AdAge ran an interesting article this week about Walgreens social crisis management campaign aimed at getting a leg up in their heated battle with Express Scripts, their former pharmacy benefits provider. The campaign, which includes paying for positive blog posts and positive sponsored tweets, is relatively new ground in the crisis management world and has raised a few eyebrows.
This practice reminds me a bit of a tactic that has been around for years in the public affairs world, which is often referred to as ‘astroturfing.’
Astorturfing is basically the practice of steering public opinion in a dispute by paying key influencers to take your side, giving the appearance of a groundswell of support for your cause. Political candidates and parties have been noted practitioners of astroturfing over the years.
Where a sponsored campaign like Walgreens’ parts ways with a traditional astroturfing campaign is in its transparency. According to AdAge, Walgreen’s paid tweets and blogs were clearly marked as sponsored so there are no false pretenses. The question in this particular case is less ‘Is it ethical?’ and more ‘Does it help them?’ or ‘Is it worth it?’
What do you think? Are sponsored tweets and blog posts a wise investment in a crisis management campaign? Do you think more crisis managers are going to be incorporating this practice into their playbooks?