Does it really pay to be honest?

16 Apr

This week WordPress announced that there had been a security break-in on several of its servers, and that very likely their source code had been copied.

That’s a bummer for millions of bloggers. You can imagine the outrage. Or can you?

722 bloggers “liked” the announcement. Another 261 left comments. I scrolled through them and found not a single negative word. Most read like this one:

Kudos for being so open about the incident. Many other websites would just deny that any data may have been revealed to make it sound like they are 100% secure when they really aren’t.

People appreciate honesty. Is this a surprise to you?

This week I declined an invitation for Copeland to be part of an RFP. I told the client that agencies – every one of them – hate RFPs. They won’t tell you that, but it’s the truth. Why would you want your first experience with your potential new agency to be grounded in a distaste for the process? The agency delivers their RFP with fake smiles and voila, the relationship begins with dishonesty. Worst possible start if you ask me.

I don’t wish to go all tangential on you and start ranting on RFPs. Not in this post anyway!

The way I see it, agencies are always accused of not telling the truth to the consumer. My daughter blogged about that last week. Meanwhile, we enter into relationships with many of our new clients lying through our teeth.

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8 Responses to “Does it really pay to be honest?”

  1. GV April 16, 2011 at 9:01 am #

    I recall a few weeks back an article that dumped on Mozzila for not being up front with it’s users when their was a breach with SSL [Mozilla Says It Erred On SSL Attack Disclosure] http://tech.slashdot.org/story/11/03/25/197208/Mozilla-Says-It-Erred-On-SSL-Attack-Disclosure.

    I believe WordPress did the right thing about informing it’s users so they could take the appropriate steps in securing themselves from attacks which seem to be occurring on a regular basis on the net and we all should be up front with our own dealings with each other on a daily basis (I’m dreaming since I know this won’t happen) since most times (not all) it will come back and bite you when you least expect it.

    If you know the other person might not like the truth when you’re being open and honest then in some instances it is better to not say anything.

  2. dougbrowncreative April 16, 2011 at 10:17 am #

    Exactly right GV. Honesty, openness and transparency are what create good relationships. Between businesses, between people. Even between bloggers and commentors! Thanks.

  3. WSN Inc. April 16, 2011 at 10:45 am #

    I heard someone the other day say “I hate advertising!”.
    Strong words, I thought.
    Those words defined my work as the business of selling lies, manipulating children, violating public trust, degrading social norms, cheapening culture and perpetuating the global expansionist agenda of big business at the expense of the the consumer.

    A recent Gallup poll shows that most Americans (no doubt Canadians too) would also rate advertising practitioners among the least honest and ethical professionals on the planet. Its a sad commentary when you rate below lawyers and labor union leaders in terms of ethics and honesty.

    So, if you are an advertising or marketing person, how does that make you feel?

    Well, here’s my thoughts.

    It starts with supply and demand. Consumers, have demands, and we expect companies to make products to fit those demands. Most companies try to do this. However, most miss the mark because they are out of touch with consumers. When that happens a company finds itself with a lot of extra product in the market. To get rid of the stuff, they must then make demand fit supply. That, in essence, means manipulating people. There was a time when this approach defined marketing. It’s still done, but with the dawn of the internet it’s become harder for companies to get away with it. (Which is great!)

    As self-righteous as this may sound, I don’t believe most advertising people really work like that. I don’t think we go out there to lie to consumers. At least not intentionally. Our mission is to help companies reach a state of marketing Nirvana. We do this by aligning four simple things: reality, profile, perception and aspirations.

    What your brand is = reality.
    What you say it is = profile.
    How people perceive it = perception.
    How you hope they perceive it – aspiration.
    Because that will generate profits.

    This is an ideal state that is never actually reached, but one that ethical brands perpetually strive for.

    In the case of WordPress, they came straight out of the gate and told their consumers the story. Good on them. Truth can overcome negatives.

    Despite popular opinion, we should be proud of our profession and of the contribution we make to commerce and society. But it is clear to see that we have a lot of work to do on our profession’s image.

    It begins with how we (clients and agencies) “choose” to work. How we choose to work-being honest and truthful– is, in the end, the most profitable way for companies to build long-term, sustainable brands.

    If telling the truth makes sense to you or if you think its just more advertising and marketing BS, let’s hear more about what you think.

  4. Reg April 16, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

    Interesting remarks, Doug. So what are the better/best alternatives to RFPs that you’ve encountered. Living in a government town, do you not preclude yourself from certain opportunities (or do you just not care about those types of business?)?

  5. dougbrowncreative April 16, 2011 at 5:38 pm #

    > Well Mike, I maintain that I don’t know many people in our business who are dishonest. Just as I don’t personally know any lawyers who are. It seems lawyers get slimed with the same brush we do. I can certainly agree that how we choose to work with our clients is significant. Our reputation as an industry is built on the backs of a million relationships and we are only in charge of our own. So there’s our responsibility. Thanks for the thoughtful and comprehensive comment!

    > Reg, we don’t pursue government business. By choice. We like to make things happen; we like to see results. By and large government accounts are not conducive to either. Jobs take years and go through ridiculous levels of bureaucratic approval. I wouldn’t say I don’t care about those types of business per se, I just don’t want to work on them. We have one such account, and we have been waiting to have our estimate approved for 18 months. Need I say more?

    In terms of other methods of picking an agency, I suggest clients consider what they really want from an agency. If it’s great creative, look at the agency’s portfolio. If it’s results, ask to see them. If it’s great chemistry, spend some real time with the people. Asking an agency to spend tens of thousands of dollars in person/hours to speculatively solve current issues with no compensation (and that is the RFP model) while spitting out endless documentation is in no one’s interest but the client’s. So the agency begins the relationship on the short end of the stick. And times are hard, so agencies will go out of their way to stand out and over-deliver. Generally the best responses come from the agencies who are most desperate for the work and have the most time to devote to the RFP. Is this the right criteria for choosing an agency? I would argue that it is not.

  6. Erin April 16, 2011 at 7:04 pm #

    I totally agree. I also congratulated tripadvisor when they announced their security breach. It goes a long way in proving a company’s authenticity. I believe today’s consumer is too smart to accept otherwise.

  7. dougbrowncreative April 16, 2011 at 8:04 pm #

    Too smart and too powerful through social networks. Thanks for the comment Erin – spot on.

  8. GV April 16, 2011 at 8:48 pm #

    Just a side note to my earlier comment: I just wish that governments could practice what we preach since none of them from municipal, regional, provincial or federal are honest and transparent and it is what is destroying democracy.

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