I recently read Robert Scoble’s and Shel Israel’s book “Naked Conversations”. It’s a great book. In fact I’m currently writing a positive review for it for a publication due to it being well researched and fascinating in terms of its’ leadership and change management implications. It earned my respect due to the extensive research that went into the book. For the record, Robert didn’t send me a copy of the book and I got it at a public library.
But Robert made this post yesterday about disclosure in relation to payperpost that Richard Brownell, Chris Brennan and David Krug make some extremely interesting points that people should consider in the comments of Robert’s post. I think Robert is not recognizing that creating buzz is in itself advertising whether you keep the product or not – so either you should take what is given to you and be discreet about it or return the items as they arrive if you care about potential ethics issues.
In Robert’s July 2nd, 2006 post you say that you’ve “never really given Sonos a review before”. Yet in his April 8th, 2006 post , Robert stated the following:
“This is much much more cooler than I thought,” says Buzz Bruggeman.
What’s he talking about? The Sonos music system.
First, a disclaimer. They sent me this so I could try it out. It’s one of the things that arrived before I said “no more free stuff.”
I have to admit this is pretty cool. It lets you put a controller in each room in your home.
And you control it over Wifi.
This rocks. We’re playing my iTunes stuff right now.”
Then later in the post Robert says:
“Tomorrow Chris Pirillo and Ponzi is coming over for brunch. It’ll be interesting to see what they think. (Chris always has the coolest stuff before I do, so if it impresses him it’ll impress everyone).”
Let’s compare some statements in this post with the July 2nd post:
1) Robert talks about Sonos (with an outbound link to the product no less) in the April 8th post. You then use the terms “I have to admit this is pretty cool” and “This Rocks” to describe it. Then on July 2nd Robert says, “Well, I never really gave them a review until today.” If alongside an outbound link to the product it’s stated that something is “pretty cool” and that “this rocks” isn’t a review, I don’t know what is.
2) In that post it says that “First, a disclaimer. They sent me this so I could try it out. It’s one of the things that arrived before I said “no more free stuff.”” In the July 2nd post it talks about a new Nokia phone that just arrived. If the “no more free stuff” was truly operational you’d send it back to the shipper immediately or refuse delivery. Which is the true policy?
3) Does one not get value out of something for using it for a few months? In the car industry it’s a called a lease and there are payments involved. Did you pay Sonos or Nokia for value received during usage of these products for a period of time? If not, would you not admit that you got some value out of them?
4) In your April 8th post you said the Sonos might impress Chris Pirillo and go on to say that if it impresses him it will impress everyone. Does one gain any personal value out of impressing people with new gadgets that were sent to you?
Regardless of whether you gave the items away after a few months or not, Robert did talk about them on his blog and if they had not been sent to you likely would not have talked about them. You then gave Sonos even more buzz again by giving it away at Gnomedex as “hundreds of people witnessed it”. Why did Robert choose this high profile place to give away this item instead of quietly giving it to charity anonymously? So regardless of whether you reviewed the product on April 8th, you gave it buzz on your blog twice and in front of an entire conference. That my friend has value to certain people with your increasing public profile in terms of buzz for Sonos. Disclosure or not Robert created significant positive PR here for Sonos by discussing it in his blog – when it arrived and again after giving it away as “hundreds of people witnessed it” at Gnomedex.
While the data from yesterday’s mention is not in yet, I would suggest that this Alexa (yes I know Alexa has flaws) graph showing the spike in traffic in April around the 8th suggests the buzz impact of this mention or review quite well:
As I discussed previously in e-mail with Robert a few weeks back, “Naked Conversations” is about trust (and how certain actions enable trust to occur). If someone were to purposely write something misleading about a Nokia phone and someone bought it and it sucked, that individual would call that person out on it. In other words, the trust is self-policing even without disclosure. I therefore don’t need to be told like a child each time that you got these items for free, as I believe that you would not do something so foolish as to blog positively about a product that you thought sucked. Just lile the “Claire” blog at Vichy, people figured out what was and wasn’t real on their own – without any disclosure.
To summarize, while I certainly can’t speak for the whole blogoshpere, I trust that you are wise enough to not write something positive that you don’t truly believe to be true about a product regardless of whether you disclose that you got something for free or not. Aren’t you worthy of this trust Robert?