I Love You, Toby Ziegler

I know this puts me about seven years behind the times, but I’ve spent an embarrassingly large portion of my last three weekends watching The West Wing on Netflix. I’ve never been much into politics or television dramas, but since I went through a brief Washington, D.C. obsession after reading a Ben Bradlee biography and watching House of Cards (and because my sister kept telling me how The West Wing was God’s one and only gift to television), I decided to give it a go.

The West Wing really is God’s one and only gift to television. (Well, maybe not the only gift. There’s also 30 Rock.)

Toby Ziegler, the Director of White House Communications on the show, has emerged as my favorite member of the Bartlet administration. What can I say? I’m a sucker for TV characters who speak with a biting wit, point out grammar mistakes and love pie.

My all-time (so far) favorite Toby moment, not included in the above montage:

I’m not an expert on political dramas or Aaron Sorkin shows, but I can’t get enough of The West Wing and the way it’s a drama mixed with a bit of workplace comedy. Another thing that intrigues me about this show (actually, about a lot of TV shows) is how it blends reality and fiction. Jay Leno, a real-life celebrity, shows up at a benefit for a fictional president. Real-life newspapers report on real-life political issues as they play out in a fictional White House. It’s not completely made-up, but it’s not completely real, either. I get it – this is TV, and of course Jay Leno would attend a benefit to support a president who stars in an NBC show – but the interplay between real and fictional issues and characters is intriguing.

I’m only on the second season, so there’s plenty more obsession to indulge. Let the Netflix binge continue.

Finding Value in New Communities

Over the past few weeks at my internship, I’ve spent a good deal of time putting together lists of bloggers who blog about bicycling (both racing, like Tour de France-type coverage, and bike culture, like those people with bumper stickers on their cars that read “my other car is a bike.”)

lance armstrong

One type of cycling blog: the hardcore bike racing enthusiasts.

While this may not seem like a very glamorous task, it’s totally necessary in public relations because it allows us to understand what’s important to cyclists and teaches us more about bloggers we may pitch stories to. But, it can also expose you to some pretty cool niche communities you may not have known about previously.

The bicycling world is filled with passionate cyclists who love to write and I’m learning to really enjoy their work. While I’m not a hardcore cyclist myself, I’m now immersed in this cycling community and am finding some really compelling blogs and writers.

At this point, I’m only listening and learning more about the topics they cover, but eventually I’ll start interacting with them. From a PR perspective, the bloggers might appreciate that I not only understand the issues that concern them, but that I also genuinely enjoy reading their blogs.

Have you had to spend a lot of time focusing on one particular niche community like bike riders? Maybe it was a group of people devoted to a similar cause or who lived in a particular city. Whatever the case, I’d love to know how it played out: did you just read their blogs? Did you develop a personal interest in the topic? From a PR

my other car is a bike bumper sticker

Another type of cycling blog: the bike culture/advocacy writers.

perspective, were you able to build a relationship with them?

And while I love discovering this niche, not all blogs are created equal. In my research, I’ve found a few that I really love, mostly because they’re hilarious or look at cycling from a unique perspective:

  • Bike Snob NYC: Yes, Bike Snob writes a column in Bicycling, but that’s not why I love his blog – it’s because he is irreverent and funny but doesn’t waver from his position that cycling is a serious transportation method. Everything I’ve read has been great, especially his spot-on, amusing analysis of Portland and its biking community.
  • Bike Portland: Here’s a hometown shout-out. Bike Portland consistently ranks really high on every list of biking blogs I’ve seen; it covers local cycling events and issues and has made itself the authority on the topic in Portland (and, it seems, elsewhere).
  • Riding Pretty and Chic Cyclists: I will never be as cool as the ladies who write these blogs, but they do a great job of giving ideas on how to be trendy while being serious about cycling.

I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts. In PR, or in your everyday social media participation, have you ever come across a passionate blogging or online community? Was there value in listening to and eventually engaging with them? If so, what was it?