Everyone who toils in glamorous industries dreams of the day that they’ll write a tell-all book or blog on the subject of what really goes on at their workplace. And the example of the Washingtonienne is instructive: Capitol Hill staffer writes about her sexcapades with co-workers on an anonymous blog, gets outed and fired, and writes a novel on the subject.
So at first glance, the dishy tell-all blog Strumpette seems to have all the right elements of pass-around success as “A Naked Journal of the PR Business.” There’s semi-nude photos, and a backstory about a PR exec named Amanda Chapel who is ready to tell the truth about PR and the supposed prostitution involved.
Right out of the gate on March 26, Chapel fires her first shot at Steve Rubel, the king of PR bloggers, saying her unnamed PR agency is doing a pool on how long he’ll last in his new job at Edelman PR. It’s a classic move, engaging a big player in a fight to get publicity and links in the blogosphere, and at first it worked.
But attacking bloggers comes with risks — especially when you come in naked, without the credibility or trust earned from your readers. Very quickly, blogger Doc Searls noted that Google searches for Amanda Chapel came up empty. Then, Mike Krempasky, a blogger who works at Edelman, made a connection between Strumpette and a man named Brian Connolly, who runs a collaborative news site called Furthermore.
As time went on, Strumpette sharpened “her” attacks on fellow PR bloggers, and they, in turn, told her farewell and did even more investigative work to unmask “her” and connect the dots to Connolly. Connolly, for his part, denies being Strumpette and says he only has acted as her web host.
So what went wrong on the way to fame and fortune for Strumpette, a gossip blog built along the same lines as Wonkette and Washingtonienne? Anonymity and personal attacks do not mix well in blogs. While being anonymous might help you as a whistle-blower or truth-teller in a touchy industry like PR, it doesn’t help as much if your naked purpose is to attack everyone around you in the guise of someone you aren’t.
Many blogs are anonymous, and Salam Pax wrote possibly the most famous anonymous diary as an eyewitness to the beginning of the Iraq War in 2003. In his case, the blogosphere expended a lot of energy trying to find out if he was legit, and the quality of what he wrote and
various investigations led people to believe he was who he said he was.
While Strumpette has the catty voice and blog design down perfectly, she/he is trying too hard to belong, to fit in. Various PR bloggers said he/she wrote emails promoting the blog when it launched, and “Amanda Chapel” and Brian Connolly pop up on various blogs defending and attacking at will — with legal threats thrown in for good measure.
Without a real identity — and with nothing but attacks to stand on — Strumpette’s credibility dwindles considerably. Robert French, who teaches at Auburn University and blogs at infOpinions?, put it best in a comment below his blog post titled “The Worst of PR and WOM [Word of Mouth].”
“It is incumbent upon [bloggers] to post their real names and some form of contact info on their blog if they decide to participate in personal attacks on others,” French writes. “Now, is anyone really going to argue that point with me? Hey, I support the right of self-expression, too…Yes, the author has every right to post anonymously. They also, by posting, make themselves open to criticism and attempts to discover who they are. It is the nature of the online beast.
“I think anonymity, when making attacks, is a petty, childish and irresponsible behavior. The lack of transparency, when occuring in relation to public relations makes the act of hiding even more ludicrous. If you do not have the character to post your name along with your posts and comments, then do us all a favor and keep to yourself. Anyone that engages in, or supports, such behavior will never gain any respect. Respect? Character? Decency? Anonymous cowards will never even know what those words really mean.”
What do you think? Is the snark in Strumpette worthy of all the attention, or is the whole controversy overblown? Share your thoughts in the comments below.