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11 magic words

"I am a __<company>___ employee and this is my personal opinion."

Use this phrase every time you comment on a blog, message board, or product review. 

It is the secret formula to keeping your self and your company out of a word-of-mouth ethics jam.

You should learn the details of the WOMMA Ethics Code, but those 11 magic words cover almost every situation of blog-related disclosure.  It protects the company from liability from off-the-cuff, real-time comments. It protects you from being seen as a corporate shill.  And it’s just polite.

Trust is built when people know where you’re coming from and who you’re speaking for.  Anger comes when people think you’re hiding something.

Yes, it really is this easy.

(Don’t let your lawyer screw it up.)

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  1. Jesse Stein March 6, 2008 at 4:16 pm #

    I wasn’t sure where to post this, becuase there isn’t an area to post general comments.
    For a few months now, I’ve wanted to comment on Andy’s presentation on word-of-mouth marketing at the conference earlier this year:
    (1) It was clear after the presentation WOM campaigns that actually end up generating a critical mass of qualified traffic are few and far between.
    During the presentation, there were a handful of “successful” WOM campaigns that were highlighted, none of which backed into exciting ROI metrics. For example, declaring one WOM campaign a success (I believe it was Heinz), Andy backed it into a $.96 eCPM for UTUBE impressions. Any online marketer knows this is a exhorbitantly high CPM for untargeted (essentially Run of Network) impressions (UTUBE impressions are as unqualified as it gets) and certainly shouldn’t be considered a success. Rack rate for Yahoo remnant inventory in a targeted channel such as health & beauty is $.50 CPM.
    After seeing the ROI presented for WOM, some in the audience saw the presenation as a reason NOT to do WOM.
    (2) Andy said that the other forms of online media — display, affiliate and search — are less evolved than WOM. In my opinion, it’s quite the opposite. First off, display, affiliate and search are the three forms of advertising that have been around the longest and deliver a vast majority of online sales. Additionally, over the last 10 years or so, hundreds of companies have sprung up to deliver software, tools and consulting to support the growth and evolution of display, affiliate & search. Also, UNLIKE WOM advertising, those three forms of media are measurable.
    (3) Andy only highlighted the WOM campaigns that took off. My hunch is for every WOM campaign that hits it big via UTUBE or another channel, there are many more that never catch fire. The potential opportunity cost and lost dollars from pursuing dead-end WOM campaigns wasn’t highlighted in the presentation.
    (4) All the examples of WOM campaigns that caught fire — with the exception of the blender company — were large, established brands (Apple, Southwest, Makers Mark, etc.). Having a brand to leverage no doubt makes the probability of a WOM campaign succeeding infinitely higher. So, the question becomes: If you’re a no-name brand (which many of us in the audience were), then should we really be spending less time executing measurable, tried-and-true campaigns such as display, affiliate and search so we can create WOM on the hope & prayer that they might take off?
    In my opinion, Web marketers are better advised to focus on proven, ROI-based programs and infuse these programs with creativity and innovation. If you’re going to try WOM, it shouldn’t be creating a video, uploading it to UTUBE, doing a rain dance and hoping the video is the next frog-in-a-blender hit. And even if it is the next frog-in-a-blender hit, will this really lead to sales– or just lead to a bunch of people checking out funny video?
    Rather, the priority should be buying proven, measurable media, then treating your customers well. Period. Being customer-centric will take care of your WOM marketing. To me, trying to devise WOM campaigns from scratch at the expense of ROI-driven programs (after all, time is a zero-sum resource) is where the rubber meets the clouds.

  2. Andy Sernovitz March 6, 2008 at 5:05 pm #

    Every time a make a speech about the effectiveness of word of mouth marketing, at least one person in the audience gets really angry. They vehemently disagree and fight to defend the status quo of paid, interruption-based marketing.
    Word of mouth isn’t for everyone or every company. It only works for companies that understand that happy customers are your best advertisers; that earning respect and recommendations is effective; and that a customer acquired for free through a recommendation always costs less than any advertising-generated customer.
    I’d rather get action for free than have to pay for it.

  3. Patrick Algrim March 7, 2008 at 2:49 pm #

    I am a WOMMA employee and this is my personal opinion — great write up Andy!
    Does it still count if I comment on YouTube video’s using new street internet slang like “noobs.”
    Used in the context, “I think this video pwned those noobs.”
    :) haha

  4. Jon Burg March 9, 2008 at 8:30 pm #

    Given some recent discussion as to the nature vs. letter of the Womma Guidelines, it’s great to hear some further discussion.
    On that note, I’ve been wondering where one would apply WOMMA guidelines in Twitter. There is no room on the page to issue a disclaimer. Additionally, as Twitter could arguably fall into the “chat” bucket, would it require a disclaimer? And as it could just as easily fall into the “blog” bucket, would it then require one?

  5. Andy Sernovitz March 10, 2008 at 8:49 pm #

    Jon –
    That’s a really good question. Disclosure in micro-environments.

  6. Patrick Algrim March 11, 2008 at 8:55 am #

    Jon brings up a good point,
    But if you are speaking on your own account, which doesn’t have any information regarding the company that you may represent, isn’t the whole idea of twitter to speak your own personal opinion. While yes, I use it to market blog posts, new projects, and upcoming events, is it safe to assume that others understand its nature of someones “personal voice.”
    Jon – Would you like to see Twitter guidelines? Do you think that would better help you and others understand the nature of Twitter, its possible usages, as well as those usages possibly being liabilities?
    Good convo! Loving this!

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