A client told me the other day that if a blog post on his site doesn’t mention his product, or convince people to at least learn more about it, it doesn’t do him any good.
To be fair, the post in question was about the slow, but real, progress a customer was making implementing his product despite technical, political and logistical hurdles. It wasn’t surprising my client didn’t jump for joy about how it would look. And, as it turns out, the customer had made more progress than they mentioned in the interview that led to my post. I reviewed a presentation the client had given, revised the post with a more rounded view of their progress, and all was well.
But this little incident got me thinking about the rules of the road for “corporate journalism” in which paid reporters cover an industry for a vendor. Sometimes the news isn’t all rosy, through no fault of the vendor, but because driving change with new technology can be difficult. A frank, no-holds-barred story about the struggles customers are facing is more compelling and would (in my opinion) draw more readers to the vendor’s site than one tilted, however subtly, towards the inevitable happy ending with the vendor’s name prominently mentioned.
If I were still writing for a trade publication, the “warts-first” story would have run and hit a chord with readers. That’s because conflict and trouble is part of people’s real lives and they want to know how others cope with it. But when does the attention-grabbing draw of bad news on a vendor’s Web site overcome the risk of casting a pall, however slight, over the product or service you’re trying to promote?