With firms tapping the blogosphere for talent, blogging is shedding its stigma in the industry
Has blogging changed from a liability to an asset in the PR job market?
During the nascent days of blogging, when both emerging and large corporations were firing staffers for blogging-related offenses, the jury was out on whether blogging was a nefarious habit, to be hidden when applying for jobs, or a positive career move.
The recent ascension of two high-profile bloggers - Steve Rubel, formerly of CooperKatz, and Jeremy Pepper, formerly of his own firm Pop PR, who were hired by Edelman and Weber Shandwick, respectively - suggests the negative valence of blogging has turned positive. Indeed, today's more pressing question isn't whether you can get a job if you blog, but, rather, whether you can get a job without a blog.
Well, the short answer is yes, but it's more complicated than that.
"To think, 'I'm a young PR pro, and I need to blog, or I'll never hired by an agency,' is flat-out ludicrous," says Mike Spataro, EVP of WS' Web relations group - and Pepper's interactive boss.
But Mike Marino, an independent HR consultant, says that agencies are definitely more interested in the space today than they were during the firing purges.
"On one hand, there's an appetite to learn more about blogs; they don't want to be cut short by a hot new product [owned] by boutique agencies," Marino says, adding that, philosophically, blogging is a difficult fit for an industry that likes to control the dissemination of information. "Because it's new and unregulated, they're nervous about it.
Bloggers believe in complete free speech, which is somewhat opposite [to] traditional PR."
Spataro says the hires and their blogging are a coincidence, noting that Pepper was hired to work in the San Francisco offices to handle predominantly traditional tech work and that blogging was just part of his skill set.
"Jeremy, Steve, and Tom [Biro, hired by MWW as director of new-media strategies in August 2005] were all hired because they're good PR pros and they have this added dimension," Spataro says. "In our organization, no one would say that [Pepper] was hired because he wrote his thoughts online. At the end of the day, you have to be a good PR pro."
Nor does he think digital posturing on one's site - either sycophantically sucking up to an employer or half-heartedly blogging to get into the search engine ether - would bode well for aspiring PR pros.
"It's more than just rolling out of bed and throwing some thoughts together," stresses Spataro.
But bloggers think the exposure ultimately helps agencies find good talent, and Pepper says that the tendency for bloggers to analyze is a good thing.
"Does [a firm] want 'yes men?' No, because those are the blogs that get ripped apart," Pepper says. "[Agencies] want someone able to speak the truth. On the whole, clients want or need that honesty."
"We're seeing a lot of HR managers start to tap the blogosphere for new hires," says Rubel, Edelman SVP. "You're buying someone's skills, and a blog will tell more about someone's thinking than a rŽsumŽ."
Rubel says that bloggers, especially those who work in traditional PR disciplines, should absolutely inquire about an agency's blogging policies.
"When I started at Edelman, I asked for guidelines," Rubel says. "What is your policy? Would I be able to continue blogging and how?
"Some of the stigma is gone - look at the number of bloggers who have been hired," Rubel adds. When asked if the recent silence on the blog firing front was a result of companies changing their policies or whether the torrent of news made blog firing exposŽs stale, Rubel replies, "That gives me an idea for a blog post."