'Sweaty-gate' is a storm in a teacup. Nobody outside PR land cares

The Press Association was forced to pull a 'real life' story after the case study turned out to be the employee of a PR firm but this is all a storm in a teacup, writes Andy Barr, co-owner of 10 Yetis.

No-one outside of our sector really cares, argues Andy Barr
No-one outside of our sector really cares, argues Andy Barr
Could I be more 'meh' about this sweaty story? A PR agency fibbed to get client coverage.

Let’s just take a moment to consider the consequences of this statement. Oh hang on, that’s right: no one outside of our sector really cares.

While we in PR land get our knickers in a knot, the facts are simple. This goes on. Is it a good thing? No. Has it gone on through the history of time? Yes.

What is different in this case is that the agency changed the name of the case study to hide who they were (presumably for the reasons below). Even if the media had twigged, my experience tells me that they would not have cared because the story was strong and interesting (like her armpits allegedly were).

Who is to say that the person involved did not have an actual sweat problem? I’m guessing she didn’t really and changed her name to stop such a rumour following her around for life via a quick Google search.

Hold your hands up time. The vast majority of PR land has bent the truth a little at some point in their careers. Anyone, like me, who has worked in financial services PR (or any brand where a case study has been needed), will have supplied a case study to the nationals’ weekend personal finance pages using a person found by sending an all-staffer to the company for which they work.

A member of staff comes forward who fits the bill and their story is packaged and sent to the journalist who made the request. The journo knows of the connection, but the story carries the biog for the case study person as 'Joe Normal, works in financial services', with no mention of the connection to the company they are pimping.

Everyone knows, everyone is happy…

In the murky world of social media and online reviews, the most common term for this kind of thing (giving a positive review or comment without declaring a vested interest in the company you are bigging up) is 'astroturfing.

Why? You will have to ask the Shoreditch-hipster-crew about how they came up with that term.

We had a former client fall foul of this. Its overseas team saw negative comments about the UK company and thought it should stick up for the brand it worked for and loved. Such an innocently explained activity (and one we knew nothing about) was suitably berated by the lovely folks at the ASA.

A bit of a media hoo-hah later and life moved on.

I very much think that the only thing the agency in 'sweaty-gate' is guilty of is trying to protect the online reputation of the staff member involved.

For any other client, that solved a less humiliating life issue. They would have used the actual name and the journo would have known this. The client is probably not that bothered and only miffed that they have lost any of the authoritative web links to their product that a Press Association sell-in gives.

What is interesting, and by interesting I mean hilarious, is reading comments from holier-than-thou fellow PR agency owners feigning disgust that this kind of thing goes on and chucking rocks from their glass houses at the agency in question. Bore-off.

Andy Barr is head yeti at 10 Yetis

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