Sunday, May 18, 2008

One Blogger's Betrayal

Something unexpected happened last week which caused me to betray the principles of the “Strategic Guy” blog.

At Strategic Communications Group (Strategic), we counsel our clients at the onset of an executive blogging initiative about the importance of establishing an editorial mission and following the guidelines of journalistic integrity. These include:

1) Honesty when expressing opinions and assessments
2) Full disclosure of individuals and companies cited (no anonymous sources)
3) Acknowledgment of any relationships that may shape the views expressed

Last week I attended an executive networking event in which the speaker arrived late and unprepared. As a result, the presentation wandered through a number of topics without much in the way of structure or a central theme.

Bad enough…right? Well, the speaker also made a point of how their company’s culture is defined by integrity. This was followed by two anecdotes which completely disproved this assertion.

The first story detailed how they negotiated in bad faith with a vendor to secure more favorable contract pricing. There was then an account of their removal of equipment from a partner’s facility using a tactic of questionable legality.

I arrived back in my office well prepared to flame this speaker, while making a point about the requirement of public relations professionals to coach and prepare their executives before they hit the stage.

Then the press release crossed the wire. The CEO of a Strategic client was named to the Board of Directors of the speaker’s company (which is publicly traded). By providing full disclosure in my blog, I could potentially damage an important relationship.

A more daunting issue is one of ethical client representation. Strategic always acts in its clients’ best interests. Yet, one could credibly argue a critical post about this speaker could reflect poorly on our client.

So, I sacrificed my conviction to full disclosure. Did I do the right thing? Would you have done the same?

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