Overtransparency and the Dilemma of #Client Vs Integrity

This time last year, there was some fuss about The SarcMark, a new piece of punctuation designed to make the use of sarcasm explicit by putting a little marker at the end of each relevant sentence.*

Naturally, it was met with near universal derision and ridicule, mainly because it made explicit what anyone with a semblance of intelligence could deduct by themselves.

However, for a while I’ve been watching the way that #client disclosure hashtags are used on Twitter and for me, it kind of twigs some similar concerns.  Tweets like this by .net magazine Editor @DanOliver, and @Wadds‘ little show of hands here present one assortment of views on the matter.

I have something of a different take.

A Swift Disclaimer

Before we go on, this is a good time to highlight the importance of personal integrity in PR.

Without it, you might as well hang up your lucky pitching pants and put away your special moleskine strategy playbook- few resources will serve you better than a reputation well-pruned by being someone people are happy to work with.

Proper transparency is an indispensable element of this balance and frankly an easy win if you’ve got the substance to back it up.

But there’s always the question of that ‘Goldilocks’ balance- how much is too much?

Closure or Disclosure?

Let’s look at a typical “enter a competition!” tweet:

Win an Xbox Kinect and chance to play against Linford Christie & Mark Lewis-Francis: http://on.fb.me/hXPwL4 #KinectSportsGWF #clientTue Jan 18 10:57:39 via web

The fact it’s from a client at this point doesn’t really matter – either you think your followers will care or you don’t. More importantly, either they will or they won’t.

If you’re regularly sharing content that offers no value to your audience, you’ll pay the price in both integrity and influence in equally threatening measures. What’s more, if it’s going to fall on deaf ears then you’re hardly doing your client any favours either.

Ultimately, it can’t be less interesting than the tweets everyone succumbs to now and then about delayed trains ruining your breakfast and your favourite sports team losing (forgive the consolidation of cliches here.)

Except Accepted Exceptions?

Perhaps when it doesn’t include a link to content, there’s a stronger argument for #client tags.  For example, even if you truly love the product, it’s always going to be a bit shifty to tweet about how great it is without declaring a vested interest.

Note also that when you’re tweeting something that would be bad enough in a press release, even a hashtag won’t make you look good.

Once more, it comes down to content.

The moral of the story

You can’t lose by playing it safe and including a #client tag when in doubt. But if the campaign isn’t worth tweeting about, push back and don’t.

We should be grown up enough to explain such details to clients- there’s nothing more embarrassing a volley of tweets from several normally dormant accounts revealing that an agency email has done the rounds internally to rally the troops.

It might not be pretty but the above is at least pragmatic and sticks to the best possible rule for Twitter- if you don’t think anyone will care for your tweet, take a deep breath and hit delete.

Which side of the argument do you come down on? Give us your opinion below…

EDIT: Interesting response from Dan Oliver about this below, what do you think?

@DannyWhatmough @MaxTB Non-disclosure is fine, but it changes how you relate to a given PR. That’s just a fact.Wed Jan 19 11:22:39 via web

*The best bit of this being the fact that the SarcMark wouldn’t actually show up on the intended recipient’s computer unless they too had shelled out for it.  See http://opensarcasm.org/ for a fantastic alternative.

- Max Tatton-Brown

January 19th, 2011