Monday, August 30, 2010

Truth In Advertising (Fake Reviews, Social Media and PR)

"PR firm settles claims of fake games reviews" read the headlines on several industry websites last week, including

A PR agency called Reverb Communications got fined by the FTC over unethical practices: its staff posed as members of the public to post fake reviews of video games developed by its clients. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

According to Mary Engle, director of the FTC’s Division of Advertising Practices, "companies, including public relations firms involved in online marketing, need to abide by long-held principles of truth in advertising."

Thank you to the FTC for giving this ugly issue some attention.

While the goal of scoring positive reviews is clearly a huge incentive for PR agencies involved in not only promoting products, but that also earn a revenues from product sales, the at-all-costs approach is appalling.

It’s a pity this agency lowered its standards - if it had any to begin with - to creating fake profiles and reviews, instead of using its talents to;

a) create awareness about the products through clever PR and media outreach tactics
b) encourage users to post reviews – positive or not - via community building and engaging consumers transparently through social media channels.

A PR agency should never, ever be held responsible for the content of consumers’ actual reviews - especially in our increasingly social media-ruled world.

Manipulating and/or faking reviews is tantamount to fraud, good old-fashioned premeditated deception. And to think this agency created an entire strategy around the concept of duping people.

One has to question the morals of the agency owner in question, and wonder when the duping will strike again?

Companies like Reverb gives the PR industry a bad name. Shame on you.

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