Seems the marketing and PR world just keeps stumbling on itself on how to deal with bloggers. I see all these PR seminars on how to “pitch” bloggers like you pitch MSM reporters. Well, bloggers aren’t like most MSM where the rules of what is right, above board and ethical have been pretty well worked out.
Apparently, Microsoft and AMD sent a bunch of laptops to bloggers for them to review. Their PR agency is Edelman and Edelman is positioning itself at the forefront of online PR strategies–at some pretty high cost I would say. Robert Scoble weighed in and said this was great as long as the bloggers divulged they got a free laptop out of the review. Joelonsoftware vigorously disagreed. He may be right.
Apparently Microsoft and AMD got some feedback that by doing so they were clumsily trying to influence how those products are reviewed (let’s see, sending products for review to publications has been a pretty well established practice I believe). But they forgot how self-righteous, ethically pure, and petulant many of the bloggers can be. So when Microsoft decided they had made a mistake by offering such a bennie to the bloggers they tried to backtrack and suggest that the bloggers shouldn’t keep the laptops after all. Now they are finding out just how petty and angry some of these bloggers can be. Here’s a dandy.
A lesson to be learned by all those PR types trying to figure out how to deal with bloggers. My suggestion: use kid gloves. They can be a touchy bunch. And a word to Edelman–pioneers have to take a few arrows.
A court in Florida awarded $11.3 million in damages to a woman whose business was damaged by online attacks. Here’s the story from USA Today. This particular story is interesting because the defendant never showed up and didn’t have an attorney because she lost her home in Katrina. And the battle was over the service she received in helping retreive her sons from a boarding school in Costa Rica where her divorced husband had sent them. Apparently she didn’t like the service she received and posted some bitter complaints on a blog or forum site.
Having been involved in helping companies deal with vicious and untruthful online attacks, this will be seen by many as an important precedent for those concerned about protecting reputations. From that standpoint, I welcome it. The $11.3 million judgment is of course, silly. How they came to this amount from the damage this small business may have experienced escapes me. And of course it is a rather empty victory given the defendant never showed up and clearly does not have the ability to pay.
Another concern is the impact on the freedom of speech that is a value dearly held by the blog world. To know that you can sustain this kind of damage when blasting out your thoughts in the heat of the moment is going to give some people pause. It probably should to some degree. But if our legal system has the same impact on Internet communication as it has in our health care system, our product liability situation, and in most other areas of our lives, we will all be the losers for it. So I hope some balance emerges.
Wal-Mart’s hiring of Andrew Young was a brilliant strategy. The former Mayor of Atlanta and US Ambassador to the United Nations had the pedigree, credibility and presence to make a difference in Wal-Mart’s badly needed efforts to boost its public image. The fact that attack sites like http://blog.wakeupwalmart.com/ had a real problem with Andrew Young demonstrates the effectiveness of this approach. Here’s the anti-Wal-Mart attack blog’s comments about Young.
The problem is, Andrew Young stepped in it big time–and in a way that plays to whatever perceptions opponents and fencesitters might have of Wal-Mart. His comments were racist and sounded like they would come from an Archie Bunker type rather than from such a distinguished African-American leader. Even through the effort to put them in context, it is hard to avoid the inherent racist overtones of the statements. Young was right to resign. Wal-Mart was right to distance themselves from him. And there has to be a lot of headscratching going on in Bentonville right now, saying, “Now what?” Now what indeed.