Slamming a Client Via Blog

    August 13, 2005

I do a lot of work for Lawrence Ragan Communications. And when I say a lot, I mean, well, a lot.

Ragan is, far and away, my biggest client. And I love working with them. Really. So it isn’t lightly that I’ve decided to slam them all over the place for a particularly egregious entry into the blogosphere.

Before this latest blog, Ragan hosted two blogs that aren’t bad at all. In fact, I praised Steve Crescenzo’s “Corporate Hallucinations” as one of the funnier blogs you can read. And David Murray’s blog, “The Speechwriter’s Slant,” has its moments. But “Deep Background…”

It’s tough to judge the quality of the writing on this latest Ragan blog, since as of today there are only two entries, one from August 11 and another posted August 9. They’re not bad, although the newer post just references an upcoming talk. It’s also tough to gauge the quality of the conversation, since none has yet emerged. The design of the blog is better than either Steve’s or David’s. The problem is with the author. Whoever that is.

The “about” link on the blog tells us that Deep Background “is a blog for local, state and federal government media professionals. We cover strategies, tactics, non-political issues and other practical matters that are useful to government communicators.” The author, we learn, “has been a government public information officer at the national and local level for 18 years.” Beyond that, we know nothing. The blog’s banner makes it clear that the contents of “Deep Background” are “straight from the mouth of a senior level, unidentified source.” Get it? He’s on deep background.

Except, of course, for the fact that this is a blog and anonymous blogging-especially when the blog is brought to you by a media organization-makes about as much sense as casting a vote with invisible ink. Where’s the credibility of an anonymous blogger? When readers comment, to whom are the comments directed? Neville Hobson raised this issue when he first read the complaints by an anonymous blogger about his Land Rover experience. Neville’s observation about the lack of credibility inherent in anonymity led the blogger to reveal his identity (and, lo and behold, his credibility soared).

There are rare exceptions. Even the Electronic Frontier Foundation suggested an anonymous blog for people who just have to complain about work but don’t want their bosses to identify them. But even then, if you can’t identify the company about which they’re whining, what’s the point of reading the blog? (Perhaps these anonymous bloggers fill in their friends and family so at least somebody knows who the target of their poison keyboard really is.) In general, though, anonymous blogs are a lot like character blogs. In fact, a blog like this could actually be a character blog. For all we know, it’s a Ragan staffer penning this blog, pretending to be a senior level government official with 18 years experience.

Of course, I’m preaching to the choir here, aren’t I? Anybody who reads this blog already understood the implications the instant they saw the word “anonymous.” It’ll be interesting to see if anybody actually comments to Anonymous. As for my RSS feeds, I’ll stick with Steve and David. At least I know they’re real.

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Shel Holtz is principal of Holtz Communication + Technology which focuses on helping organizations apply online communication capabilities to their strategic organizational communications.

As a professional communicator, Shel also writes the blog a shel of my former self.