Wednesday, 14 January 2009

LexisNexis add fuel to the fire by allegedly uninviting blogger from speaker panel

Some people in LexisNexis have learned the value of engaging the Web 2.0 community rather than dismissing it (see LN's response to my earlier post).

However, the company's latest act has definitely incited a negative response from the online legal profession.

Kevin O'Keefe, owner of Lexblog (blogging solutions for lawyers) and author of Real Lawyers Have Blogs, had been invited to speak on a Web 2.0 panel at the LegalTech New York conference hosted by Incisive Media and sponsored by LexisNexis. About a month ago, he was informed that as part of the sponsorship agreement LexisNexis would have final veto on the panel speakers, but dismissed this as a formality. That is, until he was contacted a few days ago by Incisive Media and apologetically told that the panel was "full".

Kevin was a fairly vocal participant in the recent debate around Martindale Hubbell, so it wasn't much of a stretch to guess why he was suddenly uninvited. When he pressed the Incisive Media contact, he was reluctantly told "there are a lot of politics involved". Read the full details in Kevin's post.

Queue another mad explosion of Twitter conversation on LexisNexis' behaviour, and a debate on whether Lexis is trying to stifle any innovation or constructive criticism in the Legal information industry.

For me, the question is not whether LexisNexis did veto his presence on the panel, or whether they did have valid concerns about what he might say of them at their sponsored event. What interests me is the ongoing PR nightmare this is creating for Lexis. Whoever manages their PR has still not grasped that actions that were possible 5 years ago - such as sweeping a problem maker under the rug by taking away their speaker opportunities - will have the opposite effect in the new world. 5 years ago it may have been the case of the speaker grumbling to a few friends. But Kevin has 2000 followers on Twitter alone, and he has already shown that he is not afraid to speak out about LexisNexis' activities. Is it so surprising that this is being discussed across the web?

A day after Kevin's post, Incisive Media has offered him a place on a different conference panel that is not sponsored by Lexis, an action which he attributes to the storm of protest from his connections on twitter and blogger. There are two implications in this. First of all, it all but confirms that LexisNexis was behind the original rescinding of the invitation. Secondly, that the clients of Incisive Media (& LN for that matter) spoke out via social media, and Incisive Media listened.

I'll leave you something to think about - what will be the real topic of conversation at the Lexis-sponsored panel and the conference as a whole? It may not be what Lexis hope....