"CELEBRITIES, blue-chip companies and tourist attractions are using a new breed of PR company to hide their secrets and damaging press stories in Google search results. Online 'reputation management' agencies promise to suppress negative search results by driving them down the rankings."

So opens an article in The Times on Wednesday this week. (I can't provide the link to The Times as I'm not a subscriber to its paywall, but it's syndicated here, sans paywall, to sister publication The Australian.)

On reading the article, part of me recognised this sort of capability at the same time another part of me felt very uncomfortable with it being associated directly with PR. And then I winced some more...

"[These agencies] typically use thousands of social networking profiles - set up using false names and operated using computer software to simulate the behaviour of a real person - to talk about and link to more positive results, pushing them above the negative stories."

This is NOT public relations. This is not two-way communication aspiring to foster mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics. Such activities clearly breach the CIPR's code of conduct, specifically its references to integrity and honesty. A PR professional never knowingly misleads about the nature of their representation.

Now I don't think anyone would write an article about "a new breed of journalist conversant in phone hacking", so why lump such unethical services into PR? Saying that then, I have a question. Are UK PR agencies / consultants offering these services, or is it largely the domain of firms specialising in this specific sort of thing?

I think and indeed hope it's the latter, and either way I hope we can expose any and every use of false names and sham dialogue to these ends. Then the subjects in question will find themselves with a reputation management problem.

Best regards, Philip and The Conversation team.

(P.S. Just a reminder that I write these Conversation Roundups in my own capacity. I am not a spokesperson for the CIPR.)


How to prevent Twitter from leading you to prison

by Graham Jones of Internet Psychology

Sepp Blatter is coming in for a lot of online stick today. The much-criticised President of FIFA appears to be somewhat oblivious to the highly vocal complaints that international football is in crisis. Allegations of corruption are flying around and on Twitter, for instance, you’ll find plenty of people willing to say exactly what they think about Mr Blatter.


The problem for many of those people is the fact that Twitter has made it clear in the past few days that they are willing to reveal your details should someone wish to take proceedings against you. More...


To tweet or not to tweet?

by Rachel Miller (nee Allen) of rachmiller.com

Yesterday's Media Guardian featured a front page articleabout Twitter. Written by Charles Arthur, the story mulled over the past few weeks and how thousands of people have flocked to it and how it is now "fight or flight" for the site.

What struck me was the box of statistics alongside the article on p2 in the hard copy version. It revealed that 264 million accounts are currently registered on Twitter. Of those account holders, 45 per cent are believed to have never sent a Tweet. Sorry, what?! Nearly half of the people who have signed up to Twitter are not tweeting, not only that, they have never sent one. More...


Marketing staff reveal how little they understand about online marketing

by Graham Jones of Internet Psychology

Emma Watson, the film star you might know as Hermione Granger from Harry Potter fame, was pictured recently carrying a copy of the third volume of “Chicken Soup for the Soul“. Quite why a hugely successful, multi-million pound earning, much-praised individual needs “self-help” remains pure speculation of course. But it is an interesting example of the phenomenon that is “Chicken Soup” and the readiness with which people buy in to the concept of “self-help”. More...


In Social Media, Your Return Represents Your Investment

by Brian Solis of BrianSolis.com

Sometimes the path of least resistance unwinds into a far more complicated and arduous journey than we anticipated. In times of change, taking the path less traveled is easier and far more rewarding. Such is true for social media.

I read a review about Engage once that read, “Brian Solis takes the fun out of social media.” The author’s point was that the book took an academic approach when the industry could benefit from something that focused on best practices, case studies, and actionable takeaways. More...


The Social Media Landscape in 2011

by Michael Litman of Dare Digital

via freshnetworks.com More...


Brands Seeking Agencies

by Rebecca Caroe of Creative Agency Secrets

Agencies SBC Advertising, an agency rooted in retail brands, Columbus, OH, USA
Vibrandt, the contextual advertising leader, New York
Kunde and Co, integrated marketing, Copenhagen, Denmark

Duncan Baird Publishing, Illustrated publishing, UK
Elderstreet Investment, a venture capital fund manager, London UK
The Berrics, skateboard park owned by pro skateboarders Steve Berra and Eric Koston, USA
Voyages SNCF, train operator and holidays, France
Polycom, teleconference supplier and telepresence, worldwide
Brands Seeking Agencies

Health clinic looking for “creative marketing pitches to doctors offices” More...


FIR Book Review: The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk

by Neville Hobson of NevilleHobson.com

The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk.

FIR Book Review editor Bob LeDrew reviews Gary Vaynerchuk’s new book, The Thank You Economy. Vaynerchuk earlier hit the bestseller charts with Crush It. He oversaw spectacular growth of Wine Library through the use of social media. He was also a guest on FIR Live #15.

Here’s the Amazon product description of the book: "The Thank You Economy is about something big, something greater than any single revolutionary platform. It isn’t some abstract concept or wacky business strategy – More...


Who is to blame for your website problems?

by Graham Jones of Internet Psychology

Is it national “blame another country week”? I woke up this morning to the news that Google was blaming China for an issue with Gmail. The day before we had the Germans blaming the Spanish for an E.coli food poisoning outbreak. And, following the allegations that the UK Border Agency is not up to scratch, I hear on the Your Call programme on BBC Radio 5 Live this morning that people in this country can’t get jobs “because of people from other countries” coming here and “stealing them”. More...


Marketing and PR must start with strategy

by David Meerman Scott of David Meerman Scott

Earlier this week on this blog, I riffed on how You and I are incredibly lucky. My point was that marketing and PR is so much easier with the ability today to publish information. Several people called me out to say that I make it seem too easy. That simply tossing stuff out there is not enough.

For example, Stephen Eugene Adams wrote: "I think that we are now seeing a lot of unemployed marketing and PR people. If everyone can now do it themselves, then why do we need a top level person to run our marketing effort. More...