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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