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« Hilariously bad travel: Hyatt's desk chair that wasn't there | Main | Three quarters of the PR email I receive is irrelevant. Why? »

February 17, 2009

Why I'm writing about travel experiences and PR

by Josh Bernoff

Based on several comments on recent posts people are a little confused about why the Groundswell blog should be writing about "hilariously bad travel" and PR emailers practices.

So let me explain myself.

First of all, I recognize that there are worse problems in the world than bad hotel rooms and irrelevant email. Even so, I believe these are symptoms of a broader trend, one that is the purview of the Groundswell.

That trend is that computers have made it far easier for marketers -- and service people -- to treat people in masses. The countervailing trend is the groundswell, which empowers us to connect as humans. So I am trying to help marketers and those who serve the public to find ways to treat people more like a human.

I believe three things:

  1. A blog can make a difference. So this is an applied experiment in the groundswell in action. If Jeff Jarvis can change Dell with Dell Hell and Ruth K can write about the suffering of being a Jet Blue Hostage, why shouldn't I try to change the PR and travel industries? (I'm already seeing evidence that PR emailers are thinking a little more about those emails.)
  2. Analysis helps. Why not shine a light on people's behavior? Is it typical? Is it unreasonable? What are the best practices? I am a researcher, so when I experience something, I often say "hmm, why is that like that?" And I'm interested in your perspectives.
  3. It's absurd. That's why I'm only writing about "hilariously bad" travel -- the kind that makes you chuckle at its ineptitude. And when you see some of the hilariously irrelevant emails I receive from PR people, you'll have the same reaction. Instead of turning to the guy at the next desk and saying "look at this silly thing" I'm telling you, in the hopes you might at least smile a little.

I'm trying not to take this too seriously. If you want to call it whining, so be it. I call it turning annoyance into thought, discussion, and who knows, maybe even positive change.

Are you with me? Or should I just talk about the data and research I do and leave off with the rest of this "how to be a human" stuff?


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I'm with you!

Kevin Dugan

Josh - Whining is a natural reaction to off-topic pitches. We started a blog to profile the worst of the worst in the hopes we can help other PR people avoid making the same lazy mistakes.

The Bad Pitch Blog is making some progress, but mostly at the younger folks. So it will be awhile before you notice an impact in your inbox. But we're continuing our fight.


mariana evica

I think you're right on. The trends are observable across many platforms so your travel experiences are quite germane. Carry on!

George Snell

Hi Josh:
I'd continue to be human -- with some research thrown in so we know that you're still working.

RE: PR folks. This may be because I'm in PR, but I do find it tiresome for all of the bloggers and journalists to constantly call out bad PR practices. Yes, we all know there are clods out there. I also believe the PR agency economic model has caused a lot of the problems:


But enough already. Other than getting to vent your frustrations what do you hope to accomplish by publicly humiliating PR people by name? I understand you don't like what they are doing, but what you're doing isn't a "nice" practice either.

So I'd stop with that practice and keep up with the rest.

Nick Smith

I'm with you - the hotel chair blog provided far more amusement and prompted far more thought than most blogs I read. Thanks!

Tsahi Levent-Levi

I'm with you, but please do both: continue with the rants in some posts and do the data and research in other posts.


I'd consider not posting this information. I read your blog for the analytical data and research. If you keep writing about the "human" stuff, I'll probably just read your other reports, and dump the blog - which would be a bummer.


Go Go Go Go Go!!! I love the presentation of Groundswell in theory and now Groundswell in practice!

Tim McAlpine

I agree with those above. I like the mix. Keep up the good work.

Michelle Gorel

I'm a PR person and found your "human" insights most helpful. I agree with all three points - blogs can and SHOULD change behavior (I'm checking with BW on the e-mail distribution of our list -- it doesn't have an "opt out" but you can only get on the list if you request to be put on it -- and by the way we have less than 100 on our list, but I think you're right, they need an opt out option - right now they would have to send an e-mail to the contact person listed on the release). 2 -- I'm always interested in learning about best practices that's why I read this blog. 3 -- a little humor goes a long way, and makes us take a second look at our own behavior. Keep it up.

Laercio Bento

Hi, Mr. Josh
I'm from Sao Paulo, Brazil. I've bought your book and I'm reading your blog about groundswell. This is a topic that is attracting interest and is certainly a trend in the area of communication.I have given your book to my students and in my blog.


OK--I get it a bit more now. But bitching about PR people is so tired. Alex Gove did that years ago in....what was that thing called...Red Herring? Tired, dead, and not missed. Should we bitch about journalists? Don't get me started. Industry analysts? Don't get me started. Lawyers? Ditto. CEOs? Ditto. People are people and professionals are professionals. There are a few really good ones, a lot of mediocre ones and some stand-out bad ones. But I'd submit that yapping on about bad PR practices is boring. So sure, mix in a bit of entertainment and personal musings with your data. But let's leave the PR nonsense out. BTW I am not in PR.

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