We recently discovered that one of our clients had been paying some bloggers to write about one of their products. (Actually, these bloggers were already writing about the products; our client just paid them to continue to do so: the client had no say whatsoever in the actual content.)
While it’s good that the client contact who developed these blogger relationships never tried to influence the blog posts, the problem is that the bloggers had never been required to disclose their financial ties to our client. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that that’s a no-no.
Long story short: this is a case of a marketing manager – operating within one of the many vacuums that form in big companies – executing not-so-well on what was essentially a good idea. They just didn’t fully understand the rules of the road. It was a sin of omission, not a sin of deception. A particularly diligent in-house PR manager caught wind of what was happening, and immediately escalated it to the client’s Corp Comms group, and to SHIFT. Once we all realized what had been going on, rest assured that there was a mad scramble to set things right vis a vis transparency & disclosure.
And here’s the lesson: this could be happening in ANY big company.
It’s not hard to imagine the ounce of naivete required for a marketing manager to consider a paid blogger relations campaign. They might not even think to check-in with the corporate PR department – they may give such a campaign no more weight than if they were crafting a new piece of direct mail.
To the unsophisticated marketer, this “blogging stuff” may simply represent a new channel to exploit.
Whether you work in-house or at an agency, please use this gaffe as a reason to double-check whether or not your client is engaged in similar practices. Here are some questions to get you started in your investigation:
Have official “rules of engagement” re: bloggers been documented and disseminated?
Have all marketing employees reporting to corporate marketing (and/or to a business unit) been educated on the “rules of engagement” re: external blogs?
Is there a chance that any of the business unit marketing groups have engaged in a paid or unpaid blogger relations campaign?
If any of our marketing managers have paid bloggers to write about our products/services, did we require public disclosure of the relationship?
If you dig up unsettling answers, start the process of disclosing any paid blogger relationships ASAP. You can worry about “what went wrong” from a process perspective once you’ve wiped that slate clean.
Posted on: September 19, 2007 at 8:59 pm By Todd Defren