Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Adventures in Transparency

We are doing some consulting for a cool company called BzzAgent, a leader in Word Of Mouth Marketing. As part of our research, we were intrigued by the company's dedication to transparency, best exemplified by the "90 Days Blog" found on their website. This blog is written by a consultant hired by the company, commenting on his day-to-day findings during a 3 month stint on-site.

Most of it is pretty standard stuff, but a quickie, seemingly innocuous post set off a firestorm inside the company and among its constituents.

First off, you need to know that BzzAgent "employs" volunteers to help "spread the word" about BzzAgent clients, e.g., "Did you read the latest book by XYZ? It's part of my gig at BzzAgent to talk about stuff that I really like. I read this book and loved it. If I report back on my conversations, I might get a (reward) for helping out..." (certainly an actual Bzz chat would not sound so fake & wooden!)

Anyway, it seems that there was some left-over "free stuff" from clients hangin' at the BzzAgent hive, and employees helped themselves. The blogger posted on this, and bzzzzzzzzzzzz! - every BzzAgent who felt as if they'd been under-rewarded had plenty to say about this topic. It got pretty heated. Ahh, a return to the Usenet flamewar days!

Long story short (and to their credit), the BzzAgent management team felt compelled to revamp their "free stuff" policies.

This is the beauty and the peril of the blogosphere - and the Web, for that matter. Everyone thought that the ubiquity of networked connections would create the paradigm shift. That's surely the accelerent. But if you ask me, "transparency" is the fuel that will enflame momentous change.

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