Provocative Gone Too Far? – IDK, but it pays to know your audience

One of the things I’ve done for a number of years is freelance writing. Whether I’ve been employed in a full-time job, or now as I run my own consulting business, it’s just something that I can’t bear to give up. Because I have also worked with clients to help them find PR placement opportunities, I’ve been fortunate to experience “both sides of the fence” so to speak. The situations I encounter help me in my client work and also often serve as good examples for the PR-related classes I teach. At any rate, a recent experience really resonated with me.

As I often do when seeking sources, I use tools like Help a Report Out and ProfNet. Invariably, when I post opportunities, I get a wide range of options to choose from. This is good for me, the writer, not always so good for those seeking coverage. It’s competitive and the better they’re able to pitch themselves (or their clients), the more likely they’ll be chosen as a source.

Recently, I was looking for sources for a business-related article for a major and well-respected trade publication. I received a response from a PR person who recommended one of her clients as a potential source. She indicated that the client was “a leading expert” and provided some relevant support for that claim, including the fact that this individual writes a “very influential and widely read” blog. But, since pretty much anyone can be an expert I dutifully checked out the blog before responding. I was glad I did.

The most recent post started benignly enough, but then there was a statement including the popular acronym WTF – I’m not such a prude that I found this necessarily off-putting but, a few lines down was another–more heated–comment. In this case the “F” of WTF was spelled out. Hmm. A source I’m considering for a professional business publication? Call me stodgy and “old-school” but, while I appreciate the desire to be provocative in a cluttered communication environment, to me this much edginess is over the edge.

Now, granted it all depends on your audience. If your audience is gang-bangers, for instance, (and maybe they have a trade pub and association that they are members of?) maybe this works. If your audience is communication professionals – and I’d emphasize the word “professional” – I’m thinking it just doesn’t work.

But – hey – that’s just me. What do you think?

Recommended Reading:

The Everything Guide to Customer Engagement

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Guerilla P.R. 2.0

The New Rules of Marketing and PR

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