I’m no Chris Brogan, but if you combine the number of people I have access to via this blog and my Twitter stream, it’s fair to suggest that I reach thousands upon thousands of people — including some of the best-connected folks in Social and Mainstream Media.
So you might think I’d get a lot of pressure from clients to write about them in my blog, and to tweet about their news. And you’d be right. It certainly does come up, as Tom Foremski recently noted.
Where do you draw the line?
Keeping in mind that a PR agency’s goal is to promote its clients, I always take the time to thoughtfully evaluate the request. But as regular readers can attest, it is very rare that you see me write a post about a client (unless it is a case study of SHIFT’s work, which is always appropriate!)
Honestly I don’t have a hard & fast rule here, my judgment is based on whether y-o-u will get value from the post. Given that this is a blog about Marketing/PR/Social Media, the client’s news or product would need to fit in that category, or else I am wasting your time.
On the other hand, I rarely have a problem tweeting about a client announcement or big media hit. Even still, I try to make it rare: if my twitterstream becomes “polluted” with too many client announcements and/or self-aggrandizing posts, my signal:noise ratio will skew into “lame” territory, which benefits no one.
As I write this, though, I find it interesting that the FORMAT/LENGTH of the write-up is where the line is getting drawn, i.e., a long-form blog post feels almost sacrosanct, whereas the stream-of-conciousness of Twitter is really not nearly so “pure” to me. Perhaps it is because I can so quickly bury a client-related tweet with, say, a lunchtime insta-poll about bacon.
In any case, this Social Media Ethics series is certainly not just about me. The bigger questions for agencies to ponder:
Should clients be allowed to leverage the agency’s (or its staffers’) brand to promote their own? Should the agency principal ask a well-known staff blogger to write about a client’s news/products?
The tension in all of these posts tends to be between the Social Media Purists vs. the Social Media Marketing Realists.
The Purists don’t even want marketers involved in this Brave New World; they wave their dog-eared copies of the (brilliant & revolutionary) Cluetrain Manifesto and wave us off with suggestions that The Corporations and The People are now empowered to speak to one another directly, thank-you-very-much.
The Realists empathize with this philosophy but also recognize that a) companies are antsy about this Brave New World and appreciate some guidance, and, b) there’s not enough proven ROI for corporations to put all their chips in the “social” basket, i.e., they’re not about to pay a dozen or more Community Managers and toss out all their other marcomm initiatives.
Which brings us back to those Ethical Dilemmas facing the agency with regard to promoting the client in their own channel, i.e., risking their own credibility with their own audiences.
Somewhere in the middle lies the Truth. I think it is well and proper for The Client to ask The PR Agency if it makes sense for the agency to use their blogs & tweets to promote their news. The answer really should depend on whether it does, indeed, make sense.
Harking back to Forrester Research’s POST Methodology, if the PEOPLE that the client needs to reach are the same people that the PR pros regularly interact with, then, yes: blog about the client; tweet about the client. Don’t be obnoxious; be transparent; understand that this could be a slippery slope; but sure, go for it.
But, if 90% of the PR pro’s personal network extends to other PR and Marketing types, then tweeting about a semiconductor client’s newest fab facility enhancements isn’t going to help the client, and will only hurt the PR pro’s longer-term street cred. So don’t.
Ultimately what I am suggesting is that the PR agency be true to the client’s business goals, versus their egos.
Posted on: February 11, 2010 at 7:26 am By Todd Defren