How to lose a blog reader's trust
Bloggers gained a lot of respect during the run-up to the Presidential election for their work in exposing spin and propaganda in the mainstream press coverage, even though some took hits for spreading rumors and misinformation. Now comes news suggesting that as blogs become vehicles for public relations and marketing messages, they may have trouble maintaining reader confidence and trust.
Consider this, from a story by Joe Mandese today in MediaDaily News:
The murky world of blog-related marketing got a bit murkier on Thursday with the launch of NewsBluntly.com, a blog created to influence a highly influential market niche - television news producers - and in the process, find a new, clandestine way of peddling messages from big corporate marketers such as General Motors, Motorola, and Yahoo!, to consumers.
Mandese goes on to report that the blog offers links to video news releases and other footage that can be used to produce news shows, but "does not disclose the fact that marketers are paying to place them into TV newscasts."
Mandese's article is worth reading. Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing.
Many bloggers have gained a reputation for straight talk and authentic, from-the-trenches insights. As Silicon Valley marketing and public relations specialists seek to benefit from this and look to blogs as a way to influence key decision-makers and customers, they may want to consider the risk they run of alienating an audience that discovers, after the fact, they are being manipulated in this fashion.
The key is - and this is a fundamental point we've been trying to make in Silicon Valley Watch and Silicon Valley Media Watch - full and complete disclosure, up front. If they have all the facts, readers are intelligent enough to judge the value of information they get from a blog. If they deem it valuable, they will act on it, thus achieving the marketer's objective.
What's at stake? Mandese quotes a PR executive who fears the results of NewsBluntly.com's lack of transparency:
"For 18 years, we have worked very diligently to ensure that the entire PR industry and the video and audio providers within it, endorse full and complete disclosure. So a blog that does not clearly disclose its sources, violates so many of the tenants we've worked to create," says Laurence Moskowitz, chairman, president and CEO of Medialink, a leading provider of VNRs for corporate marketers.
"If they have indeed created a blog whose purpose it is to distribute corporate B-roll and it does not identify it as such, that troubles us significantly," he adds. "It's in contravention of the unspoken trust that exists between us and broadcasters. We believe in identifying ourselves as the agent, but also we insist on full disclosure by our clients that they are the ones paying for this. Anything that contravenes that is discomforting to say the least."
Marketers Use Journalism Blog To Infiltrate TV News by Joe Mandese, MediaDaily News, 3 December 2004
What's the story? Doug Millison also edits OnlineJournalist.org, "on a need-to-know basis"