The Ethics of Reviewing Clients’ Products

Recently, I’ve had several clients ask me to review their book (and of course, give it five stars), share their status updates online, and in general do things that make my online and social media presence a venue to promote their work.

Now, I can sort of see how they think this is a reasonable request. After all, I’ve been hired to promote them, right? But if my Amazon or GoodReads account is used to write glowing reviews of my clients (and a lot of my clients end up on my website, so it’s going to be found in search), what does that say about my credibility online? Besides, since my clients give me their books, I wouldn’t even be an Amazon-verified purchaser, so it looks all the more like someone gaming the Amazon review system.

And moving on to my social media, those accounts and networks are for *me* and how I want to position myself, who I want to connect with, and get the information that I want. It’s one thing if it’s a corporate account, because that’s what a corporate account does, or part of it.  Now, I’m happy to promote a nice media placement for one of my clients over my professional social presence, but that’s because I’m tooting my own horn. The added exposure to my client is really incidental.

What do you think? How would you (or do you) handle these kinds of requests?

Why Won’t My Publicist Give Me a List of Media Contacts?

Photo of rolodex

Remember these?

“We don’t stop following up until we get an answer.” That’s what a publicist hired by an author once told me while I was working in-house. After a shiver ran down my spine, I immediately took note to make sure I never recommended or hired that agency.

The above is one reason publicists don’t give out their media lists. You don’t know how someone is going to treat it — or rather the people on it. Will they call your contacts over and over again, not getting the really obvious hint that no response means no? Will that person email useless press release after useless press release, week after week, hoping the next will result in front page coverage? Will they blurt out — after abusing your media contacts — “I got your info from so-and-so!” and destroy the relationship you spent considerable time cultivating?

Secondly, media lists are proprietary information. If you’ve hired a publicist to build you a media list to give you, that’s one thing. If you’ve hired a publicist to get you media coverage, you’ve hired someone based on their prior work, relationships they already have, and ability to develop other relationships. Giving out media contacts doesn’t do much to solidify a relationship – it undermines it since there are many out there who pitch inappropriately and without doing any research. Plus, it’s just bad business. If a publicist is giving out media lists willy-nilly, where exactly is his or her competitive edge?

Now, some will argue that everyone has the same contacts because of online media databases like Cision, so a media list isn’t something to be protected. Let me tell you, after working in-house at a publisher where outside publicists hired by authors would share their lists with me (never at my prompting), that’s poppycock.  Agencies and independent publicists definitely have a lot of overlap, but do you know how many new contacts I found out about by scanning media lists someone shared with me? Well, I don’t really know either (it was  10+ years), but it was considerable. And it’s not because I didn’t keep up. I read the blogs and newsletters that cover the media’s coming and going. But, there’s always a new freelancer I wasn’t aware of, a producer who keeps his name out of the media databases, etc.

At the end of the day, remember why you hired a publicist. You didn’t hire him to give you lists. You hired him to get you media coverage, provide wise counsel, identify the media opportunities that are actually likely to meet your goals, develop your talking points, and help you tell your story.

What I’m Reading – October 2013

Photo of book cover, A History of the World in 100 ObjectsA History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor
No surprise. I’m still reading this.


Jacket image, Heart of DarknessHeart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Significantly less Mr. Kurtz than I would have imagined.

What I’m Reading – September 2013

Picture of book cover, The Day of the Triffids

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
This was a thrift store find. I vaguely remember seeing the movie based on this book on TV as kid. There is much more plot-wise than I expected based on my memories of the film.



Photo of book cover, Something Wicked This Way ComesSomething Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
I’ve never read any Bradbury, so this was a welcome selection from my book club.



Photo of book cover, A History of the World in 100 ObjectsA History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor
At 736 pages, this is a book that stays on my bedside table, and I read about one or two objects a night. When I feel like it. I imagine I’ll be done with it in about six months.

What I’m Reading – August 2013

Jacket image, Thirty Rooms to Hide InThirty Rooms to Hide In: Insanity, Addiction, and Rock ‘n’ Roll in the Shadow of the Mayo Clinic Hardcover by Luke Longstreet Sullivan
An addiction memoir told from the perspective of a child affected by a parent’s addiction. A book club read for me. I likely wouldn’t have picked this up on my own since I’ve already read memoirs that cover addiction.

Jacket image, Flying SouthFlying South: A Pilot’s Inner Journey by Barbara Cushman Rowell
A woman, planes, and gaining confidence on a flight to South America and back (even though she seems like she was a pretty confident person to begin with).