There is an interesting discussion developing on CIPR president Tony Bradley's PR Voice about why some people are reluctant to comment on blogs, sparked by what Tony calls the 'firestorm' which followed CIPR director general Colin Farrington's rather sceptical observations about blogging on Profile Extra.
Here's a taste of Colin's piece:
It’s really the sense of most blogs being first jottings and half thought through that bothers me. I value the language of Shakespeare, Samuel Beckett and Hemingway too much to see its daily massacre.
‘Blogs’ seem in many cases to spring straight from a semi-engaged brain on to the page. I cringe at the inability of people to stand back and critically assess their thoughts before committing them, arrogantly, world-wide (or so they think – most get read by a few saddies and surfers).
Now, I have met Colin on a few occasions and, although he does not speak like Shakespeare or Hemingway, his is a voice worth listening to; indeed, anyone trying to understand PR needs consider carefully the public words of one of its most prominent people.
Unfortunately, Colin seems less inclined to read anyone who doesn't write sparkling and lucid English - ie most bloggers. As his comments on PR Voice suggest, he is probably even less likely to value comments made though a 'vanity publishing' platform such as Mediations.
Let's think about this. Suppose the CIPR launches a new product or service. Suppose the DG asks how it is going. Suppose the person in charge of evaluating performance says 'we don't know'?
The DG would probably be rather concerned. As he left the room he might notice a box that seems to be full of letters. Intrigued, he asks what they are. "Oh," says the evaluator, "those are just from people who don't write very well, can't spell, use green ink, like the sound of their own voice."
The point is that it isn't even that the letters aren't very well written that matters - it is the conversations that are going on around the new service that we can't ignore. It is not what people say to your face that matters, it was what they say to each other when you leave the room that matters. That is reputation.
Social softwares are creating new types of conversations and is vital that PR understands how these conversations are happening.
One of the most alarming findings of EuroBlog2006 was that although a significant number of practitioners suggested they were or would soon be running blogs, few saw the ability to monitor conversations as a positive advantage of engaging with digital dialogues.
However well intentioned, you simply can't say, as Colin does, "Down with bad blogging." It is indefensible on several counts.
Firstly, it is a horribly elitist position: sorry, your opinon doesn't count because you aren't as well educated as I am, nor are you as interesting.
So much for inclusivity and diversity.
And to labour the point, how do those who dismiss blogging think young people especially, communicate nowadays. Through carefully crafted letters, either to each other or to the Daily Telegraph?
Not in my experience. They chat on their mobile phones, they chat on MSN, they share pictures on Flickr and upload videos to YouTube.
Weblogs are just one small part of a world that is being transformed by social software; PR has to understand that change.