From the desk of Patrick Ward...
There is an equally elucidating and disturbing story on TechCrunch today.
It has engendered an active discussion on the merits of PR and the ethics some firms use. But I wonder if there is a broader and potentially more important implication here? The tide toward direct expression, through App Store reviews, user group comments and even this blog, has lifted a critical filter in the traditional information flow from company to PR to public: the media.
Before the arrival of the myriad communications means for companies (and their PR firms) to speak directly to constituents, a buffer existed. Reporters decided whether a story was credible and reasonable before it made it into print. Even Letters to the Editor were screened. Much of that barrier is being eliminated in today’s world. So how surprising is it that someone is taking advantage?
I’m reminded of Michael Corleone’s PR strategy to assuage public concern about his impending murder of a police captain: “A dirty police captain who got mixed up in the rackets and got what was coming to him. We have newspaper people on the payroll, Tom? They might like a story like that?” When the story-teller can be corrupted by money (agency fees or download dollars) the ethics get invariably murky.
For all the love of freedom of expression that ‘user-generated’ content offers, we seem to forget that the traditional news organizations vetted this kind of gamesmanship. So, as many play violins while those news organizations burn, look at this story for what could be your alternative.