There’s no question that the sudden emergence of YouTube and other online video sites presents an opportunity for public relations people to reach out to young people, to join their conversations. And yet the first use of this new medium to attract the attention of the media involves what appears to be an egregious example of deceit.
A PR firm that counts ExxonMobil among its clients has created a video trashing Al Gore’s hit movie An Inconvenient Truth (the one about global warming). Nothing wrong with that, of course. But the video was designed to look like the kind of amateurish production that might have been cooked up by a disgruntled youth in his bedroom, and there was no indication that it was produced by a professional public relations firm.
Not only is that unethical, it’s also stupid. The ruse was discovered through some very rudimentary detective work on the part of The Wall Street Journal and quickly brought to light. By now, everyone on YouTube knows that a PR firm tried to deceive them. They will presumably find that deceptive and patronizing.
There has to be a better way.