Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Conflict Two-Step

Earlier this month Strategic Communications Group (Strategic) was gearing up for an important business development meeting with an emerging growth company in the networking/telecom space. I didn’t perceive it to be a conflict with any of our existing engagements, yet it was the same market so I had a responsibility to check with a few clients.

One of our clients got back to me with concerns about the prospect and how their technology could potentially create competitive issues. We immediately backed away from the new opportunity out of respect for the relationship with our client.

Conflict is something we take seriously at Strategic. We appreciate the trust our clients place in us and will run through the proverbial brick wall to help them achieve their growth goals.

We’re also exposed on an ongoing basis to confidential information about our clients’ strategies, product offerings and financial requirements. Accordingly, we will not represent companies that compete with one another.

Not everyone shares this view. I read with great interest the article in PR Week about Sybase’s selection of Bite as its public relations agency of record. To alleviate any conflict of interest issues, Bite branded a group within the company Incisor Communications.

They didn’t spin out a separate organization or even establish some type of internal Chinese wall. Nope…Bite now merely calls a group of employees who will be working on behalf of Sybase by a different name.

Mark Wilson, VP of corporate marketing at Sybase, told PR Week, "We liked how they were creating the Incisor brand; that was important to us.”

I guess ensuring confidentiality of corporate information isn’t that important to Sybase. Or how about the basic issue of ethical representation? What happens if another client wants Bite…er….Incisor to launch a campaign that could damage Sybase’s business prospects?

Are the folks at Sybase truly this dense? I don’t think so. They wanted to hire Bite and the agency is willing to represent competitors. That’s fine. Just call it what it is.

Sybase hires Bite as AOR after firm creates client-conflict unit
PR Week

1 comment:

Chris Parente said...

Wow, just call a group of employees a different name. And funny to see how its defended in the article.

Glad we have a different policy, Marc. Even if as you note it may have cost us a client.