Transparency, Authenticity and Trust

aka lies not so well disguised…

I’m unhappy. Seriously so. I have had about enough of spin and deception in the blogosphere. Fake blogs, pay-for-play, astroturfing, lies about your products, the lot of it. And it’s gotten to the point where the FTC is weighing in. Unbelievable.

How close are we to destroying consumers trust in our “social media” outreach efforts? What about our clients trust in us to help protect and enhance their brand? How’s that working out for Sony, McDonald’s and Wal-Mart?

We talk a good game, sure. Be transparent. Be authentic. Listen. Engage in a conversation. But as soon as push comes to shove too many take the easy way out. Why reach out to the community when you can just pretend to be the community? And when called out on it? Rewrite history. It’s even gotten to the point where public announcements can be made that appear to be easily contradicted by fact.

Do we think no one will notice? That there won’t be a backlash? Do we care that we may end up destroying the very channels of communication we should be trying to open, let alone our credibility as communicators?

It has to stop. It almost makes me long for the days when all we had to worry about was the CTR on a 468×60 (almost).


Update: For a look at real transparency – The Quitter

Update II: When all else fails, there’s always the “Fake Blog Apology Service” courtesy of Adrants

Update III [12/15/06 1:40pm EST]: Whereby we take a closer look at how some flacks really engage in “social” media…

In a nutshell, the link above to iStudio, a division of High Road Communications/ Fleishman Hilliard, is supposed to have a comment attached to the post from yours truly. I have been trying for the last week to find out how their SNR, coded in framesets, is search engine friendly as they claim. Unfortunately it looks like iStudio has no plan on correcting the record or allowing a challenge to their claims. Now, before you say “but maybe it takes time for comments to be released from moderation” – here’s the screenshot of someone from the admin moderation screen visiting my site less than an hour after I posted the comment yesterday.

At the time of this post my comment is still in moderation.

What was it I was trying to point out and get some kind of an answer to after waiting almost a week for a response from their tech team?

Hi all, I don’t want to take any thunder out of your efforts, as I support the goals of the SNR and believe it is great way to aggregate and disseminate information broadly. However, after our last discussion I’m still not convinced that this release meets the objectives stated, or, as this post claims, the SNR criteria for indexing by search engines (SNR point #4) at this stage in its development.

Frankly, I don’t see how a release built in a frameset could be considered search engine friendly given the consensus advice around using frames. One of the great things about the internet is that our work can evolve in real time. There’s nothing wrong with launching a product that doesn’t yet meet 100% of the requirements – in fact, ‘beta’ is all the rage with the Web 2.0 crowd. However, I really think that your audience, potential users, and supporters deserve a clear explanation of how exactly your SNR tool does or will live up to all the promises.

This to me, seems pretty serious, as iStudio has proclaimed their release adheres to the accepted guidelines developed by their industry peers, yet I am certain that the coding is not up to par for Rule #4 – search engine indexing. At this point I’d really like to hear from the Social Media Club who developed & maintain the guidelines for the SNR. Do they feel that the iStudio/Weblo release complies? Or how about someone from Fleishman Hilliard – are these the standard practices of your divisions?

Man, no wonder PR has such a bad rep in the blogosphere – they’ve earned every bit of it.

The worst part of this issue in my opinion is how it was handled, not the coding itself. I started out being a supporter. It would have been really easy to admit the release wasn’t optimized, thank me for the tip, correct the record, and move on. Instead the spin starts and now we have this: a company silencing criticism on their blog and allowing claims that have been challenged on the facts to stand and be promoted.

The future’s so bright I’ve gotta wear shades.

Update IV: My comment has now been released from moderation on the iStudio site.

[photo credit: yewenyi on Flickr]

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Comments (4) to “Transparency, Authenticity and Trust”

  1. [...] Hat tip to Tamera Kramer. gently placed by Maggie Fox in Flogs @ 6:53 pm [...]

  2. Hi Tamera,
    I have corrected my original post to clarify the findability of the release.

    While the news release itself is optimized for search, the frameset is not. You have made a valid point, but as we’ve addressed previously (on your blog post comments, on a post in our blog and in Ed’s blog) it was not our preference to use a frameset.

    I’ve been meaning to put together a “lessons-learned” post on our first release (e.g. it would have been great to use RSS, next time we’d ideally use the hRelease standard, etc.), but the pre-holiday craziness at the studio has had me bogged down.

    I’m not completely familiar with WordPress comment moderation, but it looks as if your comment left yesterday was automatically moderated due to the number of links it contained. We just moved our blog to WordPress, so it’s possible a team member viewed your comment in moderation and considered the view akin to approval. That’s our mistake, but there was NO intention to suppress your comment or censor you in any any way. I thnk we’ve been transparent – as evidenced in the number of times we have addressed you and this issue, in your blog and ours.


  3. Brandy,

    Thank you for commenting. My intention was certainly not to start a bitter battle with iStudio, and I have been trying my best to raise what I believe are valuable, important points about the claims your company is making in a constructive way. I can totally relate to the perils of learning new technology as we go along, but that’s tangential to the main issue. This is social, interactive media, and not responding or correcting the record for a week doesn’t cut it. Frankly, the way I have been treated leaves me unimpressed.

    While Ed, Neil and now you have all commented on the issue to an extent, I have not seen an explanation to satisfy me that the claims you are making are legitimate: what good is an optimized page when it’s hidden inside a frame? How will the optimization measures you’ve taken impact the traffic to the URL being promoted? If you were forced to use framesets then why did you promote the release as being up to standard? While you certainly have no obligation to explain these things to me, I personally think you owe it to your customers, and to the blogosphere you promoted the SNR to.

    I look forward to reading your ‘lessons learned’. I hope that among those lessons is the fact that inviting discussion means your work will be scrutinized by people with expertise in a variety of fields, that those experts need to be engaged in an honest and forthright way, and that claims will be tested to see if they are indeed valid.

    So, I remain concerned, but I see no reason to belabour the point. Ultimately, the internet will decide what works and what doesn’t.

  4. [...] Which also leads into practicing what we preach and setting a good example for the juniors amongst us to follow if we decide there must be guidelines within this particular niche online. I find it difficult to fault Chris for his post when those directly in his circle have set the example for ‘calling outs’. I’ve done it. So has Joe (with follow ups and a Facebook group), David (including some echo chamber in the comments), Doug (another Jaffe sighting), and Michael (who lived to tell the tale) to name a few of the more recent ones. Do I think any of those posts were out of bounds? Perhaps and if I felt strongly one way or the other I may have participated in the ensuing lively discussions… the foundation for expressing and communicating online. Do I feel differently about any of the people because of what they wrote? No, because even if I didn’t know each of them in real life and judge them by the sum of their contributions both online and off, everyone is entitled to their own opinion and means of expressing it as long as it isn’t abusive. However, I do think that each of the above examples are in line (in different ways) with what Chris posted in his piece. [...]

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