HR Blogging, Workforce, and Disclosure

Sep 10, 2009
This article is part of a series called Opinion.

I am looking at an email in my inbox from June. I’m not going to call anyone out by name in this post, but it’s from an HR Blogger, and in it the Blogger is complaining that they did not get a speaking slot at our Social Recruiting Summit even though they would promote the event if they spoke. Not a word about how much value they would deliver, or how insightful they’d be. Only that they could promote the hell out of it.

I have a second email from an even more prominent HR blogger in my inbox from late July, offering “guaranteed positive posts and tweets” in return for ERE covering all or part of their travel costs.

Why do these emails bother me? They show a willingness on the part of their authors to write their “thoughts” publicly, while never disclosing that those thoughts were not genuine, but contingent on favors.

I don’t think that either blogger thought of those emails in this way, but they were, in short, proposals for payola. I scratch your back, you scratch mine. And these are not extraordinary — they are just the two of the more bold tit-for-tats I’ve received.

Workforce Online recently published a piece on transparency in the HR Blogosphere. Collectively, the HR bloggers’ reaction ranged from outrage to dismissal. Nobody likes to be called out in public.

But as someone intimately familiar with many (but not all) of the players, I’ve long been troubled my many of the same things that are brought up in the Workforce piece. And so far, I’ve seen a lot of indignation and questioning of motives about the article (Old media: scared, out of line, link-baiting.  Bloggers: Great guys, opinionated, keeping it real.) but nobody seems to be claiming that any of the points and examples of undisclosed conflicts of interest in the article were incorrect.

I think that is a disservice, because even if HR bloggers disagree with the assertion that the level of disclosure they’re currently providing about their conflicts of interest is woefully inadequate, it’s worth considering the issues raised in the article and the level of disclosure that they provide.

It’s not wrong for bloggers to make money from their hard work. But deception about the motives behind a post — even by omission — can destroy all of that in a heartbeat. (Anyone else remember the Pay Per Post scandal?)

HR bloggers: I love you. Please don’t let the Sturm und Drang over the Workforce article keep you from giving this issue a cold, sober look.

This article is part of a series called Opinion.
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