Set a higher standard of business: Don’t try to buy popularity

I saw something this evening that was disturbing. It is one of many ways of not being transparent online and risking your reputation and the trust of your current and future customers.

One of our local news outlets NewsOK has a contest called the Readers Choice awards. They are one of several in the area that have this sort of contest. It is a marketing tool for the news outlet, and it brings in great press to great businesses. Businesses that people already knew were good and that are able to stand on their own merits.

As I was catching up on my Twitter stream I saw that someone had voted for “Jeff Click Homes” in the NewsOK Annual 2010 Readers Choice awards. I was thinking “Great” as I moved my mouse over to click on the link in the tweet. As far as I know they are a great company that produces good looking homes. I’ve always been a fan of their work.  I clicked on the link that person posted after their vote and it took me to this page:

Basically Jeff Click is having a giveaway for an iPad if you vote for them, tell everybody that you voted for them so then your friends can vote for them and also have a chance at winning an iPad?  This is also part of the FAQ for the contest:

Do I have to live in Oklahoma City to participate?
No, not at all.  However, each state has different laws regarding giveaways.  So, as they say, “Void where prohibited.”

In the middle of me reading up on this I was sent a DM or two about  other companies that are doing the same thing for this same contest. Customers and employees are being rewarded with prizes, casual days, food, etc. if they vote up for their company in the contest. What? You offer to give your employees food if they vote for you?

To any companies that participate in this practice: Please reconsider. If you believe you are good enough to win said contest then encourage your customers to vote for you based on your merits. Make sure they see the full slate of who they can vote for and let them vote their conscience. If you are truly worthy of winning you will have no problem getting votes and you can look yourself in the mirror in the morning without a problem. By offering a prize (like a very popular iPad) you are encouraging people to vote for an iPad,  not vote for you. People that don’t know who you are and don’t care will vote just to win this piece of lovely hardware.

To NewsOK: I was not able to find any rules about your contest online. If they are there then I am sorry. . If you don’t have any rules online about this then please get some. But only do it if you care about your reputation also. If you are not going to post any rules about this then when listing the winning consider adding the disclaimer that “winners may or may have not offered awards in exchange for obtaining votes”. I think that your rules should state that any company involved in this practice should be disqualified from winning. As of 1:03am Tuesday morning I know that you have at least two companies doing this. I would not be surprised if there are more.

In the grand scheme of things this is trivial. A lot of life is a popularity contest. But I would not have gone through this exercise if I didn’t think that the parties involved should not be held to high standard of business. That is why I care. Not for the iPad but for the standard.

Let’s set the bar high and keep it there.

6/20 Follow Up Disclosure: I have done marketing work with other Oklahoma builders in the past, and I will probably do so in the future.