Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Way of the World 

One peculiarity of technologists is idealism. They see only the good things that can come out of their inventions: They overlook too often the bad. Here is yet another case of the way of the world. The community of news searchers -- Digg -- is being polluted by companies that pitch members to rate news stories about them highly.

Nothing on the internet is safe from this kind of gaming. That's the price one pays for being human. Yet, time and again, inventors will trust others to do the right thing. They should know better, but most are young and inexperienced. They learn later when their best ideas are corrupted.

PR practitioners ought to know better from the outset. The reality in our business is that unethical operators were in it from the beginning. One needn't look far to find those who paid journalists to write stories or made up facts or pulled off phony events to generate coverage. There are those, however, who believe it is possible to practice PR correctly if one chooses to do so. I'm among them. We may not get rich nor be influential, but there is more to life. I, for one, like to sleep well at night.


Back in my PR counseling days I encouraged clients to do "impression audits" in which we'd send a sort of "mystery shopper" to make observations on all customer-contact points. I did it myself or sent a staffer they didn’t know. Testing the customer interface is an absolutely vital part of public relations practice that too many in our business leave to chance. It almost always reveals chinks in the armor -- a majority of which are oh, so easy to fix.

In fairness to Verizon in the case you link to, the guy who posted this recording has some unrealistic expectations. If he really believed the service was .015 of a cent per KB, then he also believes his bill for using 5,000 KB of usage should be 75 cents vs the $75 he was billed. (He didn’t say it, but I did the math.) The whole thing is terribly unfair to Verizon, but that won’t undo the impressions of the 350,000 or who have listened to the recording on YouTube. Now we really gotta be on the alert for renegade consumers!

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