Blogging Backlash & Lessons In What (Not) To Post

Recently, the community blog PLOS Biologue removed a blog post by two journalists Charles Seife and Paul Thacker that criticized the lack of transparency by scientists.

The article can still be read in a cached form here, in which it states:

“In the wake of several embarrassing scientific debacles where financial conflicts played a prominent role — the death of Jesse Gelsinger,[i] the delayed decision to pull Vioxx and Bextra from the U.S. market,[ii] and the misconduct of Andrew Wakefield,[iii] to name a few — scientists, clinicians, publishers, regulators, and journalists began to beat a steady drumbeat to march research toward transparency.”

The post goes on to discuss various instances where e-mails from scientists have revealed the extent to which industry experts control the scientific literature to promote their own products and private gain.

At the end, the journalists conclude, “In short, those working to improve public welfare should oppose attempts to embolden government entities to withhold public information, thus threatening public health and the public trust in science.”

PLOS Biologue pulled the post after severe backlash by its readers, arguing the post was “not consistent with at least the spirit and intent of our community guidelines.”

Keith Kloor, author of the Nature news article mentioned in the retracted post, told Ivan Oransky of Retraction Watch that he disagreed with the decision to remove the article, stating:

“As much I think the PLOS post is deeply flawed and erroneous, it bothers me that it was retracted. 1) The official explanation is really vague. Not very transparent! 2) I have to wonder if there was intense pressure brought to bear from scientists…I find myself in the odd position of defending the flawed PLOS post from these presumed pressures, in part because I’ve been the subject of similar pressure campaigns. (Of course, I’m only assuming pressure was brought to bear. I have no idea if this was actually the case.)”

This instance provides law firms two important lessons about blogging. First, blogging is not easy. Readers—even online—create a discerning audience who feel free to openly and harshly criticize authors.

Second, blogging—while crucial to the survival of a company’s marketing strategy today—is as dangerous as it is beneficial. It is reported that the number of blogs published by Am Law 200 law firms has grown twelvefold in the last seven years, according to Above The Law (ATL), quoting the Am Law 200 Blog Benchmark Report 2015 from LexBlog.

In the same time frame, the number of firms publishing blogs has more than quadrupled to a total of 163 firms. And eighteen of the top 25 firms are blogging, according to the same source (via ATL).

With all these firms blogging, it’s important to remember that content matters. Just as easily as your firm can attract a wider audience or client base through its posts, it can alienate them.

Which firms may have the most at stake? It’s hard to say, but Fox Rothschild has the most blogs, with 39, and Sheppard Mullin places second with 29 blogs. Womble Carlyle follows closely with 22 blogs, and finally DLA Piper just misses the podium in fourth place, with 21 blogs, according to ATL.

What are these law firms talking about?

  • Employment and labor blogs (132 publications)
  • Corporate and commercial law (104)
  • Financial (100)
  • Intellectual property (73)
  • International (64)
  • Healthcare (55)
  • Administrative (52)
  • Technology (50)
  • Energy (47)
  • Real estate and construction (43)

Finally, you may have guessed, but mobile visits (visits conducted via smartphone or tablet) now account for 25 percent of global Internet traffic —and increase from 14 percent one year ago (via ATL).

So, decide with your marketing team and certainly name partners what message your law firm is hoping to send with its posts. Also come up with a plan for retractions (if any) or legal responsibility for the opinions in the posts. Like all things at the intersection of technology, law, and business, create a policy or manual for your blogging strategy.

In the end, blogging does more good than bad. After all, without blogging or reading others’ blogs, your firm may never know about interesting, informative upcoming events, like the following audio conferences:

  • Counsel’s Guide to Trade Secret Protection: Preventing and Avoiding Costly Errors and Penalties
    • Wednesday, September 16, 2015
  • Reclassifying Exempt Employees: Ensuring Wage and Hour Compliance
    • Wednesday, September 23, 2015 
  • Excel Pivot Tables: Shortcuts, Tricks, and Time-Saving Tips to Crunch Data More Efficiently
    • Tuesday, September 29, 2015 
  • Writing Effective Emails: Mastering The Number One Tool for Business Communication
    • Friday, October 2, 2015
  • Compensating Millennial Associates: Customizing Compensation and Rewards for Increased Productivity and Firm Profitability
    • Thursday, October 8, 2015
  • Partner Compensation: Keys to Compensating Succession and Client Transfers
    • Thursday, November 5, 2015 

To attend, click here.

C4CM audio conferences are live, interactive sessions presented over the telephone. You can attend from any location with phone access. You pay just one low registration fee for as many participants as you wish at one call-in location. Listen in from the convenience of your home, your office or in your conference room with your entire team and immediately put what you’ve learned to work in your department.

Need to reach a wider audience with your posts? Find out how, here.

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