PR Start by Nick Lucido

How to start in the public relations industry.

Advertising Faux Pas

I got an e-mail recently from a student organization list-serv from an alum of the organization. It was a friendly “hello, check out what I’m up to” kind of e-mail, but I also had some problems with it. As a disclosure, I won’t mention any specifics on names, agencies, companies, etc.

The context of the e-mail was a call to action for two things. By the way, the product featured in this e-mail was not targeted to students. The agency had build a site for the client and the message encouraged all readers to check out the site. OK, besides the shameless self-promotion, this wasn’t that big of a deal. I almost deleted it until I read the next part; it encouraged readers to order information about the product. This was the deal breaker for me. But still, I went on. At the end of the paragraph talking about how if we sign up, we will get 2 or 3 follow up e-mail (pretty vague, huh?), the last line was: “I get bonus points…”

Sending out an e-mail to a student pre-professional association when it has nothing to do with their education is one thing, but when you stress the importance of clicking on the Web site and ordering information seemingly to only bring back the statistics to your client… well, that’s another story. Furthermore, trying to make people forward your message on to others in hopes of making it a viral campaign will not work.

The big thing in advertising is proving ROI to your clients. Sometimes, you will have companies that know and understand the power of successful branding that doesn’t necessarily bring in huge ROI. And sometimes, you will have companies that are number crunchers and try to put a value on the different kinds of branding.

Working in advertising sales for The State News, I can relate to this situation. My co-worker and fellow blogger Katy Homanick talked about this with me. Just like the rest of the newspaper industry, classified sales have been hurt my such sites as Craig’s List, ULoop and even Facebook. When I sell a classified ad, I always call back at the end of the insertions to see how everything went. I ask what kind of response they got, and sometimes, I get the inevitable “no one called.” I believe in my product, so I will always recommend changing up the ad, throwing in some bolded words or any other feature we offer. Even so, some ads just don’t work out.

However, I will never, never encourage friends or colleagues to call on an ad just to make sure my client gets “results” and is thus happy with my work.

It seems as though that’s what happened today.

For me, what it comes down to is client service. I might be at the beginning of my career, but I have become familiar with the importance of being honest. If you brought these stats to your client showing an inflated number of visitors to the site, is that ethical? I don’t think so, and I would never do that.

What do you think? Was this unethical? What other strategies or tactics could this agency have used to encourage visits to the site?

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6 Responses

  1. Kelsey Sopel says:

    Nick, Excellent blog post. As an advertising major, it’s hard enough to explain to others why I would want to go into this line of work that is viewed as “deceptive” without people truly living up to this label. I believe in the power of advertising, if I didn’t I wouldn’t be able to pitch it everyday. But when a person goes as far as “soliciting” false results (especially for their own gain or advancement) they contribute to the bad wrap that our openly criticized major attracts.

  2. Kelly says:

    Nice blog post. Had a lot of good things to say…I have an older cousin who works in the industry “close” to that “situation” and I talked to him about it. I think it’s unfortunate because he told me a little bit more about what the goal of driving people to the web and to ask for more information was. And as far as some of the goals, they have already presented web metrics to clients…so now they are really just wanted to spread the word about the new website it seems. I think that’s odd, but like I said unfortunate, because that e-mail was most certainly poorly worded. I know I’m still in school but definitely think it could have been more of just a “check out this website…it’s cool” type of e-mail. Who knows? I guess you live, you learn, and hopefully in the middle learn how to express yourself in an e-mail a bit better and maybe proofread it. Thanks again for the post.

  3. Allie Osmar says:

    It was definitely poor judgment on the part of the student organization to let this email go out. This sets a poor standard for students who will be entering their careers in marketing and advertising over the next few years.

    I work in internal digital education for Edelman, and the number one thing my teams stresses is ethics. As far as I’m concerned, college classes and organizations should be doing the same.

  4. Nick,

    I agree with you. That was very unethical. It’s disturbing that a “professional” would do this. When you do something like that, how can you really gauge the effectiveness?

  5. nicklucido says:

    Thanks for the feedback, everyone.

    It just goes to show you how integral concise wording is, especially when being sent out to a lot of people.

  6. Nate Erickson says:

    While I’m not sure if it would be a case of “ethics” here — it’s just that sometimes, how you word things is more important than what you actually say. That’s definitely proven true in both my personal and professional interactions. I know the e-mail you’re talking about and I thought the exact same thing — it’s certainly a case of poor judgment that would reflect poorly both on the employee and the employer (as well as our beloved alma mater) if a critic of the industry got their hands on it.

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