Why Won't They Listen To You?
Last night. A gathering of PR practitioners seeking to understand how social media impacted their business. They wanted to access bloggers on behalf of their clients. Some of the bloggers present objected to being spammed. The celebrated anti-spam reactions of Tom Coates and Kevin Anderson were inevitably cited and short-hand terms like Cluetrain and conversation were bandied about.
As someone who stands on both sides of the divide, I thought this remark by one of the PR people summed up the source of the miscomprehension.
"But if I can't send you an email, how can I talk to you?"
In the past, clients expected PR to give them coverage - that's no longer good enough. If you want to have a conversation with a commercial undercurrent, it would help if you think about the nature of conversations that you enjoy and try to replicate them. The technology has changed but the issue remains the same. You're trying to gain interest rather than attention. Attention is dead - it's interruptive. Any unwanted interruption of my or your time is unwelcome
My opinion on "conversation" has been recorded here but the analogy for me is obvious. If you're in a bar chatting with a group of friends or colleagues, it is entirely possible for a complete stranger to interpose into that conversation and be welcomed. But if they wander over unannounced and say let me tell you about this thing that is wonderful regardless of what you're talking about, the reaction they get will be very different.
A remark from someone with whom you've developed a rapport and mutual respect over a period of time (be that by participating on their blog or by sponsoring an online community as per Chris Locke's post-cluetrain suggestion) is part of a conversation. An unsolicited email is the equivalent of the bar-room bore.