Is MPI Buying Positive Social Media Mentions For WEC?

Photo by Kevin Labianco http://www.flickr.com/photos/80031239@N00/120973041/

This week, MPI will have its annual World Education Congress (WEC). As some of you know, I worked for MPI several years ago and even planned content for the WEC in the late 1990s. Many readers remember my feelings about the 2009 WEC Virtual Access Pass debacle.

But this year, MPI created a new WEC fiasco, with its Social Media Guru policy.

WEC 2010 Social Media Guru Policy

For WEC 2010, MPI invited people to apply to be a social media guru (SMG). Those chosen as a SMG received a reduced registration fee in exchange for blogging, tweeting and writing about WEC.

In theory, it’s a great idea. However, there’s a catch. And it’s a defining point in the MPI culture.

The SMG application had the following phrase,  “[Social media gurus are expected to provide] fair and unbiased coverage.” (Paraphrased as original application is no longer available on the web.)

There it was in print. MPI expects “fair and unbiased coverage.” And that phrase was listed twice in the SMG application. That’s not the way most associations communicate with the press. They instead try to influence and guide the coverage based on the best stories available. They don’t demand fair and unbiased coverage.

What Is Fair And Unbiased Coverage?

So what is unfair and biased coverage of MPI’s WEC? If they only want fair and unbiased coverage, who decides what is fair and biased? Isn’t MPI’s suggestion for fair and unbiased coverage a bias? In other words, these SMGs are not allowed an opinion. They cannot have their own perceptions, views or reactions because God, forbid, they might be biased. And guess what, most bloggers are biased and opinionated! That’s how blogs roll!

It’s not like we are used to unbiased media coverage. Just consider the BBC, Fox News and the New York Times. They all have biases. Right?

If you think I’m the only one struggling with this WEC SMG issue, read SMG Vanessa LeClair’s post Being an MPI Social Media Guru Isn’t Without Its Challenges. Obviously, SMG Miguel Nieves has some concerns about this too.

Some Feel That MPI Is Buying New Media

A very wise friend of mine made this statement about the WEC SMGs: “Wow, nothing like MPI buying the media. Right?”

Whoa, there’s the smoking gun. I didn’t ask that person for their thoughts. I didn’t say anything negative about the MPI WEC SMG application. As a matter of fact, I shared the SMG application via my networks with great excitement. I thought it was a smart move…until I read the application a second and third time.

My friend’s perception was only one of many who felt the same way.

MPI’s idea was a good idea gone awry. MPI is once again attempting trying to control the message. If MPI felt they even had to make that statement that they wanted “fair and unbiased” coverage, then they don’t trust people to cover the event from their own views. That’s a trust issue. That’s a corporate culture issue.

I’ve not seen any other organizations that invite bloggers or the media to their events insist on fair and unbiased coverage. Have you?

So, I didn’t apply. My integrity would not allow me to even consider becoming a WEC MPI SMG. I needed the ability to stay true to myself, voice my opinion and not be bought with a lower registration fee.

SMGs Should Disclose MPI Discounted Reg Fee For Writing About WEC

However, I do feel that every blog post the WEC SMGs write should have a disclosure statement that they received a discounted WEC registration fee in exchange for (fair and unbiased) writing about MPI’s WEC. This would stay true to the spirit of FTC’s Guidelines for bloggers about disclosure and endorsements.

How do you feel about MPI’s WEC social media guru policy of “fair and unbiased” coverage? Do you want WEC coverage that reflects a positive, fair and unbiased view or do you want SMGs that tell it as they see it?

34 Responses to Is MPI Buying Positive Social Media Mentions For WEC?
  1. Paul Wehking
    July 21, 2010 | 7:12 am

    You’re over thinking this. We all want “fair and unbiased – often heard as balanced” news coverage right. It gives us an opportunity to think and form opinions of our own based on the “balanced” coverage. I think this should also be presented with the statements made by Vanessa LeClair that she was not sure what to post or when. That indicates to me that MPI is not “BIG-BROTHERING” the process. It says to me “Post whatever, whenever but please do it in a professional manner.”

    The concept of “buying media play” through discounted reg. fees is a unique move for MPI. It is a small way of saying here’s a token of our appreciation for doing this. Also a statement again that “social media” is not free – somebody’s gotta do it and you usually gotta pay that somebody.

    I think the discount (aka pay) is also a fair statement of how things work. Even social media experts need to eat now and then right? People will only do “free” stuff in professional communities for so long – that is while it feels goods or until they have amassed enough of a following to start charging people for their expertise.

    All that aside – it’s an experiment right? So how it turns out is still to be seen. Cheers!

  2. Joan Eisenstodt
    July 21, 2010 | 7:40 am

    Maybe instead of an illustration w/ the twenty stuffed IN the mouth it should be shown as duct tape ACROSS the mouth.

  3. Paul Wehking
    July 21, 2010 | 7:48 am

    I see that my post is awaiting “moderation” …. hmmmm fair and unbiased guys???

  4. Michael McCurry
    July 21, 2010 | 7:52 am

    Great article Jeff. I, like you am not sure this SMG “fair and unbiased coverage” policy passes the smell test.

    I plan to participate in WEC virtually, at whatever level I am given access. I am still waiting to hear about this experimental virtual experience I signed up for. One thing is for sure… I will stay true to myself and will not hold back from expressing my opinions. So I guess I am biased :)?

    I look forward to seeing other responses to this article… hope some of the MPI SMG’s respond!!!

    thanks for another great article.

    @michaelmccurry

  5. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jeff Hurt, Vanessa LaClair, CMP and Mike McCurry, Zerista Pro. Zerista Pro said: RT: Is MPI Buying Positive Social Media Mentions For WEC?: Photo by Kevin Labianco http://www.fhttp://bit.ly/cxvdoR #eventprofs [...]

  6. Vanessa LaClair
    July 21, 2010 | 8:45 am

    Okay, dagger to the heart.

    First off, I’ll be flippant for a second…

    Awesome, my blog is getting some hits! I am one of the five SMG for WEC this year. And I think I’ll be wearing my bullet proof vest to the congress.

    In all seriousness, like Mike, I plan to be true to myself and express my opinions as I see fit. Yes, I received a discount on my registration, that’s it. But what hurts the most is that your blog assumes that I, and the other Gurus, can be bought (or mouths duct taped). In essence you’re questioning my own integrity, as a professional and a blogger. I wouldn’t have signed up for this program if I thought I couldn’t speak my mind or that it would compromise my independence during the congress.

    Mike can attest to the fact that I spent a good deal of my time providing critiques on VAP for MeetDifferent in February. I know you’re going to say that I wasn’t an SMG then – but honestly it won’t stop me from speaking my mind this time either. MPI needs us to be critical in order to provide a more positive experience as a member, and as an event attendee.

    Obviously as a blogger, I can’t always be unbiased – just having an opinion is biased. So if I write something negative, and someone disagrees – I’m biased; and vice versa? I think it would be best to say, we’re being fair and balanced.

    Finally, you ask, “Do you want WEC coverage that reflects a positive, fair and unbiased view or do you want SMGs that tell it as they see it?” – As an SMG I will tell it as I see. That’s what I would want from anyone telling their story.

    Need more? Then visit the comment section of the Engage365 blog here:
    http://engage365.conferencespot.org/discussions/13145

    @vlaclair

  7. Keith Johnston
    July 21, 2010 | 8:55 am

    Jeff,

    I think you hit the nail on the head, there was no need to put the phrase “fair and unbiased coverage” in the agreement at all. It is an implied threat (it really is).

    If MPI wants fair and unbiased, say nothing at all and let people write.

    Regardless of their original intention (even in good faith) they have managed yet again to create a debacle. This goes to the culture that they are creating in-house, they are not adapting to the new world, they are trying to make the new world adapt to them.

  8. Jeff Hurt
    July 21, 2010 | 9:10 am

    @Paul
    Thanks for adding your perspectives. This is healthy dialogue.

    For me, I want balanced reporting which I see as different from blogging. I expect to get people’s opinions in social media. I have my doubts that we ever get balanced reporting.

    MPI does not make the same requirements of general media or press as they do their SMGs. And, when I compare MPI’s social media request to other conferences that invite bloggers such as the World Innovation Forum (WIF), MPI’s request is unique. It’s worth discussing. WIF, which secures up to 30 bloggers, does not request their blogging team to give “fair and balanced coverage.” They encourage them to write it as they see or experience it.

    I stand by the FTC blogger guidelines that these bloggers should disclose their relationship with the MPI and WEC. Just as I expect Engage365 to request their bloggers to disclose when they are blogging on behalf of a client, a client’s services or even when they are reviewing a book that they received free.

    @Joan
    Your comment made me laugh out loud. Yep, that would have been an appropriate picture too.

    @Mike
    Thanks for adding your thoughts. I’ll be watching and reading from the sidelines.

    @Paul – re your second comment
    I make no claims that Midcourse Correction’s blog is fair, unbiased and balanced. It is clearly our opinions and a place for people to voice opinions.

    Paul, if all my comments were automatically posted, you’d see a lot of spam. I’ve got a fairly good spam filter but a significant amount still gets in the “waiting for approval column” and would show up if we didn’t approve comments. The system is set to approve commenters the first time only. As long as you login with the same web/email the second time, your comments are automatically posted. Now you can leave as many comments as you want without moderation. ;)

  9. Jeff Hurt
    July 21, 2010 | 9:26 am

    @Vanessa
    No, no, no. No dagger to the heart please! You should be proud that your original post got people talking! That’s a great thing and this is worthy of discussion. I was glad you raised the issue. If I had left this post on Engage365, less people would comment because of the barriers to create an account, then login and then leave a comment. Plus those comments are not put directly under the post so you miss the context of the discussion. And, I didn’t even know that Theresa had responded there because Engage365 does not alert me when a new comment is posted.

    I struggled with whether I should have put a statement in my post that you, Sam and the other SMGs were professional colleagues that I respect. I did not mean to imply that you have no integrity. I was saying that I couldn’t apply because of the “fair and balanced” statement that was mentioned twice would clearly cause me to second-guess everything I posted. I would have lived in a constant limbo of “Oh, will MPI think this is not fair?” It would have clouded my thoughts. I’m grateful that you will tell it like it is. That’s what I want to read. Not MPI spin.

  10. Leanne Calderwood
    July 21, 2010 | 9:52 am

    As someone who filled out the SMG application, I can’t remember the wording of it. Regardless, I plan on writing it as I see it, as I’ve done from the beginning. And right now, what I see is alot of talk about something so small compared to the congress as a whole that I can only hope my presence at WEC doesn’t ruin anyone’s overall experience. That would be a tragedy.

  11. Paul Wehking
    July 21, 2010 | 10:06 am

    Jeff – thanks for the VIP pass for comments;). And yes, I agree with the spam problems. As far as MPI goes, I truly think they are “hanging it out there” for them with this particular case. What I really read into the SMG language is “we’re doing this but we’re a bit scared so please post in a decent fashion.” Fact is most do anyway and I’m sure, as Theresa (MPI) points out, that MPI is open to kudos and criticism alike. We’ll have two guys on the ground in Vancouver and folks monitoring from here. Interested in seeing how this goes. Cheers!

  12. Joan Eisenstodt
    July 21, 2010 | 11:07 am

    Vanessa — thanks for jumping in and sharing your POV esp. since you will be one of those blogging from WEC10.

    I wonder what MPI intended when they said “fair and unbiased” — Vanessa — do you have any idea? Did you ask? Are each of you assigned a different area? Will you take tweets and others’ comments into consideration for what you write?

    In a world where transparency is desired, even suggesting fair and unbiased seems just odd…and a little bit untrusting.

  13. Jeff Hurt
    July 21, 2010 | 11:52 am

    @Keith
    Thanks for adding your thoughts. I’m in the same boat as you.

    @Leanne
    Thanks for responding here and in Engage365. I’m personally glad that those statements didn’t affect you like they did me. And, I don’t think anyone would have a negative experience because of you or your writing. I suspect it’s just the opposite.

    @Paul
    Yep, your a VIP here. After reading Theresa’s thoughts at Engage365 I agree with you that it was never her intent for “fair and unbiased” to become a sticking point. I like what Joan writes that today people want transparency and authenticity. Had those two words been used as the phrase, then I for one would be applauding them. I give them credit for trying. Will be interesting to watch these SMGs in action too.

  14. Vanessa LaClair
    July 21, 2010 | 12:36 pm

    @Joan / @Jeff / @Keith

    I think we are focusing too much here on the “fair and unbiased” or “fair and balanced” as I like to say. When I applied that wasn’t even an issue for me; I always provide my own opinions on MPI and its events that I participate in. I sit on my own Chapter’s board of directors as the President-Elect. Ask any of them, and they will tell you, although MPI is great, I don’t hold back my opinions.

    Jeff & Keith have a point that perhaps those two words should not have been used as part of the program application, because it seems it leaves a bad taste. But its out there now, and this is a pilot program and we are learning as we go…moving on

    In my conversations with MPI, I was told that I could speak freely – they WANT us to speak freely. But that if you are going to criticize, then at least be fair and provide your thoughts on what could be done differently – in your opinion of course.

    You asked about our directive…well in essence it is this: “Act as a spokesperson for social media to the members attending WEC.” It is not a directive to represent MPI, but rather the attendees. My personal spin on this is to take it all in, write up my story and share it with others. All this discussion today has actually given me fodder for my next blog! I plan to Tweet and Blog until my heart is content, although I do have to some puppy cuddling to do. I’ll even RT Jeff’s blogs and tweets – all’s fair in love in war right?

    Like I’ve said before, in the world of social media – if you aren’t open, honest and transparent, I’m pretty sure your followers would notice, and call you out on it.

    And while I’m on the subject of being honest, Jeff, can you make this comment box any smaller, I’m going cross-eyed. :)

  15. Sam Smith
    July 21, 2010 | 12:45 pm

    Jeff,

    You are smart, have a lightening rod personality and great social influence. You have the resources to do something great. Something bigger than yourself. It made me so sad to read your post this morning.

    You see last year, we social media in events people invested a ton of time complaining about how MPI handled the virtual access pass. We did it here on your blog. We had fun. It made you popular. You made me eager to go become part of the solution. That’s why I applied for the program – now that I am back in the US.

    I want to be part of the solution.

    Let’s be clear – I think MPI does a terrible job of using social media to tell #likeminded event organizers and members around the globe understand why this event is worth attending. I think they can do a better job. While I can’t wield budgets or put an army of staff to work, I can do my part and use my resources to help – move the needle in a positive direction.

    When I was at the MPI European Meetings & Events Conference in Malaga in March, I did what I could to show people how they could use social media, how to share some tweets, post pictures, etc. I took a ton of pictures with my iphone and posted them on twitter and flickr. I wanted to document the conference from my point of view and do it with my phone. I plan to do the same at WEC and hope that others will do the same. Imagine what would happen if 3, 5 or 35 people did this. There would be a ton of pictures out there painting a unique, authentic and unbiased picture of the event experience. It would show us another side of the event that you won’t find in a press release or on a blog.

    Now let’s talk about program execution for a minute. Your concern about the execution is fair. Is this about positive mentions? It sure could look that way to an outsider.

    Here’s what I am finding. Kristen and Theresa are running a pretty free wheeling operation. There is no formal agreement, contract or signed document of any type. It is nothing like the speaker agreements. They didn’t even outline any specific expectations in the email they sent telling us that we were accepted.

    In my opinion, we can write what we want when we want. We can #like things or #unlike them. I plan on doing that. If the coffee sucks, I will be the first to spread the word. At the same time, if the event is doing something great – then I will #like it.

    Anyway, I am sorry that you did not apply for the program. You have a special gift. It would have been great to work with you to create something great.

  16. Tony Stubblebine
    July 21, 2010 | 2:28 pm

    Unlike Sam, it made me exceedingly happy to see this comment. I think it’s important that there’s room for criticism within our industry. And as far as criticism goes, this is exceedingly light. This is one phrase, with open interpretation, for one event. I say start with this criticism and work your way up.

    I don’t say that lightly or because I like to see people with hurt feelings. I say it because I come from an industry (software) with a very high tolerance for criticism. The results of having a public, open, free for all means that ideas get better vetting, information travels faster, and innovation happens all the time.

    At the end of the day your customers are meeting planners and attendees. They don’t care if some supplier has hurt feelings or loses business. Be opinionated, be honest, have thick skin. Many people will flock to you because you’re the only person in the industry willing to do that.

  17. Dave Lutz
    July 21, 2010 | 3:26 pm

    Thought I’d chime in here. Jeff isn’t working in a vacuum on this. We had a long discussion about this before the post went live and I exercised my editing privileges.

    Here’s my viewpoint after reading Theresa’s reply on Engage365.

    MPI does have good intentions. They do want the SMG’s to speak their mind and help spread the word on what’s going on at WEC. They prefer good posts, tweets and opinions (who doesn’t?), but want their SMG’s to be authentic.

    Here’s what I’d do, if I were responsible for this program.

    1) Tell all the SMG’s that the term “fair and unbiased” isn’t being universally received as intended. They should clarify that they respect each SMG’s voice and want them to be authentic to their readers/followers…speak their mind. MPI has a good product in the WEC and should have confidence in that. Removing this uncertainty, allows the SMG’s to not worry about their interpretation of “fair and unbiased” and have confidence in the FTC disclosure outlined in Jeff’s post.

    2) They should treat SMG’s like industry press. Take good care of them, help direct them to the most interesting stories, be a connector and enabler.

    3) They should have a good social media triage policy and plan for dealing with negative posts. Here’s a good model – http://twitpic.com/1fl6vi/full

    Finally, we all learn a great deal by the risks our industry associations take to improve meetings and events. Tony makes great points about that in the comment above. Planning a meeting for meeting professionals is one of the toughest tasks known to mankind. While this SMG plan was well conceived, the terms used did rightfully throw up flags. The good news is they do have time to make a MidCourse Correction.

    If this happened to one of your meetings or conventions, how would you respond?

  18. Miguel Neves (@miguelseven)
    July 21, 2010 | 4:09 pm

    Hi Jeff

    Thanks for raising this issue. As you point out I also had some concerns about this issue of MPI controlling what us Social Media Gurus (apprentices, I say) feed back to the digital universe. However I much prefer to be positive about this matter. Taking from what Sam wrote, I was with him in Malaga and the coverage of that event was only done by a few social media activists. Having been to MeetDifferent a week before, the participation there was much better but still low. I think the main motivation for MPI is really to make sure that there is social media buzz surrounding this event, as I think there should be. Whether this buzz is a positive one or not only the participants can really decide, no matter how much noise us SMGs can make. This is an issue that all organisation who open themselves to social media face, and I applaud MPI for taking these steps forward.

    In relation to the fair and unbiased coverage, I actually like this phrase. I don’t think it would stand up in a court of law, but to me this means that I am free to write as I please in a constructive way without bias towards MPI. If you were present or following mine and Sam’s tweets from Malaga, we definitely pointed out the good and the bad in an informal manner. I plan to do the same now.

    I can see where some might have a problem with the SMGs receiving a discount on their registration. In my case I still benefit from the student rate for conferences as I am currently in the student-in-transition process. When this was offered to me I donated my portion of the discount to the MPI Foundation. In the case of the other SMGs I cannot comment, however as has been pointed out, press are almost always given free registration to events and other perks. I don’t feel like we have been bribed, and I certainly won’t change my views on the event. I think MPI’s intention was to make sure that we would talk about the event via the means that we are comfortable with. I think this is a fair trade, and I must be honest in saying that I do feel some pressure to talk about the event, but never to make my views biased toward the wishes of MPI.

    The bottom line is that MPI is an volunteer driven association who should act for the benefit of its associates. MPI has been important to my career so far, and in my UK & Ireland Chapter we have several members of the board who work hard as volunteers and believe in MPI’s mandate. I fully support MPI’s SMG program and am looking forward to making lots of virtual noise from the front line. I want to tell all the members, especially those in Europe, who could not make it to Vancouver. I hope this is the start of something new and exciting that will propel MPI to the forefront of association 2.0.

    I can’t wait.

  19. Jeff Hurt
    July 21, 2010 | 4:26 pm

    @Vanessa
    Sorry the comment box is so small. Not sure how to fix that. ;)

    @Samuel
    I can see your point of view. Glad you added it. I believe that open discourse like this in public is a positive thing–not negative. I think it is part of the solution not the problem. It’s when we shut down open dialogue that it becomes negative.

    @Tony
    I like what you said that there needs to be room for criticsm within our industry. It’s when we feel the need to be right at all costs and not respect others views that it becomes a challenge. It’s unfortunate that some took this personally. Not my intent and not going to keep me from questioning things in the future either. We need to separate the profession from the personal.

    @Miguel
    Thanks for adding your feedback as an SMG. It’s important to hear your POV. I’m not faulting MPI for giving discounts to SMGs. Heck, I think they should have got free reg. I just think the US Federal Trade Commission guidelines should be followed for disclosure on all posts by WEC SMGs. That’s all. Looking forward to reading your posts from WEC. :)

  20. Mike McAllen
    July 21, 2010 | 4:37 pm

    Mr. Hurt-

    You live up to your name by bringing the pain.

    I like your perspective, one I had not thought of, or ever will again. This is why I enjoy your blog and your presentations; thought provoking. I do not think the bloggers actually read the fine print. They are much to busy blogging, tweeting, facebooking googling, and foursquaring (Winnetka Heights anyone?)

    MPI is listening, so hopefully they will take your points and massage the future SMGurus programs.

    My real worry is the social media gurus will now crush you with their online powers of media persuasion.

    Nice knowing you.

    Mike

  21. Christina
    July 21, 2010 | 4:59 pm

    Great points on both sides. Thank you for the excellent post, Jeff. I am not an MPI member so I missed hearing about this until now, and I appreciate your breaking the news (to me) and commentary.

    I’m sort of torn on this. I agree with your points as well as many of the opinions expressed in the comments. This kind of dialogue is exactly why I subscribe to your blog and read it daily.

    So, I guess my comment is to just thank you for the thought-provoking content and to thank the people who expressed their opinions for furthering that.

    It goes without saying, but visiting your blog is always well worth it! :)

  22. Melanie Abbott
    July 21, 2010 | 6:00 pm

    Thanks Jeff for starting a lively discussion although I am not bothered by MPI’s SMG policy at all. Even if the Gurus choose to deliver “safe” content and hold back any controversial commentary (which I doubt), I would not care because I know there are plenty of other rogue SMGs out there who will tell it like it is! lol. I wonder, what if one of the MPI SMG’s did decide to go rogue? What would happen? Membership revoked? Be forced to pay full registration? Public flogging? Thanks again, this has been fun :)
    Melanie Abbott, CMP
    Independent Planner

  23. John Potterton
    July 21, 2010 | 8:43 pm

    Thanks Jeff for this post. You have helped many of us really think about social technology and how we utilize it in our respective organizations. It seems to me that paying people to blog, tweet, etc. is contrary to the free entrepreneurial spirit in which most people I know engage in social media activity.

  24. Jeff Hurt
    July 22, 2010 | 9:30 am

    @Mike McAllen
    I can always count on you for some humor and levity. Thanks for the input.

    @Christina
    Good to see you. Thanks for adding your thoughts. That’s great that you can see several perspectives!

    @Melanie
    Thanks for reading and posting a comment. It made me smile.

    @John
    Many thanks for reading and adding to the conversation. Interesting point about the mindset of many social media users.

  25. Cheryl Lawson
    July 22, 2010 | 11:51 am

    I’ve always been told to beware of a few things.
    Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt, and people who call themselves Guru. (just to name a few)

    I understand the sensitivity of the ‘fair and balanced debate’, but if you have an understanding of perception within the social media community, would you ask people to called themselves something that is so potentially negative?

    I bring you Fast Company’s Influencer project that has been much maligned as ego driven and manipulative. (I clicked & regretted)
    See post:
    “Fast Company Influence Project Pisses Off Online Influencers
    http://blogs.sfweekly.com/thesnitch/2010/07/social_media_tools.php

    Then, you look at the smarty pants behind the popular Old Spice campaign. They didn’t ask people to raise their hands as influencers, they did the research found the people who were in-fact influencing, they mixed in a few “regular folk” and then let them do what they do…Influence. Opinions good and bad, and some really bad (visually) but good too.
    @OhDoctah vs. @OldSpice
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-IHk6FKyeg

    While I applaud the attempt, but people will probably beware of the GURU offering “fair and balanced” coverage of an WEC.

    @Partyaficionado

  26. [...] there’s been a lot of chatter on Social Media Guru program. You can read all about it here and here and now here. I considered spending some time reviewing what happened to cause such a commotion, [...]

  27. Jeff Hurt
    July 26, 2010 | 6:55 am

    @Cheryl
    Thanks for reading and adding your comments. Good points that the words “Social Media Guru” are seen as negative by many in the social media space. I’m glad you voiced that issue!

  28. Betsy Bair
    July 26, 2010 | 9:05 am

    I’m a bit late to this party, but I’ve been traveling and I have to jump in. I see MPI’s request of bloggers to be fair and unbiased as a very positive move. And bravo to MPI for discounting their registrations. I don’t think MPI was trying to influence the bloggers’ commentary, but just to encourage lots of it. Every association is playing with different approaches to social media and I think this is a terrific one. Sue Pelletier, who blogs AND who is expected to write fair and unbiased coverage of the event for meetingsnet.com received complimentary registration. That’s the practice of most associations. If you haven’t read this very balanced blog on the subject, you should:

    http://icon-presentations.com/blog/bid/27411/MPI-social-media-guru-debate-highlights-changing-face-of-journalism

  29. Dan O'Sullivan
    July 26, 2010 | 11:37 am

    Perhaps MPI erred on the side of caution when choosing the words “fair and unbiased” to emphasize they expected no spin in exchange for discounts.

  30. Jeff Hurt
    July 26, 2010 | 2:17 pm

    @Betsy
    Thank you for reading and posting your views. I don’t think you’re late to the party. This is a healthy and good discussion IMO, even though some think I did it for grandstanding efforts. ;) I think this should be discussed even more by journalists and bloggers alike within the meetings industry.

    I agree that Jenise’s post is a balanced reprensentation of this isssue. I also think this issue is one to consider for FAM trips, travel bloggers and the hospitality industry in general. Blogger Susan Getgood explains additional views on the FTC guidelines and her view that “Disclosure is a best practice, full stop, regardless of your publishing channel.” Her post Travel Blogs, Ethics & The FTC Guidelines offers another important perspective on the issue.

    @Dan
    MPI’s Theresa Davis responded on Engage365 blog that it was her intent that the SMGs should give credit where credit is due and call MPI on the carpet when it is due. I believe that Theresa’s intent was to have bloggers be authentic and transparent. IMO, the words “fair and unbiased” were the lightening rods and perhaps other words could have been used in their place.

  31. Gretchen
    July 30, 2010 | 9:50 am

    Having read most of the comments from the MPI SMG’s, I’d like to hear from Jeff on his opinion now that the results are in. It takes a big man to not walk away from a topic – right or wrong. So, what do you say? I’ll wait to give my opinion after we have heard from the person who thought the opinions would were being bought/manipulated.

  32. Cheryl Lawson
    July 30, 2010 | 10:46 am

    “It is better to debate a question without settling it than to settle a question without debating it.”
    Joseph Joubert

  33. Jeff Hurt
    July 30, 2010 | 1:28 pm

    Gretchen:

    Thanks for posting and as an employee of MPI, I’m sure you have an opinion. I think the entire discussion has been healthy and needed. Don’t you? I believe Maddie Grant’s case study of this issue is right on target.

    What’s unfortunate is that some SMGs and others felt it was a personal attack. That was never a goal. It’s disappointing that honest questions cause hurt feelings.

    Do I still feel the same way when I started this conversation?

    Yes and no. As I stated on Engage365 in my second comment that I then understood Theresa’s intentions were not to “buy” social media mentions. That was after I wrote my original blog post. Unfortunately, perception is reality. The words “fair and unbiased” were trigger words for many, not just me.

    I stand by my concerns about the FTC Guidelines and MPI’s SMG program. As evidenced in this FTC warning to an organization rewarding their bloggers and social media gurus for coverage of an event, the FTC expects disclosure of any material connection in exchange for social media coverage. What’s even more interesting is that in the above case, the FTC went after the event organizers, not the bloggers. That should send red flags to all meeting and event professionals who are trying to encourage word of mouth coverage in exchange for a discount, free registration or some type of gift. I’m not against the discount, free reg or gift. I am for disclosure.

    If you look closely at the WEC SMG requirements, MPI expected a pre-conference, during conference and post-conference blog post in exchange for a reduced fee. I only saw two blog posts from the SMGs during the conference and only one disclosed the material relationship. I may have missed the other blog posts.

    I’m going to write more about the FTC Guidelines, conferences and events because I think it is an important issue that has impact on word of mouth from those on FAM trips, hosted buyers programs and sponsored social media mentions from events. This issue is bigger than just MPI’s WEC SMGs.

    @Cheryl
    Great quote. Thanks for adding it!

  34. [...] sitting here writing a post about everything that MPI is currently doing wrong, things mentioned in Jeff Hurts current post or my post from a few months ago. The whole thing could have been the first chapter in a [...]

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