Like most public relations pros, my Google reader is filled with blogs about my clients’ industries, the daily news feeds for several national media outlets and various other job-related queries I need to look at on a daily basis. While that is part of my daily work, I also have blogs related to my personal interests like cooking, crafting and everything home that I follow. It certainly came as a surprise to me when I found some of my personal interest blogs were dealing with a media relations crisis.
Several of my favorite bloggers who write about their healthy living lifestyles and offer recipes, exercise suggestions and support were cited by a large fashion magazine for promoting unhealthy living in a magazine article titled The Hunger Diaries. The magazine paints an apparent unflattering picture of these bloggers, using their online diaries to showcase their “bad, obsessive habits.”
The bloggers, already a vocal group, came together en masse to write rebuttals to the article. Not only did the main bloggers cited in the article respond, but their readers and support system rallied around them in just a few hours to share their frustration with the magazine and reporter. Be sure to check out the Magazine’s Facebook page to see the hundreds of comments rallying around the bloggers.
The public relations implications of this incident are very representative of what clients fear every day when dealing with the news media. Clients are cautious of media interviews because they might not trust a reporter’s reputation. Some are afraid to grant interviews because something they say or do can be taken out of context or misrepresented. Add in the element of social media and word-of-mouth and clients are worried their comments can spin out of control before they even have a chance to clarify anything.
While the healthy living bloggers situation is less than 24-hours old, there are already public relations lessons to take away.
Always ask the intent of the story. Make sure the reporter tells you what they are trying to prove with their article. That being said, these bloggers asked the reporter her intent and claim they were lied to so…
Trust your gut. Some of the bloggers didn’t feel right during the interviews and felt there were some strange questions being asked by the reporter. If something doesn’t feel right, end the interview. But just in case, keep copies of all correspondence and don’t be afraid to take notes during your interview on the questions you are being asked and the way you respond.
Make corrections quickly. Within a few hours yesterday morning, the article was live on the magazine’s website. Most of the bloggers mentioned had their responses posted by lunchtime. Some even had point-by-point rebuttals to the author’s claims. If they had waited another day, another week, the story is old news.
Use social media to rally the troops. In this case, all it took was the bloggers to post the magazine editors name, e-mail and Facebook page link to get people to respond with their distaste for the article. By mid-afternoon, hundreds of comments were on the Facebook page against the magazine article. This passionate response was because these bloggers have a large base of followers who are interested and engaged in that community. If your customers aren’t engaged in your social media community, find a way to get them active before something like this happens.
Keep it in context. One lesson learned by these bloggers is that in today’s world, what you post on your blog can be taken for face value – and that’s it. One blogger’s 22-mile-run can sound obsessive, but when framed in context of marathon training, it doesn’t sound so unreasonable. Making sure you tell your whole story is incredibly important.
I’ve managed to keep the magazine’s name out of the entire entry, but since I haven’t seen it yet, Marie Claire, what is your response to all of this?