Listserv

More news than you could possibly use
by Rich Barger, ABC APR

Dear Senior Communicator:

I need help in a hurry, but it’s 3:00 a.m. and I surely can’t wake any of my IABC or PRSA network with a phone call. What do I do?

— Big Trouble on a Hot Assignment

Dear Night Owl:

Listservs.

And discussion groups. And forums.

If you haven’t explored the wealth of information that’s available on line in communications and public relations-related discussion groups, you’re missing an extremely valuable resource. And some entertainment, too. If you’re working this late, you may need a few minutes off.

Without much searching, you’ll find extremely active communities able to provide quick answers, ideas, discussion, and debate about any communications topic.

There are far too many listservs and discussion groups and forums — and too much activity — for you to monitor them all — want to hire me to do it? — but here are several of the best:

(Editor’s Note: The listserv suggestions above have been linked to associated articles, to a related source with ‘subscribe’ instructions or directly to the source. Some lists require memberships. Some memberships are free and others require fees/dues.)

Ragan Communications has a list, IPR Forum, which has been inactive. PRQuorum is in the process of developing a Forum format, but it is only available on a test basis right now. IABC’s Forum is members-only; PRSA’s is supposed to be, too, but there used to be a super-secret backdoor. I don’t believe it exists any longer …but, if it does, I’ll bet someone with a bit of ingenuity could figure it out.

You can read recent posts, learn about, and join many of these groups at http://groups.yahoo.com . If you haven’t tried Yahoo groups, you’ll either love ’em or hate ’em; for most people, there is no middle ground. Other lists are idiosyncratic, with their own methods of registering and accessing information. PRForum has an odd structure, as befits an academic list. Easiest way to register is to send a Subscribe msg to listserv@listserv.iupui.edu .

Fair warning: Each group has its own personality, its own protocol, its own base of regular participants. Some are active all the time; others seem to operate in flurries or, sometimes, spasms. The advice you’ve heard elsewhere, to monitor a list for a bit before posting, is absolutely correct, but most groups respond much better to list contributors than to “lurkers,” who read but don’t post at all.

No list responds well to drive-by sales, marketing, or self-serving promotional efforts. You have to become a trusted list member before you’re allowed to sell your services, and then, usually, only in response to a direct question.

Even if you really, really need information in a hurry, it still is best to scan the archives and get a sense of the group’s tone and approach before sending a help request. For instance, many times, discussion of U.S. and international politics will overwhelm more mundane PR and communications topics on PRForum2. Newcomers who complain will find the responses rapid, harsh, and a bit overwhelming.

That’s why it’s best to begin monitoring and contributing to the groups before you need them.

The discussion groups are populated with an enormous range of knowledge and experience that can be a terrific resource for ideas and answers to those middle-of-the-night problems. There is more news than you can possibly use, but, except for IABC and PRSA P.D., I get more professional value from my time spent following — and contributing to — discussion lists than from any other source.

The darn things are so addictive that they’re like that old joke about the fella with his first computer: I went on line for the first time Monday evening, and the next thing I knew, it was Thursday, and I’d lost my job!

Cheers!

Richard B. Barger, ABC, APR
Chief Curmudgeon
http://www.CornerBarPR.com

Rich Barger is a multi-enterprise entrepreneur. One of fewer than 70 professionals accredited by both IABC and PRSA, Rich is Chief Curmudgeon of CornerBarPR.com and Contacts On Tap and owner of the imaginatively named Barger Consulting. Rich has served multiple terms on IABC’s International Accreditation Board and Gold Quill Blue Ribbon Panel; he presently is “the bylaws guy” on IABC’s Governance Task Force and Managing Editor of IABC’s “Best Practices” book; he has, for the past eight years, been “The Voice of IABC” at the organization’s International Conference. Rich refuses to answer the phone when the Missouri Tigers are playing football or basketball, so check the sports schedule before calling.

© 2004 – CornerBarPR, Inc.

Many thanks to Rich Barger for providing this article. I met Rich through a listserv, PRCOnLine – PRSA (You can subscribe without belonging to PRSA. See American Press Institute.

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