A sponsored online conversation is loosely defined as ‘the practice of paying a blogger to post about your brand’.
This is how Bateman Group’s Bill Bourdon begins a post in which he argues with what appear to me to be solid arguments that, while it is true that this practice should be considered as paid media and therefore fall in the territory of advertising agencies, it is also true, Bourdon adds, that quote yet, how could our counterparts at Saatchi & Saatchi or Leo Burnett be in the same position to broker a sponsored conversation with an influential blogger whom we personally know and follow? unquote.
An interesting and relevant issue which needs, in my view, an urgent clarification.
If one looks at mainstream media, usually public relations professionals avoid being involved in such ‘pay for play’ practices because they normally imply dealing with the advertising departments of the selected media and, only in a second phase, may eventually require a direct relationship with the journalist or publicist assigned by that media to the preparation of the paid text.
Also, these sort of arrangements are not always as clear cut and transparent to the reader as we might wish them to be…so much caution is needed.
On the other hand, it is also true that bloggers, even those who accept being ‘paid to post about a brand’, do not usually have an advertising department to deal with advertising agencies and end up doing everything themselves directly.
Now the question is
‘in this case should public relations professionals get involved or even initiate this transaction with a consenting blogger?’.
I am interested in knowing what you think about this because this sort of practice is increasing and could not only become a mainstream activity for public relations professionals, but also produce similar consequences in dealings with mainstream media as they reach out with more aggressiveness in the social media sphere.
I have a personal and longstanding bias against mixing advertising and paid contents with journalism and public relations, but I also have the impression that this position is more and more typical of the… ‘last Mohican’.