Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Rogue Bloggers and Double Agents

Perhaps you’ve heard of Mini-Microsoft, an anonymous blogger at Microsoft. According to BusinessWeek, he “may be the most notorious blogger on corporate life,” because he frequently attacks Microsoft from within, names people who should be fired, and otherwise airs dirty laundry by the cart-load. Mini claims he’s dishing tough love, telling truths that need to be told before the company can reform itself.

So, at the height of his mainstream-media notoriety, it was interesting to see Mini go ga-ga over Microsoft’s Company Meeting 2005: “I think our customers are going to be delighted silly this coming year! ... Any vestiges of doubt or ennui get blown away once you actually see what we are on the verge of shipping.” (His review of the meeting starts a little ways down on this page, under “Post Company Meeting.”)

I am not doubting Mini’s authenticity, but this turn of events inspires a question: How long will it be until a PR agency orchestrates this type of prodigal-son moment on behalf of one of its clients?

That is, if a company already suffers from bad press and low credibility, who better to be the change agent than a conveniently anonymous rogue blogger? Like Mini, the rogue blogger would have enough inside dirt to make some news, getting the mainstream press to anoint him or her as a tantalizingly credible source. Some of that dirt might even be things the company wants to get out but can’t officially say—for example, that a recent executive “resignation” was really a firing for poor performance (message to shareholders: we know that needed fixing).

Having built credibility with a mix of juicy tidbits and question-authority attitude, the rogue blogger could then, at a critical moment, lock onto company messaging: “I have seen the light!” Or the rogue blogger could subtly change perspective over time, grudgingly giving ground to the relentless progress the company is making.

Of course, this rogue blogger would be a double agent, operating in the darker parts of the ethical gray zone. Most legitimate companies and PR agencies will not go there.

But for the inevitable ones who do go there, will it work? I hope not, but we might never know if it does.

1 comment:

  1. NYC has seen an interesting turn on this phrase from the Blog of Freddy Ferrer, democrat running vs. Bloomberg for mayor. Apparently his blog is not his blog but one posted by his team. Someone proclaimed him a product of public education--which was entirely untrue.
    So, not only can a true blog potentially become a manipulation by PR or corporate, but a loosely managed PR blog can reverse course and damange as well.