I am technically on vacation – meaning I work at a more leisurely pace – so I restricted my Internet time to news of Lindsay Lohan (plenty of juicy tidbits), the Yankees (relentlessly depressing), the war (bloody and escalating), and Strumpette (intriguing flare-ups of professional turpitude and personal greed and denial). The highlight to Strumpette last week, of course, was the MWW/Nikon blogola imbroglio that elicited protestations of innocence, condemnations of guilt, and threats to involve the lawyers. You had all the psycho-professional mashup necessary to fuel an uncomfortable discussion about the line between journalism and advocacy, a bribe or favor, high ethics and low greed.
Once more we have an expensive giveaway at the core, a $1,000 (at least) Nikon camera, and the growing, and apparently successful practice of attempting to influence bloggers with gifts or ‘loans.’ The argument that giving 50 bloggers a high-end camera for a 12 month loan is not an attempted bribe is patently absurd (why else would MWW do it?) but that did not stop heated denials from recipients.
K. Paul Mallasch, editor of the Muncie (Indiana) Free Press, and a recipient of the MWW/Nikon giveaway, was particularly incensed by the implication that he was doing something wrong. K. Paul was so thrilled to be chosen as a Nikon recipient that he published a Q&A on his site with Tom Biro of MWW’s DialogueMedia practice about the blogola campaign. Not surprisingly, K. Paul thought the Nikon was great and MWW was populated with geniuses.
Confronted with an unyieldingly prosecutorial Strumpette, K. Paul employed the Ronn “I’m-growing-as-fast-as-I-can” Torossian defense of dismissing the accusations because the true identity of Strumpette is a mystery. “I’ll be talking to my lawyer,” was the final word of K. Paul. Apparently, he did not see the “5WPR Lawsuit Clock” on the sidebar. In a subsequent post, Joseph Jaffe, founder and president of new media consultancy crayon, posted his own defense of receiving the camera.
There is a constituency to consider when crafting these programs – the self-policing PR blogosphere that is adept at flogging any agency that dares attempt to influence bloggers with giveaways. Bloggers are a lonely lot who crave the imprimatur of credibility that can be afforded by the attention of a big agency bearing gifts. The “A-list” bloggers are more immune to this, so the B and C lists are now the targets. It’s cheap publicity that will quickly diminish in effectiveness as criticism takes its toll.
I see no discussion of the Nikon blogola imbroglio on MWW’s DialogueMedia blog authored by Tom Biro and Chris Thilk, or CEO Michael Kempner’s personal blog “MWW Straight Talk.” The MWW site is full of case studies, talk of the MWW way, all the great things they have done, blah, blah, but not a word of reaction to news of its own practices.
This is typical. Agencies have yet to understand that they are as much a part of the news as the messages they are trying to control for their clients. If MWW, Edelman, or any other agency is going to muck around in the New Media world they have to be public and responsive to credible and verifiable concerns about their campaigns. The days of the wizard behind the curtain are gone, and these issues will not simply go away by themselves.
This is a test for MWW. Will they adapt to the ‘wisdom of the crowd’ or bull ahead with the old PR modus operandi of stonewalling the critics? Maybe we’ll see it played out in this blog next week, and in the blogs that MWW/Nikon are trying to influence. Blessed be the provocateurs, for they are keeping us honest.
Mark Rose is editor of PRBlogNews - a web publication focusing on public relations practices in the digital age.
As you are aware, we are presently hosting a worldwide contest specifically designed to reward the top creative thinkers in the public relations business. Well, five months into the program, a significant trend has emerged. The Brits have taken a commanding lead! With today's announcement, 60 percent of all our winners thus far have come from the UK.
On hearing that he had won, Smith (pictured left) was noticeably shocked and directly took to the bottle. Smith said: "Bugger me. That's the easiest $1000 I've ever made - beats doing PR. I've never won anything in my life before. Apart from the class prize for English in my fifth year at secondary school - and that was only a book, mind you. Nevertheless, I feel my education has finally been vindicated by winning this, like, totally AWESOME prize."
When asked what he was going to do with the money, Smith said: "I'm going to give the money to my 17-month old son Archie to put in his savings account. It'll hopefully make a small dent in his no doubt mountainous student debt he'll begin accumulating by the time he turns 18. Or help him get a proper job - not like his dad."
To all the contest participants, thank you kindly. We want you to know how much we appreciate every entry. We especially want you to know how much care goes into the selection process. Please understand that due to the overwhelming number of entries, as well as the subjective nature of judging creative frankly, the outcomes tend to be a little unpredictable.
Bottom line: Do know that all the entries have been winners in their own right. And even though it is not possible, we'd love to award all our participants.
We look forward to your next caption. Best of luck next month.
VERY SPECIAL THANKS
Finally, thank you thank you thank you to all our friends at Waggener Edstrom Worldwide. Marianne, Frank, Jenny, Joyce... everyone at WE could not have been more supportive these last five months. The success of this program is directly attributable to their insight, counsel and patience. We are forever grateful and forever your fans.
On Thursday, March 8, 2007 at 7:41 AM, Ronn Torossian, President and CEO of 5WPR, emphatically promised that he was going to sue us. No real reason, he was just irritated by our teasing him about getting in bed with pornographer Joe Francis. Anyway, Ronn gave his obscenity-laced word that we'd see the complaint in 72 hours. It's now late by
Kathleen Durazo about A Measly $2.8 Million Goes Missing, Lawsuit Results Fri, Jul 31, 10:58:34 AM Ray Durazo (the founder) sold the company to Dan in 1999. He was not involved in any of this. He (and I) found out about the lawsuit in the LA Times. In addition to embezzling this m [...]