I won't recount the affair as Jeff Jarvis has a comprehensive write-up. But one idea raised by Jarvis stuck in my mind. Referring to a previous campaign conducted by Federated Media which created a Wikipedia entry for a client, Jarvis opines:
"I’m afraid they are still on the dark side. You just can’t put something with commercial motive into Wikipedia. Admitting it is hardly better; it is still a crime. The Wikipedians and bloggers will attack hard and they will deserve what they get."
The important point here is: FM thought that by admitting what they were doing, they were being transparent. They weren't. They were being open about their activities, but ultimately masking their intentions.
It's where transparency as a genuine value meets transparency as a corporate platitude. The former is vital for holding real conversations and building real relationships. The latter is the cross-over point where conversations meet marketing.
One commenter on Jarvis' blog, Sam Harrelson, explains rather neatly the reason for this:
"In our post-modern world, ideas such as “trust,” “objectivity,” “disclosure,” and “reliability” have been turned over and rendered subjective. That doesn’t mean that these terms are meaningless, it means that things like trust are now subjective in the eyes of the beholders. Authorial (or editorial), on the other hand, is meaningless. How I perceive you means everything."
This is important for PR and marketing people to understand as it reinforces there are no half-measures when working in the blogosphere/live web/whatever.
This also dovetails nicely with something Steve Rubel wrote about last week. In his view, the PR industry needs to move away from 'pitching' stories to online communities and instead move towards 'participating' with them.
I agree completely but I'm still grasping at just how we do this genuinely, without adopting different identities... or maybe adopting different identities online to participate in a number of atomised communities is something that will become second nature.