Over on my book blog, I had a go recently at defining some characteristics of ‘blog culture’. One of those characteristics was the emphasis on the authenticity of the voice you speak with when you’re blogging. So, even if you’re talking nonsense, you’re being yourself, you’re not putting on any airs, and there’s no ventriloquist with his hand up your back, telling you what to say. (I touched on the same point in a different way, writing about Yahoo, a few months ago.)
But for some professions, that prospect of authenticity is tempting cloak in which to drape some good old promotional messages. I’ve been reading Connected Marketing: The Viral, Buzz and Word of Mouth Revolution, and I came across this passage in a chapter on blog marketing by Andrew Corcoran and others:
Blog marketing puts credibility back into the marketing mix: In an era where people are increasingly sceptical of traditional interruptive advertising, dismissing overt commercial messages as propAdganda [sic] and corporate spin-wash, blogs represent a refreshing and credible source of information. Readers are more likely to believe information in an opinion-leading third-party blog than in an ad, whilst the informal style of avoiding sales-speak and overt promotion in business blogs enhances the credibility of the medium.
Are there two ways of reading that? Could it be an exhortation to marketers to strike out for credibility and avoid sales-speak and overt promotion? If it was, then why the reference to third-parties, which marketers are not? The cynical, devil’s advocate reading would be that the gist is, “find a communications channel with the credible aura of being unpolluted by spin-wash, and then put some spin-wash in it, because the spin will be more effective there”.
The book is full of these little ethical… balancing acts, shall we call them? The biggest worry seems to be the risk of being found out for adding spin-wash to the clear spring waters, because then you get a backlash.
Last year I noted one example of such backlash in the music plugging area, and here’s an exposé of several other clandestine online campaigns. (In a slightly different way, the success of Sandi Thom and others has been under scrutiny for online spin-wash recently, as well.)
So should we resist these kinds of marketing and promotional tactics, or am I getting lathered up over nothing?