A Time of Advocacy

It’s funny how things will bring you full circle. Last Sunday night my neighborhood almost got flooded with the severe rains that hit the Washington region. As EMS personnel enacted a voluntary evacuation (I stayed), I talked with my neighbors and collectively we had great fear.

We had been through this before in 2006. The catastrophic results were just unbelievable, affecting 150 homes in my neighborhood. My wife and I were just devastated, fighting and destroyed, probably clinically depressed. We sustained tens of thousands of dollars in damages. The business was in shambles.

It quickly became apparent that the flood was a result of over-development and neglect, compliments of Fairfax County and VDoT. Both organizations did their best to shun responsibility, but the neighborhood knew. We were gentrifying folks who were probably too poor to be taken seriously by uber-rich Fairfax County.


So I used my powers for good. I actively petitioned the community. See above cover of the Washington Examiner. That’s me getting people to sign a petition to Governor Kaine. What was then the Buzz Bin was used for media relations and community updates to fight for the Huntington neighborhood. I found a nationally recognized law firm that handled the Three Mile Island and Valdez class action suits to represent us on contingency.

This time of advocacy yielded fruit. Today I received my papers for the class-action suit. My neighborhood is going to take Fairfax County and VDoT to task for their actions over the past 35 years, and I am the lead plaintiff. Wow.

Similarly, two years ago I started my company because I was real fed up working for dishonest crap PR firms (not including Widmeyer, which is an awesome organization). I got tired of pettiness in the business, and nasty back stabbing.

Today, I think about the drama that ensued in the blogosphere compliments of the latest PR people suck meme started by Trapani. All I know is nasty actions hurt people.

Over what? What are we doing? Is this really what I got into social media for? Personally, I am just disgusted by all of it. All of it. Both us, the PR people shilling for long tail hits about crap, and mean cranky bloggers who think hiding behind a keyboard with a decent Technorati ranking is a license to act like jerks.

It’s all bullshit. I mean this is a real waste of time, you know?

Think about what we achieved in Huntington, what other great people try to do with their blogs, social media, resources and time. There are better things to do.

One of the things we are doing at my company — in great part because of the leadership and hopes of evange.LIST Qui Diaz — is building a formal non-profit practice. We already had some clients and leads, and now we are making great strides. I hope, I believe we will succeed. That would be good because I really don’t care that much for the current conversation. My powers can be used for greater things.



  • hey Geoff. I have to agree with you about people (me, as well, but I needed a post today) needing to focus on something else and work on doing good rather than bad. The point of my post was less to continue to churn the waters (although that was likely an unintentional result), and more to say, yes yes, ok. there was a kerfuffle, it’s not as black and white as people in both communities are saying it is.

    :) thanks for the link tho… talk soon!

  • Geoff,
    What a terrible tragedy. I truly empathize with your situation. It sounds like a horrible experience. Get better. Help the community. It sounds like you’re well on your way to making things right again.

    As far as the PR experience. Well, it’s work. And events like this (and others I’ve experienced) remind us that work is work. I twittered that life is often times unpleasant, and that we have to deal with it. For you, it’s your neighborhood underwater. For bloggers, it’s getting pitches to a personal email account. Sorry, but the former takes precedence over the latter. I think people, including bloggers, need to keep their eye on the prize and understand what is really important.

    Is there a right way and a wrong way to pitch blogger? Yes. Could more people follow the ethics code I wrote for WOMMA? Absolutely. This is about community, after all, not “placement”.

    Is there a line that’s crossed when people circumvent the system to pitch a blogger? Absolutely. However, if Cision is adding her name to the list then it’s not on you. Although I do question a few things — first, the integrity of their list. What kind of service just scrubs websites for contact info? A shit one, if you ask me.

    Second — and this is on you — Why people aren’t creating and maintaining their own relationships? That’s a huge issue, especially for being an expert in this space. It’s not about buying lists — that’s what ad jerks do.

    You are a sincere guy, Geoff. And I agree you can use your powers for greater things — including not copying the ad agency model.


  • Colleeen: I am no better than you. I played a part in the broo ha ha, as well. Taking a step back, though, I find it to be a lousy situation for a variety of reasons.

    Dave: Thanks for a great comment. Lists are part of the business. I don’t think they are a solution, but they are a starting point to identify with whom to begin building media relationships.

    In the case of bloggers, in my firm we actually build our own lists, researching who is relevant. We find the media lists to be lacking. Quite frankly, a good PR firm works 40-60 top outlets for any given client. These relationships must be the focus. Secondary contacts may be used for specific initiatives, but it always comes back to intelligent targeting.

  • I just want to add a reiteration that I see PR skills as a tool that can be used for whatever motive.I’m not going to kill off my private sector business, but I am going to focus on new clients that we can really use these skills to add value for them and society as a whole.

    It’s my feeling that it would be more meaningful to use our skills for good, for social causes.Sometimes being the CEO affords you such decisions.

  • Geoff:

    I admire your goals, and sympathize with your current plight with regard to the floods.

    As for the choice to use our PR or blogging skills only for good, I would love to have that luxury, but for far too many of us, it is indeed a luxury we do not have to pick and choose among projects and clients. We do what we must to keep our kids fed, and the mortgage or rent paid.

    Maybe the solution for the rest of us, who aren’t CEO’s, is to use our private blogs, Digg, Reddit, posts, comments, etc. for a greater good instead of just random amusement. Make a difference in our corner of the world — not a powerful as the corporate decisions, perhaps, but at least a start.

  • Geoff, Amen and keep up the good work. I really think those who have had experience with handling unsolicited pitches could help bloggers who aren’t familiar with this part of the media industry. If you have tips or hints for those uninitiated bloggers, pass them on! See similar discussion here: http://tinyurl.com/4kunn4.

    So sorry to hear about the flooding and thankful that it wasn’t as bad this past weekend. Hope all is well.

  • Lindsay: Sounds like a great idea. And I forget that not everyone can do what they want. Thanks for the reminder.

    jgraziani: I may do that on the Buzz Bin. I may not. Usually I just ignore pitches. I pay attention to conversations.

  • I am a great fan of focusing on what is really important. Good point and well taken. This is much better than a simple admonition to, “get over it.”

  • Sorry, Kami once again we disagree. Per my many comments on your post, you are wrong on that. If you keep enabling bad behavior, it will continue. I for one plan on ignoring bloggers who take themselves too seriously.

  • Just saying I am wrong does not make me so. But I acquiesce that in your mind I am wrong. Fair enough. I still think that your response is no better. How is this to move to a more productive level if everyone packs up their marbles and goes home? The professional equivalent of crossing our arms and pouting. I think that your point that bloggers have become too demanding and full of themselves (unforgiving) is a good one, but isn’t this the same approach? Certainly, this issue isn’t as important as world peace, but in the course of our current work it has become somewhat critical.

  • I don’t think so. To me it’s like feeding trolls. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s how I intuit it.

Comments are closed