A couple of weeks ago I had an interesting encounter with a PR firm in Florida. The Buyer Group is owned by Lisa Buyer. They were retained by Shop To Earn (STE) to do an online PR campaign, including a lame blog that is supposed to counteract the “negative” information found on the internet about STE.

I have been one of the main critics of Shop To Earn (also using the name Shop To Earth), a multi-level marketing scheme. There are very few people willing to tell the truth about STE and the flaws in its program. I’ve been more than happy to expose how little money people are actually making from this scheme, and the fact that the vast majority of people will lose money with it.

ShopToEarn has The Buyer Group writing a generic, uninteresting blog to try to get some Google mojo. The concept of writing a blog to get search engine rankings and readers is a good one. The execution of the STE blog is horrible, however. It offers nothing of interest, and isn’t even written by company personnel, who would be in the best position to write something engaging. Instead, it’s written by PR people who are more interested in the mechanics of blogging and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) than in actually creating a blog worth reading.

In an effort to promote the Shop To Earn blog, Nicole Balistreri, Interactive Editor at The Buyer Group posted a comment on Fraud Files, linking to the blog and providing a bit of company propaganda. Unfortunately, Fraud Files has a clear comment policy which disallows promotional materials for MLMs. Accordingly, I edited out the parts of Nicole’s comment that promoted Shop To Earn.

In a moment of very poor judgment, Nicole Balistreri posted the following in response to me on Twitter:

How’s that for an employee representing her employer??? I’ve communicated with Lisa Buyer of The Buyer Group, and she apologized for Nicole’s actions. She assured me that this was not a communication authorized or endorsed by the company. Lisa also says that she’s made her company’s guidelines more clear so that things like this hopefully won’t happen in the future.

I believe Lisa. I think she handled this beautifully. I have no complaint with her personally, and I think she’s done the best she can in this situation.

Yet this raises an important issue for employers. Social media is a wonderful, engaging tool that has offered many professionals the opportunity to learn, interact, and promote. But in one small moment, a rogue employee like Nicole can do so much to tarnish a company’s reputation. Unfortunately for Lisa Buyer, this type of post on Twitter has the potential to damage her company.

How can employers ensure that that their employees aren’t doing things in the name of the company (authorized or not) that could cause problems? I don’t know the answer to this. I know that Nicole was NOT authorized by her company to write what she did, yet unfortunately it did reflect on the company because her initial contact with me (the comment on my blog on behalf of STE) was in a professional capacity.

Something to ponder as more employees use these web tools regularly…

One Comment

  1. Sick of Shop-To-Scam 12/03/2008 at 10:50 pm - Reply

    Hi Tracy,

    A number of us who follow your blog regarding Shop To Earn’s scheme would like to thank you for your important, truthful, and responsible reporting. We have a few friends who are currently caught up in this scam. Frankly, it’s been alarming to see once-rational people become weird zealots who willingly and aggressively parrot STE’s propaganda in the face of overwhelming evidence that STE is nothing more than a pyramid scheme (which, of course, is illegal in every state in the union).

    It’s pretty hard to ignore the smell that wafts off this scheme. Seeing what’s happened to our friends and acquaintances, one can only assume that STE devotees “SCORE!” a full lobotomy.

    So, thank you for bringing some light to this shady scheme. It is our hope that your continual reporting on Shop To Earn and scams like it will give potential marks pause before swigging the Kool-Aid.

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