10 February 2012
Unless you've spent this week hiding in a cave
trapped in a clothes horse, the chances are
that you'll have seen The Independent's series of front page
"scoops" exposing PR behemoth Bell Pottinger.
Now there isn't time to go into all the whys and wherefores of
each of these stories. But a couple of things struck us today at
Octopus Towers after reading
this piece on Bell Pottinger's track record of editing clients'
1. What's the big deal?
So some PR people have been paid to amend some facts on their
clients' Wikipedia pages. So what? That's hardly PR at its best but
surely the whole point of Wikipedia's self-policing system is that
it is, well, self-policing. You probably won't get away with making
things up. And there seems to be no evidence that anyone at Bell
Pottinger added anything untrue. And as long as it's true and has
been referenced according to Wikipedia's own rules and guidelines on
how PR people should use the site, what's the big deal? I mean,
everyone knows that you should take everything you read on
Wikipedia with a pinch of salt.
Which leads me on to point two...
2. You should take everything you read
on Wikipedia with a pinch of salt
Any GCSE history student will tell you that you need to consider
who your source of information is when deciding what to believe.
Whether intentional or not, everyone has some inherent biases and
no one can be 100% trustworthy. Given that Wikipedia is written by
thousands of people that we don't know, it's only sensible to treat
any information you get from it with a bit of caution, whether it
is from a paid PR person, an angry blogger or just someone who
happens to be really interested in snails/mushrooms/the back
catalogue of The Small Faces. In fact, the nature of the industry
means that a paid PR person is probably the least likely of those
people to include things that haven't been independently
Which brings me on to point three... (see how this works?)
3. PR people are not, I repeat not, the
The very fact that The Independent thinks this story is worthy
of space in its newspaper is a worrying sign of how PR people in
the UK are perceived: as shadowy, amoral and Basically A Bad Thing.
Now, like any industry, I'm sure PR has its share of dodgy people
and organisations. But for the most part, PR exists because a lot
of companies and organisations are not very good at talking about
themselves and want some help in doing just that. Maybe as an
industry we need to start telling people that more often and much
more loudly in order to combat this image of nefarious
ne'er-do-wells that has somehow become the stereotype.
(Disclaimer: I've never edited a Wikipedia page. Not for a
client and definitely not for my own personal
pleasure. Neither have I met anyone from, or claiming to be
from, an oppressive regime in the former soviet union. And I do not
know Prince Andrew.)
PR, Wikipedia, Bell Pottinger | Leave comment
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