23 January 2012

Blogging on-message

Many institutions want bloggers to back their cause, and for good reason: they can be highly influential due to large audiences and a sense that they are genuine and authentic voices.

But getting bloggers on your side can be tricky. Companies and consultants have been publicly shamed for trying to pay bloggers or put undue pressure on them.

There are better, more transparent ways to get bloggers to take an interest in your cause. Some institutions actively solicit relationships, offer access to executives, and try to learn more about bloggers' needs and interests.

Another idea is a public competition to champion good 'journalism'. This encourages blogger participation and audience voting. It is a popular concept from the days of print and broadcast journalism, where awards give journalists much-valued recognition, often for years of hard work and professional standards.

A newly-announced campaign for World Environment Day (WED) by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and Treehugger.com is a good example of how to transparently solicit blogger interest and involvement in your cause.

The competition offers the winner a free trip to Brazil, 3-6 June 2012, in the expectation that the blogger will write and tweet about World Environment Day events. Bloggers are invited to enter by submitting blog articles on the Green Economy - the theme for WED 2012. The entries must be dated between 16 January and 12 February 2012 and will then be subject to a public vote, with the winner announced in May.

The structure of the competition is clever, as it will potentially generate public attention, get bloggers writing about the conference theme, prompt people to think about which blog is best, and also introduce a strong (unpaid) writer to the team covering the event in Brazil (and include their pre-built audience).

While the competition is well designed, UNEP will hopefully have thought long and hard about the mixed message of inviting environmentally-conscious bloggers to bid for international flights. It would be useful to hear their persuasive argument about why this is a good trade-off.