October 16, 2009

The Blogger Balancing Act

Yesterday I attended the Publicity Club of Chicago‘s monthly luncheon where the topic of discussion was Are Bloggers Journalists? Dealing with the Legal Implications of Today’s Media.

The event panel included Esther J. Cepeda – columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and blogger for The Huffington Post, Toure Muhammad – chief creative strategist for Bean Soup Times and Daliah Saper – principal attorney for Saper Law. The event was very timely with the Federal Trade Commission’s recent announcement of new guidelines requiring bloggers to disclose relationships around any promoted products or brands.

Esther wrote a nice article in the Sun-Times on the topic earlier this week, noting that the new guidelines create a foundation for legitimizing the blogosphere. Do these guidelines completely resolve all existing issues of blogger distrust and ensure that all bloggers will undoubtedly be held to the same standards as journalists? Of course not. The fact of the matter is that we don’t live in a perfect world. We are all aware that just as some bloggers engage in “pay-to-play,” so do some traditional journalists. It happens.

Is this a step in the right direction? Definitely.

Will there ever be a perfect solution? Probably not but we can only hope that these guidelines will help to put standards in place for ensuring that bloggers are open, honest and transparent about whether or not they are being paid to promote a product or brand.

What Does This Mean for PR Agencies?

Most importantly, there needs to be recognition of bloggers as legitimate, influential channels for outreach. Unfortunately, there are still major brands and companies that refuse to acknowledge the significant influence and impact of bloggers and social media in general. In addition, it is up to PR folks to train all agency staff on how to properly engage and build professional relationships with bloggers. PR folks are also responsible for continuing to closely monitor bloggers we work with to ensure proper disclosure and accurate information is being published (to the extent that this is possible as you would with a traditional journalist).

At the end of the event, I asked Esther to provide her quick insight with some tips that she would offer PR folks as well. Check out the video below (apologies for the background sound and yes, I’m a board member for PCC, no I do not get paid to promote PCC). Thanks Esther.


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