Crazy things happen in PR

Posted: August 29, 2008 in PR examples
Tags: , ,

Via Kevin Dugan’s The Bad Pitch Blog, an actual e-mail exchange between a PR person and a journalist (or should I write “journalist”). Kevin has edited out profanity, so it’s safe to share with students 🙂

I don’t meant to scare PR students, but this example is so out there I can’t help but share. Things to think about:

  • is it ethical to promise media coverage for free hotel stays?
  • is it ethical to expect media coverage for free hotel stays?
  • what should FLACK do in response to HACK’s flaming message?
  • what should you always remember about writing e-mail?

Please write your thoughts in the comments to this post, and yes, they will count for class 🙂

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Comments
  1. bcarsonclemson says:

    * is it ethical to promise media coverage for free hotel stays?
    I feel like promising free hotel stays for media isn’t exactly the “ideal” way to make money but I don’t see any reason they specifically should not. Bribes are a part of the business of publicity. That is why people create “pseudoevents”…to create attention. In this case, flack should not have gotten so mad that the promised stay was not followed through with, however.
    * what should FLACK do in response to HACK’s flaming message?
    If I were FLACKI would print that e-mail out and take it to one of HACK’S bosses. Even if the boss does agree with HACK, no employer would ever encourage unprofessionalism like HACK showed.
    * what should you always remember about writing e-mail?
    You should always be professional.

  2. prprofmv says:

    Good points, Brittany! Thanks for the comment!

  3. esande says:

    Wow. That was quite a blog post. The main element I derived from this post and email is that one must always remember to be professional and to filter before we express our feelings through our finger tips.

    On the subject of promising free hotel stays for media coverage, I am unsure how I feel on this matter and I look very forward to gaining the knowledge to back whichever side I may choose!

    Thanks for an entertaining outlet to further education on PR!

  4. ksolomo says:

    I don’t think it is ethical to promise media coverage for free hotel stays, although I am sure this kind of thing happens quite often. The travel writer should have said she would TRY to give media coverage, but she should not have PROMISED, since the magazine could always change something at the last minute and decide not to run her article.

    FLACK should keep his cool and not sink to HACK’s level, since it could ruin his reputation or cost him his job.

    The things people write in their e-mails never cease to amaze me. Don’t they know that once their words are on the Internet, they are not retractable? They are out there forever for anyone to see. Plus, I think if you write an angry e-mail, you should always wait a while before hitting the Send button.

  5. salliemckenzie says:

    That was an interesting e-mail conversation! I do not believe it is ethical to promise or expect media coverage for free hotel stays. While this business is a lot about “exchange,” and mainly that of communication, every decision on what to take and give must be thought of carefully. Knowing that a deal that was not as clean cut as it should have been took place between two organizations could really come back and hurt both parties. I believe it is most ethical to treat everyone fairly.

    Because HACK’s message was extremely fueled by anger, FLACK should respond in a responsible and calm manner. He or she will end up looking like the bigger person in this situation by not name-calling and throwing insults back.

    E-mail is NOT an extremely private medium. There is definite potential for anyone to get a hold of what you say, as seen in this example. I think it’s important to think clearly about any e-mail you write and be cognizant of the fact that the person you are sending it to may not be the only person to view it in the end.

  6. sgdavis6439 says:

    In the opinion of a student who enjoys a good laugh, I found this example to be pretty humorous. However, from a professional standpoint, this would be an absolute nightmare. Ethically speaking, if a person makes a promise, they are obligated to uphold the agreement, regardless of whether it is a personal or business situation. Failure to uphold the agreement in this particular case has no legal repercussions, but would not be conducive to establishing or furthering any sort of future business relationship. As for my response to HACK’s e-mail, I would investigate his/her position within their organization and contact the appropriate supervisor, allowing them to handle the situation internally. I would imagine it would be highly improbable that any supervisor would allow a subordinate to continue writing with such audacity and arrogance while representing a larger organization. When writing any e-mail, it is important to respond in a professional matter because you never know who could end up reading it, and anonymity may not always be maintained.

  7. amaute says:

    While reading this blog post I was very shocked. I couldn’t believe the way that HACK responded to the email. His unprofessionalism was seen in his use of profanity and degrading statements. The first thing that came to mind when I read this email exchange was a lesson I learned in public speaking. When faced with an argument, always attack the argument not the person. When an individual proceeds to attack a person giving an argument, often this is because he/she does not know how to respond to the argument and thus takes the easy way out. Unfortunately in this case, HACK’s unprofessionalism was posted on the internet for the whole world to witness his lack response to FLACK’s argument.

    FLACK, should respond to HACK’s display of unprofessionalism with nothing but professionalism. This is an opportunity for FLACK to represent himself and company well. FLACK can create quite a difference between himself/herself and HACK.

    As for the ethical implications of the email exchange, if an individual makes a promise it should be kept. Keeping your words not only shows professionalism, but exhibits trustworthiness and respect for the individual you made a promise to.

  8. Kevin Dugan says:

    >>Bribes are a part of the business of publicity.

    bcarsonclemson : I may be taking this out of context, but I can assure you they are not an accepted part of the business of publicity. Bribes are unethical.

    >>one must always remember to be professional and to filter before we express our feelings through our finger tips.

    esande: YES! same applies to our mouth. 🙂

    >>HACK’s display of unprofessionalism with nothing but professionalism. This is an opportunity for FLACK to represent himself and company well. FLACK can create quite a difference between himself/herself and HACK.

    amaute: always take the high road. but I think shooting this off to someone’s boss would also be appropriate. as this email was certainly not appropriate.

    prprofmv: per your twitter question, a friend of the flack in question sent it along to me. which goes to reinforce another comment someone made above, if you write it down and hit send, it could wind up anywhere.

  9. Amanda Jernigan says:

    I cannot believe HACK’s immaturity and unprofessionalism! I think FLACK should simply brush aside HACK’S rude response. Stooping to HACK’S level will get FLACK nowhere! These HACKS and FLACKS are starting to get confusing! I believe it is both unethical to expect media coverage and promise media coverage for hotel stays. Promising and expecting media coverage can create major controversy if individuals do not follow through with their promises. Obviously, individuals can become easily disappointed when they learn that the media coverage may not be granted. And when people are upset, they may let their anger get the best of them and quickly turn unprofessional as HACK did in this case. As Dr. V has taught us, emails should always have a professional tone! (With an appropriate subject line, of course!)

  10. ashleyhall7 says:

    I have to admit, it was pretty shocking to read these e-mails. It’s sad to see that a “professional” travel writer would resort to such levels. I don’t think that it’s necessarily ethical to promise media coverage for free hotel stays, but let’s be honest…I’m quite sure it happens a lot more than we would like to believe. There is always going to be some give and take in the business world. Unfortunately, for those who choose to go the ethical route, there will always be those looking for an easier, not so ethical way to get what they want. In response to HACK’s ranting e-mail, FLACK should just take the higher route and handle the situation responsibly by sending the correspondence to a higher authority. Whoever is employing HACK should know how their employer is behaving. Because, of course, e-mails should always be written in a professional tone.

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  12. tiffanysellers says:

    Wow. Did Hack honestly think Flack would be the only person to read that? I feel like the response was highly disproportionate to the email s/he received. I’m a little amazed that Hack has a job as a professional when s/he obviously has a lot of pent up aggression that may burst forth at any moment. S/he showed no ethical judgment, something Dr. V is trying so hard to instill in our generation for future public relations encounters. But I have to admit: I would love to know how Flack responded to that email 🙂

  13. Kristi Yoos says:

    I truly can’t even get past the profanity and the utter inappropriateness of the e-mail to even begin to understand what the harsh e-mail is referring to in the first place. No, I do not think that it is ethical for a journalist to offer coverage of a hotel in exchange for a free stay there, but I sincerely doubt that it doesn’t happen a bit more often than I’d like to think. Since day one Dr. V has told us the importance of writing an email with a certain level of professionalism. It’s just a shame that Hack was not fortunate enough to learn that from a professor of his. I agree with Tiffany. I would love to know how Flack responded to that email. I’m sure that Flack handled it professionally (killing him with kindness as the expression says), and that it was all the more sweet for him to know that this blatantly unprofessional e-mail would end up posted on the internet with PR professionals and students alike critiquing it.

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  15. lepatte says:

    In class on Tuesday everyone was discussing the Flack/Hack post. I had not seen it yet, and I knew that it was something that I should definitely explore. Just like everyone else’s posts, I can’t believe the disrespect and profanity that was used in that message. Yes, those harsh words will get a point across. But, it will have an extremely negative effect, and it will make that person seem immature and lacking credibility. What an outrage…

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