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No, no, no, no, NO!

I would absolutely HATE to work for Sony in their PR department.  I have never seen a company that makes so many increasingly bad decisions about product development, about marketing and about PR. 

The latest, which you’ve no doubt heard about, is the fake blog they launched for the PSP.  In all honesty, I can see why this happened.  When we’re talking about viral ideas for campaigns and creative ways to get our message across, someone inevitably mentions a fake blog or a character blog.  Usually, that discussion leads to something bigger and better, but it always sorta seems like a good idea at the time.  Fortunately, we’ve all had the good sense to can that idea for the obvious reasons that we would look like idiots.

There is no benefit to a fake blog.  It seems like there would be.  Surely to God a seasoned copywriter can put together a much better blog than any kid who actually loves the product, right? 

Wrong.

You can’t fake genuine interest.  Soon enough, people will suspect that you are a paid shill for Sony, and as soon as that happens, you will be found out – especially if it’s popular.

Companies are seeing this whole social media thing happening around them and they want to benefit from it without putting themselves in a position of risky consumer feedback.  The irony, of course, is that there is no way of avoiding consumer feedback now that a million public conversations are being broadcast every day.  You can choose to ignore it, but it’s here to stay, and by violating the cultural code of the social media world, you end up looking ever dumber in the eyes of your publics.

Sony looks utterly ridiculous right now, and it’s all because they wanted to participate in the blogosphere without transparency or authenticity.  It’s the same as spam, when you get right down to it, except in this case Dr. Mumbuto is asking you to buy a PSP instead of sending him your account information.

I’m probably preaching to the converted here, but the lesson in this case is that while the blogosphere can be alluring, it’s not something that you can fake.  It’s not a short-term, one way project.  It’s an ongoing process, and one that needs to be tied into your overall communications plan, not a seasonal advertising campaign.

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  1. Molly Smith who was the head of PR at Sony left back in May just after E3. She started out at the bottom and worked her way up to the top position and had been with Sony since the PSone, more then ten years ago. Up until about two months ago, the position was empty until they brought in David Karraker (SP?), who has been doing PR in the wine/beverage industry as well as for Martha Stewart when she got jailed. I’m not sure what’s going on, but it’s not going well for Sony either way you cut it.

  2. FYI; Zipatoni and Sony has replied to Next-Gen, an industry pub:

    http://www.next-gen.biz/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4397&Itemid=2

    Not the greatest Marketing/PR at work here.

  3. Totally agree – but I would hate to work for Sony, period.

    Their illustrious history of payola, the rootkits debacle and now the astroturfing just confims that their culture is fundamentally corrupt.

    Not even a PR genius can fix that.

  4. […] blogs need to be authentic – authenticity and genuine interest (as Ryan Anderson points out here) is best left to those who aren’t faking it. […]

  5. I wouldn’t want to work for Sony as well. But I have a feeling that this will blow over in no time. The whole issue is more important to internet marketers than gamers, even though a lot of the latter were pissed.

    Remember, Edelman didn’t lose the Wal-Mart account after the three fake blog fiasco. The sanctions aren’t quite there yet.

    When you say you can’t fake genuine interest…I don’t know…

    I bet there are other flogs out there that we’ll never find. That’s the sleaze in marketing.

  6. I don’t know, Jonathan. There are a whole lot of eyes on you when you’re on the internet.

    Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are trivial. Given enough eyeballs, lies will be found out.

    Open source lie detection. I like it.