Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | February 13, 2009

Le Tourment Vert Responds

In response to The Great Astroturf Pushback of Aught Nine, Le Tourment Vert has reached out to the cocktail blogging community and offered a full apology. Gabe at Cocktailnerd has posted the letter from Ashley Garver, the Field Marketing Coordinator for Distillerie Vinet Ege SA which distills and imports LTV.  It seems the LTV is no longer having the astroturfing PR firm, Cashmere Agency, represent them publicly as a result of their behavior and the pushback by cocktail bloggers.

A few notes…

First, the coordination of postings by cocktail bloggers is pretty remarkable. Easily a plurality, if not outright majority, of regularly updated cocktail blogs posted on the same subject on the same day. Vinet Ege’s response was very rapid as well. More importantly, they did the right thing and apologized for the behavior of the people they employed to represent them online.

Second, as I’ve mentioned a few times in passing, I work in the political online space. I’ve seen quite a few kerfuffles over the last few years where political staffers engage in similar spam or astroturf comments on blogs in favor of their boss or against their opponents without disclosing who they work for. The response by cocktail bloggers and subsequent action by Vinet Ege to stop Cashmere Agency from speaking for them online is as fast and effective a response I’ve ever seen.

Third, disclosure and honesty is key. Really, there’s nothing more important than being clear about who you are and who you represent when speaking professionally online. I currently work for a national labor union and I’ve worked on a presidential campaign, senate campaign, and advocacy campaigns doing online outreach and blogging. I always disclose my connection to my employer (or client) when commenting on matters related to my work, even if not directly advocating on behalf of my employer. The most heartening part of Vinet Ege’s response was their commitment to transparency:

Any online communications on blogs or message boards from this point forward will be will be clearly identified as emanating from our company or representative.

Exactly!

I’d also add that I would much rather have an employee for a distillery or a representative of theirs comment on my blog and disclose it than have someone come in and pimp a product for the sake of it. Honest disclosure of people commenting professionally on my blog gives me the ability to engage a representative in much greater detail about the product. That is, disclosure makes it more likely, not less, that a product can be discussed on a blog!

Finally I should add again that I was never subjected to astroturf comments by people from Cashmere Agency. I blogged about this because it is interesting to me and because the behavior of PR reps with cocktail blogs is very important. I spend a lot of time on this blog. Most of the bloggers affected by Cashmere have been at this far longer than I have. Spamming and astroturfing is a question of respect for peoples’ personal work.

Since I put up my post yesterday, a PR rep for another company noted my post when introducing himself. That, to me, is the right attitude because it showed that he actually read my blog and wasn’t just pulling my email address from a culled spreadsheet.

Additionally, while I was writing this post, I received an email from Ashley Garver of Vinet Ege. Included in the email was the same apology posted at Cocktailnerd and a desire to hit reset with me and Le Tourment Vert. This effort is appreciated, again given the fact that my blog was not visited by astroturfers from Cashmere Agency. I’m glad that Vinet Ege has been responsive to the concerns of cocktail bloggers during this ordeal and I hope that other public relations companies, distillers, and importers are all taking note of what has happened over the last few days. It is highly instructive and people that fail to learn these best practices for blogger outreach are not going to be appreciated.

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Responses

  1. Absolutely, Matt. I am actually flattered when a distiller, brand manager, or other representative takes the time to read my post and intelligently and thoughtfully comment on it.

    That small amount of effort is far more impactful in my positive reaction to a product than a spam comment (obviously) or even sending my Press Release-style emails.

    Thank you for commentary and insights throughout this ordeal. Vinet-Ege had an immediate and spot-on response.


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