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Blog > Blogging vs. blagging
Author: Tom Callow
I love blogging. The notion that anyone, anywhere, anytime can put their fingers to a keyboard and publish onto a media platform with around 2.3 billion users is incredible.
On 2 August 1999, David Edmonston registered the domain www.pistonheads.com. In the early days, it got about 100 visitors per day. Having been purchased by Haymarket in 2007, today it boasts over four million unique users per month.
I would argue that one of the key factors in the success of PistonHeads has been its integrity and objectivity. Clearly being based on a forum means it is structurally different from a blog, but many motoring blogs would benefit from taking lessons from PHers.
Legal advice has indicated that press cars should no longer go out ‘on loan’, but ‘for evaluation’. That’s a fair point and at the end of the day, providing press cars costs money, so it’s only right that they are categorised as vehicles that are being evaluated, rated and reviewed rather than merely driven on a jolly.
It is therefore with some confusion that I have observed the recent flurry of press cars being sent out ‘for evaluation’ on the basis of a blogger publicly complaining about not being invited on a press launch. Unbelievably, I also saw an email from a blogger to a press office stating that they “needed” to arrange test drives of several models. They didn’t ask whether it would be possible to drive a press car for evaluation purposes, or even attempt to justify why the press office should go to the trouble. The emailed boiled down to: “I AM A BLOGGER. GIVE ME A CAR.”
I presented to the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association last week on ‘modern media relations’, talking about the emergence of ‘new influencers’. In addition to PistonHeads, two such sites I mentioned were Mumsnet and The Huffington Post. There are blogs out there with incredible influence. However, there are also blogs whose influence needle struggles to lift off zero.
There are over 200 million blogs registered worldwide, but a brand’s online reputation is made up of more than just the sum of their views. We have to get away from the idea that every single blog is worth our attention. That attention has to be earned and a blogger’s influence must be proven.
The relationship between bloggers and press offices is two-way.
For bloggers, I would encourage you to express that objectivity and integrity that gets you noticed. Writing a blog about how excited you were to get flown overseas and drive a new car doesn’t cut it. I agree with the industry view that there aren’t really any ‘bad’ new cars. There are cars that are worse than others, but most are decent overall. However, the skill of today’s road testers is in identifying and describing these nuances in performance to their readers. If you blog about cars you’ve drive, I implore you to do the same. Unless a press office has paid you to write the review (and I sincerely hope it hasn’t), then you’re not going to get into trouble for criticism. In fact, you’ll most likely be applauded for it.
For press offices, I would encourage you to target those bloggers who are truly likely to be read by your customers – even if it’s only a small number at the moment. Remember that PistonHeads stat of 100 daily visitors. Of course it’s worth building your brand outside the sales funnel, but blogger relations shouldn’t be done on a completely ad hoc basis. There are some fantastic motoring bloggers out there. Just beware of the blaggers.
18th Jun 12
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|Wise words, brilliantly put!|
|Good evening Tom. I thoroughly enjoyed this article, it was both informative and entertaining, I'm quite partial to reading someone truly speaking their mind.
What I can't quite believe is that people could be arrogant and ill-mannered enough to 'demand' a press car, or anything for that matter. I don't allow my daughters to demand anything and they're 2 and 4 years old! I don't care if it's a newbie blogger or Tom Ford, someone who could be that rude should be treated with the contempt they deserve.
I'm a blogger myself and am eternally grateful for any opportunities that come my way, be it a press pass or a ten minute test drive in ANY car!
I personally always try to put an original, individual spin on what I write and I feel that most other bloggers do too, rather than purely regurgitating facts and figures. This can obviously prove very difficult at times and maybe this is where the somewhat irrelevant parts of a car review can occur.
I don't disagree with your point at all but surely car manufacturers don't allow themselves to be bullied into inviting people to car launches who they don't really want there, do they?
I see my blog as a long term project which may, or may not end in me realising my dream. I certainly don't think that the car industry owes me anything and if some bloggers think it does, they need a huge reality check.