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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Blog for the Pentagon

I answered an add on Craigslist for a writing job. It was vague and I couldn't find a web site connected to email address - two strikes, but what the hell. I got a reply within a couple of hours asking if I had a problem writing about government agencies. I replied not if the story is true.

Next day I got an email asking if I could come in for an interview anytime that day. No web site as I'd asked for. We then spoke by phone. Call me naive, but I never knew this "word of mouth" marketing existed on such a grand scale as what he told me about.

He's doing a startup after working for a "Word of Mouth" company called Newgate that was purchased by iCrossing. His first big customer is the Pentagon. They want stories about all the great things the army is accomplishing in Iraq. It sounded like these stories would appear on clearly identified government sites. But it sounded like we writers would not be identified as Pentagon subcontractors.

His previous work included customers like Motorola, Microsoft, and Oracle. He said they will have people saying positive things about his commercial clients' products, posting the comments in public forums and onto blogs. He said when even two people talk up a product on a forum, it starts to influence others. He said the writers do not identify themselves. He said there is some subterfuge involved but nothing illegal. However, he mentioned that the FTC is trying to force publicly traded companies to disclose their contracts with "word of mouth" marketers.

According to the Word of Mouth Marketing Assciation, the code of ethics is very clear about identifying yourself when posting this kind of praise-for-hire. I wonder how many do. Guess I won't be putting too much stock into the reviews I see on public forums anymore.
I took a pass on the job.

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