Authenticity Online (Site Seeding): PR Agency Reverb Communication’s brush with FTC over comments in iTunes

Seth Godin had a book titled “All marketers are LIARS (Opps) nope, story tellers” he corrects it….We all hope to create a story – but where does one draw the line?

Briefly, the beef with this is that PR firm – Reverb Communication had seeded in the iTunes store in the pretense of a genuine user – raving about the product and all. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) came in and stopped it – suggesting deception. Well this is not new in the offline world as well…the thing in the online world is this can draw flake from users – in the online world there are no rules…how would this effect your brand image and your product?

I had my say on this topic on several occasions in my blog (please refer to this and this) and also in my public speaking arrangement in which I posted this question to the floor.

In the small island that I reside today – Singapore. I doubt this enforcement of the law will come so stringent in its effect (I stand corrected thought 🙂 ).

In my view, to jump start a conversation is okay but to go to the extent of saying “its the best product ever!” well that is where I draw the line. To me, there is a saying: “paper can never cover fire” – that is something I subscribe – even more so in the online world.

As most would realize, there are basically no rules there and everyone has a microphone. We all hear “Any publicity is good publicity” – well, does this really apply here? I think not, TRUST like a relationship is built in incremental steps and it only take one episode to cause it trumping down (think Tiger Woods) – this is something firms should take note.

Its a matter of time, someone would find out – especially some online users would pick on the words being used and some would even go to the extent to find evidence to build a case- I’ve personally seen this happen. So what happens if they break the bubble, I’m sure you can anticipate the ending – and then which reputational management comes into play – do we really want that? Or do we just cross our fingers and hope this would not happen to us.

I have ran campaigns in which I aim to gather the result of positive word-of-mouth, to me that is a result and not a means. Campaigns should be created (and communications) should be strategically planned to have that result. Its best if the reviews is created genuinely from users (in form of blogs, tweets and all) by tactics that you run – say competitions, games (leadership board etc) – something for them to talk about – or gain from and for them to spread…

Thats all from me for now…keen to hear what are your views on this topic.

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