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This is Joe Chernov, BzzAgent's director of public relations, writing. I found your insights into this topic to be thorough and enlightening. I believe your well-thought blog provides a valuable service to your readers.

I am writing only to point out an incident where the metaphoric game of "telephone" appears to have broken down, resulting in an unstable foundation for your otherwise sound arguement.

In your post on the FTC and Disclosure, you write, "Dave Balter's own words, as captured by Benjamin Pfeiffer (aka 'Phoenix') at the 2/27/06 'Blogs, CGM, and Buzz' session of SES N.Y., describe the Buzz Agents he contracts with as 'influentials, mavens, trendsetters, alphas, bees'."

This assertion gives way to your reasonable conclusion that there is something "unnatural" (paraphrasing) about the WOM that occurs in the BzzAgent model.

I am not sure if Mr. Pfeiffer's blog inaccurately restated Mr. Balter's presentation, or if you misread his blog (I cannot locate the post to which you refer); however, I can say without equivocation that the slide to which Mr. Pfeiffer refers states that BzzAgent's system does NOT target influencers, mavens, bees, etc. Our system is based on the fundamental belief that WOM is most successful when brands empower the everyday consumer rather than cherry pick those that algorythms prioritize.

I am very interested in knowing if this shift in message would affect the conclusions you draw. Additionally, I am open to discussing this topic with you further, as I very much admire the thinking behind your posts.

Joe Chernov
Director of Public Relations


Joe, thanks for the compliment. I found your use of the phrase: "the metaphoric game of 'telephone' appears to have broken down" to potentially be true, so I've changed my post to be more fair and potentially accurate (IMO). I also find that same phrase to be analogous to what happens in WOM, as a postive or negative message can get distorted and embellished as it is passed along in different telephone conversations throughout the "downstream".

By the way, I've always had a link to Ben's (aka "Pheonix") post ("Blogs, CGM, and Buzz") as he is a staff writer for "Search Engine Roundtable" (see attribution at the bottom of his post).

As for your use of the word "unnatural", thanks for adding "(paraphrasing)", as I never used that word. What I said was "Well, it is my belief that if there is an OMISSION of disclosure anywhere in the "downstream" of institutionalized buzz marketing that "magically" converts to everyday, NATURALLY occurring "WOM" (Word of Mouth), there needs to be complete disclosure from beginning to end in that downstream.

"NATURALLY" occurring WOM is not "institutionalized" as Kate Kaye says. It has no prizes to be potentially won by anybody. It does not need disclosure throughout the entire downstream that the original buzz was started by someone who has been recruited by a marketing firm that gets paid money by the manufacturer or service provider, since that is not true.

You say: "Our system is based on the fundamental belief that WOM is most successful when brands empower the everyday consumer rather than cherry pick those that algorythms prioritize." It is my belief after over 30 years in sales, marketing and advertising that the "everyday consumer" can easily be classified as any one of the terms Ben said that Dave used in his presentation. In fact, the "everyday consumer" can have the most motivation to try to become "those that algorythms prioritize." So, there is no difference to me.

I think the best proof of what I just said is the fact that I asked Shawn Gold (founder of why so many young people participate on his site. He said the three top "core needs" that MySpace fulfills are: 1.self-expression 2.Discovery and 3.Recognition (in that order). These are strong motivators for the "everyday consumer" to want to do a "good job" in posting good content on MySpace, or being a good BuzzAgent. Some BuzzAgents may find these motivators fill their needs so well that they don't even try to redeem their earned points for prizes, and they certainly don't want to spread too much negative WOM. Why? Because their common sense tells them that the companies that hire marketers on a consistent, persistent basis would not keep doing that, if more than 50% of the time, potentially "sales damaging" things were being buzz'd downstream.

Thanks for your good comment, and please feel free to respond again.

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