Suing Bloggers is an Invitation for Bad PR

    May 3, 2006

Late last week Warren Kremer Paino Advertising sued Maine blogger Lance Dutson for copyright infringement, defamation and trade libel and injurious falsehood.

They charged he caused damage to their client, the Maine Office of Tourism, because he critiqued their marketing strategy.

I can’t comment on the merits of this case. There are two sides to every story, so I can’t be sure who’s right or wrong here without seeing the evidence and hearing from both parties. However, what I can say is that suing bloggers should be an absolute questionable last resort tactic to resolving such an issue. It’s a lose-lose for everyone because of the PR fallout.

I was interviewed earlier this week by Advertising Age on this subject and I offered the following game plan to companies that might have bloggers dinging their brands:

* The first step is to contact the blogger and discuss the issue in a non-threatening way. See if you can reach an agreement.

* Second, you might have to accept what you cannot change. It’s the bloggers’ rights to communicate their opinions as long as the information was obtained through legal channels.

* Try to find a third party to broker a discussion between you and the blogger. In this case the ad agency could have asked the Media Bloggers Association to get involved. Dutson is a member

* Blog back, but only if you already have a blog. If you don’t have a blog and you get hit, now is not the time to start one. The one scenario where I think starting a blog could work is if you are hit by a broader crisis that spreads in the blogosphere (e.g. Kryptonite Locks). This is different because it’s isolated to one blogger.

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Steve Rubel is a PR strategist with nearly 16 years of public relations, marketing, journalism and communications experience. He currently serves as a Senior Vice President with Edelman, the largest independent global PR firm.

He authors the Micro Persuasion weblog, which tracks how blogs and participatory journalism are changing the public relations practice.