Lies, damned lies and...

Is making up a story just to get exposure acceptable? It's not a new phenomenon, but it doesn't make it right. A story about this appeared a couple of months back in the New York Times So, are there different levels on a scale of 1 to 10 for "made up" stories? 

On cyber Monday at the end of november last year, Amazon was all over the media with the story about the drones. Now, never say never, but I'm sure the cynics of this world will see it as nothing but a publicity stunt because there are not going to be drones delivering Amazon packages to our front doors in the foreseeable future — but we all heard about it and we all know it was Amazon. 

Take Europe's low-cost airline, Ryanair, whose (love him or hate him) CEO, Michael O’Leary, lives and breathes to have his face and voice in the media. A while ago they announced they were stripping some seats from the planes so they could increase passenger capacity by allowing standing room. I'm no expert in aviation safety or regulations but I can't see that ever, excuse the pun, taking off. And if that wasn't enough, the airline was going to introduce a charge to use the planes’ washrooms. All very unlikely I guess but what does it achieve for Mr O'Leary and Ryanair? It puts him on the front page of the papers, it puts him on the evening TV news and allows him to remind us of his never changing mantra about flying passengers at the lowest possible fare. There are numerous add-ons which appear on the price by the time you actually thunder down the tarmac but that’s a subject for another day. Just before we move on, there’s a quick story I’d like to share with you about their inflight catering — a passenger complained it was low quality and expensive food, his reply was “Bring your own sandwiches” Problem solved; got to love him…

So there we have a couple of businesses who may, I say MAY, be spinning a tale to get publicity. But there is a more serious side to this in the way the world now expects instant gratification. As Ravi and Leslie at the New York Times say in their article, many online media providers run with a story to be first to market rather than check the facts to ensure accuracy. This can lead to all sorts of tales hitting the news and then once when what we think are good and faithful accounts are rubbished when the truth comes out, do we start to look at all stories with a jaundiced slant? We all know that many major media organizations across the world will have an allegiance to one political leaning or another and that is something we have learned to understand and appreciate. But to actually produce and publish an account of something that never happened is a very different matter.

As a rule of thumb, I think the cynics of this world would suggest the more outrageous the story, the less likely it is to be true. It's a bit like calling in sick to your boss; we all get ill from time to time and some find it necessary to take time off work but don't phone in and say the car won't start, you don't feel well and the cat’s been sick on the carpet. Enough already — on this occasion, for whatever reason, you have decided to stay at home. 

But moving back into the more public domain, rather than a cheeky phone call to your boss, have we now got to a point where readers/viewers/listeners need to think very carefully about the truth of the story where the facts seem incredible? Is like your "friend" who shares a link with you on something like Facebook — the more outrageous and flamboyant story, the less likely it is to be genuine. This treading with caution approach, where one doesn't necessarily fully believe what you been told, has for 1000s years been a fairly common approach in a relationship between a salesperson and a potential customer. This seems to have worked very well over history but there's always the tale of the customer bought something which they don't really want, don't really need or it doesn't do what they've been told it will do. If we now have to take this approach with news media across the globe particularly those who are being courted by the large corporate communication teams, I think it is a fairly sorry day for the human race.

Scaling this whole subject down to something that we at Bawtree experience, in our business we hear about many ideas and concepts from many different people. A few of those ideas are genuinely good ideas, some of those ideas truly ill thought out rubbish — we’re not interested in working with or taking money from for that matter, anybody who comes to us with an idea which we don't "get" or we are fairly confident is doomed to failure at an early stage. But, there's always somebody somewhere in this world who will quite happily take the money from the owner of the poor idea leaving them high and dry and their confidence in tatters. This kind of activity can lead to whole sectors of industries been tarred with the same brush so if we all treat each and very opportunity fairly and in the the way we would wish to be treated ourselves, the whole potential for this nastiness and unhappiness can be nipped in the bud at the earliest possible opportunity.

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