Should all conversations be on the record and fair game for blogging? Over the weekend, several bloggers, in light of a posting from Digitas’ Greg Verdino, asked why the recent Nielsen BuzzMetrics client-only "CGM Summit" wasn’t open to public blogging. [Disclosures: 1) Nielsen BuzzMetrics is my employer, 2) Digitas has done work with Nielsen BuzzMetrics, 3) I was a key architect of the CGM Summit in question and 4) I gratefully attended three weeks ago a wonderful Digitas/Logic+Emotion public presentation on blogging.]
The answer is simple: our paying clients preferred that format, and this was their conference. The agenda, topics, and key questions all flowed from their input – even their desire to tackle issues privately. Importantly, unlike many public media conferences, which seek awareness and ticket sales, this was a no-charge, no-frills gathering of 100 representatives from client organizations who have invested significant time and resources in Nielsen BuzzMetrics services. This was not an event put on for bloggers, but a client user-group meeting, something thousands of companies hold in private everyday. In the end, we achieved deep and stimulating conversation, led primarily by the clients themselves, and putting their interests first was the right thing to do.
We’ll continue to seek our clients’ input in future client-only events to see if a more fully exposed, "on-the-record" forum makes sense. We want to get it right, and welcome public feedback as well. At the same time, we must honor obligations to confidentiality around client case studies, client information and client wishes.
Beyond our case, I hope we can leverage this opportunity to address an extremely important issue. I’m not talking about “blogging conferences” because that’s really just a red herring; the core issue is when conversations should be on the record and when they shouldn’t. There definitely are powerful arguments and benefits for openness and full exposure, but I’m not sure extremes – one way or the other – are feasible or responsible. And our case demonstrated there are many people on both sides. As my colleague Matt Hurst underscored, “This is a matter of mutual respect and understanding the value of intimacy in discussion,” and I happen to agree. There also are serious legal implications and social expectations.
Again, we welcome comments and suggestions on our specific situation and beyond. We want to get it right, as Jonathan Carson, our CEO at Nielsen BuzzMetrics, underscored on his official company blog (and encouraged me to do so here on my personal space here).