Doug Haslam

Gischeleman: "To Create With the Mind"

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Dan Lyons and the Yahoo! PR Flap: Lying?

Let’s forget about the fact that Dan Lyons is apparently retiring his personal blog, “The Real Dan Lyons.

Let’s forget that Newsweek apparently made him take down his post about his frustration with the Yahoo! PR people and what they said about CEO Jerry Yang (not) stepping down prior to it actually happening.

Let’s forget about the catfight about who “broke” the story that Lyons and AllThingsD’s Kara Swisher got into on the blog, regrettably now deleted.

I’m in public relations: so I am interesting in Dan’s characterizing Yahoo’s PR flacks as “lying sacks of s**t.

I prefer to be called a "lying sack of potatoes."

I prefer to be called a lying sack of potatoes.


First, I’m happy to hear he was painting only one group of PR people with that brush, rather than the whole industry. that’s refreshing.

But, was Yahoo! PR lying? That concerns me, because, the silly caption to this photo aside, I wouldn’t want to be characterized as a liar. In PR, we often have to hang onto information and keep embargoes (yup, we still do that and so do reporters). Sometimes, we do not know some of the real heavy news until very shortly before it hits. so, a few thoughts:

PR needs to be trusted with information: If Yahoo! PR folks honestly didn’t know ahead of time about Yang stepping down, it was because management didn’t trust them with the information. It insulates them from the “lying” thing but makes them look ineffective and not trusted.

PR needs to be artful with information that cannot be released: See the above-linked post on embargoes. That’s part of the principle here. The question is: what can we tell people when we know the big news but aren’t allowed to spill it yet? We are professional communicators. We should know how to do that without insulting the intelligence of the media, and we should be trusted by executive management to do so.

The Yahoo! PR folks are lying sacks of (potatoes): I suppose that could be true, but I’m an optimist that doesn’t like to believe that stuff about people. I know that there are enough bad actors out there, but in this case? I don’t know. I don’t suppose there’s anyone from Yahoo! PR that wants to defend themselves here…


*Photo from Roadside Pictures on Flickr

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7 Responses to Dan Lyons and the Yahoo! PR Flap: Lying?

  1. Ah well, something else people can blame us for, eh? In more than a dozen years of doing PR (and other stuff) in Silicon Valley, I’ve met some people who, for various reasons, do things that are unwise. But I’ve never met anyone I’d refer to as Dan Lyon has.

    I know journalists often go crazy because some PR folks don’t get it, and that’s really unfortunate. There are a lot of others who are very professional.

    Thanks for your post, Doug – appreciate your thoughts.

  2. Thanks for writing what we PR folks were thinking. Geez, Dan Lyons, back off!

    I am also an optimist and have to believe that Yahoo!’s PR team just didn’t have all the facts at the time.

    As a PR professional, we are, at times at the mercy of our clients – some are open with information, others like to guard it (even though we all sign NDAs).

    It’s just another unfortunate jab at PR professionals.

  3. Kyle says:

    I have a bit of a different view of this story.

    One of the challenges for an internal PR team is that a public company must keep some information close to vest since shareholders must be made aware before or at least at the same time as the rest of the world (including employees). This means that sometimes you can’t tell the PR team about a move such as a CEO leaving or an acquisition…you bring in people when it is the right time. And you don’t change that simply because the PR team told a journalist something different the week or month before. This isn’t about ‘trust’, it’s about dissemenating information intelligently and legally.

    Having spent most of my time as an internal PR person, twice for a public company, I’ve faced something like this in the past (to a MUCH smaller degree) and got caught in a situation b/c I didn’t know our CEO was leaving but had secured a profile for him in a prominent business publication.

    When I informed the journalist he didn’t call me a liar, he realized that not everyone can be told of these types of moves until it is over. Anyone who has covered public businesses, such as Dan, should know this and not throw around insults to the easiest of targets, us PR types.

    Seems to me this story has less to do with Yahoo! PR being liars and more to do with Dan’s ego over who broke the story first.

    /kff

  4. Doug Haslam says:

    Marsha– thanks!

    Christine — and I was trying to give Dan credit for not painting the whole industry with the brush

    Kyle- ok, the Dan Lyons hate train has started to board. Kyle, I was trying to get at your point, at least in part– while leaving the question open because we don;t know. But your scenario is most likely, and your example is the kind of thing I was trying to solicit here — thanks!

  5. Kris says:

    Doug,

    Thanks for the great, insightful post.

    I guess that’s the risk we all took getting into PR, probably one of the most under-appreciated fields in the biz industry. We have to please management and the media and our other publics. There’s a saying that goes something like “You can please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time,” — a good motto to have as a PR pro.

    Too bad if any company doesn’t trust their PR dept. or agency, the relationship must be based on trust or no one will succeed.

  6. Kyle says:

    Not a problem, and just to be clear I’m a fan of Dan’s from working with him in the past and hopefully the future ;)

    /kff

  7. Doug Haslam says:

    I have met Dan as well and liked him in person. He obviously has a gift for the snark (his deleted exchange with Kara Swisher, and of course Fake Steve Jobs) that can paint a different picture of him at times base don his written words.

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