As all of us know, blogging has become a widespread phenomenon in which anyone with Internet access can spread opinion across the world for free. While many of us use blogs for personal use, companies all over the world are beginning to utilize the benefits of shaping public opinion via blogs. However, perhaps the motives behind some bloggers “opinion” pieces have been hidden.
In a recent New York Times article, it was revealed that certain bloggers have been posting about Wal-Mart, the world’s largest private company, in a way that suggests their support for all of Wal-Mart’s actions. These blogs, many of which opposed Wal-Mart’s corporate behaviors at one time, seem to be directly representing Wal-Mart. They all make statements that mirror ideals of the corporation or emails sent by Wal-Mart’s PR Firm, Edelman.
The company has voiced its goal of using social media to its advantage, but perhaps it is abusing them. Head of Edelman, Marshall Mason, sends out regular e-mails to a number of individual bloggers containing information about the corporation’s jobs, their stance on employee health care, etc. Fragments from these emails can be seen on influential blogs across the nation, but each blogger insists that the information is their own and has no affiliation with Wal-Mart. Mr. Mason has declined to comment… interesting for a PR person, huh?
When I Googled “PR Ethics,” almost all of the pages advocated fair and honest communication on a blog. The PRSA Code of Ethics states one of its guidelines as “reveal sponsors for represented causes and interests.” Bloggers have the ability and responsibility to shape public opinion. Thus, the audience must have all of the facts in order to truly be educated on a subject. It is only right to give credit where credit is due and let the audiences know the origin of this Wal-Mart information.
As a PR student myself, I know that signing my name to any piece of writing means that I am confident in the validity of every word I write. I would never try to take anyone else’s thoughts as my own. When reading blogs, it is important to be an analytical reader and be careful that all information is accurate and not being screened to the author. Blogs are not advertisements or commercials, so make sure when you blog you represent yourself. Say exactly what you mean, and mean what you say.
This guest blog was written by PRowl Public Relations staff member Meagan Prescott.