Lately I've been scratching my head and wondering what the heck has happened to the public relations industry.
As a journo/columna/bloggerista, I deal a fair amount with PR people. The vast majority of them are highly competent, pleasant individuals who are necessary to what I and my fellow j/c/b types do every day. If you want to reach someone inside a company whose employee roster can no longer fit comfortably inside a broom closet, you generally have to go through PR.
[ Also on InfoWorld: Enough about PR -- how about the state of Web journalism? Cringely takes a look and doesn't like what he sees. | For a humorous take on the tech industry's shenanigans, subscribe to Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter. ]
(Yes, it is absolutely possible to operate outside of PR and find your own sources. It's what many blogs try to do, with varying success. What happens, though, is you end up publishing completely bogus stories saying that Google's about to buy Digg or Apple's buying Twitter. But I digress.)
Unfortunately it seems none of these competent PR people work for Sony or Facebook. Or if they do, they've been overthrown by the forces of incompetence.
Take the Sony PlayStation Network fiasco. It started with a mysterious outage that went unexplained for almost a week, followed by a few dribs and drabs of information leaked via blog post, a letter to Congress trying to pin the blame on someone else, an apology and a few weak attempts to mollify angry customers, and now more hacks and security problems.
Yet Sony CEO Howard Stringer is apparently livid because his company has been getting raked over the coals for playing "see no evil, speak no evil" for a week while everyone wondered what the frak happened. From Sir Howard's point of view, Sony was Johnny on the spot. Per Reuters:
This was an unprecedented situation. Most of these breaches go unreported by companies. Forty-three percent (of companies) notify victims within a month. We reported in a week. You're telling me my week wasn't fast enough?