Lobbying in the UK: Public Affairs wins Self-regulation

October 30, 2009

In September of 2009, the Conservatives in the UK announced they wanted to crackdown on lobbying firms.  The actions were triggered by cases of abuse and scandals about lobbying in the UK including the cash for access controversy.  Here is a comment from a news story:

“Francis Maude, the shadow Cabinet Office minister, said: ‘Greater openness and transparency is needed to help ensure high standards in public life. If the industry fails to self-regulate, it should be prepared for legislation which will ensure greater accountability.’”

The suggestionss include making lobbyists disclose their client and prohibiting public bodies from hiring lobbying firms to lobby the central government on their behalf.  In fact the word “transparency” was evoked. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/6215415/Tories-to-crack-down-on-lobbying-firms.html

Public relations became involved because many public affairs agencies are in public relations.  The Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) in the UK disagreed there should be formal regulation by the government but agreed there were problems and that secrecy contributed to those problems.  The PRCA saw the need for change as a call to get their own house in order—self-regulation.  They agreed that lobbyists acting unethically were harming the entire profession. 

“The reputation of public affairs is too often tarnished by the actions of a few unethical practitioners, who opt to remain unregulated, either because they cannot reach the standards that others attain, or because they wish to hide their client lists. As such, we welcome the Conservatives’ call for the public affairs industry to get its house in order. All PRCA members already publish their client lists and their staff make-up, so this proposal builds on the best practice we already represent.”

http://www.prca.org.uk/default.asp?sid=8&pid=496

On October 22, 2009, the House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee issues the report “Lobbying:  Access and influence in Whitehall:  Government Response to the Committee’s First Report of Session 2008-09.”  You can review the full report at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmselect/cmpubadm/36/36i.pdf

The first report at the start of 2009 called for regulation of lobbyists.  The report was viewed as a blow against transparency.  Francis Ingham, director-general of PRCA, viewed the report as an endorsement of self-regulation to address the problem. 

“The PRCA welcomes the Government’s recognition of our efforts to make self-regulation as effective as possible. We are also aware that this is the industry’s final chance to make this system work. Those who have buried their heads in the sand -and who are responsible for bringing us to the brink- need to extract themselves. And do so quickly.”

http://www.prca.org.uk/default.asp?pid=509&sid=8#i_addNew&adm=stp

People are left wondering how much is changing from the conditions that allowed the scandals and abuses such as government officials take significant freebies from lobbyists.   

Questions to Consider

  1.  How is this case a failure for the value of transparency in society?
  2. How does public relations look in this case as it argue simply for self-regulation?
  3. What does self-regulation really mean and how could it be used in this case?
  4. How does the government look in the case by reversing its stand on registering lobbyists?
  5. On the surface, what does this case suggest about the power of the lobbying industry in the UK?
  6. If you worked for PRCA, what other points would you have presented in response to the second report to more effectively frame the issue?
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Opaque Messages from John Mackey

August 17, 2009

Let us consider in more detail the actions of Whole Foods CEO John Mackey’s use of the name “rahodeb” for online postings.  Mackey used the name for a number of years while posting online including posts to a Yahoo financial forum.  In that forum, “rahodeb” was critical of Wild Oats and other Whole Foods competitors while being very positive about Whole Foods.  Here is a sample from one post:

“2. Has OATS gotten its act together? Maybe, but I don’t think so. One freak quarter before the CEO dumps 1/2 his stock proves nothing. If OATS produces solid comps and produces good profits for the remainder of 2006, then I’ll change my opinion. Haven’t seen it yet though.

3. OATS didn’t make any money for the next 2 Quarters after I wrote that posting. Again, they made money in their Q4, but it isn’t clear to me that it is sustainable.” http://messages.finance.yahoo.com/Business_&_Finance/Investments/Stocks_(A_to_Z)/Stocks_W/threadview?bn=19842&tid=42698&mid=42957
Most would agree this is rather mild trash talking about a competitor.  However, when your company is looking to buy that competitor, are the comments designed to drive down the stock price to your advantage.  Federal authorities did investigate but did not press charges.  Online postings related to stock prices is a legitimate concern.  Other individuals have been punished for using online financial forums to manipulate stock prices.  Although Mackey apologized (see the Whole Foods+ CEO + Healthcare Debate = Boycott entry), he said the incident was result of his competitive spirit and part of his right to free expression.  He also said on his blog:

“My mistake here was one of judgment—not ethics. I didn’t realize posting under a screen name in an online community such as Yahoo! would be so controversial and would cause so many people to be upset. That was a mistake in judgment on my part and one that I deeply regret because it caused so much negative media attention about me and Whole Foods Market.” http://www2.wholefoodsmarket.com/blogs/jmackey/2008/05/21/back-to-blogging/#more-26

Ultimately, Mackey’s postings under an assumed name hurt Whole Foods’ reputation.  The Board disciplined Mackey and there was Federal investigation along with the negative publicity in the tradition and online media.  One example ion CNBC’s story “Whole Foods CEO Panned Wild Oats in Web Postings.” http://www.cnbc.com/id/19700361.  This was not the light matter that Mackey seemed to think it was at the time and the potential to haunt Whole Foods and Mackey well into the future.

 

Questions to Consider:

  1.  What is your reaction to Mackey saying this situation is not about ethics but judgment?
  2. Why would the tradition media be interested in this story (Chapter 6)?
  3. Why would the online environment be interested in this story (Chapter 7)?
  4. How does this case illustrate the need for and value of transparency?
  5. What advice and rational for that advice would you have given Mackey if he told you in advance he was going to engage in such postings?
  6. Why is it so important to identify biases/interests when posting information online?

Should Tweets be for Hire?

August 12, 2009

One observation that is very clear about public relations these days is the need to be versed in online public relations, especially the various social media. One unique aspect of the social media is that the user creates and controls the content. Everyone can become a public communicator online with the social as the preferred delivery system. (Sometimes online communicators are called “citizen journalists” but that term suggests some sense of training and code of conduct that does not exist). The term authenticity is used frequently. Authenticity is the idea of being genuine, the message comes from the person creating it and represents her or his views. Transparency is related to authenticity in that transparency makes it clear who the author of the message and, ideally, if she or he has a particular interest in the message content. For instance, someone blogs favorably about product or organization. Is it useful to know if that individual works for the organization or has some other interest such as owning stock? One complaint about public relations is that it corrupted the traditional news media by manipulating the content of news stories. People see news stories thinking they were created by the news media when, in reality, the stories were crafted by public relations people. Well media relations is predicated on the notion of creating or influencing news content. This is not a secret conspiracy, you can learn this is any textbook that covers media relations.

A variation of this complaint extends to the online environment. There is a fear that media relations practices will be re-created online and we have messages in the social media crafted by public relations people, not the individuals posting the message. Or at least the public relations people are influencing the content of the social media posts. Public relations people do pitch stories to bloggers and send them media releases just like they do to traditional journalists. At this point you are probably wondering where the case is. Company called uSocial.net is buying Twitter followers. A quick Twitter review. Twitter is a microblogging site where messages can be only 140 long. People who Twitter can follow others. As a follower, you sign up and are send tweets from those you are following. Size of followership does matter. More follower is equal to more influence for the Twitterer. So buying Twitter followers seems to violate the intent of Twitter where followers organically emerge from this electronic marketplace of ideas.

Here is how uSocial.net describes itself:

“uSocial.net is the world’s premier advertising service, offering some of the most unique and fresh approaches to getting you traffic, attention and new clients. Here at uSocial, we like to do things differently. We believe that to get really powerful results, you have to think outside the box. It was this thinking that led us to create the world’s most prominent and talked about social bookmarking front-page service which got us a feature in the LA Times. This thinking also led us to create the world’s first and so-far only true unlimited press release disribution service where you can send any number of press releases to promote your business to our list of over 560,000 media contacts. And finally, this thinking enabled us to produce the cheapest and most cost-effective social-bookmarking submission service where you can submit and unlimited amount of links to over 170 social sites instantly and without hassle.” http://usocial.net/about/

Thought not is the about us section, uSocial.net does boast about its ability to buy Twitter followers. The service was covered by the Bulldog Reporter (a popular PR newsletter) in its Daily Dog on August 11, 2009. http://bulldogreporter.com/ME2/Audiences/dirmod.asp?sid=2436B6EB9392483ABB0A373E8B823A24&nm=&type=Publishing&mod=Publications%3A%3AArticle&mid=8F3A7027421841978F18BE895F87F791&AudID=213D92F8BE0D4A1BB62EB3DF18FCCC68&tier=4&id=BF50DDF81D0746058F4CF4E3B44A1D71

Another news story reported: “On Twitter you can go from literally no followers to 1,000 followers in a week using sites like uSocial.net, but it will cost you $87. If you need more than that, the site lets you buy up 100,000 followers in a year for just under $3,500. On their website, uSocial.net says: ‘The more followers you have, the more money you will inevitably make marketing your products and services to them.’” http://www.ksl.com/index.php?nid=172&sid=7081655

uSocial.net luckily calls itself an advertising firm sparing public relations some of the flack generated by paying for Twitter followers. But their heavy use of publicity tactics makes them appear to be a public relations firm and has already brought public relations into the discussion of paying for Twitter followers. The continuing new applications of online communication keeps pushing the boundaries of ethics and proves the need to discuss the ethical implications of public communication actions.

Questions to Consider

1. What are the ethical issues for organization’s that buy Twitter followers?

2. What are the ethical issues for people who sell their Tweets (Chapter 3)?

3. What role can transparency and authenticity play in keeping social media communicators honest and ethical?

4. How might uSocial.net’s actions create problems for the reputation of public relations as a field (Chapter 2)?

5. How might buying Twitter followers help an organization?

6. How might bought Twitter followers differ from naturally occurring Twitter followers? What the implications of those difference for public relations?

7. What are the advantages and disadvantages of treating social media like the traditional news media (Chapters 6 & 7)?

8. Do you thing that “citizen journalist” is a good term for social media users? Why or why not?


Issues Management through Distortion

August 7, 2009

The health care debate of 2009 provides an almost endless supply of examples of public relations messages in action.  Health care is an issue with a vast number of constituents with varying interests and stakes in the issues.  As a result, there are an amazing amount of issues management efforts and messages appearing in traditional and online media.  No case can cover the entire debate so this case focus on one, minor point in the proposed health care reform:  advance directives.

Advance directives help people to spell out their wishes for life-extending measures related to severe brain damage and terminal illness scenarios.  Many people have living wills that provide such directives.  It is important for family members to know these desires so that a person’s wishes can be honored.  Family members may not be aware of an existing living will or try to disregard it thus creating a conflict.  In one version of the 2009 health care proposal, the government would pay for counseling sessions on advance directives.  These sessions are purely voluntary.  Unfortunately, the advance directive became a point of confusion and conflict.

Opponents distorted the advance directives proposal.  There were two key distortions:  (1) the counseling was mandatory every five years and (2) the proposal would promote euthanasia.   People were told they would be forced to meet with government representatives to discuss how they wanted to die.  The meetings were voluntary and with health care providers, no government representatives would be involved.  Advance directives were to be covered as a benefit people could choose to use or not.  Mandatory meetings with the government over end of life sounds very ominous as opposed to voluntary counseling sessions.  The distortion was designed to create fear.  The idea was to convert the fear into opposition to health care reform.  Politifact, a group of journalists that tries to assess the truth in political claims, considered the claim of mandatory meetings with government officials as incorrect http://www.politifact.org/truth-o-meter/statements/2009/jul/23/betsy-mccaughey/mccaughey-claims-end-life-counseling-will-be-requi/.  There is more on Politifact at the end of the case.

 

The worse distortion was the link to euthanasia.  Some opponents claimed the government, during these forced meetings, would tell you the best way to die and to encourage people to die earlier rather than later.  Critics claimed it “may start us down a treacherous path toward government-encouraged euthanasia” (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32247482/ns/politics/).   The justification was cost savings—the government wants you dead so that they can save on health care costs.  Some issue managers went as far as to call it “death care” and an effort to “kill Granny.” http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32247482/ns/politics/.  This distortion is more clearly fear inducing.  Again, fear is created to generate opposition to the health care reform proposal.  Distortions are being used by issue managers on both sides of the health care reform issue to build support for their side of the issue.  This is not the only distortion but it is one of the most obvious.

So why would people be taken in by distortions over advance directives?  All rumors have a kern of truth and must seem plausible.  Advance directives counseling coverage is in the health care reform proposal—the kern of truth.  Most health care costs occur at the end of life so they are expensive and cost savings could occur if people died sooner or requested less care—plausible motive for government wanting to kill granny.  Add to this so many critics repeating the claims in traditional and online media and you have the potential for fear to spread.  And public relations is seen a fanning the flames of this fear.

“PolitiFact is a project of the St. Petersburg Times to help you find the truth in politics.

Every day, reporters and researchers from the Times examine statements by members of Congress, the president, cabinet secretaries, lobbyists, people who testify before Congress and anyone else who speaks up in Washington. We research their statements and then rate the accuracy on our Truth-O-Meter – True, Mostly True, Half True, Barely True and False. The most ridiculous falsehoods get our lowest rating, Pants on Fire.” http://www.politifact.org/truth-o-meter/about/

 Here is one more example is distortion from Sarah Palin as reported by the National Ledger.  The first paragraph is from Palin’s Facebook posting.   http://www.nationalledger.com/ledgerdc/article_272627336.shtml 

“‘And who will suffer the most when they ration care?’ Palin asks in her online argument against the policy. ‘The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s ‘death panel’ so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their ‘level of productivity in society,’ whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.'”

“The Washington Monthly writes, ‘As a substantive matter, this might be the stupidest thing ever written about health care policy. Just two weeks after she implored journalists to “quit making things up,’ Palin has manufactured the idea of a “death panel” out of thin air.”

For a funny but insightful look at the distortions around health care discussion see the August 10, 2009 Daily Show with Jon Stewart http://www.thedailyshow.com/full-episodes/240653/mon-august-10-2009-douglas-brinkley.  He addresses the disruption of town hall meetings and the idea of “death panel.”

Questions to Consider:

  1.  How do each of the advance directives distortions violate guidelines for ethical risk communication (Chapter 11)?
  2. Why does public relations get connected to these distortions?
  3. What is the risk when distortion is used by issue managers to win support?
  4. How do such efforts feed into the negative perception of public relations (Chapter 2)?
  5. Who are some of the main constituents in the health care reform issue and what do they stand to gain or lose?
  6. How can the online media be used to both create and debunk distortion is risk communication and issues management?
  7. What happens to the marketplace of ideas when distortion substitutes for reasoned arguments?
  8. Does transparency provide any useful insights into problem of using distortion as an issues management strategy (Chapter 3)?  If so, what might they be?

Health Care, Issues Management, and Transparency

August 5, 2009

The summer of 2009 has jump started the health care debate in the U.S.  People debate various plans to help provide health care to the millions in the U.S. who lack health insurance.  It is a vital issue that warrants public discussion.  Public relations can help build the marketplace of ideas (Chapter 3) by providing communication vehicles for various sides.  This is the realm of issues management.  The health care debate is issues management at its best and worst.  The worst comes in the form of front groups that hide their bias and provide information that can kindly be called misleading.  (See an earlier debate about twisting risk communication in this debate).

The Coalition to Protect Patients’ Rights sounds like group designed to help patients.  Here is a sample from their about section:

“The Coalition to Protect Patients’ Rights is a nonpartisan, grassroots coalition of patients, healthcare professionals, advocacy groups, and engaged citizens who are concerned about the current healthcare debate going on in Washington.

Agreeing that more must be done to reign in healthcare costs and provide affordable access to healthcare for uninsured Americans, the Coalition believes that the private sector can and must be involved in healthcare reform.  Recognizing that each of us are different and have different healthcare needs, we support choice and options in our healthcare – not a one-size fits all approach that simply provides everyone with the same level of substandard care.  The Coalition also believes that all medical decisions must be left to the patient and doctor.  We believe that allowing a government bureaucrat to exercise any authority over personal healthcare decisions would lead to diminished quality of life for all Americans.”

http://www.protectpatientsrights.org/about/
Now people might take” issue” that the about section implies that the U.S. government will take over healthcare and be the sole insurer in the U.S.  Of the plans being discussed, that is not at the top of the list or even a realistic option as of August 2009.  So there is some implied distortion.  What is problematic is the lack of transparency provided  by  The Coalition to Protect Patients’ Rights.  The group was developed by the DCI Group.  The DCI Group is a lobbying firm with a history of creating front groups (http://thinkprogress.org/2009/07/28/cppr-dci-astroturf/).  As The Coalition to Protect Patients’ Rights sends out editorial and op eds, gains friend on Facebook, and has visitors at its web site, there is no indication who this group really represents.  What corporations or industry groups are paying the bill.  By definition, front groups lack transparency.  At best The Coalition to Protect Patients’ Rights is an example of astroturfing.  The organization was created to generate grassroots opposition to certain health insurance initiatives.  The organization was not a spontaneous development from constituents.  The organization was built by a communication/PR agency.  Here is how the DCI Group defines itself:

“DCI Group is a strategic public affairs and global issues management firm. We use a campaign-style approach to help corporations, trade associations, and nonprofit organizations address their most critical communications and public policy challenges.”  http://www.dcigroup.com/

 

For the lighter side, see Steven Colbert discuss the Coalition to Protect Patients’ Rights as “the word” August 4, 2009 at http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/240728/august-04-2009/the-word—hippie-replacement.

 

Questions to Consider:

  1.  What are the ethical concerns for PR when engaging in astroturfing?
  2. Why does it matter who is funding The Coalition to Protect Patients’ Rights?
  3. How do front groups serve to undermine the issues management process?
  4. How does a demand for transparency protect issues management and the marketplace of ideas?
  5. What about the online environment (Chapter 7) makes it easier to create an effective front group?
  6. Does it seem odd that a PR agency with known connection to front groups is also Bronze Anvil award winner from the Public Relations Society of America? 
  7. How exactly might transparency be used to combat front groups especially in the online environment?
  8. Can The Coalition to Protect Patients’ Rights appear to be working as social marketing  (Chapter 8) and what advantage does that offer to its issues management efforts?

Front Groups in Real Time

July 27, 2009

Front groups is a topic mentioned in various chapters in the book including Chapter 2 (ethics) and Chapter 10 (issues management).  Here is a link to one web site examining a prominent front group operator in detail, http://bermanexposed.org/.   The “operator” is Richard Berman.   Berman’s two most prominent front groups are the Center for Consumer Freedom (a pro-food and beverage front group) and Mercuryfacts.org (another pro-food and beverage group) The web site is run by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) (http://www.citizensforethics.org/) .  The site describes Berman as follows:  “Richard Berman has been a regular front man for business and industry in campaigns against consumer safety and environmental groups. Through his public affairs firm, Berman and Company, Berman has fought unions, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, PETA and other watchdog groups in their efforts to raise awareness about obesity, the minimum wage, the dangers of smoking, mad cow disease, drunk driving, and other causes. Berman runs at least 15 industry-funded front groups and projects, such as the Center for Union Facts and holds 16 “positions” in those organizations.”

Here is how CREW defines itself:

“Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to promoting ethics and accountability in government and public life by targeting government officials — regardless of party affiliation — who sacrifice the common good to special interests. CREW advances its mission using a combination of research, litigation and media outreach. CREW employs the law as a tool to force officials to act ethically and lawfully and to bring unethical conduct to the public’s attention through:

  • Litigation
  • Freedom of Information Act Requests
  • Ethics Complaints
  • Internal Revenue Service Complaints
  • Federal Election Commission Complaints
  • Requests for investigations “  http://bermanexposed.org/about

 

The Center for Consumer Freedom (http://www.consumerfreedom.com/)  describes itself  as “The Center for Consumer Freedom is a nonprofit organization devoted to promoting personal responsibility and protecting consumer choices. We believe that the consumer is King. And Queen.”  They sand in opposition to “A growing cabal of activists has meddled in Americans’ lives in recent years. They include self-anointed “food police,” health campaigners, trial lawyers, personal-finance do-gooders, animal-rights misanthropes, and meddling bureaucrats.” (http://www.consumerfreedom.com/about.cfm )  A key issue for them now is debunking the obesity problem in the U.S.  This includes the defense of high fructose corn syrup.  The site is worth a visit for its very fun ads (the ads are meant to be funny” and their collection of cartoons about food and beverage issues.  The Center has an ongoing feud with the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) that will the subject of a later blog. 

 

Visit both CREW, Berman Exposed, and Center for Consumer Freedom web sites before answering the questions below.

 

Questions to Consider:

  1.  Does the Center for Consumer Freedom meet the requirements to be called a front group?
  2. How does the Berman Exposed web site help to contribute to transparency?
  3. How would you characterize CREW’s agenda—what do they want?
  4. The Center uses humor in its advertisements.  Do you think the messages are effective in getting their message across?  Why or why not.
  5. Does the Center’s use of humor help to mask key points about the issues, such as high fructose corn syrup, that should be discussed publically?  In other words, how does the Center’s message serve to frame the debate and what points in the issue is ignored?
  6. What is the justification for the Center and Berman’s other groups?
  7. What ethical issues does CREW face?
  8. What ethical issues does Berman face?
  9. What are the transparency (Chapter 3) issues in the case?

Paying for Tweets, Ethics, and PR

July 23, 2009

IZEA (http://izea.com/) is a social marketing firm whose activities include “sponsored conversations.”  Research indicates that sponsored conversations does produce positive results.  You can learn more about sponsored conversations at http://izea.com/social-media-marketing/sponsored-conversations/. At heart, a sponsored conversation is paying a blogger to write about an organization, product, or service.  IZEA plans to broaden their approach by including people who Twitter, a small step from blogs to micro-blogsJ.   Here is section from a online story about it:

“Orlando Sentinel) An Orlando company’s plans could change the face of Twitter. Later this month, a marketing firm called IZEA will launch “Sponsored Tweets,” a network connecting advertisers with Twitter users who want to get paid to post, or “tweet.” Already, Internet reports of the plan are generating heat from critics, who contend it will taint Twitter by encouraging users to make money off their followers. And the launch comes just as the Federal Trade Commission is looking to crack down on bloggers who give a positive review to a product or service without disclosing that the company is paying them to do so, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Ted Murphy, CEO of IZEA, says sponsored tweeting is already happening. “If you look at the amount of self-promotion, company promotion and advertising promotion that is going on Twitter, it’s ridiculous,” Murphy said. “The only thing that we are trying to do is make it more … measurable for the advertisers, and enforce disclosure in a uniform manner,” he adds, reports Sentinel writer Etan Horowitz.

Here’s how “Sponsored Tweets” will work: After a Twitter user signs up, he or she will be matched with advertisers that want to pay for tweets. Users with large followings, which likely will include celebrities, would be paid more than people with a smaller audience. Anyone who sends out sponsored tweets will be required to disclose which tweets they’re being paid for.

Even with disclosure, Sean Corcoran, an analyst with Forrester Research, said he would urge companies to stay away from Sponsored Tweets. He notes there isn’t yet agreement on the best ways for companies to pay for blog posts, a practice largely pioneered by IZEA.

“Marketers should tread lightly with sponsored conversations in general, and if they are going to do them, I’m advising people to figure it out on blogs first before they jump to Twitter,” said Corcoran, whose firm counsels other companies on how to use social media.

Plus, with Twitter messages being limited to 140 characters, including disclosure is difficult, he said, and new users may not understand it. A better option is for companies to use Twitter to promote their brand and interact with consumers, Corcoran said.” http://bulldogreporter.com/ME2/Audiences/dirmod.asp?sid=2436B6EB9392483ABB0A373E8B823A24&nm=&type=Publishing&mod=Publications%3A%3AArticle&mid=8F3A7027421841978F18BE895F87F791&AudID=213D92F8BE0D4A1BB62EB3DF18FCCC68&tier=4&id=E0EBD76DF26A4C649715AC1E9F1569B6

The issue of paying online message creators is not new.  The launch of Vista involved giving influential bloggers free Acer laptops worth over $1,000.  Many did not disclose the perk in their comments.  It also relates to VNRs being used without attribution on local television stations.  The pivotal aspect in these scenarios is knowing the true source of the message so that the source’s biases can be considered when evaluating the information.  The issue is about to spread to Twitter in a structured way.

Questions to Condsider:

1. Should any organization pay for blogs or tweets?

2. Is there any real difference between paying for blog entries and paying for Tweets?

3. If bloggers and tweeters are “citizen journalists,” shouldn’t they have similar codes of ethics when comes to being paid for content?

4. What are some potential abuses of and ethical issues for paying for blogs and Tweets?

5. Who will have responsibility for disclosing a conversation is “sponsored?”

6. Should companies like IZEA publicly post their paid bloggers and Tweeters?

7. Should posts for “sponsored conversations” carry an identifying mark such as a logo to warn readers?

8. How might “sponsored conversations” be used to promote frontgroups?

9. How can transparency help in this debate?


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