Should I let the PR machine work through me?
October 10, 2007 10:26 AM   Subscribe

Should I let a PR company put out a message through my Facebook group? What would be the implications?

I am the admin/group creator for a Facebook group based around a recent movie that is only now coming out in other, non-US parts of the world. I've received the following message from a random account (not an account belonging to the writer of the message):


Glad to see you're a [movie] fan! I work for a PR company called [name of company], and we're working on the [country] release of the film. I'm trying to upload a couple of clips from the film to the group, but how would you fancy dropping the members of the group a message telling them about the film's [country] release?

We can give you all the text etc, and some links to find out more. Drop me a line if you're interested in letting more people know about the film, either here or at [].

Many thanks!

[PR company]

I've checked out this company's website. They appear to be legitimate, with a lot of big-name clients.

Aside from a disinclination to being used, I don't mind alerting the group members to the [country] release of the film. I might have done it on my own. I also know that in running this group, I have been doing free PR for the film. I like the movie, so that doesn't bother me. (I'm actually surprised that we haven't been told to take down the photos in the group album, since they don't belong to us - do copyright issues only come up when the publicists for the movie in question aren't getting something out of the infringement?)

My question is: What should I do with this PR stuff? Should I refuse on principle? Should I accept on principle? (Props to them for using Facebook - that's smart, if creepy.) Can/should I get something in return for posting their stuff? Will any messy obligations arise from endorsing them? Is it wrong for them to start using my group as part of their campaign? If I go into business or marketing, can I use this for leverage or networking?
posted by ramenopres to Work & Money (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Bottom line - distribute it if you think your group would like to see the info. Otherwise, don't.

PR has a bad rap, but in this case, the representative has done his/her homework - they know who you are and are actually giving you information you want.

That said, you have no reason to help them out.

This PR person will likely continue contacting you regardless. Be prepared to either develop a relationship with him/her or just ignore the deluge of press releases.
posted by OrangeDrink at 10:32 AM on October 10, 2007

I would say if you're interested in notifying the group about an overseas release, mention it yourself. Don't use their copy and shred your credibility by sounding like a PR machine. Just think if they suddenly thought you had Pepsi Blue-ed them!

Explain to the PR group that you'll make mention, and if you want to write it in a way that includes the links, feel free to. But I doubt using their copy will make you look like anything but a shill.

posted by disillusioned at 10:34 AM on October 10, 2007

Ask for a ridiculous sum of money and if they are the type of guerrilla marketing douchebags we all assume they are and actually pay you then distribute your earnings amongst the group and boycott the movie.
posted by pwally at 10:37 AM on October 10, 2007

Negotiate for some freebies for the away some free movie passes or soundtracks (if applicable) to members of the group, or later giving away some free DVDs...even opportunities to interview cast/director for the group...stuff like that is part of reason you shouldn't have access to it, if they have access to you...see what you and get and discuss it with the group (but don't slip it in without discussing it, because it will turn some people off the group entirely, some of whom might suspect the the group itself was organized by the PR agency)
posted by troybob at 10:38 AM on October 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yes, how much are they offering to pay you for access to this built-in network of people guaranteed to be interested in their product (if not the delivery method)? And yes, don't do anything that would harm your credibility here or cause your network to fracture. What you have already (group interest) is more valuable than cheesing it out.
posted by rhizome at 10:40 AM on October 10, 2007

I would never do this. Just my personal view. The users of your group did not join to get the shill from a PR company using you as their puppet. I think you'll lose users, if that matters to you.
posted by loiseau at 10:54 AM on October 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

Let me put it another way: if they'd wanted to join an official fan site, they would have.
posted by loiseau at 10:55 AM on October 10, 2007

Best answer: I work in PR myself, so I certainly understand this person's interest in contacting you to help spread the word. If you are a fan of their product, there seems to be no reason not to share their info.

If you're concerned about your credibility, which is understandable since you don't want people thinking you work for the PR company, you could post their info and preface it by saying: (PR Company), which is promoting the (country) release of (movie), found our group and shared this news with me.

You could paraphrase the information however you choose or just post it the way it's given to you. My company hasn't yet, but we are looking into Facebook and myspace as a way to reach the public. They are so widely used we'd be foolish to overlook them. It's no different than bands having their fans added as "friends" on myspace to market their music.

I hate that, as another commentor mentioned, "PR has a bad rap." I doesn't sound like you have anything to lose by working with this person. In fact, you may stand to gain if they throw some perks (movie passes, posters, whatever) your way as a thanks.
posted by Ruby Doomsday at 10:57 AM on October 10, 2007

If you really think its useful info, i'd say do it - but mention in the text that they contacted you about it, and give your people a chance to reply and let you know if they think it was appropriate or not, so you'll know for next time.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 10:59 AM on October 10, 2007

Rather than bomb your members with messages, why not just post the PR rep's text and links as a discussion item or posted item in your FB group page? That way you're not spamming your members but still promoting the movie on the FB group page. I'd also add a disclaimer at the bottom of the post mentioning that it came from movie PR.
posted by junesix at 11:06 AM on October 10, 2007

You might look into posting an poll on the group's page asking the members of the group if they would be adverse to receiving a few promotional messages, clearly labeled as such, in exchange for some tickets/posters/etc and let the group decide for themselves.

Personally, as an avid Facebook user, I would be annoyed mostly if there were tons of messages and they weren't clearly labeled as promotional.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 11:10 AM on October 10, 2007

Best answer: I think it was good form of them to ask you if it was okay. They could have just joined the group and posted the links themselves (if your group is set up that way).

I'd say post it as a discussion link/posted item rather than sending out messages to everyone, acknowledging very clearly where the content came from. Put your own introductory text in front of it. If you can negotiate some freebies from the company, that would be a good trade off. You could raffle 'em off to your members, which would drum up goodwill. Don't make fun of the company using Facebook as a marketing tool if you are getting free stuff from them. :) (Leave that to your members - they'll let you know if you don't like it.)

If I was your group member, I would think "hey neat, someone connected to this movie I'm interested got in touch with us personally to tell us information about it". Yes, marketing can be too aggressive, but asking if it's okay and having the group admin post it is an awful lot better than the stealth campaigns that are posted by people pretending to be fans.

Done right, this doesn't have to be a Pepsi Blue-type incident - it can just be information from an official channel that you received and want to share with your group.
posted by melissa at 11:53 AM on October 10, 2007

I quit groups that use the Send Message To All feature. If you do this you will lose some members and gain... what exactly?

I would have no objection to a wall post or discussion board post for something of this nature.
posted by grouse at 12:16 PM on October 10, 2007

Agree with others. Were I in such a group, I would find a mass message distateful (under any circumstance). A posted note prefaced with "here is some information from [PR Company]" would be perfectly OK with me.
posted by PercussivePaul at 12:52 PM on October 10, 2007

Best answer: Allow them to post if you would have allowed someone else to post the same thing.

Mention the release if you otherwise would have mentioned it.

Tell the group that the PR firm is posting the video and that the PR firm asked you to mention the release.
posted by winston at 12:58 PM on October 10, 2007

I wish I still worked in PR, Facebook would have made things much easier. Maybe.

I vote for either telling PR people you'll send info o the group, but in your own words. Or prefixing their message with a "I've been sent this info by X PR Company".

But yeah, only do it if you're already making these sorts of communications to your group - having the only mass message to your group be seeded by a PR company may be a little distasteful.

If it is a genuinely large group, it might also be worth seeing if the company can arrange any perks for your group. Perhaps they can pony up some merchandise which you can give away, or something. But again, only if that would be in fitting with what the members of your group might expect. You certainly wouldn't want to present the impression that you've been bought out.
posted by sycophant at 1:46 PM on October 10, 2007

This is indicative of how despised PR has become I guess, but personally I'd be relatively pleased if a PR company approached me in this way. This (personalised, non-pushy approach) is pretty much how they're SUPPOSED to do it. More typically you can expect to be the recipient of a poorly targeted mail-merge spam.

In any case, the source of the information is irrelevant IMO. If it meets the criteria of uniqueness / interestingness / whatever that you would otherwise apply in your decisions about adding content to your site, use it. If it doesn't, don't. You don't NEED to disclose the source on the site IMO, unless your community is particularly militantly anti-PR - that just makes the whole thing clunky and awkward looking. It's purely an aesthetic issue in my opinion.

Your ethics are not really determined by disclosure in this case, they're determined by maintaining the same internal criteria you would use for use or dissemination of the information as you would have used if you had stumbled across it yourself.
posted by bifter at 1:54 AM on October 11, 2007

The key here is transparency. Go ahead and share whatever info you can find or get that the group would enjoy, just tell them where you got it. No big deal.

Also, guerilla marketing would have meant setting up a fake profile and posting the clips and links as if they were a fan. They've acted appropriately by contacting you privately and being upfront about who they are and what they're doing.
posted by lhall at 8:26 AM on October 11, 2007

That said, unless you're already doing "send to all" messages, don't do one specifically for the "official" clips/info. That's what the discussion board is for.
posted by lhall at 8:29 AM on October 11, 2007

Response by poster: Also, guerilla marketing would have meant setting up a fake profile and posting the clips and links as if they were a fan.

Actually, they've already posted a few clips under the profile that they used to contact me. There is nothing in the profile to suggest that it does not belong to your average Facebook user, except maybe a lack of content.

I would find a mass message distateful

I will likely post a note alerting people to the release. If the company has any worthy additional information, I'll add that, too. I never send mass messages, so that won't be happening.
posted by ramenopres at 1:19 PM on October 11, 2007

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