It’s fair game to deliver information directly to bloggers. But … and it’s a big but, true transparency requires that you should be prepared to publish for all to see anything you’re prepared to send to a selected blogger.
Blogger relations. Yes, it’s every bit as legitimate as media relations. However, the rules and conventions are not the same.
The news media are competitive. They thrive on exclusives and being first to market with news.
Blogs are about building a community. The point of this community is opinion and exchange. And the tactics and approaches of media relations are not strictly transferable to this community. It requires rules and practices that respect its particular nature.
So, a company wants to influence the views of opinion-leading bloggers. That’s a legitimate objective.
And emailing information directly to opinion leaders is an effective way to get it in front of them. They might not see it on your own blog. But, that brings us back to the big but: true transparency requires that you should be prepared to publish for all to see anything you’re prepared to send to a selected blogger. And to be able to do this in the blogosphere requires that you have your own blog. A place where you can post your point of view, your information, for all to see.
That’s where Wal-Mart came up short. They used their PR firm’s bloggers and the credibility those bloggers had built up to speak directly to other bloggers. But for the rest of us, people outside of their carefully targeted direct blogger pitch, we could not see what the company was up to. The fact that their activity was discovered resulted from the slipshod practices of a few bloggers who quoted verbatim from the material Edelman/Wal-Mart provided to them, without attribution.
So, true transparency was not achieved. And the resultant uproar should prove a cautionary tale for all.
The bottom line: Avoid shortcuts. If you conclude that the blogosphere is important to you, establish your own voice first. Go ahead, contact the bloggers who you think are the most influential. But let the rest of the world see that you are prepared to say in public what you private encourage an intermediary to talk about.