IF you’re in the world of PR, then the so-called ‘sweaty-gate’ story probably hasn’t escaped your attention this week.
One particular agency has found itself the subject of an investigation after it used its own employee as a ‘casestudy’, when flogging the benefits of its client’s product to the media.
It’s alleged that Fuel PR misled the media and the consumer by using a member of staff as the apparently delighted ‘customer’ who had benefited from the Odaban antiperspirant.
Already, there are two clear camps emerging in this story.
One stand firm in the belief that any deceit is inappropriate, harms the industry, and should be exposed at the earliest opportunity.
The other, it seems, feel that this is simply the kind of ‘tactic’ which has long since existed in the world of PR and that there’s no need to be getting on our soapbox about something which journalists have recognised as being a reality for many decades.
Whichever side of that particular fence you sit on, surely there’s an important message at the heart of this story, and a fundamental set of questions for us in the industry to all ask ourselves as professionals.
In my view, those questions would be:
Am I being truthful to my client about my ability to market that product?
Do I believe the client’s product or service is worthy of the positive coverage I endeavour to pursue?
Is the strategy I intend to use one which tells the consumer the truth (within the bounds of some entirely legal and appropriate creative license)?
Could I harm or affect relationships through the tactics I intend to use in my PR activity?
Are my staff on board with my strategy?
What do I hope will be the personal and professional sense of accomplishments from the approach I undertake?
For me, there’s a stand-out difference between putting forward a casestudy which happens to be a member of staff, and changing that person’s name in a deliberate attempt to try and disguise tactics.
Yes, consumers and journalists will always be a little cynical as to the true story and strategic methods behind some of the work we do in PR, but we should still strive to be respected and responsible.
If we can maintain those two features in our daily efforts, I think we’d do a whole lot of good for the sector and for its reputation as a whole.
**For further PR and marketing tips or help, contact Deborah on 07974 359001 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
***Pic by Stuart Miles for Free Digital Photos