October 2002, when few media professionals gave
blogging much thought if any, we introduced the concept
of pitching blogs for PR with a strict emphasis on
transparency and disclosure being the key to any
A blog’s credibility depends on it being perceived as an
informal, idiosyncratic and personal conduit of
information. Therefore, we stressed the need to be
sensitive in putting a blog in a situation where its
“outsider” status is compromised by being identified as
a corporate mouthpiece. Needless to say, a designated
shill doesn’t do anyone any good.
It should be needless to say all that. But a recent
New York Times piece demonstrating the
less-than-transparent methods used to pitch blogs
demands that we reiterate our early points.
As the Times details, some blogs may be simply
reprinting stories or posts that companies are writing
themselves – something akin to a newspaper reporter
taking a press release from a company and reprinting it
as news. Another example of questionable journalistic
ethics is the broadcasting of
self-sponsored VNRs as news.
Both methods can only reinforce negative attitudes about
journalism and public relations. By blurring the lines
between journalism, blogging and PR, each discipline
becomes diluted. For public relations, the end result is
that slight skepticism on the part of your audience
becomes ossified cynicism, which drowns out even the
most subtle, sophisticated messaging.
Blogs have matured substantially since we first
discussed the proper way to approach them.
Unfortunately, in too many instances, when it comes to
approaching the blogosphere, some in our profession
haven’t shown similar maturation.