A Week in Bad PR: Object Lessons from the Dark Side

Social media and the Interwebs are teaching me a lot about communication, what works and what doesn’t in Public Relations and Marketing.  This week offered examples of good, bad and unethical PR practices.

Good. Since several stories of bad Public Relations surfaced this past week, Sarah Evans sent a call out to catch PR folks in the act of doing what’s right.  Kudos to that!

Bad. Bad Pitch Blog (and can I just say–I hope to never make this Blog of Shame) shared this role reversal: During a search for a well-salaried position, a journalist makes a bad pitch to a PR firm by belittling the gig. All downhill after that.

Lesson learned: Do Not overestimate my value or worth, especially when seeking gainful employment.

Equal parts Bad and Galactically Stupid. A PR Agency gets caught in SpamGate, blasting everyone the same pitch. The error compounds as the email basics of CC, BCC and Reply All were lost on many.

replyall2Making matters worse was the fact that the spam email in question was sent to several PR and Social Media experts, who of course, quickly called out the Agency. This resulted in several posts and tweets, some harsh. Many just commented on the bad practices rather than bad practitioners.

Adding fuel to the fire, the agency was too slow to respond, posting the same apology on many of the blogs that critiqued their failure.  On Friday the agency posted this response, but I suspect it’s too little, too late.

Lessons learned: 1) Start with better PR practices than bulk emailing pitches and 2) Have a plan for when things go sideways. Mistakes will happen. It’s what you do next to quickly fix it that’ll make a difference.

Evil. This is the horrific, unfunny version of that scene in Once Upon a Time in Mexico, where Johnny Depp fixes the bullfight by zapping the matador: a PR Agency gets caught getting interns to rig the game by planting fake positive reviews of iPhone apps on behalf of clients.

A couple of stories and tweets and blogs about this, including Rachel Kay’s query about what happens if the interns refused, and if not, “bigger issues.” True that.

Lesson learned: The unethical practice of a PR Agency actively marketing and selling the services of rigging favorable opinions on social media networks and websites on behalf of clients and their products is counter to everything good PR and Social Media practices are all about. Period.

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