Monday, 23 July 2007

What's the deal with Debbie Weil? (Please comment on this post)

Friday morning I heard about the furore over Debbie Weil's simple request for people to comment on a blog she was facilitating - if they felt so inclined.

(Read the message on this blog post)

Storm in a teacup, I thought. Debbie's got a great reputation, and it's a small faux pas that would only offend a few ultra-uptight purists. (In fact, shockingly, I don't even see it as a faux pas).

But it has exploded in a heap of stinking controversy. Allan Jenkins (a great guy who I've met in Second Life) excoriated Weil on his blog, saying:

you'd have to be an obese PR blogger more than ready to shill for no pay

Surely this is misconstruing the whole point of a product blog? It's not about necessary selling the product, but sparking genuine discussion around the subject - at the level that it interests you. It's not shilling, it's talking. Conversing.

Surely that's simple enough? And not deeply offensive.

I think I understand where the objectors come from. They're zealous for the reputation of blogging and social media, and don't want it tarnished by cheap and nasty PR spammy yucky tactics.

But their response would tend to scare me if I were a marketer in a big company, with all the accompanying accountabilities, trying to venture into blogging. Thankfully for GSK it's been Debbie who's taken the heat, but if I were the CMO there - and I came from a traditional marketing background - I'd consider pulling the blog. Too much trouble, not worth it.

However, the pressure to be doing something in social media is so strong, that it's likely they'll continue.

Interesting comment on Maggie Fox's interview with Debbie Weil where Weil says GSK don't care, they're puzzled at what all the fuss is about. "They're well on to the next thing," she says.

Just a kerfuffle in a teacup, so it seems. Here are some of the leaves:


gillian said...

Great post Simon, I'd seen the tail end of this whole discussion but not the email from Debbie Weil that started it all. (I've also discovered what astroturfing is in the process - thanks!)

Whatever you think of Debbie's email request for comments on a blog that she has advised on, I think what's really riled people is the (unnecessary?) request from Debbie not to reveal that they know her in any comments. Smacks of underhandedness.

Simon said...

Thanks for that Gillian. Yes I think you're right, the problem people had with it was the comment

"No need to say that you know me, of course."

Such a throwaway line, but in the bodylanguageless world of the internet, loaded with undehanded meaning. Of course.

That's pretty much the conclusion Neville Hobson (from the FIR podcast) came up with in his verdict.

Thom said...

Even saying "no need ot say you know me, of course" would not be quite so bad were it not for the fact that it is completely contradictory to the advice she offers in 'The Corporate Blogging Book'. Debbie goes to such great lengths to impress upon the reader the importance of transparency and honesty, and then contravenes her own golden rule. Smooth.

Simon said...

Good point!