Long-time readers know I'm a big supporter of Word of Mouth Marketing. More recently, I've put my passion for WOM to good use helping the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) strengthen its marketing muscles.
Right now WOMMA is wrestling with questions of ethics. They've long stood against SHILLING. That is, a brand/agency paying cash to people to talk about, blog about, tweet about a product without disclosing they are being paid to do such.
However, the practice of Sponsored Conversations is gaining more acceptance from brands and agencies. (A "sponsored conversation" happens when a person is compensated with cash, in-kind gifts, and special access privileges in exchange for talking, blogging, tweeting about the product/service a business provided them.)
Some, like Joseph Jaffe, say if a person is transparent and discloses they are being compensated then a "Sponsored Conversation" is ethical and acceptable marketing behavior.
Others, like Andy Sernovitz, abhor the practice of compensating bloggers to post reviews, especially if the reviews are inauthentic.
In 2005, WOMMA established an ETHICS CODE for Word-of-Mouth Marketing. Since then, it has become a standard guide for companies of all sizes to use to help them design and deliver more ethical (and effective) WOM programs.
In the last formal review, WOMMA included this language in its ethics code: “We stand against marketing practices whereby the consumer is paid cash by the manufacturer, supplier or one of their representatives to make recommendations, reviews or endorsements.”
Recently, three WOMMA members have requested this language in the ethics code be revisited ... no doubt to support the practice of sponsored conversations.
Should WOMMA alter its ethics code to support marketing activity where a consumer is paid cash to make recommendations, reviews or endorsements?
WOMMA wants to hear your opinion because your opinion will help WOMMA make a stronger ethics code that is reflective of how honest marketers should behave. Consider adding your voice to this issue on the WOMMA Living Ethics blog.