File it under crazy S*&^: Fan Pages for PR Firms! Mom Blogs’ PR Boycott?

by Susan Getgood on July 14, 2009 · 25 comments

in Blogger relations,Blogging,Ethics,Facebook,PR

Should public relations firms have Facebook Fan Pages? What’s the point really?  Do PR firms really have fans, and if they do, should they? Isn’t PR about promoting the client’s interests?

That’s the gist of a conversation thread on Twitter over the past few days. Good friend Geoff Livingston (@GeoffLiving) thinks it is silly for PR firms to have Facebook Fan Pages, in part I imagine (and I don’t want to put words in his mouth, this is my impression of his comments) because it smacks too much of “personal branding,” a concept we both loathe.

I agree, and yet I don’t. Or more accurately, I don’t mind that PR firms are setting up Facebook Fan Pages, as long as they don’t go overboard and start spamming my Facebook Wall with self-serving promotional bullshit.

Facebook Fan Pages are becoming a useful element for a company’s marketing plan, and agencies/consultants need to gain experience with the form. Even if they have clients with Pages, they still need a place to experiment. Client sites are generally not good places for messing around with beta stuff.

So, I’m okay with PR agency fan pages. Happy to “fan” you if asked. As long as you don’t take yourself too seriously and think I want your autograph or something. Because, seriously, I don’t even ask real famous people for autographs.

Fame. Fans. One more brief point about the term fan before I move on to the ridiculous idea of mom blogs “boycotting PR.”

I like the term Fan Page. Not simply because the number of fans shows how popular a brand or company is. I like it because it highlights how the brand should be thinking of its customers. Not simply as consumers. Fans are engaged consumers. They don’t just buy a product, they love the product.

And the brand should love them back. Not take them for granted. Add value beyond the simple transaction. That’s what a Fan Page should be about.

Most are not, or at least I hope, not yet.

Facebook has more than 200 million users.

The brands that get it? That understand that the Fan Page isn’t just a billboard for product announcements? That truly make the effort to engage with the customers?

They are going to have lots and lots of fans.

“But he hasn’t got anything on,” a little child said.

- Hans Christian Andersen, The Emperor’s New Clothes

Today, mom blog site Mom Dot proposed that mom blogs should boycott PR and marketing offers for a week in August. The rationale has something to do with marketing firms taking advantage of mom bloggers by sending them free products. I think. Or maybe it was that mom bloggers are burnt out from the burden of doing product reviews. Something like that. I think.

Seriously, I am not trying to be mean. I really cannot figure out the reason for the boycott.  If product reviews are too much work, don’t do them. Or do fewer. If you aren’t getting joy from something, stop. If the value isn’t there, don’t do it.

But a PR boycott? As CNET pointed out, this misses the point by more than a country mile.

The FTC is reviewing its guidelines on endorsements and testimonials. Without a doubt, blogs (and other new media) will be included.

This has caused a great deal of buzz around the issue of free products and other blogger compensation, particularly in the parent blogosphere. Latest media outlets, and by no means the last, to cover the story: ABC and the New York Times.

The issue isn’t the reviews. Or the free products. The issue is disclosure.

It’s about ethics. And integrity.

If you are a blogger, it’s about disclosing your relationships with companies that have provided you with free products or compensation so your readers can properly evaluate your recommendations.

If you are a company representative, it’s about reaching out to bloggers with respect. If you are hiring someone to write a document for you, you can read it before publication. Sending a product for review? Absolutely not. Don’t even ask. If you do, you are either scum or a nØØb.

So, I have another suggestion. Instead of polarizing boycotts, teeth gnashing and wailing, let’s all pledge to Blog with Integrity.

All this really requires is that you publish a clear review and ethics policy on your blog. It doesn’t matter what the policy is — your readers will decide that issue. What matters is that you clearly disclose.

This will help you, marketers who want to reach out appropriately and your readers. And, I’m guessing, the FTC will like it too.

In other news, Michael Jackson is still dead.

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