Journalists who blog are outside editorial guidelines

Staff journalists often have their own personal blogs, where they cover similar beats as they do for their publication. These reporters use their blog to expand on issues raised in the publication, provide additional information, or pursue more unusual avenues which would not normally be covered in the pub. For PR pros, this is a good thing – it helps prepare clients for interviews and helps us tailor our messaging and pitches. It also helps to raise the client’s profile among target audiences since many of these blogs have high readerships in their own right.

But it also presents a challenge since the journalist blogger is not restricted by editorial guidelines on his or her personal site. What you say to a reporter in an interview for a publication will be seen through the lens of the publication’s guidelines. It will be reviewed and edited and so, to a certain extent, the outcome is more predictable, more controlled. But the copy in a reporter’s blog has no such checks and balances. Details which may have been peripheral, confidential or just plain personal, could get free air with little recourse. After all, it’s all fair game so there’s nothing specifically wrong in reporting it on a blog.

Of course, reputation is essential in the media world and you don’t get far by breaching confidences, but what’s ‘understood to be confidential’ or ‘implicitly not for general consumption’ is a gray area open to error and mishap. The risk of leaking future developments then is much higher, even if by accident, since an interview may get covered twice – once in the formal publication, and once more on the reporter’s blog (maybe even differently).

The solution is to make sure messaging is tight, and to make crystal clear what is supposed to be for future consumption and said merely as a heads up. That’s always been true, but with the consumption of blogs on the rise, and the increasingly porous nature of news, it’s more important than ever before.