Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Disclosure and Transparency

My blogging friend, Mocha Momma, was on NPR yesterday talking about the topic of the day (actually it has been a topic for five months now):  “Are Marketers Ruining the ‘Mommy Blogosphere?”

This “disclosure” issue seems to be embedded in the a rock, stuck without movement.  How can we keep the blogosphere “transparent?”   Is a blogging with integrity badge enough?   As I sat here pondering this, I thought of Shakespeare.   If he were writing a sponsored review of a product, how would he proceed?

As an English major, I am uniquely qualified to answer this question.   I can safely say that I know exactly what William Shakespeare would do in this situation.  Just look at the opening scene of Hamlet.   In that famous scene,  the Sentinels wait for the Ghost of the King.   We do not meet the main character, Hamlet, as of yet.  Instead, Shakespeare uses these secondary characters for exposition, setting up the scenario BEFORE we meet the star.

The same technique can be used in a sponsored review.  Rather than jumping right into the meat of the post with the review, jarring the audience with an overload of information, the blogger/reviewer could take his time, much like Shakespeare does, setting the stage and the atmosphere, and drawing his audience into the story with suspense and needed exposition.

Here is an example of an updated Shakespearean-type introduction for a sponsored review of Welch’s Grape Jelly, using the American English of today, that solves both the disclosure AND the transparency issues in one swoop.

“The following is a review of Welch’s New and Improved Grape Jelly.  The nice people at Welch’s sent me a case of their product, as well as invited me to their headquarters in Concord, Massachusetts, paying for my airfare and hotel, where I enjoyed a blogger get-together and lunch with the entertaining and gracious Mr. and Mrs. Welch.”

BOOM.  That’s it.  This “intro,” as we might call it nowadays, would “set the scene,” explaining to the audience the backstory.   If I was this writer’s friend, I will probably go, “Oh, how nice for you!  I’m curious to hear more!” And I will read your review, and I will believe what you say, because I have seen your integrity IN ACTION.  You have set up the story properly, right from the beginning.   Shakespeare would never put essential information at THE END, like so many of you do, because it makes for bad drama.   I don’t want to read about a product and learn at the END that the writer was paid to write it, or got some freebies!  That is like watching King Lear for three hours, being totally confused by the plot, and only finding out in the last act that he has three daughters!  That is poor playwriting!

So let’s thank Shakespeare for a simple and effective solution to our blogging woes.  Why don’t we just make this the standard, like the intermission at a Broadway show, so then we all are on the same page and there is no confusion?

Or as Hamlet told Horatio in his final moments, “If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart, / Absent thee from felicity a while, / And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain / To tell my story of Welch’s Grape Jelly.”

16 Comments

  1. You got to meet the Welches? Were there any lesbian bloggers there? Because lesbians like PBJ too.

    Thanks for the great giveaway!

  2. Damn, you’re good. And so totally right!

  3. “Are Marketers Ruining the ‘Mommy Blogosphere?”

    There is an accountability issue with that headline. Are the marketers the people who aren’t disclosing their relationships- payola/plugola gone mad.

  4. I could not be more sick of this topic if it came to my house and kicked my dawg. Swear-to-gaaaaaaaah.

    To me, integrity, like you said, is something you show, not tell. If I have to tell you how pretty, smart, funny or charming I am, it’s likely I am not being truthful. Same for integrity; slapping up a badge tells me nothing about you except that you slapped up a badge.

  5. I’d prefer a voiceover by Garrison Keillor, introducing my blog and the sponsors. “This blog is brought to you by the American Ketchup Council…” But wait, would I have to preface the voiceover with a disclaimer that says “Garrison Keillor does not read, comment, or give a sh*t about this blog. He is only in it for the money,” and then a disclaimer from NPR saying, “We just want everyone to know that its OUR money Garrison Keillor is using to buy those ugly red socks and bad glasses.” And then there would be a mile long list of NPR donors who would have to disclose that they really don’t like NPR, they’re just trying to look smart and intellectual and only donated so they could get the cool free totebag with the NPR logo on it.” And then the company that donated the tote bags to NPR so it could claim a tax exemption and claim to be supporters of the arts on the company Web page would have to admit they and their employees may or may not even like or listen to NPR…”

    Yes, Neil, all the world’s a stage, all the players are whores, and Money is the great Producer.

  6. That’s exactly what I’ve been saying for weeks now!

    😉

    Well done!

  7. Because Welch’s would never do that. At most the blogger would get a free sample sized packet of jelly, or perhaps be permitted to take one spoonful from a jar and then mail the jar to the next person on the list. (Remember that stupid Dyson promotion?). And most likely the blogger would be so thrilled just to get a free item that she’d leap at the chance and write a review so glowing that every other jelly on earth would just melt from shame.

  8. It’s definitely an interesting topic, and one the federal government has taken up as well: http://www.seobythesea.com/?p=1300
    Heh, that ought to clear things up!

    Riiiiiight.

  9. I saw someone do that, the disclosure thing, it was for a kids clothing store I think… I don’t remember who or what retailer but I remember thinking she got it right. So kudos to her, whoever she is.

  10. False. Shakespeare would have done whatever paid him the most. He was a businessman first and foremost, you bardodolators be damned.

  11. I’m getting ready to test out some facial cream and if I end up liking it (it’s rather expensive, so this is a bonus for 2 people here) then I’m going to give a sample of it away on my blog. Of course, it will be on my review site which I update so rarely that I think I have less than 10 posts there. Shakespeare would have prefaced it with words by Oberon in “Midsummer Night’s Dream”:

    There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
    Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight;
    And there the snake throws her enamell’d skin,
    Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in.

    Except my skin isn’t very enamell’d. It’s just showing signs of wrinkles to come and nobody, not even the great bard himself, would want to write about that.

    You sure do make me want to write a really creative review now, Neil.

    (Did you listen to the next NPR show? It’s on today! I’m linking it on Facebook.)

    xoxo

  12. I think that’s an excellent idea. Thanks, Bill!

  13. You are right, as usual :-).

  14. Here, here! Is there any problem Shakespeare can’t solve?

    And by the way, I think that yes, marketing is ruining personal blogs for me. I enjoying reading about the exploits of regular people, not mini stars who get whisked away on fabulous trips or even sent copious amounts of free stuff with the hopes of a good review.

  15. have you given any thought to becoming a mom blogger who does reviews?

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