When Does Embellishing End and Lying Begin?

How to Know when Someone's Lying
Image by ATENCION: via Flickr

Let me ask you a question – what’s your view of the PR industry? It doesn’t matter if you’re involved in it professionally, someone that uses its services or just an average person on the street – is it a positive or negative view?

I’m guessing that the majority of views about the industry I love and work in are fairly negative. There’s the belief that we’re charlatans who are just after a client’s money, we don’t tell the truth and we have an over-inflated opinion of ourselves.

Sadly, all of that and more is true of some of the “professionals” in the PR industry.

Yet for every one bad egg, I can pretty safely say that there are many more good and ethical PR professionals who are trying desperately to rid the industry of the individuals who give it a bad name.

By working differently; having our practices transparent and open for anyone to see; and encouraging the new breed of PR professionals and interns coming through to have more say in our industry. It’s a slow process, but it is happening.

Which is why this press release from Melrose Jeweler’s disgusts me so much.

According to the release, Hollywood actor Owen Wilson was contemplating suicide until he realized that the quality of his own life must be good because of the quality of his Rolex watch. That’s right – his watch proved to him the value of his life.

What. The. F**k?!?

Now, I don’t know how serious Owen Wilson’s issues are, or his state of mind – I’ve never been a big follower of celebrity news. But whatever his problems (or anyone else that feels so desperate in their situation that they consider taking their own life), I’m pretty sure a piece of jewelry isn’t going to mean a whole lot to them, no matter how luxurious.

At first, I (like many others) thought that the blame for the morally-lacking release laid at Rolex’s feet. But when you actually take a little time to look into the story and the background of it, you realize that it originates from the blog of Melrose Jewelers. Dig a little further still, and you see that Melrose Jewelers are only selling pre-owned Rolex watches – which kind of makes them little more than a second-hand watch shop.

Taking all that into context, and the sheer crassness of the blog post and subsequent press release, I wonder if Rolex are even aware of the statements being made by Melrose Jewelers on behalf of their brand? Since the original blog post was published on December 15 2008, and I can’t find any rebuttal online from Rolex, it looks like they’re not aware of the release. Which then has me asking more questions:

  • If one of the most well-known companies in the world for luxury watches isn’t aware of something as bad as this story, what does it say about their brand monitoring strategy?
  • Are the owners of Melrose Jewelers so insensitive they’ll resort to measures such as using someone’s suffering to try and boost profits? Didn’t they learn anything from the Back-Up Shotgun Rack fiasco?
  • Does the editorial process of newswire sites need looking at if they think this kind of release is acceptable? Or are our morals no longer part of approval?

There’s a lot wrong with this story and I’m sure there’s a lot more to come, particularly if Rolex is still to find out about it. (And I’m hoping that’s the case and that they’re not part of the whole mess). On early viewing, it does look like it’s a horrible PR stunt taking advantage of someone’s suffering and that only helps confirm people’s negative views of the industry.

Looking at it more, though, it’s clear that it’s the jeweler that’s at fault – even the media contact on the press release is a “Mike D.” from the Melrose sales team. Which makes me question whether there was any PR guidance given at all – personally, I doubt it. No PR professional – no good one, that is – would have touched this with a barge pole. Additionally, there are no direct quotes from either Rolex or Owen Wilson – another sign that the press release lacks any authoritative backing.

Lessons learned? Know how your brand is being represented online. Monitor your name at all times. Your reputation depends on it, and that’s your most valuable asset.

As for Melrose Jewelers? I ask you this – what do you think this does for your reputation?

  • Update. Following this post, I received a Cease and Desist letter from an attorney representing Melrose Jewelers. You can read all about it and my response here.
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  1. Cathy Browne says

    The article was apparently written by a John Lavitt, who has written other Rolex-centric blog posts…I can't believe the crassness of the blog, the fact that Marketwire would actually DISTRIBUTE the piece, and that Owen Wilson is so desperate that he would allow this to happen…shame on all of the parties involved. Makes all good PR people shudder.

    Cathy Browne's Recent post…null

    • says

      I agree Cathy – from a PR perspective, questions need to be asked of Marketwire's editorial process as well. If this is their "quality control" at work, then I sure won't be sending any of my client's releases as well.

      As for the release itself, the more I read it the more I feel it wasn't written by a PR professional – it's too salesy and not really news-oriented – a mistake that's all too common in non-PR written press releases.

  2. says

    I'd hold Melrose responsible for the release, but I'd also hold Rolex responsible for not monitoring their brand and making sure they immediately issued a response to this.

    Does anyone know if Owen Wilson had anything to say about it? I don't follow the celebrity gossip columns at all, so I don't know :)

    Great post Danny. I'm headed over to google alerts right now to add a few more names into the list of names I need to be alerted about :)

    Mike Smith's Recent post…See Through Blogger: Are you on the positive or negative side?

  3. says

    The thing is, does Rolex know it's being talked about this way? I think that's the crux of the matter on this one. If the aim was to get people talking about a company, regardless of the approach, then it should have been Melrose Jewelers that the main conversation pieces are about. Unfortunately, it's not – because of the press release's liberal use of the word "Rolex", most people feel that it's Rolex who are at fault here.

    It'll be interesting to see what their response is (if, as I hope, they're not part of this "PR" push).

    And I agree with you on the whole "any news is good news" – that's a term that was outdated the moment someone came up with it.

    Thanks for stopping by and sharing your views, Eric, appreciate it.

  4. says

    Hi Danny. Awesome job, as always. Score one for the good guys – you – for pointing out yet another poor excuse for what masquerades as PR. I don't know what I'd have to add. It's blatantly wrong — the tie-in, Rolex' lack of monitoring, etc. Bravo to you for bringing it to the forefront, as many who will read this may not know better, and I thank you for pointing it out to them. We can only hope that by leading by example we can "out" those that pollute the PR stream for those of us who take great care to protect our craft. Be well, my friend. ~ Lizz

    • says

      Thanks Lizz. It's a shame we even have to come out and defend our industry when it would appear to be someone that's not a part of it tainting it. I guess every industry has this to work around – just seems more prevalent with PR. Hey ho..

  5. says

    Funnily enough, I was speaking to someone today about Rolex's awareness. He's in the jewelry industry and was at a big meeting last night where the CEO of Rolex was also attending. The press release was alluded to and whether Rolex had any say in it – while there was no immediate answer, I think we'll be hearing a lot about it in the next few days. Google Alerts seem a good option for the foreseeable future… 😉

  6. says

    It's incredible that such an issue can be 'overlooked' by the organisation whose brand equity is being damaged, arguably Rolex in this case. The creation of blog content concerning the subject will invariably cause the brand's name to become increasingly visible for all the wrong reasons. As the content continues to be updated, even a basic brand search will highlight the blogs discussing the negative content. Through the implementation of Internet monitoring, the brand in question should quickly become aware of any threats to the brand's equity.

    Can organisations really be this naive towards the potentially detrimental effects which the Internet can have on the brand. I guess so…


    The Lovable Rogue's Recent post…Keeping the Conversation Alive

    • says

      The recent Motrin Moms debacle on Twitter only emphasizes your points, Chris.

      Information – personal and business – is available immediately to a cast of millions. If you ignore it because you don't want to hear "bad things" being said about you – well, more fool you.

  7. says

    Yes another example of organizations and/or people who don't understand the power of the web.

    Or is it?

    Regardless of how crass it is….it has us talking about Rolex doesn't it? For those people that think any news is good news, they think they've done there job.

    That said, I don't agree with the 'any news…' mentality. When people talk about your brand, you want them to smile…not shudder.

    • says

      Thanks for pointing that out, Sue. Like you say, they would have come across as more genuine had they removed the piece altogether. As it stands, they're just as insensitive as the "3rd-party writer" they're looking to blame.

      And the press release is still live as well – so what does that tell us?

  8. says

    This definitely puts brand monitoring into perspective.

    Branding is so messy these days. You have to be willing to get in there with the mess. This just illustrates that further. So many people think they own your brand… and so many companies are terrified about that idea, the loss of brand messaging, getting messy, etc. etc. etc.

    But the hard truth is, if other people are the ones talking about your brand, don’t they really own it?

    At least their part of the conversation. And 99% of the people who came across this message online didn’t do what you did. They didn’t dissect the brand “responsible” for the story. They heard Rolex, got upset, and moved on.

  9. says

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  10. says

    One of the best selections of preowned Rolex watches online. We offer genuine luxury watches from ladies’ and Men’s Used Rolex Datejusts, President’s, and other Models.Hour Jewelry is committed to finding the best quality pre-owned men’s Rolex watches and pre-owned ladies’ Rolex watches.

  11. says

    One of the best selections of preowned Rolex watches online. We offer genuine luxury watches from ladies’ and Men’s Used Rolex Datejusts, President’s, and other Models.Hour Jewelry is committed to finding the best quality pre-owned men’s Rolex watches and pre-owned ladies’ Rolex watches.