Friday, May 05, 2006

Eternal Sunshine of the Blogosphere

One of our more interesting clients is BzzAgent. BzzAgent is an acknowledged leader in the Word Of Mouth (WOM) industry. And that's the problem.

As part of our work with BzzAgent, we've discussed the fact that sometimes it's not easy being the media darling of a nascent sector: at this early stage of the WOM industry, there are many players scrapping for a leadership spot. Anyone who shows signs of gaining an "early lead" is going to get sniped at on occassion.

A positive review in the Holmes Report of BzzAgent CEO Dave Balter's Grapevine book led to just this sort of grumbling. (Paul Holmes responds, zingily, here.) Apparently the CEO of the year-old WOM industry group heard the grumbling and - as is natural for a guy in his role - engaged BzzAgent in a dialogue that (not so naturally) became quite public.

(In case you think that you don't have time to click the link, the phrase "Andy Sernovitz Thinks I'm a Dick" is part of the subject line. Now do you want to read it?)

This post isn't about the brouhaha, but about the way it was handled.

BzzAgent chose the transparency route: they had a tough conversation with the WOMMA CEO and (after reflecting on it all) subsequently told the world about it.

Negatives to this approach? Despite the candid good-will that is evident, the blog post could stir the pot even more, which is not necessarily a good thing in an industry that, as AdRants noted, has its fair share of critics.

Positives? Now that the issues have been exposed to the sunlight, any future fall-out in the relationship between WOMMA and BzzAgent will reveal that one short, tough conversation about a relatively trivial issue was a possible cause. As Forrester's Peter Kim noted, "It's strange yet entirely appropriate that this dirty laundry about WOM would be aired by WOM in a WOM channel."

Just one more example of how the blogosphere serves us all by being the "people's public record?"


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