The stupidity of some public relations people is infinite. The younger supposedly internet savvy ones are dumb enough (and usually know nothing about online communication) but the older ones really are unbelievably retarded. Like John Flower. He’s the director of Hothouse Media and Events (HHME).
In my capacity as a Melbourne blogger I recently published a criticism of HHME focused on their violation of Australian Privacy Act and the Spam Act in continuing to contact me by email when I had repeatedly asked them to take me off their email list. I find naming and shaming to be extremely effective in initiating change (and entertaining an audience).
Being spammed by PR goons is widely disliked by bloggers. Unsolicited email that does not meet specific criteria is defined in Australian law as spam. It is illegal for businesses to send spam to people and to continue to do so when they have asked for it to stop. Too few are held accountable for their actions.
The post received no response from HHME and I moved on to other amusements. I rarely know whether the people and businesses whose online behaviour I analyse and discuss monitor their online reputations and find what I write. It’s usually satisfying when I receive a comment in response, positive or not, or an email.
Yesterday I received some unpleasant information face to face. My manager at my new employer told me that my criticism of HHME was brought to the attention of the CEO of my company by Flower.
I work in the wine industry and HHME does PR for a popular soft drink company, and there is obviously crossover in the broader drinks industry. I have no idea how Flower knew that I was working for my employer.
If the allegation is true it’s a pathetic, spineless, vindictive, passive-aggressive thing to do. His decision to forward his criticism to the CEO of my company is, in my opinion, highly inappropriate because it is ignorant and motivated by revenge (for a public humiliation he brought on himself). I’ll discuss the ignorance first.
He naively assumes that my authorial persona in Fitzroyalty is a transparent and authentic representation of my personality. It is not. I have previously explained that it is a deliberate construct that exaggerates and alters aspects of my personality. It’s Max Headroom with a PhD.
Flower appears to have acted with the assumption that my post reflected negatively on my professionalism and thus my suitability for my role. He fails to understand that my individual identity belongs to me and not my employer. My identity is not defined by who I work for. My employer does not own me.
Fortunately the CEO and the managers above me think this is a trivial matter and are comfortable with the professional way in which I separate my personal and work activities. So I’m not going to suffer the fate of the teacher who was sacked because her employer (the state of NSW) did not approve of her personal life.
Now to the issue of revenge. My description of my experience was honest and legitimate. The public humiliation Flower received was deserved because I contacted him and asked him to fix the problem and he failed to do so. It was between Fitzroyalty and HHME, and that should have been the end of the matter.
By attempting to undermine my professional reputation with my employer, Flower has exacerbated the situation in an unethical and manipulative way. There will be consequences to his behaviour.
I have revisited the issue of the breach of privacy his company engaged in. Here’s a screen capture of Flower’s email from June. There are several things wrong with this email. Firstly, it does not indicate how to unsubscribe. Failing to provide information about how to unsubscribe is a breach of the Spam Act. Without implied or express consent, it is not lawful for a business to contact you. Spamming is illegal.
I’m going to make a formal complaint to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and the Privacy Commissioner. My complaint will be based on the spam emails as I doubt Flower’s pathetic attempt to interfere in my career has any legal connection to privacy.
- Members shall deal fairly and honestly with their employers, clients and prospective clients, with their fellow workers including superiors and subordinates, with public officials, the communication media, the general public and with fellow members of PRIA.
- Members shall avoid conduct or practices likely to bring discredit upon themselves, the Institute, their employers or clients.
Flower’s behaviour arguably breaches these criteria and should make interesting reading for their ethics committee (assuming HHME is a member).
I believe that Flower’s criticism is simply another example of old school PR not understanding social media and feeling threatened by its proliferation and their own ignorance. Consequently, this situation reflects poorly on Flower, not on me.
Men like Flower should have died out long ago. In communications terms he’s homo erectus. I’m homo sapiens sapiens, a mortal with the potential of a superman.
I have achieved significant victories against old media, including winning a case against News Ltd at the Australian Press Council and defeating Formula One Management in the US jurisdiction in a copright dispute. Dealing with a flacid fossil is not much of a challenge.
Listen dude. The age of control over. You don’t control the medium or the message. You may have been trained to bury bad news and project only positive spin in the era of media scarcity but we’re now in the age of media abundance. Get with the program.
The truth will come out and you can’t stop it. The harder you try to fight it the dumber you look. Big up the interwebs. Yo.