Do you know who you're dealing with?

SimonGeneral8 Comments

Richard Millington has a post about how easy it can be to create fake PR – and has some examples to prove it.

His post reminded me of an experience we had last year on a high-profile entertainment PR project we were working on. Having sent out news releases about the subject, we received a number of enquiries from journalists.

In particular one journalist claimed to be from a national publication, and was keen to visit to see more about the story. We entertained him and started negotiations to try to secure some coverage in the publication he claimed to be from.

This dialogue went on for a week or so, but over time we became more suspicious that maybe this journalist wasn’t who he seemed. We always communicated with him through a mobile, and when he called and left a message he always wanted us to call him back.

So a quick call to the main switchboard from the publication he claimed to be from revealed that he wasn’t who he said he was. A bit of web research using Google showed that he hadn’t written some of the coverage he claimed to have.

Alarm bells were ringing loudly by now, and because of some of the negotiations that had taken place we called in the police.

Eventually the fake journalist was arrested and cautioned.

I took some valuable lessons away from the experience for future media relations work:

  • Always check the credentials if you’re dealing with a journalist you don’t know
  • Always have contact details that include a landline, and ideally a postal address
  • Never get carried away with the buzz of a new opportunity – like in the rest of life, if something looks too good to be true it probably is

As Richard notes, it’s pretty straightforward for someone to pretend to be someone they’re not in public relations. The onus is on you to identify who is doing this and protect your interests accordingly.

8 Comments on “Do you know who you're dealing with?”

  1. What offence was the fake hack actually arrested under? It’s difficult to see the police taking an interest unless money was about to change hands – or was he after freebies (given that it was entertainment related?

  2. He was cautioned for deception I believe – given his attempt to secure free tickets for events. The total face value of what he was after would have been more than £600.

    The police didn’t say much to us, but it was clear that he was known to them, so I suspect he may have had previous form for something similar.

  3. Chris – the police let it go so far that he physically accepted tickets from a member of the team (under surveillance), and then arrested him. It was the fact they let it go so far that made me suspect that he had some sort of previous record or suspicious activity – otherwise I don’t think they would have let it progress that far once we’d got them involved.

    Ian – well you’re getting away with it so far – although your post from memory the other day after your tablet PC failure almost gave you away!

  4. Pingback: Have you ever faked it? « Heather Yaxley - Greenbanana views of public relations and more

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