Posted by Amanda Chapel
First, a little test: Have you ever stolen your neighbor’s newspaper? Do you fudge a little on you taxes? Have you ever bragged about some get-rich-quick stock you just bought but know little about? And lastly, if assigned, could you roll an old lady for her pension money?
If you answered yes to any of the questions above, we’ve got a lucrative career for you. According to Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman PR, the largest independent PR firm in the world, these are boom times for grifting.
In a recent blog post, Richard boasted that his firm was doing gangbusters: “We experienced significant growth in the past three years, with revenues up 36%.” He attributes the increase to four key factors:
1. PR is no longer the organizational news mouthpiece. Today, we are a marketing tool, an anything-goes amorphous fact-unencumbered alternative to advertising.
A DEAL WITH SATAN
Okay, let's put this into perspective. In plain English: A guy pays another guy to create a pretty billboard ad in the local paper. Couple thousand people read the paper and see the ad. Ad makes certain claims but the public knows it’s an ad. Advertiser knows that if he’s too outrageous in his claim(s), he’ll be laughed at and/or prosecuted.
Okay... then technology changes the medium radically. Not a lot of people read the local paper any more; and being bombarded with so many billboards, those ingenious little geeks designed ways so as the public can circumvent ads altogether. Hmmm. What to do. In order to keep selling stuff to meet his monthly projections, guy needs to create something – a stratagem – that delivers his messages (claims) without an ad's tangibility. Double hmmmm.
Out of the shadows, the guy hears: "Psssst... over here... We can establish the runway of trust in the 'new media' environment. Interested?"
"How much?" asks the first guy.
"I can sell it to you for less than you're paying your ad guy."
"Well Hell... it's a deal!"
By definition, a “grifter” or “confidence man” is “a swindler who exploits the confidence of his victim.” "Confidence tricks exploit human weaknesses like greed, dishonesty, vanity, BUT ALSO virtues like honesty, compassion, or the naivety of believing in the existence of something called 'good faith'."
ADDRESSING GRIFTING'S BAD PR
I know. You've read the above and not only are you less interested in becoming a grifter, the thought makes your skin crawl. Well, we've got you covered.
According to David Brain, President & CEO Edelman Europe, "There's a new Jupiter report that says nearly half of all marketers will use social media next year." To help rationalize his activities, David underscores these key points:
Hello! It's Jupiter, a professional research company. And they're calling us "brand advocates." It's respectable now... or so it would appear.
Strumpette vs Richard E. - Round 2
(Disclaimer: Before you read this entry, themediaslut would like to inform readers that she has been approached by the Singapore Edelman PR office to do a private trial of a new mobile services concept and platform for one of their clients. During...
Tracked: Mar 18, 20:42
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The latest Jupiter report kind of reminds me of the Ogilvy comment about half of his advertising is working, just doesn't know which half. Question to Jupiter...please define "all marketers". Once you do define marketers, then perhaps we can better understand which half.
Seems like we went throught this before with Jupiter stating that 70% of all corporations were going to start blogging.
The four points, Richard's original and your translation, are essentially message points in a sales pitch. Why engage us? What value do we provide? What return will you see on your investment? Why should more of your total marketing budget go toward PR (the up sell)? These are perennial, and any business should have a clear value proposition. And, in the end, with all the mumbo jumbo hype about new media/social media, whatever, can you increase PR agency revenue with it by adding another layer of value? So, maybe the real question is - does new media add value? Are clients paying for it, are they seeing a return? Is Edelman, or another agency, increasing revenue with new media? Do any of us really know that?
No. The question this article raises is, "are the services now being offered even ethical at their core?" It's not whether they can make money. Richard could make money opening a corporate massage parlor. The point we are underscoring here is that "surreptitious selling" is wrong and has no place in PR whether profitable or not.
There's nothing unethical about a corporate massage parlor. It's just when
you start offering "extras" for additional fees. Isn't that the essence of Ronn's "Me2mescence Revulsion"?
Let me get the premise straight - if PR has no business in new media, and is failing in new media, because people don't like to be surreptitiously influenced, then PR has no real justification for anything. A good measure of PR is about surreptitiously influencing others - through traditional means, or in new media. Is this an indictment against the profession or should we abandon new media because we cannot ethically be successful here?
When Edelman announced that we didn't need the media anymore... that we could go direct to audiences... is when the game changed. Media's role is society's skeptic and vetting engine. In the past, if we had a frivolous pitch, the media was the gatekeeper and we were dismissed. Now we circumvent the gatekeeper and sell directly and surreptitiously. It's called fraud.
Joan Stewart, who runs a business at PublicityHound.com, posts on my blog today saying that she crafts releases to go straight to the consumer. She says she can get a lot of mileage out of news without the media by harnessing the power of the Internet and one-to-one communication. Sounds enterprising to me, not evil.
Sounds like a huckster hawking snake oil without the cops around to me. Are you telling me she's never pitched something bogus on behalf of a client? Are you telling me she won't do it today? And now she can fool the public directly. Sounds enterprising, indeed.
Just to set the record straight, I do not advocate that people only write press releases directed at consumers. I advocate that they write press releases for journalists AND for consumers. In fact, you might write two different releases--one for journalists and one for consumers. If you really wants journalists to pay attention, send them a customized pitch just for them.
I am not a publicist. But when I did provide this service for corporate clients, I never ever pitched anything bogus on behalf of them. I worked as a journalist for 22 years and I know what passes the smell test and what doesn't.
Nice to meet you Joan. Thanks for stopping by.
To your point, then speaking as a journalist, how rare do you think it is in PR not to have pitched anything bogus?
Mark Rose asked, "A good measure of PR is about surreptitiously influencing others - through traditional means, or in new media. Is this an indictment against the profession or should we abandon new media because we cannot ethically be successful here?"
Connect the dots, Mark. The use of phoney VNRs are under investigtion by the FCC. The clock is ticking.
Edelman "accustomed to the dialogue and need for credible sources"? That's like Pope Benedict saying he is accustomed to anal sex. I love reading his blog. Anytime I need a chuckle. The "runway of trust"? Come on. Sounds like a new PR campaign from Jetblue. His tombstone will read -- "He is Walmarting Across Heaven".
Runway of trust, cracked me up to...and the supporting example of Microsoft - LOL. Even letting go of professional experiences with them, does any consumer have any feeling that you could trust Microsoft? I think we all have a sneaky suspicion where it is that they stick the Edelman Baramoter when measuring Trust...
Also loved how Richard titled his piece on Obama "lessons in leadership" then waxed on about "style".