Saturday, March 13, 2010

Not practicing what you preach

I'm disappointed in this example because it comes from someone who professes to be an expert marketer. Sadly I can't mention his name or his website's – as you will see, it strikes me that he is the sort of person to instigate legal action.

It all began when I saw an article on a 'famous' e-marketer's email newsletter about Twitter, it being a list of organizations that were effectively using the 140-character social-messaging system. I decided that I would add my own comments from a user's – that is, receiver's – point of view. At no time was I critical of the original work, indeed, in my introduction I praised it. Note that, so long as the appropriate reference to the original is included, this is acceptable in academic articles. Indeed, it is often seen as both a compliment and an opportunity for the original to reach a wider audience.

Because I was reproducing much of the original article, I started mine with: I am indebted to *name of company and author of the article* which was hyperlinked to the company website. Out of courtesy, I emailed said expert advising him that I had used the original article and included the URL so that he could check it was OK [note that for this I had to use a form on his website, far from the best means of online communication].

Within a couple of hours I received a reply. It had no greeting, simply saying:

*e-marketer's name* wrote:
Your verbatim use of my content without my prior consent falls outside of fair usage guidelines. Removal of my content from your site is formally requested herewith.

This looked like an automated reply to me. No greeting. No introduction. No reason. Not good marketing practice. Not good PR practice. To be frank – out-right rude. Now, I don't think I should get any different treatment than any other reader of the expert's web page – but perhaps a little professional courtesy for a fellow e-marketing expert wouldn't have been amiss?

Thinking it may have been an automated response, I sent the following email:

Hmmm, a rather terse [automated?] legalese reply to what I thought was a reasonable request - particularly as it would drive 'new' readers to your article and the musing starts with:
"I am indebted to *name of company and author of the article*

Still, ho hum - as someone who has had entire books reproduced without my permission I can see where you are coming from, though I feel in this instance you are being a little short-sighted on the PR front.

It is not a problem as far as I am concerned, the page will be deleted by the end of the day , as will all the links from my site to articles/pages on your site and my advice to students to sign up for your newsletter.

Best wishes ... Alan

OK, so a bit like throwing my toys out of the pram, but I felt I was making a valid point. The response came soon after:

Thank you. Have a good weekend.

So ... I've changed the article so that none of the article's content is present. I have removed the link to the expert's website from that article. I have removed the link from my 'useful websites' page. I have removed all 15 links that I had on my website to articles on the experts website. Yep, my hyperlink toys are out of the pram. Will it affect the expert's website in any way? Probably not. But in one of the article's own articles he advises organizations to establish "links of a feather" with affinity sites similar to yours. That sounds like a good idea.

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