Two-Way Street

PR, social media, events and incentives – Collaboration & communication ideas for demanding businesses from The Castle Group's Mark O'Toole

Bloggers and privacy

Posted by thecastlegroup on August 17, 2010

Castle VP Hilary Allard writes this week about a recent privacy issue in the blogosphere.

I was intrigued last week by a tweet from a blogger who objected to a journalist’s use of a database to find her number and call her for an interview.

While she said she was happy to talk with journalists, she only wants to be contacted by email.  Her position met with some pro/con feedback from both sides of the fence.

In her case, she had important, valid and personal reasons for her privacy concerns, but the journalist in question could not have known in advance about the blogger’s privacy issues. The reporter was  just doing her job.

This raises a number of important points for consideration about journalism, blogging and media relations:

  1. Journalists, like everyone, are busy, now more so than ever. Due to abundant layoffs in the media, journalists often have expanded job duties with participation in social media, blogging and live updates to their stories online, in addition to their regular assignments. It’s their job to talk to people and get information. If journalists think that they are going to send an email into a black hole of a “contact us” form, they will feel that they won’t get the information they need on time (or at all). See this PRNewser article on the frustrations of a writer who tried to contact Clinique through its corporate website. During a June blogger event in New York where I spoke on a PR panel, an established journalist who writes for both top-tier print and online made it clear that he wants contact phone numbers to be readily available on blogs so that he can reach people within his deadlines.
  2. When you put yourself out there as someone with something to say on your blog, people (hopefully) are going to want to talk to you.  If someone is trying to find, and use, your phone number for unscrupulous reasons, that’s one thing.  But an interview?  Be happy they wanted to talk with you. In the end, you know the article is only going to boost your traffic.
  3. Calling out a journalist online isn’t a great way to make friends in the media. Despite our age of transparency, some things (both personal and professional), can/must/should stay off-line. Again, the writer could not have known in advance about the blogger’s privacy concerns.
  4. There is an endless debate over whether bloggers are journalists.  Maybe some day we’ll figure it out.

In the meantime, my take on it – if you are going make a living as a writer (in a public way) and attend press events, etc. then you need to live with the phone calls. 

(P.S. – For the sake of being completely transparent, in addition to contributing to Castle’s blog, I also write my own personal food blog. I do not monetize my blog, nor do I attend press events, accept samples or the like. It is a hobby and place for me to share recipes and thoughts about all things food.)

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