Marie Claire responded today to the fitness bloggers who reacted so strongly to the magazine’s “Hunger Diaries” article. The editors rounded up comments and Twitter and blog posts (mine was one of them) to show that they are listening to their readers and to show both sides of the story.
I’ve been in social media for a while now and I’ve seen a few companies respond to negative PR situations such as this. Some did it well; some not so well. Here’s my take on Marie Claire:
What they did right
- They acknowledged the brouhaha. I don’t think any of us really expected the reaction to be so widespread. It was like we had our own fitness meme of the day. It would have been nice if the magazine’s response had come a little sooner, though. Three days after seems a bit late in social media timelines.
- They sparked our community. We really took off with the topic and had some great conversations in our sphere of the blogging universe. This is cool. I commented on other people’s blogs for the first time and they on mine. It was great to talk to my fellow bloggers around a common cause. I feel like I’ve started a few friendships out of it and that’s amazing.
What they did wrong
- The first few comments in their roundup were skewed towards their side of the story. In fact most of the Twitter comments they spotlighted favored Marie Claire as well. The percentage of pro vs. con that were included in the article didn’t represent what I saw on Twitter or the blogs. Almost everyone I spoke with disagreed with the attack viewpoint of the article. Several bloggers (myself included) picked up the threads the writer seemed to be trying to express and continued the discussion for her but in a more positive tone of voice. None of this was mentioned in Marie Claire‘s response.
- They didn’t reach out to the community. While they did round up quotes and blog links, they didn’t talk to any of us to deepen their understanding of our reaction. If I’m wrong, please correct me. Did anyone get asked for an interview or some sort of follow-up? The magazine also didn’t respond to us on Twitter or join in on the #fitblog discussion the day after the controversy arose. But I’m sure they were following that closely! Joining in and reaching out would have showed guts and integrity; we would have respected them even if we disagreed with their point of view.
- There was no editorial explanation. I would like to know why the particular angle was chosen. The writer approached the bloggers with a different story idea than the one that got printed. Was the writer “fluffing” to get the quotes she wanted or did someone above her change the focus of the article? Although the writer is getting vilified, it might not have been her decision.
What They Could Do
- Interact with us. I’m not saying they need to go to everyone’s blog posts and leave comments. It’s water under the bridge at this point. What I’m saying is from time to time reach out to our community. We share the same readers and we advocate for the same viewpoint of healthy living. Stop by a blog and leave a comment occasionally or maybe retweet a post you like. (Men’s Health does this, by the way; they’ve used a few of my articles on their “Around the Blogosphere” section. I’ve also been listed on HuffPo.)
- Foster our community. There will be a FitBloggin ’11. Why doesn’t Marie Claire host a panel discussion on the role of responsibility in health blogging? I’m sure Roni would be happy to work with you to set that up. Don’t just slap down some dough for posters though; send an editor to interact with us. Show us how your world works so we can understand you better.
- Highlight integrity. There are blogs out there that you clearly don’t agree with. That’s cool. No one has the right to control another’s editorial choices; freedom of speech and all that. Why don’t you support the fitness bloggers that you like by showcasing us to your readers? I’m not asking for editorial content in your magazine; for a blogger that’s kinda like finding the Holy Grail. But perhaps you could do a weekly roundup of posts that you like. Or you could invite a few of us to guest post on various topics. May I suggest a fun roundup of what fitness bloggers are doing to trot off the turkey this Thanksgiving? Or how about a New Year’s Resolution roundup? What are bloggers saying about healthy goals for 2011?
You’ve got a great opportunity here. Look at some of the other traditional media organizations who are interacting with bloggers. Heck, look at Salon.com as a stellar example of a website combining high integrity journalism with blogger contributions. The New York Times regularly employs bloggers to highlight different topics for them. It can be done well and will only create a better, healthier community for our readers.
To the fitbloggers out there, what do you think? To Marie Claire, you said you’re listening. Are you?