If your company pays a blogger or journalist to write a favorable article under their own bylines should you a) cross your fingers and hope no one will find out? 2) add a disclaimer that that he or she has been commissioned to write said article?
It’s pretty clear what the ethical thing to do is. If you need a little more convincing about why you should mention the paid relationship: “Full disclosure” is the legal term. “Transparency” is the mot du jour. Those terms should guide us in all that we do in our professional communications.
But when you are a big company involved in a court case, as is Google against Oracle, it’s not always so black and white. Nilay Patel writes in The Verge that both companies were ordered to disclose which journalists and bloggers they compensated. Google initially replied that it had not paid anyone, but after the judge responded that Google had “failed to comply,” Patel writes that Google then listed “a number of people who have commented on the case in two categories: current and former Google employees, and people who work at organizations who receive donations from Google.” Google included in the list Stanford Professor Mark Lemley who provides “outside counsel” on “unrelated cases.” Oracle also complied by noting in a subsequent filing that it retains Florian Mueller, who writes FOSS Patents, as a consultant.
A blogger is technically anyone who posts public commentary in today’s “translucent” world. The lesson here is that even if you don’t actually commission someone to write on a specific subject, the fact is if that person does write about your company, and also happens to be affiliated with your organization, this must be disclosed from a legal standpoint.