The mainstream media want to establish common-sense rules for online writers, and corporate bloggers will want to pay attention.
A group called the Council on Ethical Blogging and Aggregation—which includes the editors of Esquire
, The Atlantic
, New York
, and others—aims to draft a list of best practices for linking, aggregating, and curating content on blogs and websites.
The group is pro-aggregation, according to Advertising Age
’s Simon Dumenco, who first proposed the council. He told The New York Times
, “There should be some kind of variation of the Golden Rule here, which is that you should aggregate others as you would wish to be aggregated yourself.”
What bearing will the council have on the people who blog for corporations?
Although the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) doesn’t see it as a major issue for corporate bloggers at the moment, PR professionals will want to pay attention to the council, according to PRSA’s Keith Trivitt.
For some, the issue is a non-starter, even a “waste of time,” according to a Chicago-based brand blogger who asked to remain anonymous.
"I don't see that affecting what we do as brand bloggers,” the blogger said. “We already operate responsibly when we blog for clients.”
The staff at the popular Nuts About Southwest
blog—which includes original and aggregated material—is careful to avoid any mishaps from aggregating or reposting material. According to the blog’s managing editor, Brooks Thomas, Southwest seeks the approval of every guest blog it runs on the site.
“We may draw from existing stories for inspiration, but we have never lent a story a different voice without consulting the original author for permission,” he stressed.
Of course, your social media efforts may not be as sophisticated as those of Southwest. In that case, you may want to use the council—or at least its founding principle of the Golden Rule—to guide your burgeoning efforts.
CME Group, which has a robust social media following, recently launched an online blog and magazine called Open/Markets
. Currently, the site contains all original material, but the site’s editor, Evan Peterson, told PR Daily
that those at CME have discussed aggregating items so that they can refresh the site continually.
Peterson, who also writes a weekly column for PR Daily
, thinks some accepted guidelines would benefit the original authors and the aggregators.
“The challenge will be finding guidelines that are universally accepted,” he said. “It's not just publications that would have to accept them. It's also corporations, nonprofits, independent bloggers—anybody with an audience.”
Others agree that determining the guidelines—and enforcing them—would be difficult. The council is not an official body, and no one, particularly corporate bloggers, would be under any obligation to follow them. The PRSA, which holds sway over its members, has not issued best practices on proper and ethical aggregation and blogging, per se.
If the rules can’t be enforced, then you end up with what you already have, said communications consultant Shel Holtz.
“The people who are ethical in their aggregation and curation efforts are already behaving in a manner consistent with whatever these approaches are seeking to articulate,” Holtz told PR Daily
. “Those who don't care … will continue to do exactly what they want.”
Holtz deemed the objective noble, but the efforts ultimately futile.
As Trivitt observed, the bottom line for corporate bloggers is common sense.
“Attribution and disclosure are a must,” he said. “If you're not willing to disclose where you found the content you are writing about in your post, and attribute that to the original source, then you should not write it in a corporate blog post.”