I Lied to Get MockingbirdMarketing.com

So let me get this aired first:

What follows is too little too late.

And I owe Mandy Graessle an apology, both public and private.

To catch you up to speed – when I was looking for a new domain for my legal marketing agency, I connected with Mandy, who owned MockingbirdMarketing.com – a site the supported her stint as a legal marketing consultant, but was now lying dormant as she had moved on to work directly with Stacy Burke.  I was concerned she wouldn’t sell it to me if she knew either who I was or what I wanted to do with it, so under the pretense of purchase this for a band, I purchased the site through a third party.  In short I misled her and lied.  For the details, check out Mandy’s blog: “Conrad Saam the “ethical marketing expert” scammed me into selling my website“.

This car wreck, of course, is made worse by the fact that I have very vociferously written and spoken against online marketing agencies in the legal space for unethical, duplicitous and shady behavior.  So being rightly grouped with these scumbags is a huge embarrassment.

My reply to her post (copied) below smacked of hubris and arrogance.

Mandy –

So there’s this line in the Godfather (the book, not the movie) where Michael’s rejoinder to the comment “its nothing personal, its just business” goes something like this:

“The Godfather takes everything personally. If a friend of his were hit by a bolt of lightening he’d take it personally. And that is what makes him great.”

So its mostly unhelpful for me to tell you this is just business, because of course you take something personally that you’ve worked on. I’d feel the same way. The reality is, had you known who I was you would have asked for a lot more and I would have ended up registering something like mockingbirdie, or mockingbird-marketing or some such other second rate domain and you’d have $300 less in your bank account. But, my genuine apologies that the way this went down made you feel bad.

As for Dave – he’s my cousin and a drummer in a band in London and an all around great guy.

You’ve got my email address now . . . feel free to use it.


So to Mandy – I’m very genuinely sorry.  To everyone else: you are correct – especially within legal marketing we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard – a standard that I have been pushing for a long time, yet failed to hold myself up to.

Mandy and I are scheduled to have a phone conversation tomorrow.  Expect an update.




Mandy and I just had a phone conversation.  And to paraphrase her comments – It may be the Buddhist in me, but sometimes things don’t come to a positive conclusion.  From our conversation, she is idealistic and deep hearted. I offered a genuine apology and we talked about the difficulty in that – given our initial first interaction was based on subterfuge.  We also spoke at length about the dearth of ethics in the legal marketing field and the irony of this incident and the fact that I aggressively call out those whose conduct is unethical. Finally – for those of you who don’t know her idealism – she is not looking for money or even the domain – instead rightly calling out what happened.  Frankly, Mandy made this much easier for me than warranted.

Mockingbird has now been moved to a new domain – utilizing the newly implemented .marketing TLD, so the original domain can be easily transferred back to Mandy, should she change course and make that request. Additionally, we’re directing our 1% For Good towards both the Houston arts scene and a cause Mandy has become personally involved in.  1% For Good is our charity campaign where we donate 1% of our revenue to a variety of different causes – in the past we’ve provided funding for everything from colon cancer research, the Challenged Athletes Foundation and a tiny 7 child orphanage in Africa – and right now I can’t think of anything more appropriate than supporting the Houston arts scene.



  1. says

    Well said Conrad.

    This is what I had hoped you would have said in your comment to Mandy on her blog.

    There are many of her friends who will say they do not believe you.

    There are even folks who will say they will not forgive you.

    I walk by a different set of standards.

    You took the courage to state it for the world to see and state you were wrong.

    You apologized and I will forgive you because that is what we are suppose to do.

    Give each other a fresh start when we make mistakes.
    Give each other a chance to make right our wrongs.
    Otherwise what’s the point of a lesson learned?

    Remember, when you wronged Mandy, you wronged us all.

    Now, let’s all be the best we can be and serve our customers with truth, integrity and ferociousness.

  2. Todd Cochrane says

    Wow simply incredible and you wonder why so many people have issue with marketing types like you. All smoke and mirrors. Do as I say not as I do.

  3. Terri Golas says

    How ironic that you’ve built your brand around Harper Lee’s symbols of innocence (mockingbird) and strength of character (Atticus). I don’t believe you’re sorry for what you did. I do believe you’re sorry you got called out.

    Do the right thing and pay Mandy the fair value of the domain.

  4. says

    Here’s the real question and the real debt: Why’d you do it?

    I think you owe an explanation. If that means saying it was out of greed and that got the better of you, fine. But the planned nature of this still makes me personally queasy.

    I hope Mandy forgives you. I hope you give her her domain back. But man, I don’t trust you and I wouldn’t encourage anyone else to.

    A few hundred casual words explaining a highly calculated moral transgression after a career growing your name and business on ethics? Can’t speak for anyone else, but not doing it for me.

    Just my $300.

  5. Tom S says

    Business is business, it’s nothing personal. You outsmarted the system and she is upset for that.

    Terri -The value of the domain is the price you paid for it. Nothing more, nothing less.

    This group above is soft and needs to understand that the business is just that and you have no need to apologize.

  6. says

    Give her the domain back, start another company, and stop acting like you’re some sort of white-knight in a sea of black-knight marketing.

    Maybe your new company should start by explaining to lawyers that the only way to ensure their marketing is 100% ethical is to do it themselves (and do it ethically).

  7. says

    It really takes effort to stand out as an unethical ass in the SEO crowd, but you managed it. Congratulations!

    Now, here’s an ethical quandary for you: How do you turn this one around? Everyone gets caught screwing the pooch on occasion. That we messed up isn’t a testament to character, but how one deals with it is. So you had your phone call, you came clean, you apologized, what’s next? If you find the answer to this difficult let me know. For a small fee I can guide you through.

    I’m going to give you my first piece of advice for free. Dump mockingbirdmarketing.com. If it’s not worthless already it soon will be. You pretend to know a thing or two about SEO. How do you think this site will show up in google searched going forward? What do you think will be the first result for searches on your domain or name? I’m guessing the results will be about you screwing the pooch. I could be wrong.

    Do the right thing. Give the domain back.

    • says

      More and MORE keeps coming out Conrad.

      I credited you for apologizing and knew there was more to come because both of you told me you would talk.

      BUT, then you took another lazy way out.

      You showed your true colors by still not doing the right thing. Giving the domain back and frankly Mandy should not have to give you your money back either.

      Now I see why many will not give folks the benefit of the doubt with one step forward like you took.

      BUT I am not going to let you steal that from me. I still think many people deserve a second chance, not so sure about you now.

      Why were you not able to man up and give the domain back no matter what Mandy said in that conversation?

      She’s not going to force you to do the right thing dude. And this is WAY bigger than giving her the domain back now.

      It is showing the world you cannot DO THE RIGHT THING EVEN WHEN PEOPLE ARE WATCHING.

      So I can imagine the confidence clients have now in your wondering what else you have done when no one was looking.

      BTW this is not going away now you did not give the domain back this weekend.

      Houston is watching and while we might not get enough press for what a great city we are and how how diverse our population is and how great our startup community is despite working hard to get more investors involved, we have honor and integrity.

      What was the purpose of using Houston in your latest speaking appearance as your city? ( which you are not absent form because they have a no tolerance for lack of ethics policy).

      Seriously dude you are not in Houston. Where else have you lied? Now we are on a mission. Texans are tenacious.

      Why didn’t you do the right thing??????????????

  8. says

    Ironic…no, Connie?

    Earlier this year, I was at a conference where there was an entire presentation on The Streisand Effect. Considering I first came up with the term and have chronicled it over the years (and had already been asked to speak on a different topic at the conference), I offered to help out with that session — and got back no response. I went to the session to watch, and it was a really fun session, which didn’t need any help from me at all. It was done by Conrad Saam, who works for Urban Spoon (and previously Avvo) and had a ton of great examples of the Streisand Effect and the impact on online reputation management.



  9. says

    Conrad, I’m glad you posted this. You may know I was pulled into this discussion on Facebook. I think the world of you, but the way you obtained the domain name is not the way I would have done it. I have no idea what, if anything, the next step should be, but I believe you have made the correct move by explaining your actions and apologizing for them. That’s more than many marketers would have done.

    • says

      You really don’t know what the next step should be? The formula isn’t difficult. There’s a script to these things that is idiot simple. Anyone in marketing or PR should know it or quit.

      1. Acknowledge the error. “We fucked up.”
      2. Apologize for the error. “I’m sorry we fucked up.”
      3. State how you will insure the error does not happen again. “We won’t fuck up like this again because of reasons.”
      4. Make reparations for the error. “Because we fucked up we are going to make this right.”

      You can add in a fifth step where you revisit the error at a later date and use it as a selling point, but that’s entirely optional.

    • says

      I think if you believe that’s “more than most marketers would have done” then you probably don’t think very highly of the field.

      Can’t say I blame you, Mr. Saam deserves absolutely no moral credit. This is the story of a ripoff artist shamed into apology, not someone “making a mistake and rectifying it correctly.”

      • B-rad says

        Marketers are increasingly given a black eye by incidents of greed like this one. It makes it even worse when the offending party has spent a good amount of time taking down competitors that he deems shady or not good partners for lawyers.

        Maybe if this gets written about and this post linked to, it’ll turn into a link building scheme. I suppose that would be icing on the cake.

  10. says

    Conrad, I’m a bit confused at this point why you would want to operate as Mockingbird Marketing given the taint associated with the initial transaction.

    I do agree with Michele Price that it’s good to try to be a good person when the world isn’t looking, rather than only when you have people’s eyes on you. As a marketer, I appreciate that you’re trying to turn something around, though in your situation, I probably would have moved away from Mockingbird entirely, apologized profusely, and not try to turn it into a positive PR push. Sometimes it’s best to just walk away.