Bulldog Reporter Publishes Truth-in-PR Piece

It’s true–I’ve been hammering hard lately on the fibbing front and the damage that lies can wreak on anyone’s credibility, reputation and overall bottom-line in the marketplace.

And so it is that The Four Horsemen of the Apocryphal–the military, academic, athletic and business lies that I have observed in my career–were front and center in an essay I recently wrote.

It was published in the Barks & Bites section of today’s Bulldog Reporter.

You can read the piece: “Let’s Have More Truth in PR: Anticipate Journalist Questions—and Root Out Client Fibs in Four Key Areas.”

The essay, which built off some recent Inside Edge PR blog posts, can also be found at my new Truth In PR blog.

If you have a Truth-in-PR issue you’d like to raise, just e-mail me at Matt@InsideEdgePR.com

The Four Hot Spots For Tall Tales: Military, Academics, Athletics & Business

In my Inside Edge PR post on Monday, I touched on the perils of fibbing or embellishing–OK, let’s call it like it is, lying–in the stories that we tell.

In this case, an ex-baseball player is trying to stretch a single (a few low-level minor-league baseball seasons) into a home run (Major Leagues) in his marketing materials as a financial adviser.

In my two decades as a journalist, I found some areas of people’s lives were especially fertile ground for the creation of tall tales. Here are four categories:

1. Military service and/or decorations, such as these stories about a would-be Vietnam War hero, including my piece for the Chicago Tribune. The saga played out two years ago this week.

2. Academic background and credentials. See George O’Leary, the short-lived Notre Dame football coach as the poster child of this phenomenon. O’Leary also padded his athletic resume.

3. Athletic accomplishments. (See Monday’s post and the story below.)

4. Business history/successes. (A year ago, while reporting for a national trade magazine for its “30 Under 30” feature, I detected one highly questionable candidate and steered the publication away from him.)

Because of my passion for playing and covering sports over the years, inflated accounts of sports careers are especially intriguing to me.

There was the time in 1998 when a Cook County Board candidate, Mike Olszewski, claimed to have played for the Pittsburgh Penguins. When I confronted him with my research turning up no such thing, he backpedaled like “Get Smart” secret-agent Maxwell Smart:

Would you believe I played minor-league hockey in Decatur?”

When I tried confirming even that modest claim, the evidence was less than compelling. I dubbed the episode “Penguingate.” Olszewski lost in his bid for public office.

Related Posts:
This Much Is True: Place a PR Premium on Truth
Ryan Lochte & The Hazard of Fibbing When Technology Helps `Show’ Trump ‘Tell’ At Any Time

This Much Is True: Place a PR Premium on Truth

Last week, I received a marketing letter from a financial adviser who listed “played for the Chicago Cubs” among his bulleted background points.

Hmm. I didn’t recognize his name, so looked him up on the authoritative Retrosheet and Baseball Reference websites.

He wasn’t on either site, though I did find some minor-league stats for him from nearly 40 years ago. He had a .228 batting average in two Class A (low-level minor league) seasons, one in the Cubs’ organization and another in the Tigers’.

Of course, the word “organization” or “minor-league system” makes for an inconveniently cumbersome bulleted point, doesn’t it?

Now, this fellow may well be a great guy. I bet his friends would describe him as bright and hard-working and trustworthy. If so, then it’s a shame that exaggerating this one athletic exploit–and being naive enough to think that people won’t check it out–could undermine those strengths.

Or maybe the inaccuracy is only the tip of the iceberg?

Either way, the simple point remains, and it’s one that anyone must place foremost in any marketing or PR communication. Especially in an era where fact-checking zooms with a blink-of-the-eye Google search, when laying your story-telling’s foundation, it’s always best to start with the truth.

Related Posts:
Setting the (Stilted) Stage: Jussie Smollett Tale Was a Cynical Checklist for Public Outrage
Obama’s PR Problem: Endorsing a Hack