Blogging still not taken seriously

May 8, 2007

Of the many lessons learned from participating in a large oil spill drill last week is that many of the world’s top communication professionals do not understand the blog world and do not appreciate its role in the public information environment. Before saying anything that might sound critical of these professionals, let me start by saying the immense respect I have for them and the outstanding professional job they do of open, transparent communication–particularly with the mainstream media.

But, it does seem clear that they continue to live and breathe in a world where the MSM dominates their thinking. There is not the stakeholder first strategy that is frequently discussed here. And there is little understanding of the growing role and importance of blogging in forming public opinion and determining reputation and trust. To wit: the drill exercise did not include any blogging activity as part of the simulation or “injects.” There was no reference to what bloggers might be doing or saying, no consideration of how the communication team would monitor or respond and no understanding of bloggers would be used by the MSM as part of their story development.

In this case, a large oil spill in one of the most pristine and notorious environments in the world, it is my feeling that likely at least 20 bloggers would be posting stories, photos, videos and comments on their blogs starting from the early hours of the event. This information, though understandably from questionable sources, would be used by the MSM to supplement or perhaps even drive their coverage. An oiled bird shown on a blog site could not be distinguished from this event or one that happened in the past. Nor oiled beaches. Information from observation about response activities, injuries and environmental impact could and would be reported by MSM referencing “witness on the scene.” There is no difference in credibility between a witness standing on the shore and one writing in his or her blog.

Yet, when asked about this some of the communicators were very dismissive of blogging. “No one pays any attentions to blogs.” “Everyone understands that blogs can’t be trusted.” “The reporters know better than to use blogs for their stories.” This is what was expressed to me when I questioned the approach. I think they are quite wrong. Bloggers would to a very considerable degree drive a story like this. The voice of the Joint Information Center representing the response team would only be one of many voices that reporters would use to prepare their stories. It is essential that those involved in these kinds of events be able to do real time blog monitoring and have communicators able and ready to review blogs, comment on them, respond quickly on their own websites and communication releases addressing false information, and be able to quickly correct any MSM stories that reflect the misinformation that may be found on blog sites. It is clear after this experience that even some of the world’s best communicators and communication organizations still have a ways to go in understanding just how much and how fast the world of public information is changing.

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4 Responses to “Blogging still not taken seriously”


  1. […] Jump to Comments Crisisblogger Gerald Baron makes a good point with his latest post.  He recently participated in an oil spill exercise and was amazed at the lack of citizen […]

  2. Mark Harris Says:

    Gerald,

    I am quite staggered by what you have written and find it hard to believe. I do not understand why, today, there are people involved in communications who can have such attitudes towards blogging, as you have described . It is imperative that any organisation has the capability to monitor what is being said about them in the blogosphere and they should have a policy as to how they intend to respond to those comments; either directly, or via other means while still acknowledging the orginal source. I find it absolutely amazing that they were “very dismissive of blogging”.

  3. Michael Says:

    I have to say, I laughed out loud when I read this: To the point of your prior post, those “communicators” should go have a chat with Michael Dell on why blogs don’t matter.

    When my laughter subsided, however, I sighed a woeful sigh. There is an ongoing and very noticeable anti-blog campaign in the mainstream media, which has existed since before you could say Web 2.0. Blogs are to mainstream media today what news aggregators (websites) were to newspapers in 1995. (GNN anyone?)

    Listen — and watch, for you nonverbal communication geeks out there –very carefully to pretty much any news magazine when the talking heads mention blogs, the “blogosphere” or any related matter, and you’ll hear and see little more than thinly-veiled condescension. (To say that this is new or false is to forget, as a recent example, how Peter Jennings affected the outcome of Ronald Reagan’s presidential bid.)

    The mainstream media has been, and still is, utterly terrified of the game-changing nature of the Internet. Journalism is now where record labels were, even pre-Napster — struggling with the idea that they are no longer in complete control. Now that journalism itself is in the spotlight, being taken to task quite routinely for mis- and under-reporting, it should be no wonder that the news magazines are replete with sweeping, nonsensical shortcuts-to-thinking such as “the liberal blogosphere.” (NB: It’s not that this statement is negative per se. Rather, it is that journalism of any kind, but especially professional journalism, should steer clear of any characterization so broad as to be utterly false.)

    Regardless of why they feel as they do, it should come as no further surprise that end consumers wind up touting the same things they are fed. And that, in and of itself, is ironic for these “communicators,” by furthering such ignorant claims, are directly validating the power of blogs.

  4. Michael Says:

    PS — By the Jennings comment, I submitted my comment before editing: I meant to include the idea that even the slightest, most nuanced communication from mainstream media slips into & effects the unconscious mind of the viewer, shaping their opinions, etc. That point, I hope, is tacit.


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