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Maintaining independence and trust

I wrote a little last week how many well meaning organisations and campaigns can struggle between the need to maintain independence and trust versus earning money to keep the campaign going.

In my opinion, any organisation or campaign will always lose a level of credibility and trust when one starts to charge for services or accept payments from organisations who could be seen to have a vested interest in the success or failure of your campaign. The rule of “he who pays the piper, calls the tune” will always raise it’s head when one receives money when you’re trying to promote an agenda.

For 6 years, ValueIreland.com was advertising free until I placed some Google Adverts on the pages to try to make a little cash to cover costs (unsuccessfully unfortunately) to keep the show on the road. I have very little control over the content of the Google ads panel, but I appreciate that sometimes the adverts present may clash with the thoughts and contents of the website.

The question that should always be pursued when looking at the motives behind any campaign is, “follow the money”. Or in some cases, such as the Your Country, Your Call campaign, “in receiving sponsorship money from big business, what will the campaign be expected to do in return”.

If those questions cannot be answered clearly and unambiguously, then I believe one would be entitled to be wary of the campaign.

Something that I noticed recently was that the Australian Consumer Choice organisation, whose tagline is “We exist to unlock the power of consumers” has started to charge companies for allowing them publicise the endorsement of certain products or services by Consumer Choice.

Consumer group CHOICE has issued the first licence for an endorsement scheme that will allow manufacturers to use the “CHOICE Recommended” logo on a range of products.

Subject to licence conditions and regulations, the logo can be used by companies which have a product that has met CHOICE’s strict testing standards for performance and excellence.

A licence fee will be charged for products in the “CHOICE Recommended” scheme to cover administration costs, with surplus funds to be re-invested into further CHOICE testing and research.

In my mind now, in this situation, I personally would view a “Choice Recommended” endorsement with less trust than one where the organisation wasn’t making money on the basis of the outcome of making the endorsement.

I wonder when the cash-strapped Consumers Association of Ireland are going to follow the lead of Australias Consumer Choice. With falling membership and struggling for funds, I’m sure the CAI would welcome this increase in income.

2 comments On Maintaining independence and trust

  • Another method to examine the level of trust you can place in a campaign or organisation or site is to see how they relate to others in the same field. If you read through their archive and find that they are constantly critical of any initiative or idea that did not originate from themselves then you have to question how much trust you can place in their opinion.

  • Very true, if the criticism is purely for the sake of criticism only.

    But if that criticism, not matter how consistent, is coming from a position of knowledge and insight?

    Or alternatively, you can probably please even more trust in the opinion of someone who was formerly so supportive of an organisation that they volunteered their time over two and a bit years to try to help that organisation.

    And then, after seeing how the organisation really operates and what their true selfish goals are, becomes critical of that organisation because they alone have a view of the internal workings of that organisation that’s not afforded to many outsiders.

    Or maybe if someone was to write up detailed proposals on how a particular organisation might satisfy one of their key goals for their organisation, meets with them, presents the ideas, gives a professional insight into the potential problems that might be encounters, and then discovers that not only does that organisation not really have the slightest clue how to meet that goal, but they don’t have the intitiative or appetite to try to overcome the first difficulty they encounter.

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