“I know, let’s invite some construction industry people and have a round-table discussion. We could use the conversation as the foundation for a white paper…. We could share the outputs with influential bloggers, issue a news release ….”
Similar conversations probably happen more than most PR agencies or in-house teams would like to admit (I’ve been there). Some of them result in (I hope) genuinely useful discussions and documents that justify wider dissemination. But others deliver little of value, and normally never surface. However, just occasionally, a team might try to brazen it out, perhaps especially if it’s August and there’s little going on….
As a construction industry blogger, I today received a news release saying:
“Can I interest you in the below conustruction [sic] industry news regarding key leaders who recently met at [company]‘s office in [location] to discuss the barriers to innovation in construction and how we must overcome them. Subsequently they have released the following whitepaper…”
Hoping for some new insights, I clicked on the link, but found a PDF summary of a conversation involving just five people, one of whom was an organiser; in short, this “roundtable” included four “key leaders” (only one from a company’s whose name I recognised; these may have included the IT services provider’ customers, though it sadly didn’t declare its allegiances). I persevered, only to find that the white paper was padded out with quotes from online resources – and, to rub salt into this particular blogger’s wounds – it quoted something that I had written for Constructing Excellence (along with contributions from industry friends including Tekla’s Duncan Reed, Acumen7’s Simon Murray, and fellow CE member Richard Saxon).
A PR and media storm has erupted this week about fabricated case studies at the UK’s Department of Work and Pensions (roundly condemned by the CIPR’s president as a blatant disregard for the CIPR’s standards of ethical conduct) and about a PR agency’s dubious anti-perspirant case study involving one of its own staff (search #sweatygate). This construction ‘white paper’ may not be in the same league, but – in my view – this IT services provider’s pretence of a “roundtable” (more accurately just about a square!) of industry “leaders” is just as misleading, exaggerated and unethical.