Blogger Engagement Ethics:Dialogic Civility in a Digital Era
Case Study: Salesforce cut hundreds of employees
Summarize the issue,
How is Salesforce being social responsibility and ethics about the situation
and Propose a solution/additional ideas.
500 Words or more
Try to tie in the pdf file as references if possible
if you could divide into sub titles for each require section , that would be appreciate
Blogger Engagement Ethics: Dialogic Civility in a
To cite this article: Jeremy Langett (2013) Blogger Engagement Ethics: Dialogic Civility in a Digital
Era, Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 28:2, 79-90, DOI: 10.1080/08900523.2013.751817
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/08900523.2013.751817
Blogger Engagement Ethics:
Dialogic Civility in a Digital Era
The role of social media as a vital component in an effective public relations plan has expanded
strategic communication into digital space. Despite the rapid advancements of public relations
opportunities within social media such as the blogosphere, guidelines for a prudent entry into this
often personalized online territory are difficult to locate. This article extends beyond individual relationships characteristic of public relations practitioner-blogger discourse and promotes a dialogic
approach to blogger outreach ethics. It ends with several recommendations for public relations
practitioners seeking to facilitate dialogic civility within their own blogger engagement efforts.
The role of social media as a vital component in an effective public relations plan has expanded
strategic communication into digital space. Contemporary research indicates a growing confidence in consumer-generated media (CGM) as a viable means to complement traditional media
channels in public relations efforts (Smith, 2011; Wright & Hinson, 2008). Additionally, agency
and corporate professionals have espoused the benefits of online public relations strategies
(Barone, 2010; Balwani, 2011; Cotton, 2011). What was once constrained as a practice of
conforming news to media-gatekeeper agendas has transformed into a liberation of online
content capable of immediate publication, endorsement, and reposting.
By harnessing the power of social networking, public relations practitioners seek to join
communities of friends sharing information (Scott, 2010). Of these networks, the “blogosphere,”
an environment of “easily publishable, personal web sites that serve as sources of commentary,
opinion and uncensored, unfiltered sources of information on a variety of topics” (Edelman &
Intellissek, 2005, p. 4; Rubel, 2008), is of greatest interest to the public relations practitioner
due to its semblance of journalistic qualities offering detailed reporting and an inherent thirdparty credibility (Ries & Ries, 2002). Estimated to be growing at more than 100,000 blogs
per day, the blogosphere provides innumerable opportunities for public relations practitioners
seeking independent communication channels.
Correspondence should be sent to Jeremy Langett, PhD, Communication Studies, Lynchburg College, 1501 Lakeside
Drive, Lynchburg, VA 24501. E-mail: Langett.firstname.lastname@example.org
Despite the rapid advancements of public relations opportunities within social networks,
guidelines for a prudent entry into this often personalized online territory are difficult to locate.
While an abundance of anecdotal experiences of public relations social networking are offered
within popular literature, a source of ethics to guide this procedure is missing. Rather than
establishing and universalizing a standard code of ethics implemented for public relations
practitioners, the call for blogger engagement guidelines may be answered through a reflection
of the practice and its implications for a dialogic encounter. Paralleling the relationship-building
engagement program between public relations practitioner and blogger, this encounter is “fluctuating, unpredictable, multi-vocal process in which uncertainty infuses encounters between
people and what they mean and become” (Wood, 2004, p. xvi). Extending beyond a simple
relational exchange of information characteristic of a modern understanding of practitionerblogger discourse, a dialogic approach to blogger outreach ethics may provide a rich template
for anticipating the challenges in cultivating engagement programs seeking to protect and
enhance the blogosphere.
TRADITIONAL COMMUNICATION ETHICS FOUNDATIONS
Communication ethics has informed a variety of contemporary communication professions
with theoretical applications ranging from Aristotle to John Rawls. Sandra Dickson (1988)
contends the “fast-paced technologically driven bottom-line industry” of journalism requires
“moral philosophy” guidelines discovered in neither excess nor defect (p. 35); a proposition later
refined by Cunningham (1999). According to Cunningham, the virtuous act is not something
“middling” but rather developed from “reason-based behavior that is right in itself” (p. 5).
Journalists are revered as “epistemically respon
Dialogic Civility in a Digital Era
sible” by envisioning what ought to be done
from a position of sound character (p. 10).
Kantian influences over communication practices facilitate the development of professional
codes such as the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and the Public Relations Society of
America (PRSA), institutions attending to universal laws that are valid for every rational practitioner of the discipline. Practices such as the journalist’s declaration to “minimize harm” reflect
a categorical imperative—an intrinsic end that is good in itself; a good apart from its relation
to a further end (Yang, 2006, p. 112). A public relations practitioner abiding by the PRSA
code of ethics accepts the duties of advocacy, honesty, expertise, independence, loyalty, and
fairness, all of which introduce a moral requirement to the practitioner (http://www.prsa.org).
Utilitarian approaches to communication ethics are understood through J. S. Mills’ evaluation
of moral systems in light of their ability to increase net pleasure in the human race (Bartley,
2006). Framed as a form of consequentialism, Mill’s system of evaluation consists of identifying
and pursuing the higher quality of pleasure for the greatest number of people (Saunders, 2010).
In this regard, the greater pleasure is that which appeals to the higher faculties, a postulate
identifiable in mass media activities such as agenda-setting and framing theories.
The expansive nature of communication channels moves beyond traditional media and into
social media as a viable avenue of information dissemination. Along with this expansion is
an ethical call for appropriate communicative action responsive to the rhetorical situation—
communicator, receiver, and message—in a digital environment. While classic ethical paradigms
may also be applied to new media, these unique tools maintain a capacity for additional ethical
questions investigating philosophical, generational, and computer-mediated considerations.
BLOGGER ENGAGEMENT ETHICS 81
SOCIAL MEDIA ETHICS FOUNDATIONS
Research into social and digital media ethics is rapidly growing to accommodate for the
popularity of online public relations practices. Recent scholarship addressing social media
ethics has grounded blogging within Habermas’s concept of the public sphere (Smith, 2011).
Habermas contends that the public sphere involves “every conversation in which private persons
come together to form a public” (Habermas, 1990, p. 92). According to Burkhart (2007),
public relations practitioners may leverage Habermas’s theory of the communicative act by
cultivating relationships with bloggers and serving organizational interests through four foundational principles: intelligibility, truth, trustworthiness, and legitimacy (Burkhart, 2007, p. 249).
Smith (2011) elucidates the four principles by suggesting if communication between public
relations practitioner and blogger filters through each principle and achieves understanding, the
practitioner may then become part of the social community through dialogue.
The four principles may represent an additional code or guideline followed by public
relations practitioners as they embark on blogger outreach campaigns. Such a code would
be consistent with the Institute of Public Relations 2007 study indicating a preference of
public relations practitioners to rely on codes developed either in-house or from professional
organizations for decision making (Bowen, 2005, p. 2). However, Peck and Matchett (2010)
observe that not all public relations practitioners belong to institutions adhering to codes of
ethics and questioned the source of ethics training for non-members. In fact, ethics training
is identified as a major shortcoming for nearly 70% of those practitioners questioned in the
2007 study (Peck & Matchett). The deficit in public relations ethics training portends major
challenges for practitioners facing multiple strategic decisions for their organization or client.
According to Martinson (2004), the challenges are compounded when the public relations
profession is perceived as inherently unethical due to its advocacy of client interests, regardless
of truth. The Commission on Public Relations Education (2006) recommends that a “consideration of ethics should pervade all content of public relations education” to combat this perception
(as cited in Peck & Matchett, 2010, p. 2). The 2006 report suggests the development of short
courses or mini-seminars to complement public relations curricula that may fail to provide
adequate ethics training. Peck and Matchett further the conversation to address public relations
practitioners’ ethical training deficits by developing and testing an online training module
drawing upon resources offered by the Center for Ethical Deliberation (p. 2). Results of initial
surveys of module users indicated difficulty in navigation, but overall improved ethical decision
making in the areas of disclosure of information, conflicts of interest, lying, and spinning
information for a client or organization (Peck & Matchett).
Additional ethics research of the digital era centers around the millennial generation or
Generation Y—individuals born after 1982 who have grown up with the Internet and first to
pioneer social media technology (Curtin, Gallicano, & Matthews, 2011). Curtin et al. investigate
the relationship between ethics and the organization-employee relationship to explore the
perpetuation of stereotypes existing among millennials. Findings include that millennials “value
transparency and clear ethical rules and expectations” and fare best with “those agencies that
both walk the walk and talk the talk in terms of social responsibility” (p. 2).
The ongoing research into social media ethics continues to build a sturdy reference point
for the codification of practices aligned to protect the value of a liberated public sphere and
its digitally accessible nature. Insights gathered from professional, education, and academic
studies are invaluable to raise awareness of the level and quality of ethics training and the
development of programs testing the decision making of contemporary and future public relations practitioners. Stemming from traditional communication ethics foundations, new media
public relations initiatives are supported from ethics perspectives ranging from deontological,
utilitarian, and virtue perspectives.
Each perspective maintains salient considerations for the multistream public relations practitioner and equips the practice with guidelines and codes sought after by the new generation
of professionals who greatly value clarity of ethical expectations. However, clarity of ethical
expectations is a troubling demand for individuals working within the business of cultivating relationships. As the primary feature of public relations, specifically blogger relations,
relationship-building warrants a richer investigation from a dialogic perspective of communication ethics. Starting from a position of embedded agency within a particular organizational
narrative, the public relations practitioner becomes aware of the blogosphere as a landscape
of multiple voices sharing unique and biased stories, an environment unaccommodating to
clear-cut ethical codes and guidelines.
RELATIONSHIP-BUILDING AND ENGAGEMENT
Relationship-building within the field of public relations is a central theme pervasive throughout
the field’s scholarly and professional literature (Wright & Hinson, 2008; Waters, Tindall, &
Morton, 2010). From introductory public relations textbooks to international communication
discourse, relationship-building may be argued as the primary activity of all public relations
practitioners serving the interests of a client, organization, or other entity. Specifically in the
subset discipline of blogger relations, relationship-building is framed as the core function of a
public relations practitioner.
Public relations professionals highlight blogger engagement strategies from e-mail outreach
to active participation on the blog itself (Barone, 2010). Additional recommendations include
personalizing relationships with bloggers and cultivating trust (Balwani, 2011). In fact, Yoon
(2005) cites interpersonal relationships as responsible for the direction of organizational media
relations efforts. Despite the prevalence of a relationship focus within media and blogger relations literature, few public relations sources centralize interpersonal communication dynamics
as a necessary consideration when developing blogger engagement and outreach.
Prescriptive blogger engagement guidelines follow similar methods for a public relations
practitioner to develop a relationship with the blogger and the social network community.
First, practitioners are recommended to research and target blogs relevant to the news or
content seeking to be shared (Barone, 2010; Payton, 2010). Second, practitioners are directed
to familiarize themselves with the blog and its author, discovering themes, learning the style
and language of the blog, and understanding the mind of the blogger (Barone, 2010; Balwani,
2011; Cotton, 2011). Finally, practitioners are instructed to contact the blogger and present the
news or content seeking to be discussed on the blog (Balwani; Payton; Cotton).
In addition to the general guidelines, some sources of blogger outreach guidelines offer
supplemental instructions to ensure a “win/win” experience (Barone, 2010, p. 1). Barone
(2011) suggests utilizing social media applications such as Facebook and Twitter to strike
up a conversation with a blogger about his or her content. Balwani (2011) recommends guest
posting on a blog as well as gifting products, offering exclusive information, or incentivizing in
BLOGGER ENGAGEMENT ETHICS 83
some way to convince bloggers that your information is relevant for coverage. Cotton (2011)
echoes the idea of providing product samples to bloggers but reminds practitioners of the
importance of honesty and full disclosure at all times. Should samples be offered to bloggers,
Cotton requests that they acknowledge the gift on their blog for transparency. Weingart (2011)
reminds practitioners to adhere to any outreach guidelines established by the author on the
Recommendations to supplement the consensus-shaped blogger outreach strategy of target,
research, and contact, provide multiple points of ethics investigation ancillary to a proposed
dialogic theme. Given the increasingly social component of online public relations, a further
merging of professional and personal (public and private) space concerns philosophers such
as Hannah Arendt, who cautions against an unreflective consensus resulting from an undifferentiated public and private life (1959). A prominent voice against undue confidence in
notions of progress, Arendt asks “is a given action the best decision in a particular historical
moment?” (Arendt, as cited in Arnett, 1980, p. 67). Yet as the social media space is necessary
for blogger engagement and outreach, Arendt’s question is contemplated within the context of
contemporarily established public relations practices. Interpretations of this question may shift
the orientation of blogger outreach ethics:
From: How might a public relations professional best enter into the private sphere of an
independent blogger and his or her network for coverage of organizational interests?
To: What reflections are necessary to achieve a dialogic civility between professional
practitioner and independent blogger to better the digital media environment?
This shift recasts public relations professionals as self/organizational-interested practitioners
into media environment practitioners focused on the protection of the independent blogosphere.
In doing so, the premise of the self as primary among public relations practitioners is supplanted
with a narrative structure that may enhance blog content and ultimately formulate a richer
media landscape. A closer inspection of the self as primary assumption may facilitate a greater
understanding of this move.
THE PRIMACY OF SELF AND RELATIONSHIPS
Contemporary literature surrounding blogger outreach ethics and public relations practices at
large prioritizes relationship-building and trust development as a central theme in the profession
(Balwani, 2011; Barone, 2011; Cotton, 2010; Weingart, 2011). The public relations name itself
signifies its key activity, relating to the public(s) and is founded on Carl Rogers’s principle of
the self as informed by narrative remnants selected to develop a structure for one’s life (Arnett &
Arneson, 1999). Founded in a time of institutional decline such as the Vietnam War, Watergate,
and a general loss of trust in public discourse among authority figures, Rogers’s privileging of
the self over traditions and narratives served a therapeutic culture of prioritizing self-esteem and
affirmation (Arnett & Arneson). Acknowledgement of self-trust eclipsed institutional stories as
salient factors of human identity, leading practices respondent to the self to contemporary
methods of counseling, human resources, public relations, and marketing.
The move from institutional stories to a selection of narrative remnants in the cultivation
of the self is not criticized but rather viewed as a necessary occurrence given the historical
moment of “institutional corruption” (Arnett & Arneson, 1999, p. 89). Indeed, distrust of the
status quo left human actors with nowhere else to turn but toward the self, catalyzing the
founding of the Association of Humanistic Psychology in 1961 that encompassed a “third
force” approach, that is, “choice and development of human possibilities guides interaction
with the other” (Arnett & Arneson, p. 87). Associations such as these further facilitated an
inward movement toward the self, leading to continued scholarship regarding concepts such
as the significance of acknowledgement, individualism, and dialogue (Anderson, 1984; Arnett,
1980; Hyde, 2005; Stewart, 1995).
Given this orientation, Arnett and Arneson (1999) conclude that Rogers’s approach to
dialogue places the quality of relationship over the content of a message. The degree of
relational quality is the metric of interpersonal effectiveness, which the authors suggest requires
empathy, congruence, and unconditional positive regard (p. 98). These characteristics reflect
an understanding of a “good self,” which “seeks connection, relationship—not domination of
another” (p. 99). Finally, Carl Rogers and Barry Stevens (1967) promote the “client perception”
as a final ingredient in acts of caring. Arnett and Arneson (1999) expound upon client perception
by stating that “if a person is grateful that caring action is directed toward him or her, the
relationship is likely to be enriched” (p. 99).
While relationship-centric communication is central to public relations practices, the potential of individualism emerging from an inattentive self acting within a relational context presents
challenges to the contemporary practitioner. Edward Sampson (1985) contends that American
culture is notorious for individualism that “identifies sharp boundaries between what is self and
what is not self, locates control of a person, and excludes other people from the region we call
self” (Sampson, cited in Anderson, Cissna, & Arnett, 1994, p. 18). This sense of individualism
is a product of culture and naturally occurs within communicative practices. To combat such
a level of “self-contained individualism,” Sampson champions an “ensembled individualism”
that he suggest may be more conducive to an effective dialogue (Sampson, 1985; cited in
Anderson, Cissna & Arnett, 1994, p. 18). According to Sampson, ensembled individualism is
“characterized by (a) more fluid boundaries between self and other; (b) thinking of control
as residing in a field of forces that includes but extends beyond the self; and (c) including
other persons within the self.” (Sampson et al. 18). The authors assert that “such a self, whose
interests include others, might be more capable of engaging in dialogue than would solely
self-interested representatives of American individualism” (19).
BLOGGER OUTREACH: FROM DISASSEMBLED SELF TO
Prescriptive approaches to blogger outreach and engagement are representative of an individual
self forging relationship with independent bloggers comprising the digital blogosphere. The
foundation of these relationships is grounded in the self—public relations practitioners’ selfservice to landing coverage of organizational information under the guise of sharing blogworthy
content and the blogger’s self-service to independent publishing. A sense of disassembled self
pervades the public relations practitioner focused on serving the interests of the organizational
blogger outreach agenda, while the independent blogger also maintains a disassembled self as he
BLOGGER ENGAGEMENT ETHICS 85
or she is focused on instantaneous publication to inform or entertain the blog’s audiences. Rather
than serving the health of the online digital environment, relationship-directed blogger outreach
reinforces the disassembled self as a modus operandi of contemporary blogger engagement
programs. Equally troubling, the disassembled self of relationship-driven blogger engagement
programs may shift attention away from service to the public good and toward narrow objectives
of cultivating media contacts, securing exclusive coverage deals, and bargaining advertising
equivalencies for valuable keywords and themes.
Support for the self-centric approach to blogger engagement is apparent within scholarly
investigations of communication ethics. Habermas (1990) suggests that our choices to act are
based in our interests, which naturally supports public relations practitioners’ decisions to
prioritize their clients’ objectives. Additionally, Gadamer (1975) contends that interlocutors
engage from a perspective of biased ground, that is, a prejudice that exists as part of the
communicative agent. In accordance to these philosophies, the self is embedded within narrative
and bias before engagement with the other occurs. Framed within the context of public
relations practitioner and blogger, a dialogue is enmeshed within interests of both parties
and cannot be considered tabula rasa given the roles each agent serves within the encounter.
Practically speaking, public relations practitioners pitching bloggers stories without disclosure
of their role as client representatives not only engage in unethical practices but also assume
an effacing naiveté. While independent bloggers may not uncover the specifics of a public
relations practitioner’s client interest, the perception of being pitched a story relates directly to
a practice within the blogger-outreach narrative and therefore of service to a bias—the interest
in the blog as a medium to transmit organizational information for third-party endorsement.
Avoiding the pitfall of a disassembled self as a public relations practitioner requires an
expanded view of the blogosphere as a space of mutual participation. Rather than cordoning
off interest agendas, initiatives should be developed to protect the digital media environment
as a valuable community-driven source of information. Toward this end, public relations
practitioners and independent bloggers establish fluidity and flexibility of their roles that
are influenced by the features of the blogosphere, including independence, liberated content,
feedback, and instantaneous communication. These concerted efforts reflect an ensembled
individualism espoused by Sampson (1985) and dilute a self-centric notion of contemporary
COMMUNICATIVE ACTION: BLOGGER OUTREACH
Returning to the work of Habermas (1990), which grounds Burkhart’s (2007) approach to a
communicative blogger dialogue, interactions are known as “communicative when the participants coordinate their plans of action consensually, with the agreement reached at any
point being evaluated in terms of the intersubjective recognition of validity claims” (p. 58).
Following Burkhart’s guidelines, public relations practitioners performing blogger outreach with
a sense of intelligibility, truthfulness, trustworthiness, and legitimacy are perceptually engaging
in communicative action, implying an ethical approach to blogger outreach. However, Habermas
is careful to distinguish between communicative action and strategic action, which he claims
occurs when “one actor seeks to influence the behavior of another by means of the threat of
sanctions or the prospect of gratification in order to cause the interaction to continue as the
first actor desires” (p. 58).
The ubiquity of strategy and strategic planning within public relations practices may easily
enable one to conclude that blogger relations is just another tactic with an end goal of securing
positive publicity from an independent blog. However, Habermas ensures that the means to
this end are examined; do public relations practitioners serve the good of the blogosphere,
or do they serve only their clients’ interests? Burkhart’s astute observation of the need for
public relations practitioners to engage in communicative action has produced a viable set of
interpersonal attributes characteristic of the communicative, that is, ethical, public relations
practitioner—intelligibility, truth, trustworthiness, and legitimacy (Burkhart, cited in Smith,
2008, p. 2). Despite the capacity for a public relations practitioner to demonstrate each of these
interpersonal attributes within a blogger outreach scenario, the attributes are a function of the
self, and not of the protection of the blogosphere, which is presented above as an ensembled
individualism. Indeed, a public relations practitioner, despite exhibiting the four interpersonal
characteristics espoused by Burkhart, may embrace a relationship with a blogger for the
“prospect of gratification,” which Habermas indicates falls within the realm of strategic action
(Habmeras, 1990, p. 58). Rather, communicative action is achieved through Bindungseffekt,
an illocutionary binding/bonding effect between both parties that is rationally motivating from
offers made in the speech acts (Habermas, 1990, p. 58). It is the coordination and consensual
planning between the public relations practitioner and the blogger that enables communicative
action, which serves neither self individually but the good of the blogosphere.
THE BETWEEN AS DIALOGIC SPACE
Coordination and consensual planning does not occur within the individual self but rather
between selves, which according to Martin Buber (1970) provides a space for dialogue.
Arnett (2004) suggests that “the between is Buber’s alternative to ideological camps, guiding
Buber’s existential message about dialogue” (p. 79). Rather than imposing messages onto an
interlocutor, dialogue maintains an invitational quality between communicators enabling an
“emergent reciprocity” (Arnett, p. 79). Within these exchanges, a sphere of co-construction of
meaning occurs, facilitating a platform for dialogic communication.
Applied to a public relations blogger outreach program, the between exists as the blogosphere, which offers a source of content co-informed by both public relations practitioner
and blogger. This coordinated and consensually planned web space provides opportunities for
information relevant to the blogger, blog audience, and public relations practitioner. Maintaining
this perspective retains the communicative, and not strictly strategic, act of blogger outreach that
moves beyond influence of one actor over the other and toward a mutual benefit. Facilitated by
linguistic processes guided by “claims to truth, claims to rightness, and claims to truthfulness,”
the blogosphere as the between space for dialogue is positioned favorably for an ethic of
dialogic blogger outreach (Habermas, 1990, p. 58).
BLOGGER OUTREACH ETHIC OF OTHERNESS
Emmanuel Levinas (1969) offers a derivative notion of the Self through his understanding of
a primordial responsibility to the Other. Through this obligation, Levinas eclipses a sense of
BLOGGER ENGAGEMENT ETHICS 87
individualism and conceptualizes an ethic based in responsiveness to the Other’s call. Deetz
and Simpson (2004) expound upon the influence of the Other within dialogic encounters that
may result in the production of new meanings. Clarifying their position, the authors suggest
“otherness may be present either in the concrete person standing there or in the way his or her
understanding reopens the things of our world to redetermination” (Deetz & Simpson, p. 145).
As the basis for philosophical hermeneutics popularized by Gadamer, the transformative power
of a dialogic encounter in this perspective leads to an exploration of difference and negotiation
of meaning that may otherwise be static from individualist perspectives.
Perceived within a dyad between public relations practitioner and blogger, a dialogic ethic
reveals that the public relations practitioner’s identity is tied to the encounter with the blogger.
The public relations practitioner cannot satisfy the roles and functions of a public relations
practitioner without dialogue with bloggers. Likewise, a blogger seeking to author content
relevant to the theme of her blog and serve the interests of her audience cannot effectively
do so without dialogue with public relations practitioners. These practitioners provide the
relevant content that can enhance the blogger’s web blog and better serve the blog’s audience
interests. The mutual reliance on the Other for the development of an identity–public relations
practitioner and the attentive blogger—facilitates a dialogic ethic present within the blogger
However, a dialogic ethic of Otherness is not concerned with the formation and solidification
of self identities but rather with inviting communication. Arnett (2004) notes that “Levinas
tells us to forego focus on the color of the Other’s eyes, or we risk missing the face of the
Other” (p. 88). This powerful observation reminds communicators to avoid perception and
instead focus on the “primordial call to ethics or responsibility for the Other” (Arnett, p. 88).
With the formation of the Self only possible as an attentive response to the Other, a dialogic
ethic begins not with the individual, but with the biased metaphorical ground upon which the
communicator stands. Whether this ground is composed of client publicity interests or thematic
content relevance, a call for responsibility between public relations practitioner and blogger
exists in the blogosphere that ultimately shapes the identity of both actors. It is within this
dialogic space of the between that guides blogosphere participants toward an ethic of civility.
TOWARD DIALOGIC CIVILITY IN THE BLOGOSPHERE
Arnett and Arneson (1999) suggest “dialogic civility works to keep conversation going that
seeks to enrich a life lived meaningful through others—persons, institutions, places of work,
and long-term friendships” (p. 288). Seeking to protect the communicative environment, dialogic civility calls for “public respect as we work to co-constitutively discover the minimal
communication background assumptions necessary : : : to shape together the communicative
terrain of the twenty-first century” (Arnett & Arneson, p. 277). The communicative terrain of
21st century public relations practitioners continues to develop online. Recognizing the value
of the blogosphere, public relations practitioners enter the domain of independent bloggers,
professional and amateur alike, for an opportunity to share content that is relevant to the blog’s
audience while simultaneously serving a client interest.
Several conclusions can be drawn from understanding dialogic civility as applied to the
blogosphere, ultimately shaping dialogic ethics between a public relations practitioner and
blogger. First, what is primary is not the public relations practitioner, her client or the blogger,
but the blogosphere itself. This invitational “between” space differentiates itself from traditional
media outlets supported by subscriptions or institutional advertising and champions a true
independence pervasive in the content shared with blogosphere audiences. By shifting the focus
away from individual media roles and to the protection of the communicative terrain, that is,
blogosphere, an ethic of dialogic civility between public relations practitioner and blogger may
begin to emerge.
Second, the individual media roles of public relations practitioner and blogger may be
framed as components in an ensembled individualism, characterized by Sampson as embracing
fluid roles, thinking of control existing in a field of forces, and including others within the
self. Although difficult to conceptualize in a traditional media relations program, ensembled
individualism within the blogosphere may naturally emerge when the communicative terrain,
and not personalized agendas, is the priority. The invitational quality of the blogosphere among
participants may suspend particular media functions and result in mutual reciprocity for the
goal of creating better content.
Third, a dialogic civility may exist between public relations practitioner and blogger through
communicative, not strategic, action as noted by Habermas. Encompassing the core of ensembled individualism while facilitating productivity, communicative action stresses coordination
and consensual planning, leading to content shared between public relations practitioner and
blogger that enhances the quality of the blogosphere for its audience. While contemporary
public relations blogger outreach strategy may seek to place content on an independent blog,
it is the collaborative and coordinated nature between public relations practitioner and blogger
that can result in communicative action based on an initial strategy, and not strategic action
based on an advantageous relationship.
DIALOGIC ETHICS: BLOGGER ENGAGEMENT
Achieving and sustaining dialogic civility between public relations practitioner and blogger
can be an ongoing challenge in a time of self-serving organizational agendas and bottom-line
objectives. However, given the importance of understanding the between as a crucial element
for effective blogger outreach, public relations practitioners may subscribe to an ethics built
on the protection of the blogosphere. In turn, bloggers may respond favorably to the ideas
offered by public relations practitioners as means to enhance blogosphere content for the good
of all who participate within it—bloggers, audiences, public relations practitioners, and the
public at large. Three recommendations that facilitate dialogic blogger engagement ethics may
1. Recognizing the Other [blogger] as necessary to the public relations practitioner identity.
Without the blogger, there would be no outlet to disseminate organizational content or a
third-party endorsement critical to media relations success.
2. Learning the narrative upon which the Other [blogger] stands; the narrative bias is central
in formulating the scope of the blog and may be accessed through biographical pages,
previous blog entries, audience analyses or conversations with the blogger herself. During
BLOGGER ENGAGEMENT ETHICS 89
the learning phase, public relations practitioners should not be concerned with pitching
organizational information, but understanding the theme and purpose of the blog.
3. Ensuring the organizational content pitched to the blogger is relevant to the audience and
represents characteristics espoused by the blogosphere, that is, transparency, feedback
potential, and thematic salience to discussion threads. Unlike traditional media outlets,
the blogosphere comprises a web of thoughts and ideas that may either embrace or
reject public relations practitioner information depending on its fitness to current online
Public relations practitioners who keep in mind these reflections while developing a blogger
engagement program can formulate a dialogic civility ethic based in the protection of the independent blogosphere. While interpersonal attributes such as intelligibility, trust, and legitimacy
poise individuals for successful relationships, an ensembled individualism shaped by the Other
and communicating in the between attends to the unique qualities of the blogosphere. It is
this dialogic civility that will enhance blogosphere content and better serve public relations
practitioners and bloggers alike.
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