In the past several weeks, some major changes and developments have occurred within the blogosphere. Both of these directly affect public relations in some way, and each problem questions the integrity of the profession. Here are the main points of each argument as well as a glass-half-full perspective of what future blogger relations could look like:
New FTC Guidelines — check out PRSA’s summary here
- What they are: The guidelines would require bloggers to disclose any exchange of value (money, gift certificates or other freebees) that results in a post. For the full document, check out the FTC’s amendments here.
- What they mean for public relations: If you offer freebees, pay for travel or any kind exchange that involved monetary value, it must be disclosed. Practitioners should make that clear to the blogger up front. Blogger relations is growing, yet the lines are still blurry as to what is ethical.
- What the future might look like: Readers can trust bloggers to be honest and open when they review products or promote a company. This also will mean more self regulation for bloggers — don’t be surprised to see blogs being called out for not adhering to these principles.
Mommy Blogger PR Blackout — check Momdot’s summary here
- What it is: Mommy bloggers are planning a week of not promoting anything they receive from a public relations practitioner to get back to their roots and blog about their families.
- What it means for public relations: The integrity of the profession is questioned as these bloggers believe we are spamming them. In fact, most practitioners try to connect mommy bloggers with products to review and causes to support. However, this does bring the legitimate concern that some practitioners are mass spamming bloggers like the traditional media.
- What the future might look like: There will be fewer “pitches” and more reaching out to smaller numbers of bloggers to promote the client. All in all, it makes for better and more effective promotion.
In both of these situations, one thing holds true: The values and principles PRSA and PRSSA champion avoid any problem in these situations. In fact, PRSA recently spoke out against “pay-for-play” demonstrating the commitment our members hold to ethics. The PRSA Code of Ethics demands honest and transparent discloser, thereby adhering to the new FTC guidelines.
On the other hand, the PR blackout was caused by public relations practitioners pitching and pushing the wrong bloggers. Public relations is based on mutually beneficial relationships, meaning if the practitioner connected with bloggers whose readers would benefit from the product, there would be no problem. While the social space is new and challenging, it’s important to go back to the basics when it comes to ethics.
What’s your take on all this? Have you encountered these situations? Why do you think the FTC and mommy bloggers are reacting to the public relations profession?