (yes I know there are shady practitioners and practices – but in 99.9% of cases it’s about communication).

    Good communication, regardless of the medium, era, channel or tool is about understanding your audience.

    Blogs are no different in that regard.

    If PR people wish to communicate with a blogger – and by doing so reach their readershop – the basics of good communication remain valid:
    1) Does the blogger accept communication for PR people – or do they see PR people as the spawn of satan?
    2) Is your information relevant? – not only to the blogger but their audience
    3) Is the information valuable?
    4) How does the blogger prefer communication?
    5) Have you talked with the blogger before?
    6) Have you taken the time to read the blog?

    The problem is that often people get lazy and just spam irrelevant information to anyone they can find.

    That’s not PR, that’s not communication, that’s just laziness.

    Of course the rules have changed, so where, in the past, journalists often just cursed the PR people and binned the press release, bloggers can now name and shame. That should be a deterrent against spamming – but it doesn’t appear to be.

    If it’s any consolation I get spammed with press releases all the time – which I suppose serves me right!

    When you boil it down, “blog relations” is about good communication, it is about common sense and it’s about common courtesy. Any PR people following those rules will be fine.

    PR people aren’t the spawn of satan but often they don’t help themselves through lazy communication. I don’t apologize for them. If you get lazy, irrelevant pitches then call them on it.

    @Dennis makes a good point, don’t take any communication at face value, always do your own research. That’s good journalism 🙂
    As @Bernie points out there’s no excuse for PR people not to understand this stuff, there are hundreds of blogs and podcasts covering these issues every day – do some browsing
    @Orlaith – I disagree that the relationship between bloggers and PR people has to be antagonistic. Yes there are silly PR people, yes there are silly bloggers, but on the whole this is about communication. Just like the real world, some people will like your client/company and some people won’t. That’s life…


  9. @dennishowlett

    I wish mainstream Irish journalists would observe your last sentence. In many cases, I have challenged the accuracy of information delivered in a press release and then disseminated under a headline. Lately, when I’ve responded on my blog with specific follow-on challenges to the journalists’ articles, I’ve received boiler plate email retorts that directed me to remove my reference to named writers or face a solicitor with a demand for the same.

    I believe press releases are to be challenged, not believed. And when vetted, they often give excellent copy for hired scribes.

  10. […] Mulley asks the question: "How should PR companies engage with Irish bloggers" I think the unfortunate term “new media” had made PR companies think (lazily) that the […]

  11. PR companies need to engage with bloggers in a way that suits the medium – ie, two way communication.

    Sending out a press release and hoping it gets regurgitated on a blog isn’t really good enough. Blogging’s about engagement, and so they need to ask/cajole/encourage bloggers to engage with the issue/product/brand they’re promoting.

    So if someone blogs about books, then sending them physical books incase they’d like to review them is pretty good. Even better, if the PR firm can get the publisher to ask the author to respond to any posted review and join in the comments “below the line”. Adds a lot of credibility to the review, and ups the PR impact.

    Emailing someone to say there’s a restaurant opening is naff. Emailing and saying that it’s opening and there’s a preview evening to which you’re welcome to attend as a local blogger is better. Then taking an interest in the blogger’s perceptions – likely to be a bit more random and hard to predict than a regular newspaper reviewer – is important too.

    But it’s a two-way engagement.

  12. Branedy says:

    Isn’t ‘Public Relations’ about establishing a ‘relationship’? Any good ‘relationship’ should be on mutual trust and honest interchange of ideas and information. If ‘PR’ is only about press releases and spin, how is that a relationship. Wouldn’t that naturally result in interaction, as in commentary, comments and trackback often found in Blogs?

    Most ‘PR’ people are into coloring facts, and spinning details. This only works when they expect to never hear from nonbelievers. They will have to raise their expectations when dealing with bloggers, and expect interaction.

  13. nouns says:

    Depends. If you have publishing deadlines then potential topics that are pushed towards you are definitely a good thing. If you don’t but the releases are still relevant to your interests, keep them coming. Like Kirstie, I’m kinda professionally used to it, and filter and delete releases without thinking about it. I would probably feel quite differently if I wasn’t used to this and suddenly found myself being solicited by PR people in the lazy, lazy way outlined in the post on that mom-blog.

    The attitude inherent in that – they’re bloggers so we don’t have to work as hard / they’ll be grateful to get a bit of free swag – is guaranteed to get personal bloggers’ backs up. They’re not working to a publishing deadline.

    Journos can complain (rightly) about getting spammed with irrelevant releases, but they’ll all admit that info in releases has helped them fill inches.

    As regards the content of releases and its accuracy, ‘question everything’ is a good rule of thumb. It’s the PR people who take the blame for non-news releases, but in my experience this is usually the client’s fault. More PR people should explain the principle of ‘if you don’t have anything to say, don’t say anything’ to their clients.

    Finally, as someone whose business card usually has some combination of ‘communications’ / ‘marketing’ / ‘strategy’ on it, I’m glad to see you put quotation marks around “engage” Damien. If PR folks do specialise in communications, and are aware that this should be a golden age allowing them to showcase their skills in starting conversations and earning the trust and respect of a whole new kind of publisher then can we stop with the antagonistic military metaphor corporate speak please? Not having a go at anyone, it’s just a pet hate of mine.

    I have no problem sitting in a meeting and listening to people throw ideas for engagement strategies around, but be aware that this is often the first step towards completely dehumanised communications. If working with bloggers is seen by PR people as some kind of battle in which there will inevitably be major casualties, things won’t change. If bloggers are aware that this is how PR companies plan to ‘work’ with them, things won’t change.

    @Bernie, I admire your tenacity in challenging regurgitated press releases! Who knew that 75% of companies in Ireland were world-leaders?

  14. Orlaith says:

    Branedy’s comment throws up an important issue. A lot of bloggers have a very dim view of PR and have little or no grasp of its value in developing effective communication strategies. The common perception is that PR is all about spin and puff propaganda. This view is obviously formed from bitter experience, or perhaps its just a stereotype, or a bit of both.

    All things considered, I think it’s quite brave of the PR companies out there who are looking to foray into the blogosphere but they are mistaken if they think it will automatically win them friends and help them influence people. It would be disingenuous for any PR company to think they can mollify opinions, steer editorial policy, and see short term results for their clients. I agree with Branedy, it needs to be based on an honest interchange of ideas not driven by self-interest.

  15. Trinity says:

    Depends on the PR company and whether they are shite or not! Blogging has become an important accessory to PR in recent years but it has to negotiate a more intelligent conversation with everyone. Forget about press releases, they just don’t do the job anymore. Bloggers have tremendous power to influence and shape opinions. Approach is the big thing and a PR person should know the ins and out of a particular blogger before approaching. At the end of the day, it’s all about ‘point of views’ and if a PR person can get that right at the first hurdle, I guess they are away on hack then 🙂

  16. Krishna De says:

    Damien – I’ve been speaking with a global PR firm about this subject and in fact am working with an Irish PR company over the next few months about their integration of social media marketing within their practice and how it could benfit their clients.

    If you want to connect before you speak before your talk, let me know – happy to help.

  17. […] you may want to subscribe to my site using a feedreader or email. Thanks for visiting – Damien.As mentioned previously, I met with a PR company last week and presented to them about blogs and blogging. This particular […]

  18. John ONeill says:

    A PR company with a reputation to keep will generally be careful about who and how they approach. What bothers me most are new web startups who play dumb and just send out unsolicited garbage to me.
    A good example was a mail I got from, you can read about it here.
    I made a post on my blog about it and discovered I was neither the first nor the only recipeint of this non opt in, no opt out email.
    I can rant. I can alert others. There isn’t however much else I can do. Or is there? Any legal and reasonable suggestions welcome.