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« Is it OK to ask readers to leave a Comment on your blog? | Main | Should you put "do not blog this" in your emails? »


Judy Gombita

Don't sweat it too much, Debbie. Perhaps just take note of which of those bloggers are actually friends/friendlies, versus the ones who enjoy nothing more than online finger-wagging and pile-ons, as a convenient way of driving in new/old (circular) traffic. Don't forget, those links drive up one's Technorati Authority rankings (you better believe that's all part of the "big-picture" plan).

Oh yes. It's the slow summer season and very few of the blogs I monitor (many increasingly less) have had many posts and/or information of much value or use. Likely that also accounts for the spike in furious writing activity after you "reached out" to your backchannel.

As you know, my unperturbed response to your note was to simply say alli wasn't approved/available in Canada at this point, so I wouldn't be commenting. 'nuff said.

Shel Holtz

I'm on vacation and just catching wind of all this, Debbie, so I'm a bit in the dark. Based on your post, though, I wonder if there's a difference between asking for comments on your own blog and asking for them on a client's. Just asking...


Hey Debbie,

I wouldn't worry about it too much...but I will say that I think that comments are somewhat overrated on blogs.

Sure, I'd love to have more comments on my blog, but I also think that many people who don't understand blogs, improperly correlate the number of comments on your blog with success.

I'll get asked the question, "how is the blog going?" I'll say, "Great! X number of hits, X number of subscribers, it's a great start for a blog that's only been around for a few months." Then they'll ask how many comments I've received online and who they are from and seem somewhat disappointed with the result.

Sure, blogging opens up that two-way communication that lacks in many other publishing platforms, but that's not the only benefit.

The thing I like the most about the Alli blog is that it is written in a human voice, and is spoken in a language that perhaps no other drug has ever been marketed before (it almost has to be).

Of course there are lots of other benefits as'll just have to read Debbie's book to find out :)

David Porter


I understand your pain. I wrote an article the other day and in my haste, did not have it proofed before I hit the submit button.

Oh my heavens, I was crucified. As a result, I let two people get me down for quite a while.

Sometimes it seems only the naysayers are the ones that will speak up.

You are greatly loved, in the blog world, Debbie. Don't worry about it.

Debbie Weil


You raise an interesting point about asking for comments on your own vs. a client's blog. I don't think there's much difference as long as one is straightforward and completely transparent about it. I'll send you a backchannel email with some secret tips about this... JK JK JK (just kidding).

Eric Kintz

Oh well, at least that got people talking about the Alli blog :) I would not worry too much about it.

If I may, I think my approach was slightly different as I asked fellow bloggers to give me advice on how to evolve my blog. Some responded by email, some in comments. However in my case it was not a way to see comments or drive traffic, but simply get advice.

Keep up the good work

Dennis Howlett

Debbie - I could care less what PR does in the name of blogging but I do care when shills solicit comment because they're not getting traffic.

If the alli blog was in any way interesting then it might do better. If it was anything other than one sided it might do better.

Hey - why not go the whole hog, call Edelman and ask for their tame list of blog comment writers?

If you honestly think people are NOT going to make the connection between the blog name, the drug and the company then you're sadly mistaken.

And that's the point. You can be as 'transparent' as you want but that doesn't prevent people from drawing different conclusions about the subtext, whether stated or not.

Account Deleted

My, the blogosphere is a cranky bunch. I think the more important question is why aren't you getting comments on the blog, and I'm sure you are asking it internally. I bet if you had asked that question, backchannel or publicly, you would have had a far different response. Including perhaps some comments on the blog :-)

Alli is a product that is probably going to help a lot of people, and the GSK people involved seem very committed to it, and not just for crass commercial reasons. But let's face it, what is there to say so early in the game. Other than lots of side effects stories and health info. Have some patience, let time take its course and people start writing on their own blogs as well as this one about their successes. Then you can link out and show that GSK is truly part of a community, not trying to jumpstart or create one from whole cloth.

Just my .02

Shameless Shamus

Some people just like to whine - wah, wah, wah. The backchannel as you call it is fine, and frankly asking people to comment on your blog is fine too. One of problems with the new communications tools we have is that it is very easy for people to be cranky and loud because they aren't face to face with anyone when they say it. Keep up the good work Debbie.

Mike Spataro

Amazing so many people would find fault with your post and email. As a test, you may want to run your next disclaimer in boldface and as a headline just to see what happens.

Lee Hopkins

The big 'ethics' question is whether you are seeding comments (okay, I'll play nice, 'requesting' comments) for your own blog or for a client's in which you have a conflict of interest.

It is NOT a case of a 'technorati play' as Judy calls it (disappointingly and disingenuously), but as I point out in my latest post on the matter, perhaps a difference in nationalities: a 'hard town' like Washington may produce a different kind of PR effort than a more conservative, 'British' town like Adelaide, where we seek visitors to the blog, not comments. Your view and the view of others that 'we all do it' (solicit comments) is simply not true -- certainly not for the many fellow Australian bloggers I have been in contact with over this issue.

Judy Gombita

A couple of definitions from Unabridged (v 1.1)
dis·in·gen·u·ous /–adjective lacking in frankness, candor, or sincerity; falsely or hypocritically ingenuous; insincere: Her excuse was rather disingenuous.


[Origin: 1645–55; dis-1 + ingenuous]

—Related forms
dis·in·gen·u·ous·ly, adverb
dis·in·gen·u·ous·ness, noun Unabridged (v 1.1)
Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.
American Heritage Dictionary -

dis·in·gen·u·ous (dĭs'ĭn-jěn'yōō-əs)

Not straightforward or candid; insincere or calculating: "an ambitious, disingenuous, philistine, and hypocritical operator, who ... exemplified ... the most disagreeable traits of his time" (David Cannadine).
Pretending to be unaware or unsophisticated; faux-naïf.
Usage Problem Unaware or uninformed; naive.

Presumably the readers of Debbie's blog are adults, Lee. They can make up their own minds (of course it's harder to do a Search for past histories, as I deliberately did not name any names....) to determine if my POV has merit or not. And it is just that, *my* POV. I didn't e-mail, IM, blog or Twitter about it to get feedback/find out who was also interested in extending a hand of support--or unsheafing a knife--prior to writing my first comment.

Lovely to see *the* Joseph Jaffe pointing out that the vast majority of comments on your blog are positive, Debbie. And I'm sure many of your colleagues, friends and admirers are sending you personal e-mails of support as you weather this blogger-pile-up storm. Hang in there. Just don't venture out into the greater b'sphere without an umbrella or bullet-proof vest.

Jennifer Mattern

Great post Debbie. Mistakes were made. People on all sides learned a lesson out of it, and hopefully it'll die down soon.

Frankly, I find that most PR people I talk to know very little about blogging. You have to understand three basic things in blogging for PR, whether for yourself or your clients:

1. Obviously, you have to understand the PR value of the open and interactive communication - that most get.

2. You have to understand a bit about the technical side of blogging to really understand what separates the successful blogs from the flops - many are lacking here, demonstrated just by the fact that they're not using their own blogs effectively with added networking capabilities in many cases.

3. They have to understand blog marketing (something they should get, but seem to miss far too often). You don't just put a blog up, post a lot, and have visitors pouring in and leaving comments. You have to very actively market it.

Email marketing is a pretty typical way to promote a blog or any site in this day and age, and frankly, I'd say it's better to reach out to your own connections (especially in the earlier stages when you're looking for feedback from trusted individuals) as opposed to general email lists, or resorting to more spam-like tactics.

I can't see any justification for people claiming that it's unethical to ask people to comment on a blog if they feel so inclined after checking it out. If anyone can justify that without simply sounding stupid, I'd love to hear the argument.

There's really not even any issue here between asking contacts to check out your own blog or a client blog. If you had hidden the fact that this was a client blog, that would be another story entirely. But you were up front about that, and the decision of whether or not to check it out, and whether or not to then comment was left solely in the hands of the email recipients. Let's for the sake of argument assume they're adult enough to make their own decisions....

Something people seem to have a hard time grasping in this industry is that the tool doesn't work if you don't MAKE it work. It's not like a press release, where you write it, disseminate it, and let it go from there. You have to write the blog posts, publish them, and then market the hell out of them. That's hard enough in a truly interesting blog, but even more so in a promotional blog dealing with a particular company or product.

The inability to draw comments in the early phases of a blog isn't unusual, and doesn't necessarily mean that there's something wrong with the blog. It means you're lacking something on the buzz front perhaps with something product-oriented, but the harsh reality is that most blogs suck at drawing in comments for quite a while.

The exceptions would be the blogs with comments coming from colleagues, friends, and other contacts. I don't doubt for a second that most PR bloggers with active communities reached out to their network early on. They might not exist now if they hadn't.

And before someone throws out the argument again about this being a client blog... like I said before, there was full disclosure about that. You were looking for feedback on a blog being used as a PR tool. Reaching out to PR professionals was a natural move as far as a feedback-gathering source, as well as others that you knew and trusted to give an honest opinion. The blog, as a PR tool, couldn't be improved without that kind of feedback. In the end, if they'd have thought of it first, they wouldn't be bitching and moaning about it now. If you can't go to friends and colleagues in this industry for advice and simple feedback, I'd say we're in an even sadder state than I'd previously thought.

Anyway, sorry for the long rant... they've rather become my specialty. ;)


Michael Rubin, Arment Dietrich

Hello everyone,

Here is a copy of an email I sent to you Debbie earlier today. I am delighted and proud to post it here in its entirety.

Dear Debbie,

I don't know if you remember me or not, but I used to work for Andy Sernovitz and WOMMA. We met at one of the WOMBAT conferences. These days, I work as the Manager of Emerging Media for Arment Dietrich, a PR agency in Chicago.

I've been a long-time unabashed fan of your work evangelizing corporate blogging. You do things the Right Way, and I was delighted to see your name attached to the Alli blog and community site. I immediately sent out an email to our team urging them to take a look. I even included ten points on why it impressed me, which I shamelessly hope to emulate for my own clients.

Imagine my surprise when I was listening to the latest Social Media Today podcast on the train this morning and heard that you had been attacked over soliciting comments for the blog. Surprise turned to disgust later as I read some of the commentary from other bloggers. I am truly flabbergasted. You did not do anything wrong and have nothing to apologize for!

The fact is that true sustainable WOM is built on a foundation of efforts both organic and amplified. As you pointed out, this is a young business and outside our little "sewing circle," people don't have any idea what "leaving a comment" means. Without other examples of behavior to model, how do we expect people to learn?

Quite frankly, I look at the work you do as setting the benchmark of excellence for the rest of us to aspire. The Alliconnect blog is yet another example of your work that should be called what it is: trailblazing.

So let me be (hopefully not the first) one to say “Job well done.” Brava and mazel tov, Debbie.


Dean in DC

I've followed your work through some mutual acquintances/bloggers that we have in common. Plus, I like that we both live here in the DC area.

Regarding Murray's comments, it is a breach of email etiquette to post that online. Leaves a bad taste in my mouth when someone points a finger at you but can't take their own advice.

And I don't see the problem with asking for commentors either. Sometimes, we have too many of these puritans when it comes to blogging. Keep up the good work and don't sweat it :)


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