Amazon is taking a new approach to public relations -- it's farming out some of its PR work to a "Holiday Customer Review Team," made up of Amazon customers who've written a lot of reviews on the site. (Talk about making community work for you...)
The company has announced what it calls its "Holiday Customer Review Team." These are six Amazon customers who are particularly active in writing product reviews that it has offered to reporters to discuss gift picks. (They also contribute their recommendations on a page on Amazon’s site.)
Amazon says that members of the team are "real people giving unbiased advice to fellow consumers. They are not employed by Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates."
Okay, it may be a bit strong to say that Amazon is "open sourcing" its public relations, but it's an interesting step. Instead of hiring people to write reviews of products, which wouldn't be terribly credible or interesting if "reviewers" from other stores are any example, Amazon's tapping its vast community of users and letting them produce the content and talk to the media.
Amazon is also getting a slight taste of what it's like to work with open source projects. With open source projects, every contributor and every user is a potential source and they don't have to be vetted by corporate PR first. For instance, with the openSUSE Project we have had board members and other contributors and users quoted (and blogging) about openSUSE and will again in the future.
I'm not sure our public relations folks are entirely comfortable with that notion, but it's one you have to live with if you work with an open source project. This is one reason companies engaged in open source projects should avoid the strict gatekeeper mindset employed by many companies.
If a reporter can't get a comment from a developer who works for your company about Project X, they may very well opt to go for a contributor associated with the project but not employed by your company -- which can be worse in the long run. Some of the most "open" companies, oddly enough, have the most restrictive PR policies.
What do you think? Is Amazon on to something here, or is it just a PR stunt? Do people want sources outside the corporate walls, or do they even pay attention to the sources in the first place? Let me know in the talkbacks!