Friday, June 20, 2014
In the early days of modern publicity, flacks would visit editors, slip them a few bucks and the editors would run a story in the newspaper about a product. It was pay for play. PR got away from that for two reasons. The principal one lay with the media itself, which did not want to be associated with any process that compromised objectivity. The second was that PR understood better the power of third-party credibility. That is why this practice goes back to the roots of the industry and isn't PR or publicity as we know it today. Paying bloggers to flack for you is as underhanded as shoving cash to a reporter. Companies that condone the practice come from a marketing background that emphasizes control, guaranteed results, consistency of message. They don't want to take a chance that a blogger might not write about the product or that the blogger might say negative things. They are advertisers in another form. True PR and publicity rely on persuasion and news judgment. PR asks and answers what the importance of a product, company or individual is and then seeks to persuade others to see it that way as well. It is a messy business, full of ups and downs and frequent failure, but when successful, the power of credibility is far greater than advertising. So, here is a wish that such companies see the light and stop offering to pay off bloggers. Bloggers should be -- and are -- offended that they are considered shills.