PR Win or PR Fail?

When you get something like this through your letterbox surely it is going to spark a reaction?  I'm a naturally inquisitive person so immediately had a quick search on twitter for part of the hashtag to see what was going on. 

I wasn't impressed by what I found... a lot of "huh" type tweets interspersed with some positive and some negative comments.  In between the tweets I found the FlubIt official account and checked out their website (which is exactly what they wanted me to do, obviously).

In these times of mass produced online marketing, brands have approximately 3 seconds to grab your attention before you move on to the next webpage.  Clicking the red X in the corner of the screen to get rid of unwanted web content is far too easy.  To take marketing back to traditional sources (such as snail mail) does make you stand out in the crowd.

Something was niggling at me with this campaign though.  I am used to PR's emailing me (and, boy, do I sift through some shit day after day) to request my postal address to send me a sample of their latest and greatest.  Sometimes I know what's going to arrive, sometimes I don't.  However, I do keep a record of who has my address.  I'm a bit of a spreadsheet freak.  A quick Google search of "flubit pr agency" takes you directly to their LinkedIn page where it is easy to see their marketing is done in-house. A drill down of my email and my spreadsheet showed that no-one on their books had contacted me for my postal address.

There are two places where my personal information is held online.  If you know where to look, you'll know where I'm on about.  I know for a fact where my information is not held so it was interesting to be part of this unfolding conversation.

Flubit Twitter Conversation

Flubit Twitter Conversation

Flubit Twitter Conversation

Flubit Twitter Conversation

Flubit Twitter Conversation

Flubit Twitter Conversation

Flubit Twitter Conversation

I was starting to smell something and it wasn't roses.  As this was taking place in a public arena a number of people were tweeting me or joining in the conversation.  Many were as confused as I was with regards the gathering of postal addresses, others were just watching from the sidelines egging me on.  I was told by the Flubit representative that they would check their marketing details in the morning as they couldn't be sure how they acquired my address.

Many people A grand total of two people came forward to support Flubit.  One was very certain that I was "angry" and "obsessive".  He included Flubit in all our twitter exchanges and suggested that Flubit will have found my personal address from the WhoIs directory.  Immediately, Flubit came back, thanked the other tweeter and said, "Yes, that's where we got your address from" and then proceeded to suggest that they found my Geekalicious website through GoDaddy (hosting and web domains) and were redirected to WhoIs.

Firstly, Geekalicious is a address and I have opted out of providing my personal information via WhoIs.  For my one and only .com address (this blog) I have my personal information on record because it is a requirement.  The only other place that my personal information is available is the electoral register.  I don't have a problem with that.  What I do have a problem with is when marketeers circumnavigate terms and conditions displayed on public searches.

With thanks to two Twitter friends of mine (who have legal backgrounds) who pointed me in the direction of the correct place to look, may I present this section of WhoIs to you which is clearly displayed at the bottom of every search that is made:

The Data in this WHOIS database is provided for information purposes only, and is designed to assist persons in obtaining information related to domain name registration records.  It's accuracy is not guarenteed. By submitting a WHOIS query, you agree that you will use this Data only for lawful purposes and that, under no circumstances will you use this Data to: (1) allow, enable, or otherwise support the transmission of mass unsolicited, commercial advertising or solicitations via e-mail(spam); or (2) enable high volume, automated, electronic processes that apply to this WHOIS or any of its related systems. The provider of  this WHOIS reserves the right to modify these terms at any time.   By submitting this query, you agree to abide by this policy.

Just because any information is public it doesn't mean that anyone is entitled to use it.  The Data Protection Act requires that data controllers inform chosen subjects of the purproses for which they will use their information (i.e. they don't have to request your public information, just tell you that they may use it for a certain purpose).  Transparency is key and WhoIs make the information available for issues relating to your website, not for marketing.

I'd say that Flubit have seriously breached this request and overstepped the mark, wouldn't you?

As many PR's will tell you, I am open to working with a number of brands on amazing and ground-breaking campaigns.  I have given over my blog to cancer and meningitis awareness drives, participated in a full day of radio appearances promoting healthy breakfasts for Princes and totally believe that my strong and individual voice is what makes me stand out from the crowd, whether you think that is for good or bad reasons.  I've seen some seriously innovative marketing which didn't involve scraping WhoIs for addresses.  

If you want an example of positive "snail mail" marketing, also from this week then let me introduce you to PeerIndex.  PeerIndex does exactly what it says on the tin; it measures social media interactions and allows you to see who you influence and who influences you.

Occasionally PeerIndex promote a 'perk'.  Just off the top of my head, two recent perks that I have applied for have been for a James Palumbo book called Tancredi (weird and wonderful) and for a set of Ministry of Sound headphones (L.U.S.H.).  These were both received through a game of Twitter tag - passing on the perk to another Twitter user.

This week I received an email inviting me to participate in another perk.  I was offered free milk and curly straws.  I don't have to do anything for it - just enjoy the product but, as a direct comparison, they have grabbed my attention with something relevant to me and something that was delivered to my door (after I provided my own personal information) within two days.  My only concern is that Cravendale (the company working with PeerIndex to provide the fun freebies) believe that 8 litres of milk is a month's supply.  In this house it will just about cover us for a week if I'm lucky.  But it's USEFUL!

I was determined not to "do a Mumsnet" with this blog post.  I don't think I can handle that again.  I know I'm hot-headed and a bit blind-sighted with my viewpoints when it comes to blogging and social media, and maybe life in general, but I'd be really interested in your input on this.  The comments section remains open and you can comment anonymously if you prefer.  My comments policy is displayed on my Disclosure page.