Get Free Gifts from Desperate PR Firms

The WSJ reports on TV marketers’ experimentation with blogola, or the practice of lavishing gifts and attention on bloggers as a PR strategy: “To Create Buzz: TV Networks Try A Little Blogola.

At the risk of sounding like a slimy PR guy, marketing money spent in the blogosphere is money well spent. As the communications guy for Lulu, I worked with journalists from all over the world to provide the material for stories. The media-bashers among you may have a hard time believing it, but in my experience the most skeptical group of reporters on the planet — the most hyper-sensitive about being influenced by PR in any way — were American journalists. To a person they like to think of themselves as above the filthy fray of commerce.*

Bloggers, despite the widespread self-perception that they are more independent than traditional media, are comparatively easy to flatter and to influence. Having said that — and probably pissed off quite a few readers in the process — I don’t think there is anything wrong with the kind of blog-directed PR being described in the WSJ story. A few bloggers are allowed to get an inside look at the production of tv shows…. how cool is that?

The value of blogs as a new branch of media arises NOT from their emulation of the values and standards of conventional media, but from the genuine individual perspectives blogs can offer: a powerful, if anecdotal, window into the pool of consciousnesses in which we might otherwise swim oblivious.

If the blogger in the WSJ article who met Julia Louise-Dreyfuss writes something about how cool the actress turned out to be, as a reader I am capable of seeing that sentiment for what it is but still finding it interesting. A professional journalist can’t be transparently starstruck, but bloggers are free to remain true to their own raw reactions, complete with biases, flaws, and insights.

I don’t go to Amazon.com’s customer reviews for the same information that I expect from ConsumerReports.org, but as a consumer I want access to both. And as a PR guy, I’d want to have a strategy for each of them.

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