The day started when Jennifer, the manager of our North Carolina office, forwarded me an e-mail she received from a "mommy" blogger. Following is an excerpt of this blogger's communication:
I am in the process of planning a virtual baby shower for my sister on my blog
My sister is due to have a baby in May (a little boy), and I'm trying to find the newest and greatest things for babies. For the virtual baby shower, I am looking for any baby related items for mom, dad, and/or baby. Nonreturnable samples are appreciated and do increase your chances to get listed. All samples will be given to my sister to use. Any additional samples you would be willing to donate will be used for a giveaway for my readers. I found that giveaways definitely increase your exposure. As part of the giveaway, I do make the contestants check out your site and tell me something about it, so I can definitely drive some additional traffic. (I do ask that you send your item to the winners otherwise this becomes a very expensive thing to do on my end.)
WTF? Are you kidding me? Let's just strip away all the facade and call this what it is: legalized prostitution.
We (the agency) work with a lot of bloggers, many of whom are mommy bloggers and they are - for the most part - very professional and very responsible. While they rarely present themselves to be anything more than what they are - and the never pretend to be editors or reporters - this kind of really bad behavior is going to ruin it for everyone.
Of course it is just one blogger and maybe she got caught up in the excitement of her sister's baby... who knows.
But then I got to the end of the day, and PR 2.0 (aka Brian Solis) reared his head again. This time he is telling tales of his exploits with Anheuser-Busch. And yes, he offered a disclosure (so did the mommy blogger) at the start of his post as if to say: Please excuse me for doing something totally inappropriate, but I am about to do something totally inappropriate.
This is the difference between the traditional media and online information sources that will never be acceptable to me. Guys like Solis present themselves to the world as experts and thought leaders, and maybe they are (he says it about himself on his blog page, so who knows what's real). But I will give him the benefit of the doubt; I've communicated with Brian and I like him.
But here is what I do not like: He is not and never can be objective.
On his blog he reports:
The press team at Anheuser-Busch is actively exploring the inherent benefits and opportunities of genuinely participating in the important and relevant conversations that are transpiring across the Social Web.
Does he really believe that? They make beer! And yes, they have pretty horsies, but how can you honestly write about this stuff? How important is it for A-B to get people "up close and personal" on the internet or on their iPhones with hairy-hooved horses?
Regardless, since A-B is your client, would you tell us if you thought it was all a waste of time and money?
Maybe you would. Maybe you wouldn't. That's the problem.
When a reporter from the New York Times or an ABC anchor tells us something, we have good reason to believe that they are probably telling the truth. They may not be, but they likely are.
Apparently the medium is still the message.