The Worst Content Marketing Is What Everybody Else Is Doing: How to Get Ahead and Stay ThereContent Marketing Minds: Ingredients of the Tastiest Content [Nutrition Label]From the Corn Field to the Digital Era: Content Marketing Starts with TrustContent Marketing: Is 2014 Really Shaping Up to Be the Year of Video?
Your Customers Aren’t Listening! How to Create Consumer Dialogue that Converts4 Tools for Nonprofit Social Listening and Reputation ManagementThe Promising Role of Social Listening in Treating Health IssuesThe Importance of Social Listening for Brands
- Public Relations
Facebook Testing a Way for Users to Buy Products on the PlatformRise of Social Media in Ecommerce [INFOGRAPHIC]How eCommerce, Augmented and Virtual Reality Will Redefine the Retail ExperienceSearch Query Analysis to Increase eCommerce Website Conversions
- Content Marketing
Technology & Data
Social Startups: Bizible Connects All the Dots from Marketing Contributions to RevenueCreating the Perfect Profile for Your Social Media Marketing EffortUsing GPS and Localization for Social AnalyticsAnalytics and Prospect Intel: Discovering Your Ideal Prospect
- Big Data
- Tech & Innovation
3 Security Risks You’re Taking Every Day While Using Social MediaShould the President Have the Power to "Pull the Plug" on the Internet?How Safe is Your WordPress Website From Hackers and Other Malicious Attacks?
- Software & Tools
- Small Business
- Social Organization
Celebrating the Grand Re-Launch of Social Media Today! SBH Podcast Episode 8Why Should You Care If Your Employees Are Thought Leaders?Beyond Engagement: The Art of Managing Social-Media Risk in Employee Advocacy
Why All-in-One Social Media Management Systems Don't Cut It for Social Customer ServiceWhat You Should Know About Customer, Digital, and Contextual ExperienceSurging into Q3: How to Make It Better Than Q2Is How You Serve Your Customers Costing You Business?
Join us September 15th in Atlanta for The Employee Advocacy Summit and learn how to unleash the power of your employees.
Post your event here and we'll share it with our community. If one of our members is featured, we'll promote as well on their profile.
- Marketplace & Webinars
The SMT Marketplace
Your resource for exclusive content and insights from Social Media Today, and opportunities to reach our community of professionals.
The Social Business Book Club brings you books, discussions, and insights from today's to business thought leaders.
Join interactive talks and and panel discussions with leading thinkers and practitioners on social media and networked business, or browse the catalogue of recorded sessions - all completely free.
Reach Social Media Today's community of marketing and communications professionals in an editor-approved context with a native advertising package.
PR Firms Beware: Fake Reviews Fined
Posted on October 9th 2013
It’s one thing to know business law. It’s an entire thing altogether to know how it affects your services.
Fake Reviewers Target of NY Sting
We all know it’s bad to have employees and friends who are not customers write reviews of our products and services online. And yet…
The New York attorney general’s office just closed a year-long “sting” in which they fined 19 companies more than $350,000 in penalties for writing fake reviews.
Lasky covers the issue in a recent PR Week article called, “NY Attorney General Brings Astroturfers to their Knees.”
The suit not only covered the organizations that had fake reviews posted, but the agencies that worked with them.
A Personal Story
In 2006 we had a client who had released an app. They were very excited about it, but weren’t making any headway in the iTunes app store.
One of our young professionals, who worked with the client day-to-day, came into my office one afternoon and told me she’d been asked to write a review of the app in the store…and the client wanted all of us to do the same.
At the time, astroturfing and fake reviews weren’t considered illegal, but we knew enough to know it felt unethical.
We told the client we would not do that for them and they fired us.
I guess that ended up saving us quite a bit of money in penalties!
Beware PR Firms
While PR firms were not the target of this particular investigation, it’s something to be aware of and be cautious of when or if you are asked to write reviews on behalf of a client.
The NY attorney general’s office posed as a client to several SEO firms and discovered they were paying freelancers around the globe between $1 and $10 per review posted.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to dole out hundreds of thousands of dollars for something that can so easily be avoided.
Avoid the Fake Reviews
The law is sometimes very vague and social still is the Wild, Wild West so it’s hard to know what’s right or wrong.
If you can’t use your moral compass as your guide because your executives or clients are asking you to do something that violates it, Lasky suggests the following four things to help you make your case.
- Review the terms of services. It’s all a bunch of legal mumbo jumbo and I’d venture to guess a good majority of us download apps and use sites after agreeing to their terms of services, but don’t actually read them. As a PR professional, it’s your job to not only read them, but to understand them so you don’t violate them.
- Know who you’re working with. If your clients, anyone on your team, or freelancers you hire for client work participate in fake reviews, you could be liable. This one scares me a little bit. It’s good to pay attention to the reviews posted on behalf of your clients and to speak up if anything looks fishy.
- Make your contracts clear. Lasky says an indemnity clause may not be enough because it may not cover false or misleading information. Talk to your attorney about what should be included to cover you, should someone do this without your knowledge.
- Protect your reputation. Warren Buffet said it best when he said, “If you lose money for the firm, I will be understanding. If you lose reputation for the firm, I will be ruthless.” In the PR business, all we have is our reputation. If yours is sullied, it will be very difficult to continue attracting top clients or to get that next job you’re dying to get.
All it takes is a little common sense and the cajones to step up and say, ‘This isn’t right.”
Yes, it could cost you a client or two, and while that is painful in the short-term, it’s a lot less so than being the target of an attorney general investigation.