Friday, October 23, 2009

What You See is What You Get?

Over the last couple of months there have been stories in the New York Times and CNN focusing on the ethical relationship between advertisers and bloggers. First, the National Advertising Review Council called out two different blogger sites for their so-called product reviews and not mentioning the fact that these products were actually owned by the company running the site. More recently, the Federal Trade Commission announced blogger rules as part of revisions to the agency's Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising to address this specific issue.

Why is this important? When the line between journalistic blogger and advertiser is clearly being blurred, it is important for the organizations policing these types of activities to step up and do something about it for both the integrity of the site and for fair disclosure to the reader. Bias is what taints the blogger community in any industry and readers need to understand where a blogger’s bias lays. Readers can dig a little deeper and uncover the other relationships a blogger has that might impact their objectivity in their writing. This is something we did this summer when Connect2 called out a technology blogger for his rants against press releases and the way they are written. When we dug a little deeper we found that this blogger was also a marketing director for a company and was guilty of doing exactly what he was ranting against. In this case, the digging showed the irony of the situation, but it also highlighted his bias.

One of the ways Connect2 Communications has always measured the credibility of bloggers is by looking at the other ways they are credentialed in the industry. For example, they are a journalist writing for an industry publication or an analyst who writes his own personal blog in addition to the research work his does for his firm or the conference organizer sharing her thoughts on the industry as a whole. We believe when a blogger has another identity in the industry it lends more credibility to their work and you know that you are working with a more legitimate resource.

Bloggers are still a relatively new phenomenon in the world of press relations, but they are becoming a much stronger voice and relevant player within many industries. As a marketing manager looking for advocates within the industry, you need to be careful who you work with so you can be assured that what you see is really what you get.

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