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When link bait hooks the wrong fish

Written by David Harry   
Friday, 16 May 2008 09:35


Creating a reputation management nightmare.

Link bait gone badWith the bru-ha-ha over Lyndon’s now infamous link bait raging in this week’s edition of the band - wagon - effect, one has to give pause. What if it all went horribly wrong and those in the media that may have felt they’d been duped began to create a brand management nightmare? What of a Digger revolt? There is every potential for short and long term damage that could land in the client's lap.

Since Lyndon has decided to remove the post on his site, here's a taste to understand the background;

"This is reference to a story on a credit card site, - You may have read the story, you may not. As you can see from above it was talked about on Fox News..... it was mentioned in the Sun newspaper, a UK tabloid with 20 circulation of 3 million. It also ran on Radio 1, the UK popular music station with listeners of 20 millions.

It has appeared on over 2,000 websites from Topeka, Kansas to Adelaide, Australia, so far over 450,000 people have visited the site to read the article.

The only problem is, none of it is true, it's a completely made up yarn. How do I know? I wrote it. It's what I do for a living. I write content for websites which creates a buzz and hopefully gets links and people to the intended target." - Lyndon Antcliff

I think there is a cautionary lesson here in how some humour, with a hook (or 2) and the best of intentions could land you and your client with some less than desirable conditions. The thing about links is that they can be both beneficial and equally troubling; in the form of reputation management. Running a fake story, as was the case in this scenario, could even call into the light a publication's editorial integrity or worse.. lose advertisers. There are more than a few ramifications and potential TARFUs worth sweating here.

... for Lyndon's sake, I hope it blows over as he's a good egg really. 

Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see

For the record I think that some of the negative reaction from fellow marketers may be a tad overboard. Consumers of content, be they other journalists, webmasters or the end user, should always exercise restraint. I don’t think we should be raising anyone to greatness nor burning them at the stake over this. We should simply take the fickle nature of media into mind and be more diligent with consumption of media in our daily lives.

As for link bait? Careful what you ask for…you may get more than you counted on ;0)



0 # Kimota 2008-05-16 17:49
I admit I may be one of the ones referenced here as being 'a tad overboard'. Cause you're right. Lyndon IS a good egg.

The issue isn't really whether Lyndon should be burned at the stake or not, and I hope I didn't give that impressin, but that marketers need to have a clear understanding of what constitutes ethical practice.

What Lyndon's stunt did was to create the catalyst for the discussion that - let's face it - would have happened sooner or later. Sadly, I think Lyndon is feeling heat from this which was not my intention at least. (we both love an argument and were - I think - enjoying the back and forth for a while... ;-) )

But the question of integrity and how online marketing is perceived in the industry is at stake. Just as SEO had to deal with a really poor reputation for years as people thought it was all underhand black-hat tricks, marketing and content writing cannot afford the same negative associations.

Great post.
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0 # Robert Lorimmer 2008-05-16 19:50
Whether or not there is anything ethically wrong with creating false editorial that purports to be factual information is debatable. Lyndon
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0 # Dave 2008-05-18 09:12
@Kimota he he.. I certainly saw your meltdown, being a passionate guy, it was enjoyable.

Really, the only mistake was Lyndon going public IMO. I don't believe everything I read and this merely gave more substance to that.

What is important is for all to learn some lessons professionally - the personal BS shouldn't be the focus. He did his job well... with a single slip up... he publicized the situation.

We seek to help not harm our clients. THAT is our job. The negative press in the marketing community needed to never have happened.

..morality? good lord since when were editorially biased media outlets ever the proponents of that? puulleaaze... I leaeve moral/ethical judgements to the marketplace.. for that is the true barometer.
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0 # Kimota 2008-05-18 22:34
Ummm, I didn't use the word morality. I referred to ethics. There's a difference.

I agree that the marketplace will be the final barometer as people will react one way or the other and society decides what they want in their media. There will always be someone pushing the boundaries and this is what causes the discussion that leads either to new innovation or new regulation.

My main issue, though, is that the 'marketplace' is unaware that the boundary has even been pushed in this case. The hoax hasn't been publicly called. If we want the marketplace to define the ethics of online marketing, then disclosure is needed. After all, the links are there now. It is certainly time to pop up and shout "April Fool' now just like any other media hoax. Releasing it on the blog just for us marketers to see isn't exactly the disclosure required to put it up there with other famous online pranks.

But I don't think this was ever intended as a media hoax - exposing the silly news outlets. I think the value of this to Lyndon is in keeping it secret, but that means the barometer of the marketplace never has the opportunity to react.
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0 # Dave 2008-05-19 11:08
yes I know, it was I musing about moral/ethical standpoints I have seen on this... srry..

Honestly, I have been in the game too long and am jaded. I believe very little that I read in the media without repose. At very least, editorial bias is prevalent and at worst, journalists know they can bend the edges to make a story more enticing. simplest terms, I don't believe it is isolated and that is a statement on how we should be treating that which we consume.

I do hear ya.. and certainly am not enthused by the reality that this situation illuminates.. but it is a reality none the less.

Anyone remember Sadams WMDs? When lies and manipulatiob exists at the highest levels, all bets are off.
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0 # Kimota 2008-05-19 21:53
But is that an adequate response? Other people do it so I don't see why we shouldn't?

Other people commit crimes, didn't stop society creating laws against them.

And I think the WMD argument just demonstrates what can go wrong as the backlash against it has been enormous.

At the end of the day, we get to decide what type of interent we want, as a society. If society decides it wants an internet where fact and fiction become one and the same, then sop be it. Something tells me society would still like to have some level of trust in online information for it to be useful. As the internet increases in relevance over the decades (and it will) this question is only going to increase in importance.

As early adopters and content producers in the wild west of the early internet, we have a say in how things will eventually coalesce and influence the eventual and unavoidable regulations that will eventually be handed down as society decides what is acceptable and what isn't.

That's why I think this debate is an important one to be having and why it is an ethical debate.
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