Strumpette Says Conversational Marketing and PR Aren't Compatible

Strumpette links to a column I wrote last year in a piece about why Conversational Marketing and PR aren't compatible. And Doc says here we go again... Interesting stuff from Strumpette, and I don't disagree with all of it. I do, however disagree with the following:

CM entered the geeky lexicon seven years ago with “The Cluetrain Manifesto.” In the hypothetical, CM is the bottom-up approach to communication where “broadcast” is replaced by connecting directly with customers. The book proposed that "markets are conversations,” and because of technology, i.e. the Web and the ability to scale, “In just a few more years, the current homogenized ‘voice’ of business will seem as contrived and artificial as the language of the 18th century French court.”

Hmmmm... Yeah if you lived in a pod commune on the planet Zork and bought food telepathically with radiant mednars maybe. Nice theory but almost totally devoid of the earthly realities of human nature, transactional dynamics and the legal traditions of property. But it sounds good and is a perfect constitution around which to rally the legions of Open Source have nots sitting in their underwear in their parent’s basement. Hell, this could very well be the rallying cry for disintermediated disintermediaries everywhere.

The truth of the matter is that commercial communication does sound foreign to us. In your everyday life online, how easy has it been for you and fellow members of your favorite online communities to spot the infiltrator from a PR agency or corporate communications department? How easy is it to spot forum-seeding dirtbags and compensated agents? It's been easy for almost everybody, which is why we see so many stealth marketing initiatives and covert PR operations exposed.

We know corporate-speak when we see it. We know talking points, spamola, fluffery and other spawn of the top-down marketing model, and we easily detect it when we see it in stark contrast to real, human speech. And I think that's what Cluetrain was talking about in the passage quoted. It's like second nature to us now.

It's too amorphous for people writing checks to buy and it's too amorphous to measure results.

Nah. I've got clients measuring this now. If you were at the iMedia Brand Summit and saw Jason Calacanis' keynote, he posted a slide about AccuQuote and the percentage of revenue Sean Cheyney (their VP of marketing and biz dev) was able to directly attribute to CM and his blog. The truth is that it's easy to measure if you're already used to measuring online ad campaigns - you use some of the same technology to measure your typical blog reader in comparison to your typical customer and your non-customer. It's easy to see a return on investment.

The "true believers" in Social Media continue to gloss over the overwhelming business risk

Nah, we know the risks. We disclose them. We talk nearly constantly about how negative comments and feedback are an opportunity. Yes, we know people like messing with brands. Admittedly, if you're Disney, this isn't for you. But if you acknowledge that you've never had control of "the message" or "the brand," then it's something to consider.