Social Media Breakfast Chicago: How To Respond To Critical Bloggers

Social Media Breakfast Chicago is an event where moderators lead small-group discussions over breakfast on a series of social media topics.

While moderators lead the discussion, the goal of breaking into small groups is to encourage everyone to participate by debating, asking questions, and contributing to the conversation. My friend Mike Pilarz and friends Craig Bagdon, Scott Bishop founded Social Media Breakfast Chicago in 2009.  For information about events in other cities, click here.

Mike asked me to lead a roundtable at the next breakfast meeting, “How to engage with critical bloggers”.  I’ve certainly seen a change in attitude towards blogging, in general, and towards my writing in the last four years. It seems like ancient history when I think about starting on Blogger in 2006, anonymously, and wondering if anyone would ever read me. It’s been a while since anyone said I was a embittered ex-employee, just looking to rant, with an axe to grind against my most recent former firm. I think four years and selection as a finalist for a Loeb Award proves I am here to stay. My target is not any particular person or firm but is, instead, industry leadership, regulators and legislators that are supposed to keep the auditors in check, and the industry’s business model and methods.

Although accountants and auditors joined the movement to social tools a little later than some other groups of professionals such as technologists and even lawyers, they are catching up! Yesterday, Richard Chambers, the CEO of the Institute of Internal Auditors and my former colleague at PwC, joined Twitter.

Some of the first people to embrace me and encourage me in this endeavor were the public relations and marketing communications professionals. They did not care what I was writing about, just that I was using and promoting the tools.  My experience in engaging the professional services industry, regulators, academics and attorneys by delivering my message via blogs and Twitter was a case study for them. I count many of them, including Mike Pilarz and Allan Schoenberg who introduced me to Mike, as some of my oldest and most supportive friends in this medium.

Being viewed as a “critical” blogger has had its challenges. One is to address the criticism of others that because I have a point of view and do not attempt to provide a “balanced” view in my posts, I am not a journalist. I resisted the label of “journalist” for a long time even though some told me that I was doing journalism and, therefore, should adopt the standards and ethics of that profession.

The targets of my criticism occasionally tried to discredit my writing by looking for conflicts of interest, hidden agendas, and holes in my background or experience. I was often criticized as being unqualified to write about the audit industry since I had never been an external auditor. Nobody ever says that about reporters at the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, or Reuters, some of whom only report on the accounting industry “once during a lunar eclipse on the winter solstice.”

So I am quite accustomed to answering critics. As my writing gains more exposure, I have become quite accustomed to engaging with those I criticize, including soliciting their reaction to my work. Lately I have been actively helping some to improve their engagement with me and other bloggers and journalists who cover their industry.

Unfortunately this event on February 8th is sold out. But if you are a public relations or communications professional who wants to stay current and talk to others active in addressing the challenges you face every day, I encourage you to look at Social Media Breakfast in Chicago and other cities for support.

It would be a pleasure to speak for other groups interested in similar topics.  Call or write any time.

2 replies
  1. Mike Pilarz
    Mike Pilarz says:

    Thanks for this thoughtful preview to your discussion, Francine. Your story is such a great example of the democratizing power of these new tools, and how
    companies had better be paying attention to and engaging with influencers such as yourself, regardless of their industry. I can’t wait for your discussion.

    Co-founder, Social Media Breakfast Chicago

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