When Richard Edelman wrote his first blog post on September 29, 2004, he became a member of a small group of c-level executives who were involved in personally exploring social media. Mr. Edelman quickly learned that communication travels at lightening speed in the blogosphere often resulting in far researching results from mainstream media .. even though "journalists are no longer God."
Blogger Story Teller: Richard Edelman, Speak Up
Toby I have two stories.
I wrote a post on the NY Times and Washington Post discovery of "pay for play" in Iraq, where a so-called PR firm hired by the Pentagon, the Lincoln Group, was paying journalists to write positive stories about the American presence in that country.
Within hours, my post was linked to by Prof. Jay Rosen at NYU (NewsCom) and then Romanesko of Poynter Institute picked up my comments. I got a call from a producer from the CBS Evening News who saw the Romanesko link. That very evening I was on CBS Evening News, with my strongly worded commentary that this was not PR, it was simply bad communications strategy at a time when we are trying to build democracy in Iraq which depends in part on a free media.
I was celebrating Edelman's designation as Large PR Firm of the Year by PR Week Magazine at the annual awards dinner with a couple of glasses of champagne, enough to make this teetotaler a bit tipsy. I was intercepted by a journalist from the NY Observer who asked me how the Internet was changing PR. I gave him the unforgettable sound bite of how I grew up in a time when listening to Walter Cronkite, anchor of CBS Evening News was like hearing the word of God, because he ended newscasts with "And that's the way it is on (date)."
I went on to say that journalists were no longer God because a given story can be countered by a company posting documents given to a reporter, allowing bloggers to comment or other journalists to provide their own views. This brilliant line (by a PR man yet) was taken as a declaration of war by some journalists, including Asian tech journalists who threatened to boycott press releases from all Edelman clients.
I wrote a corrective post in which I acknowledged my marginally inebriated state at the event, made it clear that an article in mainstream media is absolutely the most credible form of communication, that I had tremendous respect for the integrity and intellligence of reporters and so on. The tempest soon abated, but the questions still come. On a recent trip to Holland, a journalist asked, "Aren't you the PR guy who said journalists aren't God." So maybe I will live this one down some day.