Given all of the controversy surrounding disclosure issues stemming from Edelman and its improper disclosure of compensation for the blog walmartingacrossamerica.com, you can imagine my surprise when I got an e-mail from Joy Chodan, CEO of JC Publicity & Promotions. A bulk of Chodan's work is done within the entertainment industry, where she creates Web sites that, in some cases, are quietly sponsored by her clients in television production, but appear to be totally consumer-generated online fanzines. Chodan declined to discuss these clients.
“It feels like we’re really doing a service by bringing fans and companies together,” said Chodan who spoke with me candidly (another surprise) about her business over the phone.
She thinks her work fosters a sense of community, and shows the fans that they’re appreciated. Fans, in some cases, however are led to believe that that a fellow fan is the creator of the site.
She went on to say that she would like to get to a point where she could always be straight-forward with the fans because it’s not always easy to keep quiet once she’s made contact with them, and thinks that getting the word out about the work that her company does will eventually lead to honest interaction from all of her clients. In the meantime, companies want to give the impression that the demand for whatever they’re offering is coming directly from the consumer, so many of her clients will continue to ask for anonymity.
Which, of course, doesn’t preclude JC Publicity from bearing some of the responsibility. I asked Chodan, via e-mail, if she was aware of WOMMA and its code of ethics. She wrote that she wasn’t, but said:
We take on projects if we feel that the value of the project is worth promoting. For example, we will not promote overly violent or explicitly sexual content. We are interested in only promoting high quality programs that [deserve] the word-of-mouth online promotion that it needs to be successful… At times it has been a tough decision to take on some our projects, but we felt that the quality of the project and the opportunity's we could offer the fans would be worth the time and effort.
Consumers are looking for greater transparency from companies, not less. Does it really need to be said that obscuring the truth from consumers is wrong? Apparently, it does. It’s unequivocally wrong for companies to do what JC Publicity & Promotions is doing for clients no matter what good reason they think they have. Being vague about what entity is behind a movement is as bad as an overt lie.
If consumers show a demand for something, feel free to try and meet that demand. But they're handing over their loyalty, time, and money. The least they can expect is honesty in return. I'm certain these organizations will one day get caught pulling one of these scams. The consequences will be far worse than if they had been truthful from the beginning.