By Mickie E. Kennedy, Founder of eReleases Press Release Service
We know how important a well run blog can be for your business, but what happens when you create a blog that isn’t real? Falsifying a campaign is known as “astroturfing,” and it happens all the time, unfortunately. Here are five classic examples of what NOT to do with your campaign and blog.
1. Working Families for Wal-Mart
In 2005, a grass roots campaign seemingly appeared out of nowhere in support of Wal-Mart’s employee policies, which have been – to say the least – much derided over the years. The group also opposed the union funded groups Wake Up Wal-Mart and Wal-Mart Watch, two groups dedicated to helping Wal-Mart employees deal with the very policies Working Families says work so well.
Of course, it didn’t take very long for the truth to come out: Working Families for Wal-Mart is an astroturf campaign formed by Edelman and entirely funded by Wal-Mart. As it’s not a non-profit, it’s not required to disclose sources for funding. But the lack of clarity led to accusations of astroturfing and the group quickly disbanded.
2. FreedomWorks & 60 Plus Association
The world of politics is one of misinformation and conveniently left out facts anyway, so it may be more surprising that people are surprised to learn certain groups are faux-grassroots. But that was the case with FreedomWorks and the 60 Plus Association, organizations designed to appear homegrown while enjoying millions of dollars of corporate funding. Their main aim was to be a conservative alternative to AARP, but they also organized protests for the Tea Party. There have been rumors 60 Plus was funded by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.
3. 50 Cent Party
While something could be said about the success of this group inside of China, everyone outside of the country knows that the random comments and blogs you see on the Internet showing how great China is are fake, fake, fake. Known as the 50 Cent Party, bloggers are paid a small fee (roughly 50 cents) to scour the Internet looking for opportunities to praise the country and, more importantly, its leaders’ decisions and policies. While it may work on some within the country, it appears less-than-honest to the rest of us who appreciate freedom of speech.
4. Al Gore’s Penguin Army
In 2006, a little video started making the rounds on the Internet. It was a parody of “An Inconvenient Truth,” the award winning documentary featuring Al Gore discussing global warming and its effects on the planet. The video portrayed Gore as a penguin giving his presentation while hypnotizing other penguins with an umbrella.
Despite appearing as a homemade YouTube video, the author of the video was using a computer registered to the DCI Group, a PR firm led by Republican party officials. At the time, other DCI clients included General Motors and ExxonMobil. Hmmm….
Where did they go wrong? A Wall Street Journal journalist noticed when he searched for the video on Google, someone had paid for an ad for this seemingly amateur video. Whoops!
Morrow Communications of Montreal, Canada was tasked with creating a stir about Bixi, the public bike system in the city. They used all the social media skills at their disposal; they created a Facebook page, videos and set up a blog. However, they marketed the campaign as if it were being run by 3 bike enthusiasts instead of Bixi itself. When the ploy was found out, it was quickly abandoned. Luckily for Bixi, it survived the controversy and the service still runs today.
What’s the funniest or most outrageous example of a fake blog you’ve come across in your internet travels?
By Mickie Kennedy, founder and president of eReleases, the online leader in affordable PR distribution since 1998.
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