It is hard to truly grasp a company's position on an issue when its only public comment is a statement. When someone from a youth marketing blog recently queried Target about what they considered to be a questionable ad, Target's response came by statement: "Unfortunately we are unable to respond to your inquiry because Target does not participate with nontraditional media outlets. This practice is in place to allow us to focus on publications that reach our core guest."
Response in the blogosphere, predictably, was outrage and sarcasm because more than a few bloggers are also likely to be Target shoppers. They've accused the company of failing to see the forest for the trees. By focusing on the traditional intermediaries, it's missing a brand new opportunity to interact with the public directly.
As reported in a story on this week's cover, Target's decision to increase its PR staff and review its media policies specific to bloggers are both positive steps. It's promising to see the company embrace new opportunities afforded by increased manpower.
In time, Target may find that it's reaching the greatest number of loyal customers through the aggregate of smaller outlets.
Of course, Target's story is familiar to anyone who has covered marketing trends. And while we may reflexively think such a limited media policy is foolhardy, it is, in some respects, an extension of PR pros' traditional method of analyzing opportunities. Even companies that actively engage bloggers must prioritize their responses to the ones they deem most influential or have the largest readership.
The lesson here is that while policies against certain forms of media may make decisions easier in PR departments, the benefits of having an open policy far outweigh the niceties of risk avoidance.