How not to interact with bloggers if you’re a CEO

A CEO of an Irish company sent me a very long email recently telling me how I am to discuss his company in public in future. I found it quite inflammatory and abusive. He also called into question the ability of another Irish technology journalist in this unsolicited email and told me how I should not go down the path they chose. I am still wary of calling myself a journalist since these folks are professionals. I’m just someone with a gob. I asked said CEO could I publish his email on my blog and he has refused and questioned my inability to have a normal private conversation. Except a conversation is two way. Not abuse. No problem, it won’t be reproduced. Tom recently blogged about the fun he had with the CEO of Blueface.

There are good ways of interacting with bloggers and there are bad ways. Bloggers too are people and a modicum of respect for people would be nice if you are the one making contact with them. One way of getting their goat up is to tell them how they are to talk about your company in public. Another is to use passive aggressive bullshit of the type “I’m surprised that you of all people said that” or “of all people, you should know better”. Questioning whether someone is biased is another. As is taking swipes at a fellow technology journalist or someone in “the trade”.

Also if you are asked to stop emailing them. Do. Do not send another further email with more personal abuse. Finally putting all of these don’ts together in an email and marking the email as “personal and confidential” so the person in receipt of the abuse can’t reproduce on their blog or to others isn’t very nice at all. It’s not transparent.

It’s amazing that some business people think that being abusive to people will not come back and haunt them. Surely the Internet proves that the truth will out.

26 Responses to “How not to interact with bloggers if you’re a CEO”

  1. Sinéad says:

    It’s a real shame when business people must resort to these bullying tactics, rather than rationally attempting to advocate their company. This sort of behaviour simply reinforces negative associations.

    Maybe bullying works with the “professional” journalists but certainly not with a blogger such as yourself Damien. They certainly DO have a lot to learn.

  2. 73man says:

    His approach at abuse was in direct inverse proportion to how seriously he takes blogging and bloggers.

  3. Eolai says:

    I’ve experienced similar bullying approaches, but I’m wondering does marking something as “personal and confidential” really make it so you can’t publish it?

    I thought it meant simply that it is intended for the addressee alone but that once received it becomes the addressee’s to do with whatever. I don’t know that you are obliged to honour the sender’s wishes, particularly when they are simply using it as a cover for bad behaviour.

  4. Will says:

    I’ve got to ask: was this email unsolicited?

    If so, I wonder if this company isn’t doing too well and is about to crater into the ground… that CEO has some serious free time going on.

    (or maybe they’re secretly in utter fear of your Intarweb power?)

  5. Post the E-mail, it’s your private correspondence.. you own it!
    don’t you?

  6. Justin Mason says:

    ‘Also if you are asked to stop emailing them. Do. Do not send another further email with more personal abuse. Finally putting all of these don’ts together in an email and marking the email as “personal and confidential” so the person in receipt of the abuse can’t reproduce on their blog ot to others isn’t very nice at all. It’s not transparent.’

    At this point, I’d say it’s fair enough to warn them that you reserve the right to publish any further correspondence they may send your way, regardless. Is it not legal to publish correspondence as long as one party consents to do so?

  7. Damien says:

    It’s more an honour thing really by honouring the request.

  8. Trinity says:

    the 99% (well let’s be lenient here!), the 90% of the crooked CEO’s give the rest a bad name!

    A competent and confident CEO should regard a blogger /journalist as an opportunity but the average yahoo likes to control things and they never listen 🙂

  9. cw says:

    I’m surprised that most people seem to know what the average CEO is like.

  10. mj says:

    I think that if something is private and confidential, it refers to the content. But there’s nothing lawful they can push on your to enforce that you cannot name them.

    The GUBMINT in the UK had to pass a law to enable the police to stop you from gabbing about them contacting you. I don’t think any two-bit company director is going to have that kind of pull.

    Keep the content private, but not the transactional details.

    (and yeah, I won’t send you that sort of email again, Damien. Sorry)

  11. Damien says:

    Good, the naked pics were over the top dude.

  12. Evert Bopp says:

    But you are an annoying little bugger!
    And yes you do look gay in that video!
    /me goes and hides now…

  13. Alan says:

    Look at it this way, if you weren’t regarded as being influential you wouldn’t have got the email in the first place – so in a way, you could look on that as a positive thing. Just put his email down to him being a complete gobshite who quite patently has his head stuck up his own arse and probably has people fawning at his feet all day long in his big ceo job…

    Onwards and upwards – water under the bridge – release, release, release – goosfraba….

  14. john says:

    Who was the CEO in question?

    The suspense!

  15. Tom Young says:

    One with too much time on his or her hands if they are not immersed in their business and have time for nitpicking and marking comments on blogs, which is something a marketing exec should be doing.

  16. I’d honour his unsolicited request by telling him to fuck off.

    You’re too honourable.

  17. smoke says:

    I guess it’s only a matter of time before a dispute that starts on a blog ends up in an Irish court. That’ll be an interesting day for the Irish blogosphere.

  18. Was the unsolicited email a response to things that were posted here or on twitter?
    If so then the email was not unsolicited.
    As Bock says you could have just told him to Fuck off. It wouldn’t be the first time. It wouldn’t have been professional but ambiguous bitching isn’t very professional either.

  19. SeanR says:

    This is just thuggery, just like a schoolyard bully, awful tactics adn its all about power. I know from another blogger how difficult ‘private’ correspondence can be for bloggers.

    So you raise a crucial point about how to deal with this issue for bloggers. Perhaps a note on a blog “all unsolicited/ offensive mail will be posted online” … for example?

  20. As someone as said on a earlier post, it is a measure of how seriously the business community take bloggers and blogging. Therefore it is to their advantage to lean more about both bloggers and blogging.

  21. Calling into question the ability of another Irish technology journalist? Most Irish technology journalists recycle PR fluff and those who do it well generally end up with jobs in PR. 🙂 If a CEO really wanted to upset them, he could knock them off the press release list. Real tech journalism gets to the truth and that always scares CEOs. CEOs should listen to their marketing people before talking to the press or bloggers.

  22. mj says:

    Only a complete idiot would trim his Press Release list.

    In fact, that’s so retarded an idea, I am going to have to sit down straight away.

  23. Most Irish technology journalists depend on press releases and sanity can be optional at the upper reaches of business. Still there is always another technology journalist to take the place of the one knocked off the list. Sometimes a freeze-out can extend to more than press releases and people in the company might be instructed not to talk to journalists about certain topics. But then the Irish technology press doesn’t like dealing with anything controversial – as can be seen from the click and drool recycling of ComReg and Eircom propaganda about ADSL and broadband in the past.

  24. Cormac says:

    I have analysed the ebb and flow of the discussion and have come up with this

  25. @John Mc C – like a freeze out really works on a blogger. I used to be a pro journalist and from time to time would get in hot water with some egomaniac testosterone driven company because they didn’t like what I said. Today, I get just as much trouble. I have a shit storm at the moment where the company’s PR publicly commented that I have paid affiliations with a competitor which is utterly untrue, unlike my story that is stuffed full of their facts – which don’t make sense. As you might imagine, that went down like a lead balloon.

    We’re now at the point where the PR is refusing to communicate. Point is I know I have a story. They know I have a story. They know it’s embarrassing. They’ve been given the chance to set the record straight.

    I’m not going anywhere. And this piece of crap will resurface again. For which I am more than ready. Across multiple dimensions.

    Bottom line – don’t mess about with someone who has ink that comes in very large barrels and that same person knows their stuff. Especially when they’ve got someone else tee’d up to run the story anyway.

    @Damien – keep doing what you’re doing. You’ll be just fine. You’re a lot braver than most hacks. Any of those that work off press releases should be taken out back and given a thoroughly good thwacking with a cluestick. They make journalism a dirty word.

  26. Krishna De says:

    Damien – I think what many people forget is that the common sense and business etiquette we expect in business in the offline world is also required online.

    Would this CEO have said what he did in the email in a face to face conversation with you?

    He was lucky he was connecting with you versus many others as you mentioned “I asked said CEO could I publish his email on my blog” – as we know many people just publish! Not every influential blogger shares your values.

    Perhaps you could offer him private consulting in how to engage with bloggers?!