Tuesday, October 31, 2006

WOMMA Ethics Assessment Tool

WOMMA launches tool to curb unethical word of mouth campaigns

The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) has developed a tool to help marketers identify and curb unethical word of mouth marketing campaigns before they are launched. The tool uses 20 questions that marketers should ask before initiating a campaign, such as whether campaigns use undercover marketing that might mislead consumers and whether a campaign's claims are accurate. The tool is based on WOMMA's ethics guidelines, which include honesty in relationships, opinions, and identity. The WOMMA Ethics Assessment tool is currently being circulated for public comment. Go to www.womma.org to submit or read comments and to check out the tool. Earlier this year, WOMMA sponsored a Web site and blog to help marketers understand what consumers are talking about and how to effectively join the conversation.

WOMMA Ethics Assessment Tool
"The Ethics 20 Questions"
Discussion Draft For Public Comment

The Ethics 20 Questions

  • Ask these questions before launching any word of mouth marketing campaign.
  • Get answers from your agencies and vendors, as well as from their subcontractors.
  • Think about the risks to your reputation before you cross any ethical lines.

Remember: Consumers come first, honesty isn't optional, and deception is always exposed.

For more information, visit www.womma.org/ethics.

    Honesty of Relationship

  1. Do we insist that our advocates always disclose their relationship with us -- including all forms of compensation, incentives, or samples?

    Honesty of Opinion

  2. Do we insist that all opinions shared with the public express the honest and authentic opinion of the consumer or advocate without manipulation or falsification?
  3. Are those individuals who are speaking for us free to form their own opinions and share all feedback, including negative feedback?
  4. Is all of the information provided to advocates, consumers, and the media factual and honest, and are all of our claims accurate?

    Honesty of Identity

  5. Have we repudiated and forbidden all forms of shill, stealth, and undercover marketing?
  6. Does everyone working on our behalf use their true identity and disclose their affiliation with our company and agencies?
  7. Do we forbid the blurring of identification in ways that might confuse or mislead consumers as to the true identity of the individuals with whom they are communicating?
  8. Do we forbid the use of expressly deceptive practices from our employees/advocates, such as impersonating consumers; concealing their true identities; or lying about factors such as age, gender, race, familiarity with or use of product, or other circumstances intended to enhance the credibility of the advocate while deliberately misleading the public?

    Taking Responsibility

  9. If we use agents or volunteers of any sort, do we actively instruct them in ethical practices and behaviors and insist that all of those working under our instructions similarly comply with this standard?
  10. Do we instruct all advocates to repeat these instructions and responsibilities in the downstream conversation?
  11. Do we have a plan to monitor any inappropriate word of mouth generated by our advocates?
  12. Do we know how will we correct any inappropriate or unethical word of mouth done by volunteers or resulting from actions taken by us?
  13. Do we insist that campaign organizers disclose their involvement when asked by consumers or the media and provide contact information upon request?

    Respecting the Rules

  14. Do we respect and honor the rules of any media we might use, including all such procedures and stipulations as may be deemed appropriate by specific websites, blogs, discussion forums, traditional media, or live events? (Examples of actions that break the rules: violating the terms of service of any online site, spamming, violating privacy rules, or defacing public property.)
  15. Do we prohibit all word of mouth programs involving children aged 13 and younger?
  16. If our campaign involves communicating with or influencing minors aged 14 to 17, do we a) have mechanisms in place to protect the interests of those teens, and b) have parental notification mechanisms in place, where appropriate?

    When Hiring an Agency

  17. Does the agency subscribe to the same high standards of ethical behavior and practice, and are they willing to guarantee the ethics of their own work as well as that of all subcontractors?
  18. Do they have reporting and operational review procedures in place permitting us to ensure full compliance with all ethical standards?
  19. Have they previously engaged in unethical practices?
  20. If they have ever engaged in such practices in the past, do they now prohibit them, and will they guarantee that they will not use employees who have engaged in fraudulent practices to work on our behalf?

    As An Extra Measure of Assurance, Ask Yourself…

  • Would I be uncomfortable if my family or friends were involved in this campaign?
  • Is there anything about this campaign that we would be embarrassed to discuss publicly?
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