Put a “Cewebrity” in His Place – But You Can’t Fix Stupid

Boy, has there been lots of commentary and discussion this week about Robert Scoble’s comments regarding the public relations profession.

I heard it on “For Immediate Release,blogged about it, had my post included in one made by Alice Marshall at Presto Vivace and listened to the debate continue on “For Immediate Release.”  And that’s just what I was paying attention to.  Imagine if I had actually done something like a Technorati search.

Ron White is one of my favorite comedians and he got it right when he said “you can’t fix stupid.”  Read below to see how prophetic Ron’s words actually are.

When I saw that Alice’s blog had mentioned my little rant, I read her comments section – and the SCOBELIZER himself weighed in, as did Shel Holtz, the co-host of the excellent “”For Immediate Release” podcast.  Alice’s post was fairly measured, compared to my frothing at the mouth:

Wow, OK, Scoble says it is much more valuable to him to be offered a scrumptious dinner and convivial conversation with the pitch at the end. Congratulations to Brian Solis for building such a valuable relationship. Pardon me if I don’t follow his example.

Listening to Scoble’s rant gave me new respect for reporters like Joab Jackson, Chris Dorobek, Roger Hughlett, and so many others who put their readers first and don’t expect to be wined and dined.

Measured stuff.

Now read the comments section.

Scoble: It’s not about wining and dining. You totally missed the point. This morning I met a CEO at http://www.kyte.tv/scobleizer and recorded what he told me. That is FAR better than getting a clueless PR pitch via email. I think people like you need to come and be on our side of the fence once in a while. You’d be horrified to see what comes through.

Insult-o-meter ranking: moderate with two snarky comments

Open mouth, insert foot, chomp vigorously.  Keep digging, Robert.

Scoble: Whether or not I’m a journalist (I’m currently not) is not really the right point to make. I talk with TONS of journalists and I haven’t had one tell me they like what is coming through their email stream. In fact, one of the best tech journalists I know (he was key in getting the DOJ to look at Microsoft) is Dan Gillmor. You might read up on his PR suggestions: http://steverubel.typepad.com/micropersuasion/2004/07/dan_gillmor_to_.html — they sound an awful lot like mine. Oh, and everytime there’s a dinner there’s usually a lot of journalists in the room, so I think wining and dining works with even “real” journalists.

Insult-o-meter ranking: moderate, with condescension

Scoble: Alice: I read all my emails. Love that you think you have my readers best interests in mind. Not based on the PR emails I get. Yes, I get a few good ones. But they are so buried in the bad ones that it’s funny to watch PR people try to defend the industry. PR people really do need to live on the other side of the fence. By the way, it’s very hard for me to pick out a good product’s pitch from a bad one’s via email. I need to SEE it. I do video, which, luckily, keeps me honest that way.

Insult-o-meter ranking: moderate, with increasing condescension

And finally, the lid blows off:

Scoble: Sorry if I made it sound like you must wine and dine me. Yesterday’s interview proves otherwise. I wasn’t wined and dined for that. I didn’t receive anything. I was SHOWN a product live, though, and didn’t receive a stupid email pitch. I love how you are making it about something lame like wining and dining. TOTALLY the wrong point to focus on, but that figures. If that’s the kind of “journalism” you did, no wonder you aren’t a journalist anymore.

Ask around: almost ALL of the videos I did in my career didn’t happen because I got some stupid food. Geesh.

Insult-o-meter ranking: high, showing thin skin and insults

But wait!   There’s more!

Scoble: NONE of my videos ever were done for money and if you think some $20 dinner is gonna be worth selling my soul for, you aren’t worth the time of day.

Insult-o-meter ranking: very high, showing even thinner skin and enhanced insults

Scoble seems to be a legend in his own mind, which reminds me of Jason Falls’ post last summer, “Friday Frustrations,” in which he brought up a valid point:

Social Media Influencers Are Not Celebrities

A-list bloggers have an awfully bad habit of blowing smoke up each other’s asses. I’m probably guilty of it, too, though I don’t consider myself an A-lister, but for chrissakes people, you’re not celebrities so stop acting like them.

Jason also commented on my post last week so I have to confess to stealing the term “cewebrity” from him (can anyone get Elmer Fudd out of their heads when they say the word out loud?)

It’s a great read.  And guys, here’s the point. The more you give gas bags like this a platform to pontificate, the worse it’s going to get.  I completely cop to occasionally having written just to gin up a little controversy, but generally trying not to be pompous and insulting, while maintaining an astonishing level of cluelessness.

What a person to do?  When a fan base gets frustrated with a lousy team or lousy owner, they stop attending the games.  I am pretty convinced that the only way to stop having to listen to this garbage is to remove the microphone.  If you agree with any of the above:

  1. Stop reading Scoble’s blog
  2. Stop following him on Twitter and his other social media platforms.
  3. Take away his soap boax.

I know I did – but a long time ago.

Mark

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Comments

  1. Robert is guilty of one thing – generalizing. Does he get a lot of bad pitches? Yep. So do I (probably not as many, I’m sure). Do a lot of PR folks suck these days? Yeah. Does the industry need a time out to revamp itself? Yes. But does someone like Scoble need to say, “PR SUCKS” as if all PR does? Hell no. Neither did Gina Trapani, or Chris Anderson or Matt whatshisname from that one site … ah, I forget.

    I don’t dislike Scoble for his sentiment. I just dislike the fact he is shortsighted and arrogant in his response. Somewhere between being a blogger and being a Fast Company columnist he started believing his own hype and became way too impressed with his own influence. So, instead of being diplomatic and understanding much of his content over the past five years has been dependent upon PR folks and their outreach so he shouldn’t piss them off, he mouths off thinking his shit doesn’t stink and he’s sooooo influential any indiscretion in his statements will be overlooked by most.

    You have to remember that he’s got thousands of people telling him how great he is all the time. He’s human. At some point he’s going to believe it. Unfortunately, he can sometimes fall victim to believing it too much.

    Some PR friend of his is going to pull him aside (hopefully) and say, “Bobby, back off the PR thing. There are a lot of good ones out there that aren’t going to do you any favors for all this. Yeah, you’ll be fine without them, but you’re wrong and you should suck it up and play nice again.”

    Is a boycott of Scoble’s stuff going to do much? No. All we can do as PR professionals is do our jobs right, train those under us to do the same and advocate for higher standards from our colleagues. Until we all get on that page, there will continue to be a Scoble/Trapani/Anderson/I still can’t remember that dude’s name – pop up once or twice a year to piss PR folks off.

    We need to own the responsibility of fixing our industry so the cewebrities of the world can stick a different flavored shoe in their mouth.

    Two cents. For what that’s worth.

  2. I am disappointed not to hear one of the following in Mr. Scoble’s commentary:

    “Some of my best friends are journalists.”

    “But I didn’t inhale.”

    Mark’s right, “don’t drink the Kool-Aid.”

  3. Everything has a purpose. It’s when that purpose gets adulterated where things go wrong.

    Pitches aren’t bad, and can, in fact, be quite cool. I had a pitch this morning from someone who had a great email to me offering a testing of a “super-premium” tequila to be hand delivered to the house. Fun! They were actually THINKING about how to do something that would be interesting and content worthy.

    Scoble’s riff (at least the early part) wasn’t wrong. But he’s failed to see the full picture. PR isn’t wrong, bad PR is wrong. Just like bad sushi doesn’t make all sushi bad.

    But here’s the real question: Scoble comments that he has a great “PR” experience with the CEO he interviewed… I’m curious how that relationship was started. Anyone want to bet that the introduction came from an email…?

  4. Mark Story Says: March 27, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    Jason,

    Thoughful commentary, as usual and you are being a lot more kind than I am. I guess that I am so tired of listening to people like him and Joseph Jaffee pontificate and bitch that I lose sight of the fact that we (meaning public relations professionals who stumbled into the whole social media thing and have tried to do it right) are most likely in the minority – when it comes to pitching.

    The Scobelizer talks about “magic,” and at the firms at which I worked for the better part of 15 years, we *did* use the Internet to create some magical experiences. We were completely innovative? Probably not. But everywhere where I have worked, we have done good work in one area or another of social media before we even called it that.

    Your point is well taken that we need to own the responsibility of fixing our industry. Totally with you on that. But last night, in my class, I asked my students (not all of whom work for agencies) what prevents them from innovating. Maybe this will be another post, but what I heard was:

    – clients
    – supervisors
    – pressure to bill and develop new business
    – less time to keep up on industry happenings.

    Yeah, some social media pitches are “lame,” but I don’t think it is intentional as much as a byproduct of the way that many public relations agencies are set up.

    Thanks again for commenting.

  5. My 2 cents:

    Mr Scoble comes across as a nice guy. You come across as an asshat. That’s why more people are on “his side”.

  6. Mark Story Says: March 31, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    Hi Phil,

    Thanks for your profound thoughts. Let me make sure that I understand your position. Scoble insulting a bunch of people by saying:

    – “The way that PR is practiced is just..lame.”
    – “Most of PR has ’sucked.’ If you think it’s not, just be a blogger for a little while. And watched the thousands of stupid-ass pitches flow through your screen.”
    – “Anybody who pitches you on email is stupid. The chance that I am going to listen to anyone who pitches me email on frikkin’ email is one percent.”

    is cool.

    And I am an “asshat” (which made me laugh out loud, by the way) for pointing out that I think Scoble is a gas bag and by using his own words?

    Scoble = nice guy
    Me = “asshat”

    What did you parents do to you? Must have been something pretty bad.

    Mark

  7. Mark…

    I’ve had my run-ins with Scoble’s minions over the years. He’s not directing them, of course, but by being close to their Sith Lord of New Media they feel empowered to come out and defend him.

    Lord knows he’s busy enough to defend himself.

    Yes, he’s quite capable of the gasbaggery. So is Kawasaki. So is Jaffee. So is Rubel.

    Man… just thinking about how many names I could add to that list gives me a headache.

    And now I suppose I am a New Media Douchebag for saying so.

    ——————————————
    And Phil…

    If you think that truth and rigor in a debate of facts ought to REALLY be a matter of public opinion, AND ought to be governed by who is “nicer,” then you are a degree of Stupid that not only can’t be fixed, but ought to be flushed.

    Phil… YOU are what is wrong with the internet. YOU (and your ilk) are going to suck the quality out of any technology that MIGHT have a positive application. Go rattle your head for a moment, and let the blood flow to where you can think. This is about reason and divining truth, this isn’t a freakin’ American Idol vote.

  8. Mark Story Says: March 31, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    I like Ike. It’s not the first time it’s been spoken, but certainly the first time I’ve said it in relation to this blog.

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