submit to reddit

message.jpgBlogger Debbie Weil, author of The Corporate Blogging Book, has gotten herself in a bit of a mess. She was hired by Glaxo Smith Kline to create and edit a blog about the company’s over-the-counter weight loss product, My Alli (pronounced My Al-eye). I was interviewed for that assignment. And I’m so glad I didn’t get it.
A most unfortunate side effect
The product has an unfortunate side effect. Here’s how one user describes what happened when she ate more than the recommended amount of fat ““(I)’ve pooped my pants 3 times today, and sorry to get descriptive but it even leaked onto the couch at one point!”
GSK has been clearly explained the side effects of the drug in their advertising and marketing materials, and apparently, plenty of people don’t care if they have to wear diapers as long as they lose weight.
But there’s not much discussion about that on the blog or in comments, which seems rather odd. In fact, there are hardly any comments at all.
So Ms. Weil put out an email and blog plea to blogger friends asking them to go comment on the blog. Nothing wrong with that. Bloggers, including me and my Twitter buddies, point out new posts to each other all the time. But unfortunately, her email said

“If you’re inspired or provoked, leave a comment on any entry. No need to say that you know me, of course.”

I’ve known Debbie for several years, and respect her skills and admire her facile writing, but crap! that was a dumb move. Of course, anyone who’s out in public blogging every day is going to make a mis-step sooner or later. I’ve made some, and I’m sure I’ll make others. The best thing to do is apologize and move forward.

Flogging for profit
The real problem is that the MyAlli blog reads like a fake blog — GSK and Weil’s protestations to the contrary aside. The few comments it has don’t ring true. Make me believe, for example, that a real reader wrote the comment on this post.
What to allow in comments is not a black and white issue. My policy is that I would not allow anything in comments that I would not allow in my living room. Many other bloggers share that view. But that doesn’t mean you can refuse to allow negative comments.
I did a “brain dump” on blogging for GSK
It was one of GSK’s multitude of image consultants who brought me in to do (paid of course) what he called a “brain dump” about blogging for their executives and several of their agencies.
Here’s the comment I just left on Brian Eisenberg’s post about Debbie Weil:

“I create blogs for corporations too, and I tell them, right up front that if every post and comment has to be vetted by legal or PR, don’t blog.
In fact, I told that to Glaxo Smith Kline when I was paid to do a “brain dump” to bring them up to speed on blogging.
The first slide in my presentation says “Message control is, and always has been, an illusion.”
They didn’t hire me.”

Maybe they just didn’t like me. I certainly don’t expect that everyone will. Maybe they didn’t like what I told them about transparency and blogging.
As for Debbie Weil, I don’t doubt that she wants to be ethical. But the hard part about being ethical, and being a true communicator is knowing when to walk away from a project. Even when there’s a great big pile of money on the table.