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Visibility is a Commodity; Trust is the Ultimate Conversion

Visibility is a Commodity Trust is the Ultimate Conversion

It was the third comment this week.  The comment was vaguely related so as to give the appearance of relevance. It was also exuberant in its enthusiasm so as to pass as complimentary.  And it dropped a hyperlink.

For many that manage blogs, news sites and other online media, comments used to be welcomed as a sign of interest, engagement and resonance.  Today comments have become a part of a two-ways scourge, sometimes vitriolic and the rest simply spam.

Both varieties are useless, but the difference is remarkable.  The former is driven by passion, however, misguided, and the latter is likely a service for which an unsuspecting buyer is paying.

I imagine those links tallied up in a spreadsheet and sent to a client for a weekly report.  Evidence of activity with little to offer in terms outcome.

Clients pay for these services – doctors, lawyers and accountants. The solo or duo practitioner sucked in with slick SEO snake oil.  Big companies fall prey too, which to me, is an indication of leadership focused on the wrong metrics.

SEO the Example, but PR, Marketing also Prone

Dropping links in blog comments is an effort at scale. It’s an easy example to make, especially among bloggers because so many of us experience it. But it happens too in PR and more broadly in marketing.

Wall Street marketing finds its way especially near the end of the quarter.  We lose all sense of self in the hopes of making a penny today, at the expense of a dollar tomorrow. The email machine cranks up – tinged with manufactured senses of scarcity, urgency and even fear – pounding inboxes with discounts and offers for which no prospect would request and fewer would want.

PR does it too. Occasionally it calls in an old favor so as to put one more interview on that next report. More often it drafts a press release, a pitch, or a contributed article for a half-baked idea, a poorly designed product, or a promise it can’t deliver.

It’s positioning something as anything or nothing as something, or another combination that replaces the important task of positioning with less than notable importance.

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Visibility is a Commodity

All this creates a flurry of activity, trading white space on a page for a bullet comment in a report, so as to conjure up the appearance of progress.  The end result, however, adds no more value to the business than leaving a blog comment as a cover story for an otherwise conspicuous link.

Visibility is a commodity product, especially these days, and the breathless celebration of client-less social media “gurus” has underlined that,” said Ian Lipner, who leads the Washington office of LEWIS PR in an interview with this blog some 18 months ago. “Trust, on the other hand, is quieter, but it’s the ultimate conversion – and there’s nothing that scales like it.”

Indeed, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about those words for some time and opted instead to borrow his notions as a headline.  Perhaps that act helps make the point, or as I’d prefer it builds on a considerable idea worthy of reflection. It’s never been easier for PR to earn visibility, for SEOs to get a link, or for marketing to crank out emails, but it’s much harder to build trust and it’s so much easier to lose.

Perhaps the only thing harder than earning trust is keeping it.

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2 Responses

  1. Funny you should post this…it doesn’t feel like 18 mos since the interview, but I’ve thought about that quote from Ian quite a few times, often when people in marketing throw around words like scale and growth. 

    There’s a secondary meaning to those things that’s been sold so heavily people don’t even know what the difference is. That is, the idea that “you can now scale any of your communications” …which simply isn’t true. You can scale the ways in which you communicate but you can’t infinitely scale the discrete, individual communications themselves. No amount of marketing technology and Silicon Valley software will change that (there’s an inherently different value to mass vs. personalized communication, but that’s a whole other comment I’m sure). 

    Re: trust, I think that’s sort of the secret thing that no one thinks about enough. One critical aspect of that is the legal term “duty of care” (which no doubt you are familiar with). You can tell pretty quickly whether or not a company sees / understands their customers and potential customers as humans by how they do or don’t have that built into operations and marketing. “We forgot / chose not to honor an offer for 8,000 people” has a different ring than “we put a human life in danger.”

  2. JoeCardillo Love that comment brother.  And we should revisit the idea of an “Off Script” piece with you, now that the circumstances are different.  Maybe we can do a call, I’d like to chat with you before coming up with questions.

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