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Jared Hamilton
From: Jared Hamilton
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Jared Hamilton

Jared Hamilton Founder - CEO

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Update 7/31 2008: This morning I had a comment posted that had good intentions with strong opposing feelings about my post.  My opinion of the situation described hasn't changed much and such a passionate comment being posted weeks after the situation has ended further underscores my message.  It is extremly important that we learn the importance of transparencly in dealing with online reputation issuese right. 

However, this member also called me out for illustrating my point with names of those involved intact. Generally I am fairly sensitive to that, but I missed it here. I would have to agree that my message and the poinant nature of example would still have come through if I would have edited out the names, and thus I apoligize to both parties for any extra unwanted attention due to my using their situation as an example.  As my own advice in the column suggests one should do, I've done what  I feel is best in correcting my error.  I have removed the names from the post. 

I passionatly believe in the spirit of DrivingSales...  If we all collaberate and learn from one another successes and mistakes we will shorten the learning curve and increase the success of all.  It is in that spirit my message stands, but the names of those involved have been removed.

Update 7/18 2008: Since this posting I have had many valuable conversations, on both sides of the fence, about the situation.  My objective is to provide valuable information to dealers, not be a gossip column.   In that light, and after some continued research, I have some additional insights to share.

1. Dealers, this is an example of how important your online reputation is.  Dont dismiss online rating sites and user generated content as only a thorn in your side. When you have negative comments, get involved as early as possible, be transparent and things will get fixed.  People have always talked about your business and you have always had a reputation to manage, this is not new.  The only difference now is that the conversations last much longer, are on the web so they have greater effect and MOST IMPORTANTLY this gives you a chance to be involved... SO GO GET INVOLVED!  Both parties agree with that advice and are great industry examples of it!

2. We have some big fish to fry in this industry, almost every franchise is down in sales.  Dealers are struggling all over the country and we are in a volatile political/economic climate.  The industry can recover faster and stronger thanks to social technologies and collaborative utilities if we leverage them properly to aggregate best practices and shorten the learning curve for all.   The consultant mentioned is 100% behind this and willing to help lead the charge, I now know this even more, first hand.  Even if you can't talk with him, read any of his writings, it is impossible to not feel his passion. He is busy traveling and helping dealers, so until the airlines allow blackberries or provide web access on planes (hopefully coming soon)  we should all exercise some patience in awaiting responses from him.  He is not intentionally avoiding any discussion (that certainly isn't his personality!), in fact, you will begin to see more of both of these experts, each in their own ways.

In this volatile market discipline and focus really sets the winners apart. As dealers, utilize the network of resources around you, build on your strengths and maximize your success. YOU GOTTA LOVE THE CAR BUSINESS!

Origional Post:

An Automotive industry blogger and champion for dealers, (we will call him "the blogger") called out a known Trainer/Consultant for breaking some basic rules of e-marketing. It's ironic, because this consultants camp committed some faux pas while e-marketing to dealers while advertising his services about web marketing training. (Yes, I know the irony makes you chuckle.) However, rather than try and fix it the right way, Jim's response was to throw some old school weight around and try to "squash" the voice of the little guy. That worked much better 20 years ago; it doesn't work so well today - especially not on the World Wide Web.

Here's what happened: The Consultants employee got into another social networking site and ripped all the email addresses of potential clients (this network publicly displays the email address of its members, whether they've consented to it or not - something that is against the tenets of DrivingSales) - and blasted them with an email campaign. There were two faux pas:

1) You join networking sites to collaborate with others because you value the relationships. This violated the trust of all the network members by scraping these addresses. Just because this particular network posts them for everyone to see, doesn't mean they are a free for all.

2) This part is ironic, and somewhat comical: The email was to market his upcoming seminar to teach dealers "how to e-market" and other online skills like social networking. In doing so, the consultant not only violated one of the most basic tenets of networking, which is to trust and respect your peers, but the mass email  sent was not even CAN-SPAM compliant! One of the most important components to the CAN-SPAM Act is that marketers supply an easy - preferably one-click - opt out method as well as a physical address at the bottom of the page - both which were missing in this email! (You've got to admit, the irony is amusing.)

The untiring blogger, Web 2.0 evangelist, and social networker, saw the irony in the email and wanted to write a post about it. Before posting to his blog, he left messages and sent emails to both the consultants who were training at the seminar.

1) Consultant 1 called the blogger right back, told him he apologized for the violation of trust on the network, assured the blogger he had no knowledge this was going on and would work to ensure it didn't happen again. The blogger called me as soon as they hung up the phone and said, "That Consultant is a great guy, he is a really genuine. It was a mishap, and he said he won't let it happen again." Yes, the blogger actually respects this consultant more, not less through the incident!

2)Consultant 2, on the other hand, has not responded to the blogger, nor returned messages or emails... nothing. Rather, he took the old school route. His secretary advised the blogger on the phone to watch his step with his comments, eluding to the consultants relationship with the bloggers dealer principal. If that message wasn't enough, Consultant 2 emailed the boss ... yeah... he actually did it... and the blogger was called into the "principal's office" to be reprimanded! I'm assuming this consultant hasn't heard of The Streisand effect, or he wouldn't be trying to censor the message through such old school techniques. I don't know the content of this consultants email to the dealer, nor the meeting between the blogger and his boss, but the intent is clear. (As I write this, the blogger is still employed and standing by his posting)

Thanks to technology, the world is too small for these old school bully tactics. Actually, the world was too small before; people just got away with it. True "Masters of eCommerce" have been preaching transparency for some time now; it's nothing new - and it's hard to hide on the Internet. How are you going to handle it when a customer gives your dealership a bad review because there was a legitimate hiccup at the store? Are you going to lash out at them, threaten them, publicly or in private? If you're smart and progressive - I don't think so. That would generate more negative publicity for you and your store than you could ever imagine. The correct answer is simply to respond and say, "Sorry, I goofed and I'll fix it. I want to make it right." Is that too hard? Nobody's perfect, we all screw up. It's how you handle the screw ups that makes you a winner or a loser. And with the rapid pace of change in our high tech world, everyone is learning lessons a lot faster these days - hopefully, especially, e-Marketing Masters.

The consultant in the situation has done some great things for dealers in the "old school" environment, and is transforming his business to help dealers in the online arena.  He will continue to have a positive effect. Despite his relentless attacks on anything he doesn't like (including the Internet), his motivation, even if misguided, was always to stand up for those on the front lines. I'm disappointed, however, that this time when he was wrong he didn't stand up for the guy on the front line - it appears he went at him.  With web marketing, we can all make some mistakes, but when you do - stand tall, be transparent, and pull out all the stops to make it right for your audience.

Ralph Paglia
I have been observing much of the discussions around this issue across several blogs and wanted to provide an update. After I read the following comment; "(this network publicly displays the email address of its members, whether they’ve consented to it or not - something that is against the tenets of DrivingSales)" in the post, I carefully considered the set up at and went into the Admin application to make the following changes: 1. Each ADM Member now has 2 email fields to use 2. Email Field #1 is a Published address that will be visible to all ADM members 3. Email Field #2 is an Unpublished address visible only to ADM administrators Previous to this new optional email setup, we "de-linked" the published field that contained ADM member email addresses to display them as static text only and not a live hyperlink. This was to prevent certain types of software from being able to generate automated emails from what was published, had it been in a live link format. The new ADM member profile setup allows ADM members to choose what, if any, email address they want to publish for all ADM members to see, and then use either the same email address, or a different one for access by ADM administrators. I also believe that this comment, the actions it represents and all the various related posts, comments, emails and phone callls that many of us saw or received are a good example of how the automotive digital marketing professionals who use blogs and communities like and are proactively impacting our entire industry in a positive manner. For those of you who are automotive internet marketing and sales "old timers", to say we have come a long way since the days of posting liner ads on BBS's is truly an understatement! Ralph Paglia
Mark Dubis
I was disappointed to see a post that perpetuates gossip and personal attacks in our industry. If driving sales really wants to improve the industry and draw attention to questionable email marketing tactics, you could have presented this information without using any names and use it as a lesson for all of us to learn from. Instead he took the word of one individual as the gospel and held it up as the truth. Funny how there are often different versions of the truth. Just ask any lawyer. Now let’s talk about CAN SPAM. Seems most of the folks posting comments aren’t familiar with the spirit and laws created by the CAN SPAM act. Here are a few things everyone is missing: 1. This type of email was not why the act was created in the first place. The spirit of the law was to protect people from pornographic, abusive and fraudulent emails. 2. The act does not prevent anyone from sending unsolicited emails. It prevents marketers from sending unsolicited emails without a mechanism for opting out. The email sent was for a onetime event, thus there were no continuing emails to be sent, thus no opt out was required. 3. Providing a valid return email address meets the requirement for an opt-out mechanism. Nothing more is needed. 4. “Harvesting” emails pertains to electronic harvesting and there are specifics regarding it. 5. Consultant 2 and the blogger were both members of the niche automotive community focused on marketing and it probably would not even be governed by any SPAM laws. The attorney’s would argue that the blogger should have had a reasonable expectation of receiving an email from another member. The only crime consultant 2 seems to have committed is having the gall to be a great success in this industry and helping hundreds if not thousands of dealerships increase their profits. That’s probably a lot more than folks posting about this issue could say. Consultant 2 did not get the blogger fired. The blogger told me he was leaving the dealership and that sales weren’t very good. I believe he sold only 5 units in the month. He has made himself out the martyr who was just trying to right a wrong. What a load of horsesh*t. I guess he thought if his lies and innuendo were repeated enough it would become the truth. Ralph Paglia on his network saw through the BS and once he realized the accusations were not true, had the integrity to remove the postings from his site. Then the blogger sucked you in to repeat his tale of woe. Driving Sales bought it hook, line, and stinker (sic). C'mon guys you are better than this; or you should be.
Jared Hamilton
I appreciate your comments and your opinion. This is what DrivingSales about, providing an open forum to discuss industry topics but the consumers. First let me make clarify the stance of DrivingSales, and then lets talk about the post itself and your comments to it. DrivingSales is a neutral platform for professionals in the industry to share information, namely best practices, and connect with others. The rules for posting in the blogs are simple: no vulgarity and show respect. Beyond that each blog we host is maintained by an individual to express their views, not the views of The comments are the same way, posted by the community per their individual views. We ask that each blogger moderate his/her blog comments to help avoid spam. We suggest that they post all comments, but in the end it is their call, just like what they post. As for DrivingSales’ opinion on the matter, there isn’t one. We are not out to be the voice; we are out to let others broadcast theirs. The opinions of DrivingSales will be published in the publisher blog, not my personal one. About my opinion: First, I understand how it may be easy to mistake my personal opinions as the official opinion of DrivingSales, because I founded the community. Please understand WE ARE NOT a traditional publishing company who sets forth a media schedule and approves and rejects content based on our editorial agenda. We don’t have an editorial agenda; we have members who share their thoughts and opinions. The point of my post was to discuss MY OPINION on transparency and handling online dialogue, not the can spam act. My opinion is that with all the discussion taking place online dealers will be faced with negative publicity and need to see that there is are new rules regarding the handling of those views. I do have respect for both parties mentioned and as stated, what one in particular has done for the industry. I have communicated this to him personally. However, I do not agree with how all things were handled in this situation and think there is a lesson to be learned for all of us, that is what my post highlighted. My opinion on that matter, and my respect for each of these individuals is still intact. Just as I agree that many have benefited from the successes of those in the post; I also assure you that others have learned from the mistakes that were made. There has been a focus on transparency, handling of online reviews and (as you mentioned) the can spam act. Hopefully those mentioned in the post have learned from their mistakes and have moved on. While it may sting to hear, I even appreciate your opinions of giving more thought to concealing the names of those I write about and have thus edited the names from the posting. I will also be more careful to explicitly separate my personal opinion from that of the DrivingSales. I am a firm believer that success occurs at the rate in which we correct our mistakes and learn from those of others; my vision of DrivingSales is evidence of that. We (at DrivingSales) are building a platform to allow more efficient information exchange in the industry. By letting the information flow freely, we will shorten the learning curve for all. I do not agree with all that you said, but will learn from all of it. Thanks for posting.
Paul Rushing
@ Mark Dubis "Re: Ralph Paglia on his network saw through the BS and once he realized the accusations were not true, had the integrity to remove the postings from his site." I personally spoke with Ralph and he confirmed with me that he did NOT delete anything from his network regarding this situation. Anything that was deleted was by the people who posted it. I have deleted much of my commentary from ADP in order to live up to a gentleman's agreement that I made and to coincide with a new direction I am taking in my career. What any other user there has done as far as their content is by their own design, not Ralph's. It is unfortunate that people who place themselves in the lime light have a hard time accepting an honest review of their product. For me, what I publish on my own site I accept responsibility for and people are free to disagree with it there or any way they choose. At the same time I personally cannot control what others publish or how they chose to verify facts. That is their free will that God gave them at birth. While I disagree with your version of the facts, you are entitled to your opinion, I refuse to engage this topic any longer what is done is done and my experiences from it have proven very rewarding. It is not everyday that people I have no direction connection with reach out to me. Maybe there is a lesson to be learned from that. I am building my business the best way I see fit and encourage you and others to do the same.
Ralph Paglia
Just to clarify a point of fact... I do not, have not and will not delete content, blogs, forum posts, comments or replies posted by members other than myself, from the professional community. When I first created the Automotive Digital Marketing Professional Community, I did so in response to my frustration at being censored and sometimes banned from other sites. ADM is free from censorship, other than that imposed upon themselves by each member. Paul Rushing decided to remove a forum he had previously posted on ADM, and he has the right to do so. I respect each member's rights to control their own postings and the content they contribute. In regards to contentiousness within content posted... Well, the ADM site is probably not appropriate for people with thin skins, or who are easily offended. Because of the reason the site came into existence, it will remain free from censorship and heavy handed moderation as long as i am in control. Now, of course i would delete obscene material, but I have let people use foul language, make unfounded allegations, statements, complaints, etc. ADM is not a "nicey, nicey" online community... It is raw, in your face, uncensored and there have been many times when I have had to take my own material off the site due to complaints from very large corporations who felt the material made available to ADM members was giving away intellectual property. Anyways, I just wanted readers of this string to know that ADM is not censored and any non-obscene material published and subsequently removed, has been removed by the same person who published it or started the forum in the first place. Should I put one of those "...Some material shown may not be suitable for children" disclaimers on the ADM site?

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