Conflict of Interest, Perceived Imprecisely From Afar


I randomly caught this post from Leah Jones talking about Chris Brogan working with Sony on a project after meeting them during a Panasonic ‘junket’ to CES earlier this year. I was going to leave this as a comment but I exceeded the character limit by over 50%, so here is my reply to “Is this trust

Its an interesting conversation but haphazardly pointed at Chris (a long time colleague and friend, but I am writing here not for him, but for the broader conversation as a whole) While I can understand where there might be some hurt feelings, it should be about an opportunity lost to develop more then a passing relationship. But its not like Chris is Brett Farve and a one and only fleeting opportunity to have loyally fighting for the Panasonic team!

This was a Blogger, being given the VIP treatment at CES. Happens all the time.

Have any of the folks commenting and thinking this is unheard of and rude and insulting been there? If you have then you would know that no company paying for anyone’s way (and I know the Intel Insiders pretty well personally and professionally) would expect they could keep those people from meeting and talking with competitors.

In fact, seeing other competing equipment is a comparison that Chairman Yoshi Yamada is hoping for people to make – because he believes in the quality of his company’s products against those of rivals. From speaking with many other people who were engaged in different aspects of Panasonics CES work, I understand that the Panasonic Chairman is a wise man and do not believe he would fret over such concerns as this.

Chris was not hired to be a consultant by Panasonic, he did not steal their trade secrets to give to the competition, and most importantly he did not harm anyone, not even the PR people behind the CES program. Chris was flown out to CES for his credibility and reach (lets face it, most blogger relations as Chris alludes to is only about reach). Sony hired him to manage a project and for that project to benefit from his credibility and reach.

What’s the common thread? he was compensated for his time… Panasonic got some coverage, some WOM from Chris at CES and a chance to make sure he was considering and trying Panasonic equipment. Sony is paying for his time to run a program, which already by your post has been a bit more successful in getting attention.

For a moment, lets just look at the practical situation one more time. Had this been an invite out to the Panasonic corporate headquarters, and while on that trip that Panasonic paid for, he met with and started selling his services to Sony, that would be something to merit a discussion on trust and loyalty and good judgment… but it wasnt a private meeting, it was the biggest event in the industry with every competitor in the same 2 square mile (or so) area.

I do not even believe this is a question of trust or loyalty, unless you think you owe everyone who gives you something (which is totally so messed up for so many reasons) a debt for the rest of your life. It’s just a matter of business…

And this post titled “Is this Trust” is honestly just an observation that turned into an implied accusation perceived imprecisely from afar that IMHO has no real merit – in fact, I think in re-reading the blog post that an inflamatory, headling grabbing word was chosen for the title merely because it is so prominent now with Chris’ recently published book… I do really think the rightly focused topic is loyalty.

As for whether Chris Brogan is less trustworthy as a result of his working with Sony, bollocks. Trust is about honesty and character demonstrated over time, and there is nothing here or anywhere to indicate that Chris was dishonest…. nor was he disloyal in that he owes no loyalty to Panasonic except respect and perhaps the friendships he might have with various people involved there.

There are plenty of people out there who are not trustworthy and who are disloyal, it would really be great to see more people telling those stories.

Is This Trust as a post title certainly works at getting attention, but it also serves to potentially harm Chris’ credibility.

To illustrate, just on WED someone asked me what I thought of Vivek Kundra being a phony? I heard the allegations, but didnt know any more about the story, so I expressed my optimism about Vivek based on the perceptions of people I trust who know him and went home to find out the latest news… even I was shocked to see that Om Malik had shot down the false accusations within hours of the story first surfacing. Point being, this person was spreading false information caught in a fleeting moment through the stream because he trusted the stream and formed a negative opinion of Vivek that may never be corrected as a result.

The better question here that other’s alluded to rightly is the matter as to what are the potential conflicts of interest we could get into when individuals can be a journalist, a celebrity and a consultant for hire all at the same time.

As for broader lessons learned, its important for brands to not think they are going to own a blogger’s stories if they treat them to a nice time.  If a PR firm was selling them that, then there is something to really be upset about.

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