Banned from the Buzz Bin — Bummer!


Geoff Livingston, aka, the Buzz Bin, has told me to buzz off.

This morning, Geoff banned me from the BB saying I had violated his comment policy. Maybe I did. If you care about such things, read the post and decide for yourself.

Friends tell me there’s even a Twitter thread going on this whole mess, which is kinda cool. Since I gave up the Twitter habit, it’s a bit like having people gossip about you behind your back. I was never that popular before I started the blog!

The road to my banishment from BB started with Geoff’s assertions, in that same post, that PR in the “real” business world is just another marketing function. It helps companies sell their wares and promote their brands. That’s it. I wasn’t surprised, as the post is entirely consistent with Geoff’s past writings. So I decided I’d ignore it.

But when Geoff ran off Heather Yaxley — telling her to take her ideas and post them on her own blog — well, it got my dander up. Call it chivalry if you’d like, but I felt obligated to defend my British colleague. By the way, Heather has posted her thoughts at Greenbanana.

This isn’t the first time Geoff and I have disagreed, but apparently it will be the last. Unless, of course, he chimes in on this post. Geoff, your comments are still welcome here. Our disagreements have been a little testy at times, but I would hardly call them uncivil. But then, it takes a lot to piss me off.

Geoff has deleted my last comment — the straw the broke the camel’s back, he called it. I don’t normally keep copies of comments I leave on blogs, but I saw this coming, so I saved this one. Here it is in all its glory, a comment that’s been characterized as a personal attack.

Since you don’t seem to welcome disagreement here, I will take your suggestion and drop BB from my feeder. Let me suggest, however, that you drop “PR” from the tagline of this blog until you learn a bit more about the field. Start with the books I listed in that earlier comment and you’ll find all the cases you’re seeking.

BTW, Heather Yaxley, whom you ran off yesterday using a similar rant, has posted some of the cases you seek over at her blog. But I’m sure you know that. I don’t expect you’ll hear from her again either. She, like me, prefers a conversation.

Geoff is a pretty successful marketing guy by all accounts, and his firm appears to do a decent business. His interpretation of public relations, on the other hand, is a bit rudimentary and limited to the tactics that support marketing.

This view of PR isn’t unusual, and it’s been a challenge for public relations professionals since I got into this business more than 30 years ago. I spent 16 years in the trenches before coming to Kent State, and I dealt with dozens of marketing folks to develop hundreds of integrated campaigns. Smart marketers know that PR tools are vital to amplify the message, so they work with us. I consider Geoff one of those.

But what most marketers overlook is how PR fits into the organization and the other vital work it does. But in their defense, it’s the marketer’s job to help sell stuff. It’s PR’s job to tend to the many other relationships an organization maintains. Our jobs intersect at times, but they are hardly the same thing.

Geoff understands the uses of social media in marketing, and he’s worked hard to take a leadership role in the discussions about them. His firm’s campaign for Goodwill of Greater Washington was a feature of a presentation I did with my colleague, Michele Ewing, last week in Cleveland. Michele will discuss the case again in our day-long “You, Too!” conference next Friday here at Kent State.

If Geoff viewed my comments as personal attacks, I assure you that was not my intent. I simply felt compelled to stand up for my profession and my own creds. I want to apologize if my remarks seem insensitive. Yet just this morning, I received a scathing email “buzzed” to me from a certain blogger saying he has “no respect” for academics who can’t bring the “real world” to the classroom and that we do a real “disservice” to our students.

Since the remarks came in an email directed only to me, I won’t reprint them here. But you needed to know about them for context.

For the record, I must defend my program at Kent State and other professional programs like ours.

Here’s the pitch:

Over the past 10 years, PRKent has placed 92% of its grads into jobs in the profession. Our four full-time PR faculty members bring a combined 85 years of “real world” experience to the classroom. All have earned the APR designation from PRSA; one is a member of the PRSA College of Fellows (Yeah, that’s me.) We are four senior counselors who’ve worked for major PR and advertising agencies, Fortune 500 companies, and prominent nonprofits. We’ve all been at “the table” and we know just a bit about the “real world” of public relations.

So, Geoff, I do take offense to the notion that we somehow don’t get it. And I suspect the students who’ve come through this program will feel even more strongly than I. (Cool it, guys. No piling on!)

So the conversation between ToughSledding and Buzz Bin ends today. While it’s has been contentious at times, that’s in part what makes this medium so interesting to me. But you know, I think it’s time for the so-called “PR Blog Party” to enlarge its tent.

I learned a lesson today. I hope you did, too. That’s what I do here. But when the day is done, I’ll be chocking this incident up to my “Meatballs Mantra.” Let’s all try to take ourselves a little less seriously, what do you say?

I should probably add a trackback, but — nah!

Update: Finally got around to checking out the Twitter buzz. It didn’t amount to much, but I thought the screen capture told more of a story than the BB logo, so I changed the artwork.

37 Responses to Banned from the Buzz Bin — Bummer!

  1. Wow Bill,

    All the fun stuff happens when I’m not around.

    I’ll be visiting that discussion topic in the future. Feel free to comment away.


  2. I don’t comment much, but just can’t resist here:

    Gotta love that Twitter gossip from the in-denial crowd, right? As much as I dislike Twitter in a professional (PR) capacity, the PR folks there sure do make me laugh a lot.

    Don’t worry about your ban. Geoff just likes to pout. He’ll either get over it, or you’ll find other folks actually up to healthy debates. 🙂

  3. Bill Sledzik says:

    Sorry you missed the fun, Rich. I’d have Twittered you about it, but, well, you read the post. Clearly I’m not a 140-character guy.

    Jenn, I’m always excited to have you drop in, which I think you’ve only done twice. Like you, I should probably comment a lot less. It would keep me out of these little tiffs.

  4. Bill Sledzik says:

    In support of the “Meatballs Mantra,” readers may find these stats of interest: Just 32 of the 248 visits to TS yesterday, or 13 percent, came to this post. Only 11 referrals came from Buzz Bin and the comments I left there. Need any more perspective?

    So you’ll forgive my chuckling at this comment from the Geoffster deep into the thread yesterday:

    “One more thing, not one VP of marketing, CMO or CEO has shown up here to say, “No, Geoff, you are wrong. PR is not part of marketing.” Only PR pros and professors trying to defend their tactical self-image from being shattered by the reality of corporate PR.”

    Not one CEO or CMO has shown up to comment at the Buzz Bin? Imagine that! It really is time we expand the conversation, folks. We’re talking to ourselves.

  5. Here’s my comment: Get off the cross, we need the wood.

    I never said anything about Kent State, given that my wife, and her parents are both alum. But you have yet to back your point with market studies that are easily accessible online, instead referring to text books that are outdated with 20th century communications theory.

    You attacked me and my education personally, while failing to add to the conversation. Add to the conversation with substantive examples and drop the personal attacks, Bill, or stay banned.

    P.S. Twitter’s public microblogging, much like this blog is public.

  6. Bill Sledzik says:

    Thanks for coming by, Geoff. Wasn’t sure you would.

    First off, I did not attack you personally. I simply questioned very pointedly your definition/interpretation of the public relations field. It’s clear from what you wrote last week — and from previous posts — that your definition of PR stops at marketing communication. That’s not surprising, as most marketing folks don’t know and perhaps don’t need to know all that PR does within the organization. But when you deny that these roles for PR exist, then someone has to call you on that. That’s what Heather and I both tried to do.

    And no, Geoff, you never did say a word about Kent State. But the comments in your email to me — the ones I only paraphrased out of respect for the privacy issue involved — made it very clear that you “have no respect” for academics who don’t focus on the “real world” and who follow “20th Century theories.” Those remarks were directed at me, and as such, at the program in which I teach. You know, if I weren’t such a thick-skinned SOB, I might even call it a personal attack, but why get all worked up?

    Anyway, based on your sentiments about my 20th century approach, I was compelled to point out that I and everyone on the KSU faculty has as much or more experience in the C-suites as you. Our pedagogy is very much “real world,” and it is inclusive of social media. But in addition to our broad range of real-world experience, our faculty are well versed in the theories, research methods and philosophies of public relations. And that’s important.

    As a PR educator, it’s my obligation to incorporate theory and research into my “real world” lessons. I do not, like your friend “Professor Lauren,” reject the writings of learned scholars and practitioners. When you do that, you’re reduced to teaching by anecdote. Anyone can walk into the classroom and tell stories, but that does a disservice to students and the profession.

    It takes years of study to become familiar with the body of knowledge in any discipline, and to get there you must read the books and study the research. There are no shortcuts and no instant gratification at the click of a mouse.

    As for my ban from the Buzz Bin, don’t be too concerned. I won’t be posting comments. So long as you insist on using such a narrow definition of PR, there isn’t much point, as we are destined to disagree. And it’s clear to me at least that you find disagreement distasteful and even worthy of censorship.

    So good luck, dude. I hope you make your million.

  7. Actually, Bill, it’s not disagreement that’s worth censorship. But personal attacks are not tolerated. Perhaps you have forgotten your words in that last unpublished comment. You did not question my view of PR, you stated that I should not be allowed to practice PR until I get a formal education in much less civil terms. I’ll be sure to remember that next time I make my Sallie Mae payment for my masters from Georgetown. And mark my words, you will not be allowed back onto the Buzz Bin until you make amends for that commentary. That comment crossed a line.

    Lastly, you say “as most marketing folks don’t know and perhaps don’t need to know all that PR does within the organization.” I love how you try to mush me out of the box. But I’m still practicing, PR, Bill, and not just for corporations, but also non-profits. Missions, education, advocacy are different than marketing. And I get great results for my select few non-profits.

    But inside a corporation, I see it different. And I don’t lie to myself about a corporations interests or motives. That’s experience, not theory.

    Until you show me real experiences and case studies instead of commentary, you will not sway me. Education and degrees don’t necessarily mean anything compared to experience. Witness one president named George W. Bush with a degree from Yale. And one college drop-out named Bill Gates.

  8. Mike Keliher says:

    Just wanted to share that, after reading Geoff’s post and every comment that followed (I have nothing else to do today…), I weighed in for myself.

  9. Bill Sledzik says:


    I don’t respond here to get the last word, but to answer your points. I do love a good debate as opposed to the cheerleading I see on way too many blogs. Debate is healthy.

    Point One: The comment you deleted is posted above (in the original post — indented for emphasis), so readers can decide for themselves if they see it as a “personal attack.” I do not. They also can judge whether it violated your comment policy. Other than you and me, I doubt anyone will care, but it’s all out in the open.

    Point Two: I didn’t say you shouldn’t be allowed to practice PR, rather I suggested that you take PR off your blog’s tagline. That was based on the misbegotten way you have defined public relations, one that bears little resemblance to anything in the literature or in mainstream PR practice. It’s nothing personal, just my way of defending the profession. What you are defining as PR is a narrow area of the function known as publicity and promotion — useful tools to a marketer, but only a slice of what PR is all about. You’re free to continue practicing under that definition. Tons of people do it every day; most are marketers.

    Point Three: As for the real world cases you seek, I guess I keep letting you down on that one. Sorry. I’ll take your insistence that I produce some hyperlinks as a sign that you don’t want to do the readings or the research. You won’t find the cases you seek on your feeder because no one is writing “best practices” and posting them on the Web other than agencies who use them to promote their businesses. There’s nothing wrong such promotions, but there is nothing balanced or objective about them either. The real cases studies come from authors and researchers who are publishing books and collecting royalties for their hard work. If you don’t want to shell out the money, I understand. Textbook prices are outrageous. Check the library. I know that’s a 20th Century notion, but there’s a good bit of wisdom there.

  10. Bill Sledzik says:

    I’ll watch for it, Mike. Like me, Geoff moderates comments, and he may actually have found something more useful to do with his time today. Thanks for the heads up.

  11. Greg Smith says:

    I’ve got half a dozen marketing students in my Corporate Comms class (Organisations Comms, in fact) and they had the same opinion of PR. But when I tell them the stoy of the month-long $250,000 ad campaign the Army ran which attracted only 30 enquiries, then my two-day (free) PR campaign (one 2-hour segment live on radio breakfast and story in the major daily) which doubled the numbers, they are surprised. Maybe not total converts, but they have got something to think ahout.

    By the way, at my uni we’ve only got two people teching PR acorss eight subjects. Might use Kent State as justification for additional staff.

    – Greg

  12. Dino Baskovic says:

    Okay, I know we’re all trying to be professional and level-headed here, but that’s no fun. So I’ll be the first to break a beer bottle in here…

    Someone get this Geoff guy a pair to strap on. Personal attack my ass. You did no such thing, Bill. And “banning” you or whatever he did. Puh-lease. What a freakin’ wuss.

    Bill, drop this guy like a bad habit and move on. You can’t possibly have a “healthy debate” with someone that’s far too delicate a flower…. C’mon, Bill, you’ve had more productive outings with Strumpette.

    Sorry, I’m still laughing about his accusation. Ah, that’s good. I needed a laugh today.

  13. Dino Baskovic says:

    And dude, you better rip his logo off your post before he sues you for copyright infringement, if the C&D isn’t already on its way.

  14. Bill Sledzik says:

    Dino. Now that you mention it, my history with the Geoffster dates back to my defense of Strumpette, which got me into hot water with him and a few others. But it remains among my better posts, and one that helped me find my voice in this medium. I didn’t regret it then and still don’t. Though I have to say that many of Amanda’s comments, back in the day, did border on personal attacks — her wonderful satire aside.

    As for copyright infringement, pshaw. I’m certain that Geoff would be the first to defend my use of that logo under the tenets of “fair use” and in my role as a “citizen journalist.” What’s good for the MSM is good for the blogosphere. Isn’t that from L’il Abner or something?

  15. Dino Baskovic says:

    Last time the goose spoke for the gander, they cooked him…

    Amanda learned some hard lessons and has calmed h**self a bit over the years. At any rate, I’ve run into these Livingston types before. I’m telling you now, bail. For your own good. I’m sure he’s a smart guy and well-respected, but you’re trying to reason with his ego. You so badly want to take the high-road and bring him toward the light, but some souls, well, they can’t always be saved.

  16. Sally Hodge says:

    Okay, I read the posts and comments from both sides, and far be it for me to enter this particular fray when it looks like everything that can be said has been said. I do have one little aside, however. Did anyone notice how many of the professional communicators commenting on this issue should have egg on their faces for saying that PR is “yolked” to marketing?

    Thank you, Bill and Geoff, for providing my weekend’s reading enjoyment.

  17. Dino Baskovic says:

    Sally, don’t “egg” them on.

    Wow, that was bad.

  18. Bill Sledzik says:

    Go to the “About Me” page of this blog and you will find an item I call my “favorite retort.” Today I revise it to read: F@#* ’em if they can’t take a yolk!”

    As all this was unfolding, I was preparing a presentation on social media in which I compare the tenets of the “2-way symmetrical model” of public relations (1983) to the 95 theses of “The Cluetrain Manifesto” (1999). There was no Web in 1983, and only the geekiest of the geeks were using the Internet. Yet the philosophies espoused in the two documents are strikingly similar. Those who read the texts know that “the conversation” has been going on for a good long time. They also know that it is not a marketing function at all.

    I bring this up because of one point from the “manifesto” that applies to my exchange with Buzz Bin: Companies need to lighten up and take themselves less seriously. They need to get a sense of humor. Bloggers can take a lesson from the Cluetrain gang.

    When I get my presentation wrapped, I’ll do a post on it. Interesting stuff, albeit a bit ideological. The 2-way symmetrical model changed my worldview on public relations. It was the “great aha!” Cluetrain told me that what I already knew applies to the online world.

  19. Dino Baskovic says:

    FYI: Audible has Cluetrain for $4.95 for
    existing customers through end of day today, as a carryover from their Leap Day sale.

  20. OK, Bill I’ll lighten up. But only if you do, too. Thanks.

  21. Oh, and Bill. The comment listed above is different than the one which was deleted. A very colorful retelling of facts on your part.

  22. I was hoping to find the original comment. But I can’t, because, well I deleted it. I don’t think it matters, and it’s not about he said, she said. You assume you know more about PR and your theories are right. I’m entitled to a different point of view. Even if it’s the minority opinion. Especially on my blog. It’s not your place to come in and tell me what to call my blog, what it’s about, what education to have or any of that. You had nothing to add but trying to undermine my education and the blog’s mission in an attack. You did the same thing with my book.

    As I posted on Now Is Gone in the Sledzik/Livingston ugly debate part 87.87221 ( “I think Bill should write a review on Tough Sledding and add it to the Amazon reviews. While I stated my views and reasons, his are just as valid, and folks should know what they’re buying.”

    That’s why you have your own blog. That’s the place for your brilliance.You want to have that word, great post it here. I am not so naive to think that you won’t. And really you should.

    Unsubscription was the best option, not your attack style comments.

    It doesn’t really matter, as we’re both going to keep doing what we do. And I don’t think blogocombat makes us better men in society, in our families, etc. I mean who really cares? It doesn’t mean anything in the greater scale, at least in my opinion. I intend not to comment again on your blog or thoughts out of respect for the minority or different opinion. I do wish you the best wishes as you continue your journey.

  23. Bill Sledzik says:

    (Note: Geoff posted the above comment as I was writing this one. I published what you see below before I saw what he’d written. Readers will need that context. Otherwise you may think I was going off on the guy. Not so. But I did take offense to his accusation, as I’m sure most folks would. As for Geoff not being able to find the original comment — it does matter, and a great deal. When you make that kind of accusation, you’d best be ready to back it up!)

    That’s a big risk, Geoff, and not a card I would have played. You have forced people to decide whom they believe.

    I’ll bet readers — all 5 who are still with us — are wondering why it took you so long to come up with this “liar, liar” strategy. After all, I posted the deleted comment — highlighted and indented for all to see — 72 hours ago. You’ve returned to this post 3 times to add comments, yet you waited into today to play the “liar” card. How come?

    For the record, I copied that comment from the box on your blog immediately before I published it last Friday morning. It went up on this post at 3:28 p.m., Feb. 28. And it’s been there ever since.

    If I took your approach to blog conversation, Geoff, I would ban you from this blog for a personal attack. But that isn’t my style. I like this medium even when it gets a little messy.

    But those who know me are well aware that I wouldn’t risk my personal integrity over something so petty. I also have nothing whatsoever to gain or to lose from any of this foolishness. Apparently you do.

    So, Geoff. It will be up to those reading this thread to decide whether they believe you or me. But you could have avoided all of this by simply posting the comment — one you know too well contained no personal attack and offered no justification for banishment.

    A good PR counselor would have advised you to let this thing go, Geoff. Call one next time this happens.

  24. geoliv says:

    Actually, Bill it does look like I have one more in me. It was personal, and that’s the difference between you and me. The comment above is not what I remember. But your too tough to get that. Or to know when you crossed the line.

  25. Ironically, we have two-way communication going on via blogs (as example of social media) – but not much sign of co-orientation here.

    Moving from trying to substantiate and persuade of the merits of counter positions on the role of PR vs marketing, the “debate” verged into one-sided propaganda (press agentry or public information depending on your perspective).

    What does this tells us about whether or not social media supports the two-way symmetric model? Do parties have to be willing to accommodate other perspectives and find common ground?

    Is there room for an Oprah group hug rather than a Jerry Springer onslaught?

  26. Bill Sledzik says:

    Hey, Heather. Thanks for jumping in and playing mediator. I knew someone was probably still reading this. There’s room for that olive branch, to be sure, but maybe not yet. The best resolution in the knockdown-drag-out battles, if there is to be a resolution, is for the combatants to retreat to our neutral corners and to stay there a while. That’s my plan.

    Co-orientation is another matter. For that to occur, there must be some modicum of trust, and that disappeared with the accusation that I manufactured the “deleted” comment posted above. I did not. Not sure how I get past that one.

    This case might even be tough for Oprah, eh?

    I do love the way you’ve defined the situation ala the PR models. Never ignore the teachable moment! Your students are fortunate to have you.

  27. Stacy Wessels says:

    Maybe Geoff could use a little refresher course in grammar and punctuation? In PR, we don’t play fast and loose with words. Maybe in marketing…

  28. Dino Baskovic says:

    “I intend not to comment again on your blog or thoughts out of respect for the minority or different opinion.”
    G. Livingston, March 3, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    “Actually, Bill it does look like I have one more in me.”
    G. Livingston, March 3, 2008 at 3:32 pm

    “You’rs still here? It’s over. Go home. Go!”
    F. Bueller, 1986

  29. Hey Bill,

    Someone gave me some good words of advice, and from reading this post and the conversations between you and Mr. Livingston, I figured it may help:

    When people aren’t talking about you, that’s when you need to worry.

    There will always be someone out there who doesn’t agree with what you say or do. You’ve told me this before: You can’t please everyone.

    If people get mad because you state your opinion, they need to get over it. It’s your opinion and you’re entitled to giving it.

  30. Stacy Rhea says:

    As a “newbie” to the PR world, I read each post with an open mind.

    I can see where there is a cross over between marketing and PR. But what I don’t see is how marketing supports brand reputation, as PR does.

    Unless I am misinformed, marketing builds brand awareness and PR supports it.

    My experience as a product manager, within the sport supplement industry, where I worked closely with marketing, taught me how marketing stretches the truth.

    Not all marketers do this, but to sell product, creative methods are used to catch the consumer’s attention.

    As I mentioned above, I am new to the PR world, but I have plenty of experience working behind the scene to see how marketing works. And enough “class time” to see what PR is all about.

  31. […] exchanges with our “evil twins” in marketing have been cordial most of the time and only occasionally combative. And while I’ve enjoyed every one of the debates — and even the blow-ups — I’m […]

  32. Lally says:

    Give ’em H311, Bill!

    I swear it says in the footnotes of B-book contracts that the author now knows everything about everything.

  33. Did I read right? Geoff doesn’t approve of references from books, since that technology, which has a very long track record indeed, isn’t up to his standards? That the fight I am trying to deal with in my history classroom. A lot of important knowledge is not available for free on the internet. If that is the only place one is willing to look, one is severely limiting oneself. Yikes!

    I won’t touch the personal spat, but I must say that as an outsider looking in, I try to avoid doing business with companies who only see PR as marketing. If my only interactions with a company involve their attempts to make a sale or improve their brand image, I tune out all further attempts by that company to communicate.

  34. Danny Brown says:

    The thing I love about blogs is that the comments often open up the original post in a way that may never have been thought. This is a great example.

    There will always be two sides to every story and each side will always have points that are right, and points that aren’t so much.

    Yet one thing I’d always encourage is open, healthy debate. I see this coming from Bill – to a degree, I see it coming from Geoff as well. Yet is it healthy to delete a comment as opposed to leaving it on a blog and debating it?

    Obviously it’s Geoff’s blog and he can do as he wishes with it. I’d just think that as someone who is very active in the social media field, it would have been more transparent to leave the comment up?

    Just a thought. Great discussion, by the way. 🙂

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