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As the World Turns

"White Collar" Lies & Your Marketing

by Guest Blogger, Lena West, Chief of Social Media Strategy at xynoMedia

I'm baaaack! :)

When things come up again and again, I have to believe that I'm not the only one experiencing it and so I write or speak about it in hopes to develop some sort of dialogue about the topic. This topic is particularly sinister, however.

Something happens when you start a business - people start to treat you differently. And, once that business becomes successful, people make oddball requests...and by oddball, I mean requests that ask you to lie on their behalf.

Whitecollarlies Oh, don't be fooled...they don't outright *ask* you to lie, they couch the request in a much more positive light. I believe PR folks call it "spin"? Let me provide you with some examples so that you'll be able to identify these requests when they come your way:

  • A "friend" whom I hadn't heard from in *months* called me to ask if I could provide a work reference for her nephew. Now, I knew her nephew, but he had never worked for me in any capacity -- not even stuffing envelopes (is that still done anymore?) I asked her if she meant a character reference (since that was the only reference I could possibly give on his behalf) and her reply was: "Right, a character reference...that would be the only one you could give since he didn't work for you." My reply, "Yep." I told her that I was willing to provide a character reference if he called me and asked me himself (I believe youth should be empowered to ask for what they need as opposed to some adult always being their mouth piece). I never heard from her - or her nephew - again.
  • A "friend" who was in the job market called and asked if I could provide her with a work reference. She, too, had never worked for me. Turned out, my company needed her help with some work so she was able to do the work and I was able to provide the reference, but she fully expected me to provide the reference without her doing the work first.

Here's the *really* odd thing about the two above scenarios: when I received the request from the person in example B, I asked advice of the person in example A and she said that I shouldn't do it because that would be lying -- but she then turned right around and made the same request for her nephew a few weeks later!!

The reframe of all these "requests" is that I am fortunate. Huh??? Well, I look at these requests as my having the ability, on quite a regular basis, to recommit to my values and show the Universe that I operate from a base of truth. Or, as Suze Orman says, "Say no out of love rather than yes out of fear."

What does this mean for your company and its marketing? Under the premise of how you do anything is how you do everything, the thought is twofold:

  1. If you lie about these seemingly small things, you send the message to that person, yourself and the Universe that you're willing to be untruthful about any number of things.
  2. It will come out that you lied. In this social media enabled world, it will come up. It could be that the very person you "helped" gets mad at you one day and decides to pen a blog post about how you helped them to lie. I don't know, but I do know what my Grandmother always told me, "What you do in the dark, will always come to light." (She also said, "If you lie, you'll steal.")

Think about it. If it came out, how would that make you look? Your company? People would think, if you lied about that, what else did you lie about? Maybe your products aren't 100% organic? Maybe you really *did* get that email when you said you didn't? Maybe that invoice "error" wasn't accidental?

Everything is marketing.


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Yes, proper boundaries are important. What's the saying? "Good fences make good neighbors?"

Thanks for reading and commenting!

alisha walker

Another experience is when old 'friends' decide that because you're successful, you can now advise them...for free. On the basis of your friendship. As if - your business exists to give free consulting. I don't mind some free suggestions and maybe even advice, but c'mon...if you have a full-blown project in mind, that gets a quote!



Straight on! One of the things that I love about the new economy - social media in particular (and this is even in my professional bio) - is that now you *must* be who you say you are. There's no room for half truths and malarkey. Either you're honest or your not and when you're not, someone finds out.

Thanks for reading and commenting!

LeAnna Carey

Well, your Grandmother is right! This is the thing-we are a new economy that requires a new way of thinking. To provide these types of recommendations rings so hollow & pulls us into pretense; and in the end can damage our reputation for discernment and objectivity. If I know the person is solid-I've got their back and will shout it from Time Square! Lena, great article!



Hmmm...dilemma. I know how you feel.

I, too, got one of those requests and I handled it by telling the guy that I didn't really know him all that well and I probably wouldn't be the best person to write a recco for him and that if I did write something it would be very general and basic. He said he was OK with this.

I did end up writing a very general recommendation for him. I ended up retracting the recco at a later date because he did something completely ungrateful, but the general recommendation was better than none, I guess.

Also, keep in mind, sometimes people send out recco requests to everyone in the network and it's not really a personal request at all.

I hope this helps and thanks for reading and commenting!

Monica Rix Paxson

This post is so timely for me. I just got a request for a recommendation on LinkedIn for someone I worked in the same company with, but I am not familiar with his work. We never came into contact in any working capacity. Where it gets tricky for me is that I was the "go to" person for writing bios. I love to interview people and write their biography, but that is a whole different animal than giving a personal recommendation. I've been stalling, not knowing quite how to decline. It really puts me in an awkward position, but I need to tell him no.



Ahhh, it's good to be back! Thanks for the warm welcome back! My editors - yourself included - have been more than patient with me!

Yeah, I'm a bit more lenient on the "free advice" end of things. Honestly, a LOT depends on how much that person has helped me in the past. If someone has consistently had my back and they need help, I go for it with both guns, but if it's someone who shows up only when they need something, I'm less apt to give.

Thanks for commenting!


Lena, Welcome back! We've missed you, but I absolutely know you have many exciting things going on in your business life (as do I!)

This post hits close to home. I, too, have had this happen.

Another experience is when old 'friends' decide that because you're successful, you can now advise them...for free. On the basis of your friendship. As if - your business exists to give free consulting. I don't mind some free suggestions and maybe even advice, but c'mon...if you have a full-blown project in mind, that gets a quote!

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