I’ve been waiting ages to find a suitable blog post for which that headline works and this is it.
I often get asked about the risks of blogging and it’s always useful to have a clutch of case studies to hand. If you want an object lesson in how NOT to use a blog as a way of promoting a product or service then the Alliconnect site is it. The short cut version goes like this:
- GlaxoSmithKline is marketing a 50% strength version of a patent medicine. In it’s OTC form, it is designed for weight loss and bears the cool name of ‘alli.’ Problem is that the product has some unwanted ‘treatment effects.‘ I could go further but instead, I’ll point you to an excellent video from Angry 365 Days A Year which explains all.
- As part of the campaign, GSK hired Debbie Weil to mentor GSK blog writers and throw in the odd piece to the Alliconnect site. Ms. Weil has written a book The Corporate Blogging Book: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know to Get It Right. Heck she must know what she’s talking about then. Apparently not.
- It would seem the blog wasn’t doing too well and Ms Weil solicited some help from the blog community. Heck, she says it was her idea.
At this point it’s worth saying that it’s common practice among US PRs to pimp their clients through email etc. Indeed it appears to be accepted practice. I’ve invited comment through email from time to time but on issues I felt were important. This is an entirely different thing to pimping a service because I’m talking issues not products or services.
Ms Weil made a number of mistakes:
- This is a product whose ‘treatment effects’ are downright nasty. Did she not check the incidence of problem? Did she not realise that taking a medicine that’s likely to give you a bad dose of diahorrea might lead to some blow back (sic) on a blog?
- She publicly solicited comments, freely showing her affiliation to the company and the alli campaign. No problem so far. But, she then went and emailed a bunch of her mates saying:
“If you’re inspired or provoked, leave a comment on any entry. No need to say that you know me, of course.”
- That’s pimping and then trying to disguise it.
- On her own blog Ms Weil writes off her faux pas as an ‘offhand remark.’ No – it’s pimping. Not content with that, Ms. Weil attempts to justify her faux pas on her blog but also says:
“What I really want to do today is crawl under a rock and pretend I’ve never heard of blogging.”
- Sorry ma’am – you wrote the book. There’s an old saying: When you’re standing in a bucket of crap, it’s not a good idea to jump up and down in it. Which is exactly what Ms. Weil has done.
Since the blogosophere is polluted with more PR shills crowded with flacks, there is plenty of comment floating around. An interesting place to start is here at Grokdotcom. The links are instructive. I’ve left comments on Grokdotcom to this piece of apologia. And at Ms. Weil’s site. Of course none of this seems to be deterring the American public from scooping up alli as Wired reports. Or maybe that’s what GSK want us to believe? If not then why is Ms Weil pimping alliconnect?
Note to Steve Clayton – care to reconsider your endorsement of Ms Weil’s ‘bible?’
PS – I couldn’t care less what PR does. In fact I assiduously try and ignore what PR does most of the time. But I do object to pimping because it makes all of us look like whores.