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Choosing ‘Experts’ – Screening is Better than the Cure

April 17, 2009

Daryl Tay wrote an interesting post about the need for firms to do a bit of research and know exactly what they want (and why it is valuable) before engaging outside social media ‘experts’ (term used loosely…). Although this is a topic beaten to death online over the past year, I couldn’t agree more!

I was having a conversation with a colleague today about the branding industry and how fortunes were made in the 80s and 90s from some pretty dodgy work – the dotcom boom being esp. memorable time for brands developed from napkin-sized business plans.

I directly know of three examples whose global parent spent millions (each) to branding firms to come up with a name and logo that a couple of drinks at the pub with friends probably would’ve yielded the same result. Don’t get me wrong, there are some super-talents and super-cases in the branding world of real value being delivered.

But as with all things if it’s garbage-in, then the there’s a good chance of calling the end result. Below is a slide I presented at Singapore’s ‘Strategic PR’ conference last month:

Strat PR

The key point that I made while talking to this slide is that there are too many firms walking into unsure companies saying “I have the biggest blogger database – I can hook you up with them – oh yeah, I have a blog too.” The initial sell is blogger relations, or some kind of corporate blog. Sadly enough, the next phase of this kind of snake oil tactical sell has already begun with Twitter – it will become an avalanche over the next three months and we’re going to have some major war stories.

In short, I’m going one step on from Daryl and imploring companies to keep PR or social media experts honest – unfortunately as an industry, I don’t think we’re going to be able to help, or manage, ourselves.

To try and be of some value (I’ll stop being Mr Grumpy now), here are just four community pre-reads off-the-top-of-my-head that might help if you’re thinking of engaging outside social media expertise:

– Beth Harte – Here an expert, there an expert…everywhere an expert

– The Escape – The Secret to Choosing a Web Design Agency in 8 Easy Steps

– Ged Carroll – 29 not-very-technical things that every PR person should know

– Chris Brogan – What I Want a Social Media Expert to Know


I – as an communications professional working in social media should be – am willing to stand up to any questioning or scrutiny about strategy, thinking and experience. Is the belief that this is true across the industry?

Aside from the hardcore thinking around understanding business and/or marketing strategy by the likes of Porter, Kotler, Reichheld et al (which is critical and taken as standard!) – what other pre-reads would you recommend?

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 17, 2009 10:15 PM

    Hi John thanks for the link and the thoughts. You know when I read your post and hear the “I have a blogger database” statement, I can totally see agencies using that during a pitch to win or “con” (I use the word lightly) clients, because very few clients out there would know that a blogger database is just a small (though important) part of the pie.

    To draw a bad parallel, it’s like the greedy financial people who sold stuff that normal people didn’t particularly understand and didn’t know better to realise it’s a scam, used it to grab a quick buck, and look where we are now.

  2. johnkerrnz permalink*
    April 18, 2009 12:17 AM

    Yup Daryl – it’s a real shame that it requires companies to filter the shill and snake oil from the sanity, but guess that’s the way it’s always been.

    For the first time however, I think there’s a desire from within to arm people with the tools, in order not to destroy the credibility of those who might know what they’re doing.


  1. Choosing ‘Experts’ - Screening is Better than the Cure « digital … |

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