Wallingford, CT, April 05, 2009 --(PR.com
)-- When is what you read in a blog fact, opinion or fiction? Perhaps it is best summed up by President Obama in a New York Times interview, when he said he rarely reads blogs because they can be misleading.
The word “blog,” a contraction of “web log,” is like an online public diary that often reflects the personality of its author, whether a reporter, or a corporate public relations specialist aiming to promote a positive or negative image of a given company and its products.
The problem for consumers is that the blog’s authors and people who add their comments to a blog entry are sometimes anonymous and, depending on their agenda, misleading.
In Obama’s interview with the Times, the Internet-savvy President explained why he rarely reads blogs, saying part of the reason is “...if you haven’t looked at it carefully then you may be under the impression that somehow there’s a clean answer one way or another.”
This affects consumers when they research a product or company on blogs, and may end up reading reviews posted by corporate insiders who are trying to pump-up sales and public perception, make negative comments about competitors’ products or counter legitimate consumer comments in other blogs or the news media.
Connecticut Better Business Bureau Communications Director, Howard Schwartz, cautions consumers who are searching for objective information not to be duped by bloggers.
“A blog offers an outlet for the writer that is not subject to journalistic ethics. The danger for consumers looking for information about a product or company,” adds Schwartz, “is that bloggers may not be who they appear to be, and sometimes hide behind the anonymity of a ‘screen name’ which does not provide information about exactly who is composing the blog or, more commonly, responding to it. It is one way bloggers can disseminate inflammatory and misleading information and opinions.”
In some cases, a product review or comment may be placed by a public relations firm, self-styled journalist or corporate communications department for damage prevention or containment, or to counter public complaints about their products, retail outlets or organizations.
While many legitimate journalists’ blogs are designed to help readers understand complex stories, other blogs allow the writer to circumvent the checks and balances of journalism: objectivity and editorial review, and gives them a free hand to advance their own agenda and beliefs.
So, where can consumers find accurate reviews on companies, their products and services, consumer feedback and opinions? There are many well-respected consumer-oriented magazines and online sites to which they may turn for unbiased reviews written by legitimate reporters and reviewers.
Another way to find out about a company’s reputation with consumers is to use one of the popular search engines, type in the name of the company, followed by the word “complaints.”
Consumers also can see a company’s track record of consumer experience and marketplace behavior by pulling up a free BBB Reliability Report at www.bbb.org.