Following up on my previous post about the threat to World Nutella Day…
Ferrero’s Italian site has a news release.
“World Nutella Day: una positiva conclusione del caso
“A positive direct contact between Ferrero and Sara Rosso, owner of a non-official fan page of Nutella called World Nutella Day, he closed the case.Ferrero would like to express its sincere gratitude to Sara Rosso for her passion for Nutella, gratitude extends to all fans of the World Nutella Day .The case arose from a routine procedure in defense of trademarks, activated in response to any misuses of the brand Nutella inside the fan page.Ferrero is pleased to announce that today, after contacting Sara Rosso and finding appropriate solutions together, it immediately stopped all previous action.Ferrero consider themselves lucky to have a fan of Nutella so devoted and loyal as Sara Rosso.
Seeing lots of chatter online today about the pending shutdown of World Nutella Day. World what-what? Yeah, World Nutella Day.
Now, I’m not a user of the world’s favorite hazelnut spread. But plenty of people are. But many people are. Enough that back in 2007, an American woman named Sara Rosso who lives in Nutella’s homeland of Italy created (of her own volition) World Nutella Day.
Since then, their site has become a go-to destination for people who like the product (created by the same people who make Ferrero Rocher, Kinder candies, and Tic Tacs) for recipes and stories. Rosso and her Nutella-loving pal Michelle Fabio also have written the e-book The Unofficial Guide to Nutella (affiliate link).
But apparently, no more. Rosso’s website says (I’ll paste the text here in case the site disappears):
“On May 25, 2013, I’ll be darkening the World Nutella Day site, nutelladay.com, and all social media presence (Facebook, Twitter), in compliance with a cease-and-desist I received from lawyers representing Ferrero, SpA (makers of Nutella).
Seven years after the first World Nutella Day in 2007, I never thought the idea of dedicating a day to come together for the love of a certain hazelnut spread would be embraced by so many people! I’ve seen the event grow from a few hundred food bloggers posting recipes to thousands of people Tweeting about it, pinning recipes on Pinterest, and posting their own contributions on Facebook! There have been songs sung about it, short films created for it, poems written for it, recipes tested for it, and photos taken for it.
The cease-and-desist letter was a bit of a surprise and a disappointment, as over the years I’ve had contact and positive experiences with several employees of Ferrero, SpA., and with their public relations and brand strategy consultants, and I’ve always tried to collaborate and work together in the spirit and goodwill of a fan-run celebration of a spread I (to this day) still eat.
I have hope that this is not a goodbye to World Nutella Day forever, for the fans’ sake, and hopefully it will live on in one form or another in the future.”
So. From all appearances, this is a big corporation knuckling down on a humble blogger. Certainly, that’s the theme on the Nutella Facebook page, where several hundred comments are roundly criticizing the brand for its actions. Some are even posting video responses:
Doesn’t get much more emphatic than that.
But… what if there’s more to this? As a teacher, one of the case studies I have used for a long time in social media classes has been what’s become known as “The Ranger Station Fire.” This 2008 incident began when Ford sent out a cease and desist letter to someone operating a web site dedicated to the Ford Ranger.
Here’s Ron Ploof’s summary, an eminently useful document.
So at this point, all we have is the World Nutella Day website. We don’t know the contents of the C&D letter (which is more than likely in Italian). We haven’t seen any response from Ferrero. On page 8 of “The Ranger Station Fire”, Ploof describes the fact that the Ford fan site was selling unauthorized products with Ford’s logo on them. They then (VERY quickly) separated out the demands for the URL and compensation from the IP issue.
What needs to happen now? Two things:
- Sara Rosso needs to make very clear exactly why Ferrero has asked her to cease & desist.
- Ferrero needs to do the same thing.
Right now, it’s impossible to know if Ferrero has done something really stupid, or has done something right & executed badly, or whether this is the best of their alternatives and they’re just communicating poorly.
If Ferrero has no compelling reason to have taken this action, they are likely going to be a case study for teachers like me to use in the future — in how to alienate the people who love you.
I have asked Ferrero for comment, and I’ve also sent questions to Sara Rosso. I’ll update this post whenever I have new information to share.
UPDATE: around 4:00 pm EDT, I saw a statement from Ferrero on their Italian site. Get the update in this post.
Back in the day, it was easy for unethical businesses to pop up and disappear quite quickly. A number of years ago, I was interviewed by the local TV news when I discovered that a kiosk in a shopping mall was selling Livestrong wrist bands at a gross profit ($4 for bands purchased from the Livestrong Foundation for $1) and in contravention of the Livestrong Foundation’s agreement.
When the kiosk owner was nowhere to be found in the mall, the staff claimed ignorance and referred the reporter to the owner, and … things just passed over. Flea markets or other public events were popular places for people to show up with fake merchandise, bootlegged music or video, and make a quick buck.
But with social media, things can’t stay submerged for long, as brands like Urban Outfitters and Forever 21 have learned to their chagrin. Bot those large companies were discovered (sometimes repeatedly) to have been copying the designs of small designers without permission and selling those designs.
Now, there appears to be a local example.
Two Ottawa men created and began selling promotional t-shirts with the message “Don’t F**K with the Walrus” during the NHL playoffs. The phrase refers to Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean, who sports a rather outrageous moustache, and was referred to as a “bug-eyed fat walrus” by Montreal Canadiens player Brandon Prust.
The men, Jamie McLennan and Eric Chamois, made two shirts to wear to a playoff game, and found the market for them rabid and enthusiastic. They began making the shirts, selling them, and then donating $1 for each shirt sold to the Ottawa Senators Foundation.
But then they discovered that Ottawa Sports Experts stores were selling a design that was essentially identical to theirs.
Here’s the two. On the left is the original design by J and L Ink; on the right, a photo of a Sports Experts store display from the Senstown blog.
Looks to me as if the design on the right has slight variation in the font used and has had the F**K removed (making it a bit nonsensical — don’t moustache with the walrus?!) but is otherwise identical.
The creators of the original shirt are adamant that no deal is in place; I’ve reached out to Sports Experts for comment, but have heard nothing as yet.
Sports Experts has no active Twitter account, but they’re receiving dozens of angry messages on their Facebook page (which is showing a last update a day before the angry messages started.) They haven’t responded to any of those messages either. I’m at least the third blogger to find this, after the Senstown blog and the League of Ordinary Gentlemen.
What’s the lesson here? At this point, it’s that sometimes, even people with great ideas and generosity can do things that small-minded people then rip off. Or… if you are selling retail and you get an idea to use someone else’s design… maybe you should think again. But let’s wait and see. Maybe Sports Experts will make this good. Hey, FGL Sports, owners of Sports Experts and other brands — it’s your move.
UPDATE: At about 10:50, Sports Experts posted a response on their Facebook page:
“Hello everyone, we are aware of your comments and concerns regarding the Walrus T-shirt. Details concerning the situation are presently being investigated and we will keep you updated as soon as we know more on what exactly has happened. Thank you very much for your understanding.”
Look forward to more information as it comes.
UPDATE, 2:45 pm: Sports Experts has an apology and explanation up on their Facebook page:
Dear concerned customers,
The sale of the Walrus t-shirt in the Ottawa Sports Experts stores was a local initiative and in no way was meant to harm the artist. The Sports Experts franchise owner sourced the T-shirts from an Ottawa supplier and asked to modify the design (removing the obscene language) not knowing that the supplier didn’t own the rights to the graphic. As soon as he became aware of the problem, the store owner decided to stop selling the t-shirts and removed the unsold t-shirts from all locations. After discussing the situation with the local artist, the owner of the stores will donate all the sales revenues to the Sens Foundation. It was a misunderstanding between the artist, the supplier and the Sports Experts stores owner.
We, as a national team, are truly sorry for this mishap and look forward to your continued business.
Thank you for your understanding.
The Sports Experts team
There’s a certain irony apparent (at least to me) in Chris Hadfield returning to earth after what is undeniably one of the great examples of communication in action and the government for whom he works being roundly pasted for its “rebranding” of the National Research Council of Canada. And there are lessons to be learned here. And I have to tip the hat to friend and colleague Susan Murphy, whose post this morning “Chris Hadfield: Social Media Un-guru” got me thinking about all this.
First, let’s précis Chris Hadfield. In his five months on the International Space Station, he has, in the words of tech blog Gizmodo, “made us care about space again.”
How? They say “Hadfield straddled the lines between teacher and performer, educated expert and screwball with a camcorder, just about perfectly.” His Larrivee parlour guitar wasn’t just a recreational toy. He used it to record an earth-space collaboration with a choir and with Barenaked Ladies’ Ed Robertson that became a national singalong on “Music Monday.” His camera became a tool for a unique set of eyes on our planet and a record of all sorts of land, sea and skyscapes. Look at Cape Bretoner Parker Donham, who posted twice when Hadfield “took pictures of my primary residence.” And then, as he prepared to return to earth, he released a moving cover version of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.”
Meantime, the Canadian government refocused and rebranded the venerable National Research Council last week. The refocusing moved the historic institution “away from basic science” and towards a focus on applying science and collaborating with business.
The move has been criticized by many people, including Maclean’s columnist Paul Wells and US-based science blogger and author Phil Plait, who called it “monumentally backward thinking.” Some point to the current government’s uneasy-to-hostile role of muzzler / gatekeeper between scientists and researchers. It also was a matter of some concern inside the agency too, according to this CBC blog post.
Chris Hadfield was able to do what he’s done because of a few things:
- He’s a charismatic person, and we’ve been able to see that because we see him.
- He had five months to tell a compelling story and to build an audience for that story.
- He was willing to tell human stories in a human way.
- He was willing and eager to engage with people.
What’s the latest video on the NRC’s Youtube channel?
Is it fair to compare these two videos? Probably not. Is it fair to compare the two channels? Maybe.
- NRC: 102 subscribers, 11,786 views, comments disabled on most videos
- CSA: 153,623 subscribers, 22,970,172 views, dozens and hundreds of comments per video
- NRC: 2,194 followers, 229 tweets
- Hadfield: 879,225 followers, 4,919 tweets
- CSA: 45,510 followers, 13,821 tweets
What we’ve seen in the last five months has been a demonstration of the power of social media. That demonstration will only be truly useful if other parts of the government which funds agencies like the Canadian Space Agency and the National Research Council see that potential and make use of it.
Saw these two things this morning, and can’t help but share them.
First, Doug Gilmour sells (?) computers:
I got into a bit of an online discussion the other day with a friend in Boston. He told me that “head shots are you at your most fake.” He argued “…head shots suck. The reason why people don’t have them is because we despise them with extreme prejudice, because we’re uncomfortable with posed shots. I, personally, feel super douchey and always send one I know the requesting party will hate. They then usually find something on the Web and use that, which is what they should have done in the first place.”
Now, my friend and I are both communicators, but in slightly different niches of that field. So while I respect his opinion, I have to disagree, and I thought I’d tell you why.
I think almost everybody would benefit from a well made headshot they could have in their back pocket. Why? For the same reason we have updated, cleanly laid-out, and spell-checked resumes. For the same reason that if we’re doing an interview with a radio station and we muff a sentence, we ask to do it again.
When you are putting yourself out to an audience — by writing an op-ed piece, a blog post, speaking at a conference, or anything else that you can imagine, don’t you want to put the best version of yourself out there visually? I think a good photo opens you up to the audience in question, allowing them to warm to your face before they hear you, read your words, or decide to come to your session.
Here are some thoughts from others that I respect, both behind the camera and in front of the camera:
Justin Van Leeuwen, Ottawa-based photographer:
Lots of people don’t like having their image taken, my job is to catch them in a sincere moment that is also flattering and that they’ll display to the world. My best images are made when we all forget the camera is there, when we’re talking and having a great time but happen to be making images too. When I show them the back of my LCD or my iPad and they say “wow” that’s when I know we got it.
I had them done because I needed high-res ones for media and other business opportunities. I had them redone when the book came out last year and you’ll notice they’re not traditional at all. One is of me hanging off a street light à la Laverne and Shirley. They show my personality and are professional enough to get by.
Bonnie Findley, Ottawa photographer:
These days I often capture subjects during an interview process. I think the intention of a photographer is everything. A professional wants to capture someone in their best light. Be that through lighting, a sincere moment or gesture that communicates who that person is, not just what they look like. We have mirrors to do that. Pro photographers reflect something more.
Of course I use headshots. It’s the only way to ensure that the target is effectively terminated when I’m playing Call of Duty. Wait, what?
Ummm, we’ll get back to Christopher.
Mélanie Provencher, Ottawa-based photographer:
The difference between a pro and an amateur is that there is a conversation that takes place before the picture is taken as to what the intention is. And then a pro takes the necessary measures to make the image look like what the client wants. Sometimes it looks ‘fake’ or for better use of words, ‘planned’. But under certain circumstances that it what the client wants.
When a client says ‘man I look good’. That’s usually a good sign. A pro knows how to put their client at ease, guide them in their posture, and harness the light to make their client or subject looks their best.
Okay, Christopher’s gonna try again:
…I’m a PR person and former speechwriter for IBM executives; I spent the first few years of my career arranging for and distributing headshots. I don’t find them fake, I kind of think they’re just an integral part of the publicity process.
You want something where they look relaxed, comfortable, being themselves. No artificial props, but something like what Gini did with the Simon and Garfunkel “hello lamppost, whatcha knowin’?” shot can work well. As long as the subject still looks relaxed — if it’s the person awkwardly playing in a fountain or saying “how did Laverne and Shirley do it again?” during the shoot and it’s obvious that they’re trying to stage spontaneity, it won’t work.
I think they are needed and can help to cement little bits and pieces of a person’s image in people’s heads. Look at [Scott] Monty’s for Ford — the bow tie he wears has become part of his personal stamp. Gini’s lamppost. Things that show a little bit of the person’s personality or uniqueness can help to cement the brand they’re already carving out.
I needed a decent one to send to magazines that asked for them for their contributor pages. I used to send fuzzy holiday snaps and then end up embarrassed when everyone else on the page had a nice one! I was initially a little wary of Dale [Hogan, the photographer]‘s suggestion that I have his wife do my hair and makeup before the shoot. He persuaded me and I’m glad he did. My hair had never looked that good EVER–not even in our wedding photos.
As for good vs. bad, I think the photographer taking the time to put the subject at ease makes a huge difference. We spent the whole afternoon in Dale’s studio, and it shows. I normally hate having my photo taken, but by the time the shot I liked best was taken, I was having a blast.
I’ve consciously used the same headshot in all my social media pages for several years, in the hope that it will help people remember me. I actually have a horrible, horrible memory for faces–I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat next to someone at an annual conference, stuck out my hand and said, “Hi, I’m Laura,” only to discover that I’ve travelled with them/spoken on a panel with them/interviewed them/sang karaoke with them at last year’s conference/etc. So having a consistent photo of someone pop up in multiple places really helps me when I meet them in the “real world.
My only worry with my headshot is that I’ll eventually have to stop using it and get a new one done. I once sat next to a famous writer at a conference and didn’t recognize her, even though a huge photo of her was displayed at the entrance to the banquet room (she was the keynote speaker). She saw me blink and burst out laughing. “Yeah, I don’t look anything like my publicity photo anymore,” she said. “It was taken 15 years ago, but I like it!”
And now it’s your turn. Point me to great or heinous headshots. Tell me what you think. And thanks to these busy folks for answering my questions.
As the tragedy of the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh unfolds, I’ve been thinking about something that happened more than 100 years ago.
In April 1911, a tragic fire in a clothing factory in New York killed 146 garment workers at the Triangle Waist Company and injured 71. Until 9/11, it was the second-deadliest disaster in that city’s history.
When I was a kid, I saw a TV movie based on this tragedy, and for some reason it stuck with me. Perhaps it was because at about 13, I was watching child actors portray workers in danger at the factory and dying from burns, or from jumping from the 10th storey or higher, as the flames became more intense.
And that fire’s come back to me now as rescuers give up hope in Dhaka and the body count rises past 400. The dead in New York in 1911 were the bottom of the barrel. They were recent immigrants, young women, desperately trying to gain a foothold in their new country. They worked making women’s blouses (known as shirtwaists) nine hours a day Monday to Friday, and seven hours on Saturday, for the princely sum of $12 per week.
When the fire broke out, apparently when someone dropped a match or cigarette in some cloth scraps, it raged through the factory, helped by the fact that far too much scrap cloth had been left in bins. And the doors to the factory were locked.
So the workers tried to escape. The fire escape, a compromise between the factory owners and the city, was shoddy, and 20 workers fell to their deaths when it collapsed and fell 100 feet to the ground.
Horrified onlookers watched dozens of people leap from the building, some described as “living torches.”
Now compare that to the thousands of garment workers in Bangladesh, making less than $40 per month as compensation for their contribution to the Bangladeshi export economy, which accounts for 80% of the nation’s exports.
The tragedy of this collapse is infuriating, given the fact that the building was constructed without the slightest apparent regard for building code regulations, and that the owner apparently tried to escape the country once the collapse occurred.
And when it was discovered that Canadian brand Joe Fresh was one of the brands being produced there, Canadians began to ask themselves whether they should be buying cloths. Talk of a boycott of Bangladeshi products began.
The issue was then complicated by people pointing out that a boycott of Bangladeshi goods might well result in hurting the very workers that it was intended to support and assist. As the Globe and Mail’s Doug Saunders wrote:
“The garment boom has reduced poverty sharply and raised the status of women. This has coincided with a five-year period of democratic stability. But the cities are corrupt and virtually ungoverned – almost certainly the root cause of the building collapse. Changes to building codes, safety standards and hygiene are unlikely to happen unless pressure comes from outside.
We know it can work. In 2010, Dhaka’s garment workers held huge protests: They won a historic minimum-wage increase of 80 per cent, to around $50 a month. And pressure from North American companies, chastened and embarrassed by events such as last year’s lethal fire, has increased safety and working standards in factories that sell to the West. Similar pressure can force companies to pay workers fairly and keep them safe from disaster and abuse.
The garment boom has helped reduce poverty in the West (by reducing clothing costs) and in the East (by providing wages far higher than subsistence farming or casual labour). The next step is to remain connected, and to demand the sort of workplace standards that should be universal. Bangladeshi workers should have the same protections that our own workers won, through tragedy and horror, a century ago.”
As you can see, I’m far from the only person thinking about this tragedy and relating it to the Triangle fire.
When over decades, living standards for workers in the West increased, and worker protections increased apace, we’ve seen that production go overseas, to places in which those protections and standards don’t exist. The Bangladeshi workers share many characteristics with their sisters who died 100 years ago.
But knee-jerk reactions don’t make for concerted change. It’s important for us to learn and to listen to those who know more about what’s happening on the ground, and then to figure out what the best thing to do is and to try to help our fellow man and woman by supporting in the BEST way possible, not simply the one that makes us feel good. And if we truly believe this is an important issue, we should be willing to act in a more substantive way than just clicking like on a Facebook page or signing an online petition.
Here’s a documentary about the Triangle fire that I found on Youtube.
I rarely blog in anger. But my blood is boiling right now.
I got pointed this morning to a blog post by a UK copywriter.
She called out Hyundai, and its ad agency Innocean, for this ad:
In case this is pulled, the idea is this: Man tapes up his car windows, seals himself in the garage, and feeds his Hyundai’s exhaust into the car. But it’s so green, he can’t complete the act of suicide.
Copybot writer Holly Brockwells was upset by this for two reasons. One, it’s offensive. Two, her father killed himself in just this way when she was a child.
I, too, am a survivor of suicide in my family. And I can’t tell you how angry and upset I am that someone would not only conceive of this ad, but then go through all the steps necessary to COMPLETE it.
I’m not going to go through all the reasons why this is so offensive and hurtful. You’re all smart enough to know why already. So some advice: whatever your work is within the world of communications and PR and social media, ask yourself a question:
Is what I’m doing or saying decent?
If the answer’s no, STOP.
UPDATE: Hyundai has issued a terse apology for the ad: “We at Hyundai Motor America are shocked and saddened by the depiction of a suicide attempt in an inappropriate European video featuring a Hyundai. Suicide merits thoughtful discussion, not this type of treatment.” Note that they are distancing themselves from it being a Hyundai ad. I have reached out to Hyundai’s media team asking questions about this. This National Post story suggests Hyundai wasn’t involved in making the ad.
Bad Science blogger Ben Goldacre says this ad could actually increase suicide rates by this method.
UPDATE 2: I have a response from Hyundai USA’s corporate comms folks and a statement from Hyundai Europe.
“Hyundai Motor deeply and sincerely apologizes for the offensive viral ad.
The ad was created by an affiliate advertising agency, Innocean Europe, without Hyundai’s request or approval. It runs counter to our values as a company and as members of the community. We are very sorry for any offense or distress the video caused.
More to the point, Hyundai apologizes to those who have been personally impacted by tragedy.”
I have an email out to Hyundai Europe and to Innocean with questions. I will update when I have more.
Hyundai Europe provided the following response:
Dear Bob,in response to your note I like to provide you the following statement -“Hyundai Motor deeply and sincerely apologizes for the offensive ad depicting a suicide attempt in one of our vehicles.
The ad was created by an affiliate advertising agency, Innocean Europe, without Hyundai’s request or approval. Nevertheless, it runs counter to our values as a company and as members of the community. We are very sorry for any offense or distress the video caused.More to the point, Hyundai apologizes to those who have been personally impacted by tragedy”
I hope this helps and you will understand we are not commenting beyond this. Thank you.RegardsAndreas
Dear Bob Ledrew,
In regards to the recent film “Pipe Job” which has caused controversy in the media recently, firstly we write to confirm that the film was produced by INNOCEAN Worldwide Europe GmbH without the approval of our Client, Hyundai Motor Company.
The film was designed to creatively dramatize the technical strength of the vehicle featured and posted just in Youtube of INNOCEAN Europe. Clearly we misjudged consumer sentiment and INNOCEAN Worldwide Europe has already issued a formal statement of apology.
INNOCEAN Worldwide deeply apologizes for this incident and would like to express our sincere apology to everyone for any distress caused.
we will endeavor to learn from this unfortunate incident and will continue to work with added vigor to become the Company that better understands consumers, human and worldwide.
PR Team / INNOCEAN Worldwide Global HQ
I’m responding with further questions.
Plagiarism is a big deal from the time we all go to school. Of course, back when I was in my first university program in the 1980s, plagiarism was achieved by retyping content. The Internet, CTRL-C and CTRL-V, made plagiarism MUCH more simple. And not surprisingly, tools like Turnitin popped up to help teachers and professors to determine if a term paper or essay contained plagiarized content.
And in the media, plagiairism is always a hot topic. Margaret Wente of the Globe and Mail is a lightning rod for allegations of plagiarism, but she’s far from the only high-profile journalist or writer caught cribbing others’ notes (think Doris Kearns Goodwin or Jonah Lehrer). Even my main man Stephen King has written about plagiarism (in “Secret Window, Secret Garden“) and himself been accused to the point of lawsuits.
So I was interested to see Paid Content write about a new tool called Churnalism. Churnalism US, as it’s apparently going to be called to differentiate it from the original UK site Churnalism, is a new initiative from the Sunlight Foundation. It’s a tool that lets people paste in text or a URL, and then find out if that particular content is taken from something in a database of sources the tool searches. That database currently includes:
- PR NewsWeb
- Congressional Leadership
- The White House
- Trade Organizations
- Fortune 500 Companies
- Nonprofit Research Institutes and Thinktanks
According to the Paid Content post, Churnalism also searches Wikipedia.
Interesting stuff, eh? So here’s my question: if a journalist copies and pastes content from a news release, is that plagiarism?
Step one. What is the definition of plagiarism?
noun1. an act or instance of using or closely imitating the language and thoughts of another author without authorization and the representation of that author’s work as one’s own, as by not crediting the original author: It is said that he plagiarized Thoreau’s plagiarism of a line written by Montaigne.Synonyms: appropriation, infringement, piracy, counterfeiting; theft, borrowing, cribbing, passing off.
2. a piece of writing or other work reflecting such unauthorized use or imitation: “These two manuscripts are clearly plagiarisms,” the editor said, tossing them angrily on the floor.
Seems there are two factors here:
- without authorization
- lack of credit
The folks at PR Watch were pretty emphatic when it came to the use of Video News Releases or VNRs back in ’06. They felt that the practice of TV news stations inserting full “news reports” prepared and distributed by PR firms in their newscasts was unethical, simply calling it “fake news.” But those news releases weren’t “plagiarism”, per se. The ethical problem there was one of pretending that this was journalism when it had not gone through any journalistic processes.
But as Pekka Pekkala points out in Online Journalism Review, “copy-paste journalism” is rampant, especially in technology journalism. And columnist Steve Penn suing his newspaper for wrongful dismissal in the US is arguing that it was common practice for journalists there to cut and paste. When journalism site Poynter reported on his case last year, a Twitter-based poll they ran at the time found a quarter of respondents saying copy-paste was OK even without attribution and only 3% saying it was plagiarism.
Most journalists would likely argue that grabbing content from a news release is wrong. But what about a quote from the release? Is that plagiarism?
The issues this new tool raises are interesting ones.
- Are we PR folks distributing news releases with the assumption or the hope they WILL be copied? (IMO, not necessarily an assumption or a hope, but an acceptance that they will be copied from time to time)
- Is there an implicit authorization for those on the other end to do so? (IMO, yes)
- Are journalists who do this wrong? (To quote my FIR colleagues, it depends)
- Are journalists who do this plagiarists and deserving of disciplinary action? (No)
What do you think?
Before I get into the blog post proper, a quick note: my heart goes out to all those suffering in Boston. If you would like to help those affected by the bombings, I might suggest The One Fund, which has been established by the Mayor of Boston and the Governor of Massachusetts.
All right. On to a crisis of a much less dire nature.
Last fall, Canada’s Finance Minister Jim Flaherty held a media event at a bike shop here in Ottawa. Joe Mamma is a funky shop here in town, specializing in hipster fixies and cool cruiser bikes. In the event, Flaherty talked about some of the measures contained in his government’s 2012 budget, highlighting a small business tax credit and the government’s decision to hold the line on new taxes. The 2012 budget also elminated duties on miports of athletic equipment. Good news for an indie bike shop owner.
Fast-forward a few months: Same bike shop. Different MP from an opposition party. Different message.
In the 2013 budget, the government announced a number of new tariffs (which, they told media nad opposition, aren’t taxes at all), some of which affected … you guessed it… bicycles. Now looks like those bikes that Jose Bray sells at Joe Mamma are going to be MORE expensive. So the NDP, Canada’s official opposition party, held a news conference at Joe Mamma to criticize the 2013 budget.
I’m not going to get into the politics of this — beyond saying I like lower prices for bikes because I’m a cyclist.
But if you’re doing any sort of public or media event, you may want to think about that event setting. I’m sure Flaherty’s staff thought Joe Mamma was an ideal setting for an event. But they missed the contingency that budget changes that were likely being discussed as they held that event could irritate the owner to such an extent that he would hold another event to criticize them.
If you’re the “backdrop” for an event, it might be a good idea to be very clear with the event organizer about that’s happening. In one story talking about the duelling photo ops, shop owner Jose Bray talked about about not being aware of what was actually being announced by Flaherty, and then feeling blindsided by the new tariffs. Even if it’s a cabinet minister, you have the right to ask exactly what they’re announcing. They may tell you to pound sand and find another location. But that’s the way things go sometimes.
And kudos to the NDP’s staff, for making the opportunity happen by reaching out to him.
A bad event is like taking a photo in the middle of Times Square. A good event is like taking a studio portrait of someone. Your goal, whether you’re the organizer or the “backdrop”, is to control as many factors as possible to allow your messages to get out. The studio’s lighting, props, and makeup are the same thing as the event’s backdrop, spokespeople, and schedule. Make sure that you’re making decisions that are designed to benefit you or your organization to the greatest extent possible.