I was pleased to find a new "blogger outreach code of ethics" from a huge PR/marketing firm this morning. Of course, this isn't the first attempt at a code of ethics from the industry. But it's nice that people in our industry finally heard what I'm now calling Stefania's shot heard 'round the PR world.
I hope that this new ethical code doesn't just become a line of defense that a firm employs once it's caught doing this wrong. (I don't think it will - I know a couple of the people who work at that firm and they strike me as honest and generally smart.) We all know the story of the other big PR firm who got bagged and then said, "we subscribe to the WOMMA code" in its defense. It's like saying "I don't approve of my own behavior." Everyone makes mistakes, but it's really hard to position yourself as a thought leader when you're breaking your own rules.
I guess what strikes me about all this is the underlying assumption that all of the "other" ethical standards and principles we employ in traditional communications somehow don't apply because the communication is done via email. The ethical code spelled out today is essentially (I hope) a re-statement of the rules we employ when reaching out to anyone anywhere, and frankly, I hope they're simply the values that guide our lives each day: transparency, relevance, respect, accommodation, and truth.
Look, the bloggers are asking for relevance and respect. If you lack truthfulness and transparency you won't get in the door. If you can't accommodate the method of contact the blogger outlines you won't get past the spam filter and the blogger won't even be aware you reached out. And if you're not respectful of people you don't know, you're not going to succeed in any field - you're probably just a jerk.
It's really all about relevance. That's what Stefania and Mrs. Kennedy and Liz and Kelly and Kristen and Julie are really talking about. You have to spend a lot of time researching the people you identify and make sure they're interested in what you have to say, and then you have to realize that it's really their discussion and you're just trying to be a part of it. You have to do a lot of reading and linking and so on. It's not particularly difficult, but it's time consuming, and in our business time is money. If you can't spend the time to be truly relevant, you get taken to the woodshed by Stefania.
And you don't belong in this business, online or offline.
The fact is the bloggers have led this discussion all along, and I'm guessing they're pretty much over it at this point. We continue to play catch up.