The Week in Review: March 6-10
A new (and very interesting) client has just come on board, I had deadlines for some other projects, and I had to take a quick trip mid-week. Time has been tight, so blogging has been light.
So this post is going to be the week in review -- comments on the things I probably would have blogged in more depth had I more time.
Of course, the top PR blogging news of the week was the Edelman-Wal-Mart blogger relations story, starting with the New York Times article on March 7th, and continuing on with commentary from just about every PR/Marketing blogger on the planet. Except me of course. I was at a client :-) Check out the great round-ups of the commentary written by Constantin Basturea and Tom Murphy. And don't miss Richard Edelman's post. For more coverage, here are the google and technorati searches on "Edelman Wal-Mart"
My .02 -- this really does look like a simple effort at blogger relations, perhaps not the best execution, but not intentionally sinister. In fact, I think Wal-Mart would be foolish to not engage in grassroots blogger relations, given how well organized its critics in the blogosphere are.
Here's my take-away from this tempest in a teapot:
First, we have to be fair in our criticisms. Part (but not all) of the outrage about the Wal-Mart outreach was outrage about Wal-Mart in general. You have to put both your friends and your enemies to the same test. If something would be okay if your buddy did it, but it is bad if the evil empire does it, you are not being fair. This is not dis-similar from what happened in the initial outrage more than a year ago about character blogs. GourmetStation and others were being lambasted for having characters as the blog authors. I pointed out a certain inconsistency using the example of Spencer F. Katt, the PC Week/eWeek mascot for 20-plus years who has both a column and yes, a blog. Somehow, a character everybody knew and liked was okay. It was only the new ones that were bad blogging practice :-) Wrong. Be consistent in BOTH your flames and your kudos.
Second, as PR practitioners start reaching out to blogs... as they should, and as most of us have preached, dare I say ad nauseaum, we have to expect mistakes. Given the ongoing commentary on PR blogs about the general quality of much PR practice, we shouldn't be surprised if some PR agency efforts at blogger relations are better than others. I have no particular opinion about Edelman's blogger outreach program. Time will tell whether it was good, bad or something in between. I am certain however, that no blogger outreach program will be (or should be) successful without complete transparency. You MUST be completely honest about your role and your vested interests. And not surprised if your entire campaign is published on a blog somewhere.
Again, a comparison. When I started to get a great deal of media exposure as spokesperson for Cyber Patrol in the late 90s, I was very careful to make sure that my public statements passed the ultimate test: would I be embarassed if this were on the front page of the NY Times? Different times, same general principal. Ain't no such thing as "off the record."
Moving on, conferences. Without a doubt, the model of conferences where the panel is presumed to be the "experts" and the audience the "students" is outmoded. In tech and in marketing, the two arenas where I have spent most of my professional career, the audience often knows as much, or more, than the panelists. I've written about this here a bit, and it was one of the inspirations for the Room of Your Own proposal for Business Blogging currently under consideration for BlogHer 06. Our idea is that the panelists are there to kick off the discussion, but in fact the entire audience is the panel, and an active part in building our takeaway "best practices" for business bloggers.
This week, some smart bloggers asked some great questions about the "conference issue:"
- Kent Newsome, This is not the summer camp I remember
- Christopher Carfi, On The Conference Thing: Etech, SXSW, Unconferences and Monocultures
In the category of smart business advice:
- PR Squared has a series of three posts of "bad advice" about customer references which of course are excellent advice for PR and MarCom pros. Here they are: one, two, three
- Converstations gives some great advice on how to best write your posts in A Blog Posting Mantra.
- And Jill Konrath has some great advice on thinking like your customer.
In the news:
- Boing Boing continues its campaign against Smart Filter
- Google settles a click fraud case. I remember asking an SEO rep about click fraud about a year ago. "Not a big problem," she said. Yeah right.
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