Flogging: Is It Smart?

Every week, Copywrite Inc.’s Rich Becker and I discuss a blogging best practice on BlogStraightTalk, a Bumpzee community. This we week we discussed flogging, or fake blogging.

When Wal-Mart did one; they were chastised. When Daniel Lyons, a senior editor at Forbes magazine, did one; he was praised as a humorous hero. Enter Ray Hopewood (blog.rayhopewood.com/), a president hopeful who claims to have made Paris Hilton’s ankle bracelet software and wants Americans to live well, at least as well as he does.

Even if you don’t buy his blog, Hopewood is doing better than most bloggers (and some presidential hopefuls) by capturing a positive news story in The New York Times. Just a few months ago, all he had was a mocumentary moment on the Late Show With David Letterman. Given The New York Times story, that alone makes the Ray Hopewood concept better than bust.

But is flogging a good idea? Here are our takeaways…

Rich Becker

  • As a flog, had it been kept up to date, it would work in that the best flogs and characters are up front in their affiliations and agendas. It is positioned in such a manner, and nobody needs to get hurt while making fun of a process that is often stranger than fiction.
  • But… it falls short in that the campaign seems to end as a set up instead of an ongoing promotional activity.
  • In this case, the bog fix could have been easy enough to execute by making the links to the company much more direct (making Hopewood the obvious spokesperson for the company too) and regular updates throughout the life of the campaign, even if we never see another mockumentary.

Geoff Livingston

  • Here’s the deal with Flogs. They’re funny, they’re cute, but they can be extraordinarily dangerous for businesses who engage in them behind a closed façade.
  • Companies must disclose that they are executing a fake blog. Just saying that you are receiving editorial support services on a blog, or are openly poking fun at someone can save an organization a later PR fiasco.
  • And when it’s an open façade like this, it must have some sort of tangential tie back to the company’s value proposition.

BlogStraightTalk publishes every Monday. Join us.

More reading on flogs, etc.:

Attack of the Fake Bloggers (TechCrunch)
Do People Really Want Transparency and Authenticity (Copyblogger)
Ten Reasons Why Ghost Blogs Suck (Vaspers, the Grate)
Fake Caveman Brings Club, Tells All (Buzz Bin)

9 Replies to “Flogging: Is It Smart?”

  1. Geoff,

    So we find once again that the answer brings us to strategy? Hmmm … maybe there is something to that. (Of course, I’m biased toward strategic communication.)

    Another small area for consideration. I’m not so sure that we have to disclose editorial support all the time. Editorial support exists at every turn in communication. Why should blogs stand alone in carrying a disclaimer?

    All my best,

  2. I agree, many times ghost writing occurs. But in social media worlds full disclosure should be the rule until 1) companies stop experiencing astroturfing incidents every time they get busted or 2) the blogosphere becomes less hostile towards companies.

  3. Geoff,

    I don’t think either will ever happen. Companies are too easy to target because they are treated as soulless beings despite the fact all they really are “us.” I also don’t believe total transparency can be achieved with any measure of success. Though we all may strive toward it, it just isn’t possible in today’s climate.

    That’s not to say that we need to make up fake avatars to attack our competitors, but it is to say that there is nothing wrong with Purina Pet Foods launching a blog penned by pets. Or, as I mentioned elsewhere, maybe the Wal-Mart flog might have worked had they just said it was fun and games upfront (even if in really teeny tiny print).

    Likewise, I don’t think CEOs need to disclose editorial assistance on a blog; I think it is likely a given. What’s more important is that they stand behind the blog, which is a truer measure of authenticity. And even then, it makes more sense to manage what is said as opposed to running around in underwear or less.

    All my best,

  4. The core values of blogging, as set by the early bloggers from 1992 to 2004, include Transparency, Authenticity, Passion, Integrity.

    Fake blogs suck because blogs are about conversations between real people, unlike the phone menu options (Press 1 for news, 2 for orders, 3 for service, etc.). We want to talk to actual people.

    The peer to peer recommendation system of the Trust Web will fall apart when fake blogs, phony Twitter accounts, and PayPerPost type blog whoring invade our realm.

    Thanks for linking to my post, friend.

  5. Steven,

    With all due respect, it would amaze me to think that the earliest adaptors might have thought, even for a minute, that they could claim territorial superiority over what people choose to communicate.

    All my best,

  6. Another clarification: CEOs and others can have pro writers polish up their blog posts, or suggest topics, even write a few sample posts to get them going.

    But the ideas and voice in the posts must be that of the blogger whose name is associated with the blog. And that blogger must interact by replying to comments and posting comments on other relevant blogs.

  7. Steven,

    I’ve seen several established bloggers disallow comments. They seem optional. Humility, on the other hand, seems critical. Yes, even for Fake Cavemen, Geoff. ;)


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