News Update :

Blog Transparency

Thursday, October 11, 2007

One shouldn’t believe everything they read in blogs—except mine of course! But seriously, blog posts are the product of individuals and they may or may not be factually correct, complete, or unbiased. In evaluating user generated content of any kind, I think triangulation is the best approach; if two, or better three, sources agree, then you can have some credence in the content. Do you, for example, read just one product review before making up your mind to buy or not to buy? If you need a quick read on a blog, try Nielsen BuzzMetrics new blog profile tool.

What if you are blogging or participating in some other social media? How do you build trust? The operative word today is “transparency,” but what does imply about our actions? As you might guess, user generated content and its impact on information has been an important topic among journalists. Here’s a recent post that summarizes journalistic issues nicely.

I recently became aware of guidelines posted by the Ogilvy PR group that are worth the attention of all content creators. Some are relevant to people posting in a corporate environment. Companies could use them as a foundation for their own policies. Some are also relevant to the unfettered individual blogger. We should pay careful attention to the following:

• Acknowledge and Correct Mistakes Quickly. We all make them. Acknowledge them, correct them, and move on.

• Know Thy Neighbor. To make your blog authoritative you need to know who else is blogging about similar subjects. Find out who is blogging about what on search engines like Technorati, Google Blog Search and Nielsen Blog Pulse. Ogilvy suggests introducing yourself and trying to form alliances. Good idea!

• Use a Disclaimer. Make it clear where you are coming from and what your affiliations are. Even on a personal blog, you may need to separate your personal views from the official positions of your employer. Or your employer may require it. You should check.

• Conduct Quality Assurance. This is the standard advice to all writers, and we all forget it sometimes. Make your posts focus, concise, logical and don’t forget to use spell check. To my disgust, Word’s little green lines are usually correct when identifying grammatical errors.

Ogilvy has gone further and issued guidelines for its PR people when contacting bloggers. All bloggers should read and heed to avoid being used by unscrupulous publicity seekers.

Accenture has been studying trust, especially on the Internet, for some time. A good article is “The Economic Value of Trust.” Prof. John Urban has a step-by-step approach complete with case studies. Everyone makes the point that it takes sustained effort over time to build trust. It can be destroyed with one ill-advised action.

Remember the Wal-Mart blogs and the PR company behind them? The “Wal-Marting Across America” blog purportedly recounted the journey of a couple who parked their RV in Wal-Mart parking lots to shop and take pictures of happy customers and employees. It was all a fake. Wal-Mart pulled the blog and Richard Edelman, president of the PR firm, apologized publicly. Bloggers quickly labeled them "flogs."

In this age of user generated content, if you are not truthful, someone is likely to find it out quickly. And they’ll post it on the Internet.

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