It is no secret that I spend most of my time doing what I enjoy most: public relations and communication. In many ways, working in this field is a blessing: things change quickly so you never get to bore yourself and, provided your chose your clients and partners with care, you are given an opportunity to introduce genuinely interesting products and services to the public. Yet, some of the tactics of a handful of companies scare me. I had a prime example today.
Over a casual lunch with a client and friend, I was handed a printout from a small company you have probably never heard of. These people do PR and they had contacted my client twice through unsolicited email and twice through phone (equally unsolicited, might I add) explaining that he needed a “Web 2.0″ website and that “Web 2.0″ was “a revolution”.
So far, so bland. After all, what’s a little hype in an ad? We live in a world where toothpaste has three-colored stripes… Now, things got interesting: they were offering to design a website for my client for “free”, provided he hosted it on their servers for four years, at the price of 90 or so euros per month — if my recollection is correct. That started to get harder to swallow, especially given my client’s site does not currently use enough bandwidth to saturate a $20/month regular hosting arrangement.
By that time, I was starting to get weary. I have learnt however that price is very relative: after all, maybe their hosting facilities are so great this is a fair price — we shall never know. What really got me was the last condition: AJAX and the technologies this company was using were “so new” they needed to “protect their intellectual property” and hence, could not allow my client to even have a peek at what it was they wrote in terms of code. Given my client’s current site doesn’t use as much as a contact form, I cannot foresee what useful AJAX could be pumped into his site but, even if he needed it, I am having a really hard time imagining what “so-new-it-is-a-secret” technology would turn it around.
You see, whenever we design a site, we plan for the people who come after us. So far, none of our clients we have done web design for has ever left us (something we are quite happy about) but, if they chose to, our contracts specify their sites are their property. Additionally, we write standard, commented code and we pledge to help with transfer to third parties to the full extent of reason. It’s nothing more than what I would expect my PR people to do if I were to hire some.
I don’t believe in “less is more” as much as I believe in chocolate after meals but there is a point where it is obvious people are shoving fecal matter at you so that you can’t “crack the code”…
Add a soup of buzzwords in the copy, a complete absence of syntax and semantic declarations, a bunch of “services” of dubious value and you get the perfect startup. Did you know I can punch your name in Google once every couple weeks and charge you for “competitive watch”? Or open an Urchin account in your name and provide you with “competitive tracking”? Why didn’t I think of it first?
I have always strived to respect my clients and make a positive contribution to the world. Whether I succeed or not is another story but, at least, I try, in my very modest capacity. All my colleagues from other companies I have met have the same ideas and guidelines. In fact, there are gazillions of wonderful small PR firms out there, especially within the Mac community, who I know could teach a few things to the big guys when it comes to ethics and customer satisfaction.
Sure, it is a tough industry, sure there is plenty of competition, sure you march or you die but that doesn’t mean you are to shed your ethical and moral (not to mention technical!) principles to make a quick buck.
Has Web 2.0 turned into the C!a1iS of 2006?