PR exec tells all about manipulating the media — and spreading lies online
LARRY GETLEN (NewYorkPost.com)
To promote the film “I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell,” based on the best-selling book by his good friend Tucker Max, public relations and marketing executive Ryan Holiday purchased a series of billboards. Shortly after they began appearing around Los Angeles, he ventured into a deserted intersection at 2 a.m. dressed in black and defaced one of the ads with obscene, 2-foot-long stickers of his own design that implied that Max deserved to have something horrific happen to his genitals.
Holiday, with his girlfriend driving, circled the block and took photos of the billboard from the passenger seat. He then dashed home and e-mailed the photos, under the fictional name Evan Meyer, to two carefully selected blogs — Curbed Los Angeles and Mediabistro’s Fishbowl LA — with a note that said, “Good to know Los Angeles hates Tucker Max, too.”
When one of the bloggers (he doesn’t specify who) wrote back to say, “You’re not messing with me, are you?” Holiday-as-Meyer replied, “Trust me, I’m not lying.”
‘Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator,” Holiday’s new book, is both a screed against blog culture and an admission of misbehavior from Holiday, the longtime director of marketing for the controversial clothing company American Apparel. While the observation that the Internet favors speed over accuracy is hardly new, Holiday lays out how easily it is to twist it toward any end, since “the news is created and driven by marketers, and no one does anything to stop it.”
“The news is created and driven by marketers, and no one does anything to stop it.”
In the case of “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell,” Holiday’s trickery — further fueled by anonymous outraged e-mails he sent to local websites and women’s rights groups in areas where the film was screening — worked exactly as planned. His pictures of the defaced billboards spread to other blogs, leading to real-life protests, further billboard defacings across the country, and editorials against the film in The Washington Post and Chicago Tribune.
Holiday writes that the media can be easily manipulated today because bigger blogs often get their stories from smaller blogs and Twitter, and the mainstream media takes its cue from all of them.
“The media can be easily manipulated today because bigger blogs often get their stories from smaller blogs and Twitter, and the mainstream media takes its cue from all of them.”
So if you offer juicy information to a series of smaller, strategically selected sites, the information can travel up the chain with predictable efficiency.
“Take the outlet where you’d ultimately like to receive coverage and observe it for patterns,” he says. “You’ll notice that they tend to get their story ideas from the same second-level sites. By tailoring the story to those smaller sites, it sets you up to be noticed by the larger one.”
- How This Guy Lied His Way Into MSNBC, ABC News, The New York Times and More (forbes.com)
- Book trailer: Trust Me, I’m Lying (boingboing.net)
- How To Manipulate The Media (huffingtonpost.com)
- Eight Ways The ‘Trust Me, I’m Lying’ Guy is a Boon to PR (wcgworld.com)