Monday, March 13, 2006

Blogger Relations, Full Disclosure and All That Jazz

I've held off writing about the Wal-Mart/Edelman blogger relations effort, since so much is already being written. Mike Sansone has a fine writeup that links to a number of different opinions.

After chewing on this a bit my opinions are somewhat middle of the road. Yes, I think using this kind of tactic (reaching out to bloggers through someone who is a blogger) is sound. In fact, on a strategic I think this is a great example of how companies can do it, that you don't need to have a blog to get your voice heard is one of the best parts of the blogosphere.

Todd Zeigler makes a great point when he notes that the outreach sounds more like a public affairs program than PR. That's because Edelman chose bloggers already sympathetic to Wal-Mart and then fed them facts and figures to bolster their arguments. It's a sound approach. Why get into a flame war with a Wal-Mart basher when you can get the facts to the public?

But I think Neville Hobson hit the nail on the head when he questions the disclosure. Did those doing the outreach purposefully or accidentally confuse the issue by identifying themselves as working for Wal-Mart? In a word: yes.

This problem isn't limited to the blogosphere. I often hear people pitching reporters, or even talking to customers of clients, and identifying themselves as calling from such-and-such a company. I prefer not to do that. I tell people I work for the PR firm, then tell them what company I'm calling about. I find if I don't do that up front things can get confusing. It could be as simple as a reporter starting to interview me rather than my client or a customer treating me as a sounding board for technical glitches with a product.

Of course, like everything, the blogosphere shines a brighter light on even small issues. I talked with a colleague of mine about this today, and we feel it's best if PR firm can brand itself a resource for information, either for reporters or the greater public. The more trust people working for the trust can earn, the greater success we can have in our outreach.

But earning that trust begins with proper identification.

1 comment:

Mike Sansone said...

Thanks for weighing in on this Chuck, I was hoping you would.

I agree that trust is the most important issue, and leading with who you are and how your involved is important.

Being available as a resource delivers a message that the relationship being built is a lasting one.