Online PR campaigns – the good the bad and the ugly

20 June 2011 by Kevin Holdridge  
Filed under News and views, Social marketing

An interesting story today regarding the unpleasantly narcissistic dating site BeautifulPeople.com which bills itself as “exclusively for beautiful people”.  Loathsome as this outfit is, their latest stunt appears to demonstrate the power of online PR campaigns nowadays in generating web traffic and leads, something that is important to many of our clients.

The website owners (or, more likely, their PR agency) have issued a press release claiming that they were affected by the “Shrek virus” causing thousands of unattractive people to be allowed membership wrongly. They claim to have removed the unattractive members with a refund of membership fees for their trouble.  I’m sure this outfit has legions of expensive lawyers on standby, so it would be dangerous of us to accuse them of  having made up the whole thing.  But, we find it hard to give any credence to the claims whatsoever. There is no record elsewhere of any “Shrek virus”. The name of this alleged virus is something of a clue. It is hard to imagine how this story could possibly be true.

Our friends at nakedsecurity have put the case succintly:

The website explains that it hasn’t needed to inform any computer security firms about the malware as it is being “investigated internally”, and a “former employee.. placed the virus before leaving the team” and “despite wreaking havoc with the application process, member privacy and security was never breached.”

Phew! So, lots of publicity for the website but nothing for current or future members to worry about then. How convenient!

google-viral-prDespite the total lack of credibility to the story, it has been picked up and covered online by serious news agencies such as  The Guardian, The BBC, The TelegraphThe Daily Mail and many others. A quick Google check shows there are 5.9 million links and references to this ludicrous story on the Web, all achieved in hours by spreading a stupid press release! Not bad at all for a day’s work.

Yes, it’s pretty depressing that so many journalists at so many leading institutions can be so ignorant, gullible, or lazy as to give this implausible and shameless plug the time of day. However, this failing of humanity does show the power of clever PR.

We’re not suggesting that you suppress your gag reflex and descend to the same level as these people. But, with a bit of imagination, many firms will be able to generate interesting (and ideally even true)  press releases  which can be expected to get decent coverage in the local, regional, national, and trade press. The  cost of a press release is hugely lower than advertising, and can be much more effective at generating leads. Nowadays a press release can be submitted easily and cheaply to multiple online channels. Distributing even a fairly uninspiring article containing relevant key words will help a website’s performance in search engines such as Google, thus helping to attract visitors to the website. And if you are lucky or clever enough to hit the sweet spot and go “viral”, you will be inundated with links and visitors.

We always strongly recommend having a press release strategy for our online marketing clients, especially in this age of social networks. If you’d like to discuss how to create business through social and online marketing, give us a call on 0845 638 0700 or email Yvonne Conway or Kevin Holdridge and lets see what would work for your organisation.

beautiful-people-my-arseFootnote: Don’t you just love karma? It seems that beautifulpeople.com have become the victim of their own “success”. They look to have paid more attention to coming up with their gimmick and distributing their press release than they did to  managing their web hosting infrastructure.  So, today instead of seeing the usual conceited home page, visitors today were presented with this altogether more satisfying error message. Beautiful!

not-so-beautiful

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