Blurred Boundaries

Bloggers have long been heralded as ‘the new influential’s’, the ones to impress if you want to seed some credible word of mouth endorsement. Depicted as online judges casting a critical eye over products, services and brands in general, no PR worth their salt will have missed the potential of engaging with these cyber-scribes in order to promote their clients in the online world. And the reason bloggers have become so important? Because they represent an entirely unbiased and impartial opinion in a media landscape filled with carefully-crafted commercial deals and official endorsements. We know this because bloggers blog because they love to blog, and they have an audience to feed – not because they have a pay check to work for, or a brand to promote (aside from possibly themselves).

Until now. Popular food blogger Pim Techamuanvivit has struck a deal with organic yoghurt brand ‘Rachel’s Organic’ to act as an official brand ambassador. As you can imagine, this means turning up at launches, interviews with traditional media –and of course, blogging about the wonder of Rachel’s organic produce. Engineered by a PR firm, the deal has already generated significant ‘buzz’ – the crucial first step, of course. But largely, the chatter, twitter – whatever, has focused on the sanity of the move. Is nothing sacred anymore? If blogs were the non-commercial arbiter, a refuge from the increasingly commercially-driven traditional media – then where does this latest move leave them? Of course, some people argue there’s little difference between sending a blogger a new pair of flashy, expensive trainers, hoping they blog about them and cutting out the element of doubt and showing them the money in return for a positive mention.

It seems to me that this is a question for the bloggers to answer. Brands and their PR’s will always go for maximum coverage – online and offline, and increased endorsement – it will be the bloggers themselves that draw the line on editorial control. Pim’s deal could be the start of a tipping point for blogs, or it could be a move shunned by the rest of the blogosphere as they struggle to maintain impartiality. We wait and watch.

(As for me, in my capacity as blogger, I should clarify that bribes comprising junk food or shoes will always generate a glowing endorsement…..)