With all the commentary around a certain New York Times article about a particular PR agency’s improperly disclosed blogger “opportunity,” I’ve been able to have a few wonderful conversations with both bloggers and PR representatives – each equally buzzing about the scenario. And the excitement has left me thinking one thing in particular:
In today’s world of impersonal connections, disjointed communication and blatant marketing double-talk, where do we draw the line? And, who is to blame?
I pose this question as a blogger and as a brand consultant because, in my experiences, both sides are innocent and to blame all at the same time.
Not sure what I mean? Think about these scenarios:
- You’re contacted by a brand that you absolutely adore, and they want to see your media kit. Before you send it out, you make sure you’ve put in some extremely compelling numbers. After all, they are close to your stats… and it’s not like they’ll see your analytics anyways, right? The company is impressed, and you get the contract. Everyone’s happy.
- The company you work for has a new product coming out that could potentially be dangerous for children if used improperly. You’ve told your boss about your concerns, but she brushes them off and tells you that you’re paranoid. You decide to go over her head and speak to the project lead. The product gets pulled from the shelves and is sent through safety inspections again. You were absolutely right, and your reward? Your boss passes you over for a new promotion.
- You’re representing a brand’s new product and, while emailing bloggers, decide to forego referencing it directly – and instead, you choose to go for an event that positions it as the final big reveal. Everyone loved the idea when you pitched it in the team meeting – but when it came to fruition, the bloggers participating in the event were not only unhappy, they were excruciatingly offended. This was your first big project and instead of having your back, everyone on your team lays the entire blame on your shoulders. It’s “suggested” that you find another employment opportunity two weeks later.
- A popular brand hires you as a consultant to help them get into the digital world. They know your personal style well – they’ve even bought advertising on your blog – and they’re the kind of client that you always hoped for: responsive, engaged and always up for trying something new. One day, they tell you in confidence about a product that they’re developing – you’re so excited because it not only fits their brand, it’s something you are now infatuated with – and you write a blog post. That you publish… without approval and without thinking. The brand drops you as a consultant and asks you to waive the fee associated with ending the contract early.
These are each scenarios that I’ve seen happen before. Where is the bad guy here?
I think that so much of this boils down to a lack of information surrounding journalistic ethics for a digital world – why should they be any different than those enforced on the beat writers in a local newsroom? And conversely, what makes it okay for a PR agency to offer an “opportunity” that they wouldn’t even consider sending to a news journalist for fear of offending them?
In this world – and particularly within this industry – I think we’d all benefit from a little more transparency and a hell of a lot of common courtesy (and good manners). What are your thoughts?