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.”
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