Yesterday I wrote a post called Blogger outreach is earned media not paid, right? wherein I asked if earned media was a think of the past and whether payola, pay-per-post, pay-per-link, sponsored posts, and site sponsorship were the new de facto in digital PR. This morning, Gail Gardner wrote a post in response, accusing us digital PR professional of stealing from bloggers since we agencies do get paid for doing blogger outreach only to “talk bloggers into working for free” on our behalf:
These companies want to argue they deserve “earned” media coverage when what they are really doing is BUYING that awareness by paying PR agencies to go out and sell it for them. They aren’t earning it by some good deed or being awesome – they are spending money to get a PR agency to talk bloggers into working for free on their behalf.
NOTE The following is basically a copy/paste of the comment that I left over at the article, so it’s written to Gail, which might read weird, so forgive me on that. At the end of the day, I worship Gail Gardner for starting this conversation so please forgive my mild ‘tude — I am well-caffeinated and really passionate about this topic.
While I don’t believe or agree with a word in this post as the entire premise is flawed, however, I agree with everything that Doc Sheldon says in his comment — thanks Doc (we don’t know each other, I don’t think):
I agree that a blogger should have the option of taking pay for reviews, opinions or publicity, if that’s their chosen business model. For many, it is, and I have no problem with that. But when the required disclosure tells me that a blogger was paid to write about a product or service, it causes me to doubt their objectivity. If they’re okay with that, fine. Personally, I prefer that my readers believe I’m giving them an honest review, so I prefer to do independent reviews. That doesn’t mean that I think that every blogger that receives pay or gifts is being dishonest… just that it casts a shadow of doubt. One I prefer to avoid.
Let me explain the flawed nature. Firstly, I don’t believe that you, Gail, read the post very carefully at all; secondly, I never said their were thousands of exceptional bloggers — I believe that there are a few exceptions — awesome — bloggers, a number of payola bloggers, and then a long tail of passion-players; finally, your line, “they are spending money to get a PR agency to talk bloggers into working for free on their behalf,” is just a little bitter but it is also not true.
We don’t want to get bloggers to work for us at all — we just want each blogger to consider what we’re pitching — yes, to the blogger, but also to the readers. We can only pitch content to the blogger for the benefit of his or her readers.
And, if we’re able to engage with them in such a way that the blogger sees a professional, reputation and content benefit to what we’re pitching, then, and only then, do we “earn” an “earned media” post.
And, the blogger is under zero obligation to write nicely; he or she is allowed his or her own integrity and journalistic distance and is more than able to trash it, to love it, to recommend it or not.
Which is the risk I take when I go any outreach. If my client’s products or services such or if we package it poorly or target it sloppily, then the entire campaign can roll snake eyes at best and at worst, there can be a huge media blow-back.
The biggest flaw in the premise is that we’re stealing from bloggers. That because we’re professionals we’re in some way duping or conning these poor guileless bloggers into doing work for us for free.
With earned media blogger outreach, there must be a win-win-win between the blogger, the client, and the readership or it really doesn’t work at all.