Four ethical rules to avoid brand disgrace online
The practice of positioning paid promotional content as news or editorial or entertainment is hardly new, but is doing it anonymously on user-generated or open source web sites ethical or good for the brand?
There can be a fine line between influencing the message and creating propaganda, for example by posting promotional material in the guise of user-generated content. Wikis, blogs and video sharing sites have made it increasingly easy for companies to post information about themselves or their markets or their competitors without identifying themselves as the source. It's relatively easy to do, but is it wise?
What is appropriate in the new age of marketing where user-generated and community-generated sites are commonplace? When do brands go too far and what are the possible repercussions? What is the right way for brands to behave in the "Wild West" of the user-generated marketplace? Jonathan Paisner, Brand Director CoreBrand, offered The Wise Marketer some guidance.
Four essentials According to Paisner, there are four essentials for smart brand behaviour in a "wiki" world:
- Be transparent Faith and trust in any medium, print, television, blog, wiki, is built upon disclosure. Companies must be transparent about any role they play in delivering a message to the market, or public trust in the company, and even in the chosen medium itself - will crumble.
- If you invite it, be prepared to publish it Companies that seek user-generated content to help them promote or advertise will get some undesirable input, the question becomes how much and how harsh. Subverting opinions critical of your brand will come back to haunt you (probably sooner than later). Plus, admitting you have a few warts may help gain you some respect.
- Don't be taken by surprise There are more than enough sources out there to get a flavour of the mood and surrounding opinions with respect to your brand. Before you seek to play the web community game, build an understanding of what the community thinks about you, lest you find yourself trying to subvert negative commentary.
- Don't be afraid to be a Luddite If you can't abide by the first three above, do yourself a favour by just sitting on the sidelines. Better to be thought of as a bit behind the market than to find your brand a target in the blogosphere.