Published Dec. 22, 2011
Years ago, I was concerned that newspapers required an actual name and address be attached to a “Letter to the Editor” before the publication would seriously consider printing it. However, as we’ve seen anonymity proliferate, and the splintered, radical (both left and right leaning) ideology being espoused, I’ve come to rethink the wisdom of credible news organizations that required name disclosure.
|Bruce D. Murdy, president of Rawle Murdy Associates Inc.|
One major positive of having this sophisticated technology at our fingertips is that brands and advertisers have the ability to learn more about their customers and constituencies, as well as meet their needs more readily. The negative? The technology that allows them to do this can also be a destructive tool when combined with anonymity.
In this day and age, you’ve undoubtedly seen local or Super PACS who, through a veil of anonymity, are able to recklessly post inaccurate depictions of brands and “truths” in order to further their own agenda. Facts need not enter the question.
And the bully pulpit power of groups like this is dangerous. As of Dec. 21 this year, 258 groups had organized as Super PACS and reported total receipts of nearly $32 million!
The anonymity behind some social media platforms likewise allows for nameless souls to send vicious attacks that can seriously harm the reputation of a brand for years. It also represents a large and unnecessary financial burden needed to rebuild the tarnished reputation of that brand.
Efforts to crack down on these fraudulent practices have done little to curb these attacks. While Facebook has long required users to disclose their real identities to use the service, there are websites that tutor people on how to protect their online anonymity and get around these electronic blocks. There continue to be discussions on ways to thwart this problem; however, they tread dangerously close to First Amendment rights.
So where do go from here?
We live in a time of revolution when it comes to online identity. As we grapple with these issues of PACs and spammers, we must maintain a level of decorum and dignity, especially in the marketing world. We cannot stoop to tactics that our competitors may be using. It’s up to us to keep standards high, keep the conversation alive. And yes, let’s celebrate reputable sites and publications that still require us to sign our name when sharing a point of view.
Bruce D. Murdy is president of Rawle Murdy Associates Inc., a Charleston-based marketing, advertising and public relations firm. E-mail him at email@example.com.