Three years, 300 posts. I’m not impressed!

Darth Blogger

Darth Blogger

I almost let this milestone pass. Three years, 300 posts, and still flogging the blog. If that isn’t addiction, I don’t know what is.

I spent half the summer plotting the death of ToughSledding — as I’ve done several times before. This time I came oh-so close to ending it after those 2 blissful weeks offline. But you know what they say: Sh#@ happens. And it did.

Here’s why ToughSledding blogs on:

  • It helps our students. Like it or not, I’m the go-to social-media guy at PRKent — a damn role model. That’s the burden of teaching in a professional program. Students expect you to walk the talk. I’m a frequent critic of social media, its conventions and its affectations. But because I teach it, I gotta do it.
  • It helps our program, and my colleagues insist that I press on. Even the new guy, who doesn’t arrive until January, told me I couldn’t quit. ToughSledding is part of the PRKent brand, he said. I still don’t understand that word “brand,” but to the extent I am part of it, this blog is, too.
  • It’s an investment, and I’m still hoping for some tangible ROI. In my first post (9/11/06) I talked about the need for payback. Blogging is time consuming, and often burdensome. Sure, I’ve met some nice folks and made some useful contacts. Can’t argue that. But measuring the bottom-line of social media is still a dicey business. Not sure blogging is worth the fuss, but I’m in too deep to sell short now.
  • It’s only the beginning. Or so I’m told. The authors of Naked Conversations (a book that inspired this blog) insist that blogging is a long-term commitment. Stick with it for 3 to 5 years and you’ll reap benefits. I’ll check back with you in 2 more years let you know if they were right. You gotta give it time.

I’m encouraged as more folks join the fight to develop a truly strategic and measurable role for social media. Like me, they aren’t satisfied with simple conversations or link counts. We want strategic direction, not just cool tactics. But public relations has fought this measurement battle since the 1980s with only limited success. Let’s hope the data miners can help us figure it out.

As more practitioners hold social media to hard business standards, we may find more execs in in the C-suites will “get it” and “get us.”

ListTweetBut there is a magic to this space I still don’t understand. Example: Earlier this week, thanks to my appearance on this list of “100 PR People Worth Following,” I picked up nearly 300 new Twitter followers. Weird, huh?

That number isn’t surprising, or even significant, when you consider that following someone on Twitter requires no thought or investment. Like so much in social media, a “follow” happens with a click of the mouse. The relationship, if you want to call it that, is casual and often fleeting.

But then a funny thing happened. Friends, colleagues and students who helped spread this link love began congratulating me for making this important list. Say what??? It’s not as though my work was recognized by a panel of credentialed experts or my writings published in some prestigious journal. I made one blogger’s list of favorite tweeters. Flattering? Sure. But I’d rather you congratulate me when I actually accomplish something.

Perspective is rare in this PR/marketing blogosphere — almost as rare as folks who know the difference between PR and marketing. But you’ve heard that rant before. Yes, lots of information is exchanged in this space, and that’s useful for all of us. Sometimes it’s even fun. But social media’s impact in PR/marketing is more about popularity than expertise. Let’s be honest about it.

Assessing the real value of the information we receive has never been more difficult. Sure, it helps marketers sell stuff, but the impact of social media on trust and credibility awaits documentation. I’m not yet convinced there is “wisdom in crowds,” and I’m not sure I can trust the “trust agents” I meet online.

I’ve been called a curmudgeon in this space, but it’s not my job to lead the cheers for social media. We have a jillion “social media experts” on Twitter who will do that for us. But I don’t care for any more “media snacks,” thank you. They lack substance and utility, and like most unhealthy morsels, they make you fat and lazy. Twitter — for all of its advantages as a networking tool — is a classic example.

So bear with me as I start writing my next 300 posts. I’m feeling a little edgy.

21 Responses to Three years, 300 posts. I’m not impressed!

  1. David Murray says:

    The question isn’t why you keep slogging, Bill, but why you keep tempting yourself, and threatening us, about giving it up. YOU’RE NEVER GOING TO STOP BLOGGING, SLEDZIK!

    Although it was Hunter S. Thompson who always said that the option of suicide was what made life bearable. And eventually …..

    But that’s a long way off for you, Bill.

  2. Bill Sledzik says:

    While I’m flattered by the comparison to HST, I must object. I’ve never even met a Samoan attorney.

    Thanks for dropping in. I have this love-hate thing with social media.

  3. lifeasa20something says:

    Glad to see you’re not pulling the plug on ToughSledding, Bill! It’s the love-hate relationship with social media that makes your posts so good.

    And you’re right–as a veteran PR professor you have to keep the blog going. Gotta maintain that social media street cred.

  4. If it wasn’t for the lists and other “lazy” publicity techniques (which have simply migrated online from their traditional over-use in regular press agency), we’d have one thing fewer to be curmudgeonly about. And one fewer lesson to impart to our students, who we trust will be more strategic and less predictably tactical when it comes to their own PR practice.

    Keep up the good work – we need more people bursting self-inflated bubbles.

  5. Judy Gombita says:

    Plus ca change, plus c’est le meme chose, eh?

    For the record, I discovered you and your blog (well ahead of the bulk of your mainly-admiring-online posse) because of a comment you left on someone’s blog, pointing to the social media research Kent State Univeristy had conducted (under your watch). This probably dates back about three years. (As I recall, the blogger in question never responded to your comment or highlighted the research anywhere.) I shared a link to the research (and your blog) to some of the people that I thought would find it/you interesting and (possibly) a relationship worth cultivating.

    I didn’t need anyone to put your name on a list and tell me that I should “follow” you (and why). I made up my own mind–poor you. 😉

  6. Jim Kopniske says:

    Keep it up, Bill. This is a great resource tool for me and helps me on my toes. I’ve used your topics on many occasions to debate the good/bad of public relations.

  7. Blair Boone says:

    So you’ve made yourself indispensable? As a friend of mine named Bill says, “That’ll learn yuh.”

  8. Bill Sledzik says:

    Heather: As you know, the lazy publicists were around long before the Web, but they multiplied with the coming of digital media, making it difficult for real media-relations professionals to do their jobs. So even for those PR types who do little more than publicity, the world is more challenging.

    And to both Heather and Judy: We all agree that social media in the PR and marketing realms is a bit clubby and self-involved. That part I can deal with. The laziness I cannot.

    One of the mantras of social media today (and you can Google it to confirm) is, “If a story is important, it’ll find me.” It suggests that too many people depend on their online pals to decide for them what’s important.

    I value the recommendations of my friends, online and off, so long as I know they bring knowledge and expertise to the table. But I don’t blindly adopt a behavior because it appears on Twitter.

    And, Judy, thanks for being one of my readers (and Twitter followers) who came by the relationship organically.

  9. Bloggity blog blog blorg. Also, I agree with David Murray. Drop the threats, man. The in-draft “final post” you have on your site is an interesting rhetorical tool, but don’t act on it. You’ve already listed all the reasons you owe it to us, the school, your field and –most importantly– yourself to stay in the game.

    Also, it says a lot that I consider your blog to be the most exemplary of any I read on any topic, and you’re even from the dark side. (It also might say that I don’t read enough blogs. Time will tell.)

    Happy 300.

  10. Guhmshoo says:

    As Judy said, most of us didn’t need a “list” to get us here. That said, I’m glad that your soap box got a little bigger because of it.

    The reason why you can’t give this blog up is that you know it’s needed. Critical thinking in the “spheres” is rare (and dying). So who better to keep it alive than a gun-toting SOB who suffers no fools.

    It’s time to tear up your blog’s “do not resuscitate” form. Face it, your in it for the long haul.

    • Guhmshoo says:

      Oh yeah. Bill doesn’t suffer bad grammar and typos either. On that note, I meant “you’re” in the last sentence. Yikes.

  11. You missed another advantage. You’re building the Sledzik brand far beyond the walls of Kent State. What will that mean in the long term? Who knows, but it is a legacy that will mean SOMETHING and part of the life adventure is finding out WHAT : )

    Thanks for blogging on, Bill. Your fellow, curmudgeon, Mark

  12. Bill Sledzik says:

    I can’t argue with that one, Mark. What it will mean is anyone’s guess, but it has expanded my profile and the profile of PRKent. But you must understand. I sleep with an accountant who constantly wonders about ROI: “How much to they pay you to do this? Tell me again.”

  13. Since you launched “ToughSledding,” you’ve alluded to being disillusioned with PR — that is until you embraced blogging, then eventually social media. So I must ask: Say Web 2.0 never came along. Where would you be? Would you still be teaching PR? If so, do you think you would be teaching it the same? Perhaps I’m asking you an impossible question to answer, but I’m curious.

  14. Bill Sledzik says:

    Social media changes a lot about the teaching of PR, Dino. In fact, it adds an entire column to my discussion of “tactics,” one I call “digital interactive.” But fundamentally, it doesn’t change the practice model of public relations that we’ve taught for 25 years here at Kent State. In fact, it helps us be more effective.

    SM adds to all our classes the discussion and practice of “monitoring.” Yeah, we always did the “listening” thing with mainstream media and face-to-face research. But now it’s a daily event. On the skills side, students do blogs, podcasts, some still photography and social-media news releases. This semester we’ve introduced a video segment to our “PR Online Tactics” class.

    I’m not going to address the 1.0 stuff like online newsrooms and writing for the Web, as we’ve been doing that a lot longer.

    About that PR Online Tactics class: It began in response to emerging social media (we began planning it in 2004), and as you may recall, we called on you a lot back then as the one Kent grad who was “in the know” about this stuff. Today, every one of our classes as a 2.0 component, and every one of the classes changes content each semester — just to keep up.

    When it came time to replace Rob Jewell — who retired two years ago — we chose the candidate with the most digital experience. And this semester, Stefanie Moore now has students building websites using a CMS offered through ZooLoo along with the video segment I mentioned.

    So can you see why this old guy is cranky? Web 2.0 has energized the entire faculty — if not by choice, out of necessity. I think we’ve responded pretty well, and that has led to a nice positioning of the program.

    I curse the blog all the time, but I suspect most bloggers understand where I’m coming from. It’s a benefit, but also a burden. Most of the PR bloggers who post regularly do it to promote their business interests. I do it because I owe it to the program and the students. I’m guessing that my 2.0 commitment exceeds 15 hours a week, but it was more when I posted 2-3 times a week. I remain busy because of that damn Twitter thing.

    I feel a great calm coming over me as the fall foliage begins to pop out. Can deer season be far off? Ah, the serenity. But imagine how cool the hunt would be if I had an iPhone and could tweet my adventures from the treestand — and post dead deer pictures to Flickr. Would that be cool or what?

    Yeah, this is an impossible question. So I’ll close by stealing a line from the Gilda Radner character on the old SNL: It’s always somethin’.

  15. Tracey Forbes says:

    Well said, Bill. I think your pragmatic perspective, doubting the credibility of ‘trust agents’ is what gives you cred (ironically). Cleeeever ploy, my friend. Ha!

  16. Bill Sledzik says:

    Trust me, Tracey? I’m a blogger. Would I lie to you? Oh, oh. Here comes the FTC — subject of my next post. Stay tuned, and hide the swag!

  17. Bill Huey says:

    How would you describe the practice model taught at Kent State for the past 25 years? You know:in 25 words.
    And BTW, I’m not impressed either. Only 300 posts in three years? Time to pick up the pace.You are clearly spending too much time goofing off in the woods, or thinking about goofing off in the woods.

  18. Bill Sledzik says:

    Tough question, Bill. If I had more time I would boil it to 25 words, but I need a few hours today to dream about deer hunting!

    If PRKent has a “model,” it’s really a blend of the 4 Models Grunig & Hunt outlined in 1984 (I wrote about it here, and it’s the most visited post of my 300 — by far).

    At Kent State, we recognize that serving both the client and the public interest is possible, albeit tricky at times. Sometimes you do that as a publicist (i.e., creating news/buzz), sometimes as a purveyor of “public information,” sometimes as a persuader (asymmetrical) and sometimes as a facilitator of dialogue (symmetrical).

    We’re not married to any one approach, perhaps because everyone on our faculty has extensive real-world experience. We know one model does not fit all, just as we know there’s no single definition of “public relations.”

    While we respect the work done by the Grunigs in the Excellence Studies, no one on our faculty embraces it as the Holy Grail. We know from our own experiences and that of our grads that PR is still organization-centered, and much of what we do remains advocacy.

    Excellence theory — at least from my perspective — tends to view persuasion as a dirty word. We do not. But let me add that this hybrid practice model of ours is built on a foundation of ethics and with an ultimate goal of achieving trust and credibility in the eyes of our key publics.

  19. […] been saving this blog post from Bill Sledzik for at time when I could read it with attention, because I knew it would have a […]

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