Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Astroturfing – Slippery When Wet

It’s football time again. Whew, we made it threw another off-season! Welcome back to the sounds and smells of the gridiron. The stadiums are open. The sodas are ready. And the grass is green. But is it real, or is it Memorex?

That’s the question many folk are asking about some grassroots campaigns. Is it really grassroots-driven or is it Astroturf? Which strategies are OK and which ones are foul?

Real grass is unpredictable. It doesn’t grow evenly. Sometimes, weeds pop up. Grass needs the right amount of water and sunlight. Often, it needs to be nourished by a little fertilizer. Working with it is messy business. It takes time to grow. But once it gets going, it is strong and long-lasting. Watered grass smells really good.

Watered Astrotuf is slippery. Astrotuf is, by definition, artificial. It leads to injuries. Each Astroturf field has a hand-selected texture, hand-selected fiber, hand-selected pad, and hand-selected color. Astroturf is easily controlled.

When public relations works with a grassroots campaign, it provides support. PR may provide resources or counsel. It’s complicated and it takes time.

When public relations works with an Astroturf campaign, it does so to be in control. PR becomes deceptive and manipulative. It’s relatively easy and fast.

Astroturfing clearly is not an ethical practice.

Paull Young and Trevor Cook have launched an anti-astroturfing campaign and are asking PR folk, agencies and other communicators to sign on. Go to the Anti-astroturfing PR Wiki for details.

It may not be as clear-cut as it sounds. So discussion and debate about it is healthy.

1 comment:

Kami Huyse, APR said...

This is a great way to describe the issue in a susinct way. I love the image of messy, slow and long-lasting to a true grassroots campaign, versus quick, easy and a "slippery slope" for astroturfing. What a great topic for ethics month.