Holmes Report Blog

The Holmes Report blog focuses on news and issues of interest to public relations professionals. Our main site can be found at www.holmesreport.com.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

YouTube Abuse: Why is it that the first response of some public relations people to a new technology is to try to figure out how to abuse it?

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.
Culture Clash: Forbes magazine has always been about the rawest, most red-blooded variety of capitalism, celebrating the views of Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand, glorifying the profit motive and ridiculing anyone with the temerity to suggest that corporations might have any other responsibility.

Bono, meanwhile, has been a frequent advocate for a new, more progressive view of the corporation, suggesting that companies can combine profitability with social responsibility. His recent launch of the “Red” brand of cause-related products and his interest in saving the world—Africa in particular—would appear to be diametrically opposed to all that Forbes stands for.

So it’s interesting that Bono is a member of the group of investors that recently bought into the magazine. Bono’s spokesman says he was attracted to the magazine because it “has a point of view.” It will be interesting to see whether that point of view changes under the influence of its new shareholders.