28 June 2007

It must be true...

...'twas in the paper.

Oh dear. It seems the chaps at Johnson King have been believing what they read in the newspapers again...and more than that, believing what they read in The People.

After high-quality tabloid The People ran a story last weekend about how a laptop containing jug-eared royal Prince Charles's bank account details had been stolen from a Moorepay accountant's car, Johnson King couldn't wait to jump all over it on behalf of data security client PGP.

According to Mike Simons at ComputerworldUK, Johnson King's press release re-hashed the story, stating that...

“A laptop containing the Prince's private bank details - including account number, sort code and national insurance number - was earlier this month stolen from the car of an employee of Mooreplay, the payroll company that handles wages for the Prince's Duchy of Cornwall estate.”

Problem being, of course, that the Johnson King team had missed those tell-tale phrases in The People's story, such as, "it was feared last night" and "believed to have been" and "apparent security blunder" all of which point to a potential economy with the truth.

And so it proved to be, when Moorepay quickly issued a statement saying that Prince Charles was not a client of the company and therefore his bank account details were presumably safely tucked up somewhere else...but not before, Simons claims: "At least one IT publication ran the story before hastily pulling it down."

There's no sign of the offending press release on the PGP website now...so perhaps it was just a bad dream..? A nightmare indeed.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Johnson King diving head first into something without checking the facts!!! I refuse to believe it!!!

They're normally such a considered and respectable agency in the way they approach these things.

...oh hang on...

Anonymous said...

Would it be unfair on Mike King to dredge this golden nugget up from the archives (filed in the drawer marked 'playground bullying'):

http://community.zdnet.co.uk/blog/0,1000000567,10003977o-2000331777b,00.htm

Anonymous said...

No, definitely not unfair to share that with us - it's absolutely made my day!

Mike King said...

I'd almost forgotten about that, sort of. Truth be told, I have no recollection of the event at all given the extent of my drunken state at the time but I had almost forgotten about Rupert's lovely diary piece. Oh well, what can I say? Sounds like I deserve it for being an arse.

Joe Banks said...

Yeah, yeah, ok, it's fair cop.

Anybody who's been following the recent string of stolen laptop stories will perhaps see why we thought this story was correct beyond The People's 'report'... but it looks like we were wrong.

So, we're expecting to be carted off to the Tower any minute now...

Rupert Murdoch said...

I think that your headline nicely highlights a dilemma that the PR industry will need to overcome. I mean, how long is it until readers become slightly disillusioned with all publications - not just newspapers?

The audience is increasingly marketing savvy (particularly in B2B - or at least you would think so).

So why will people continue to think that an opinion piece they know has been drafted by a flack, and simply 'approved' by the so-called author, has any real credibility?

Anonymous said...

I just read (and enjoyed) the Rupert Goodwins thing. I always assumed they were named Johnson King after two people's surnames - hadn't realised it was actually just a reference to what a knob the MD is.

Who knew..?

Anonymous said...

I knew...

Anonymous said...

Joe Banks said...
Yeah, yeah, ok, it's fair cop.

Anybody who's been following the recent string of stolen laptop stories will perhaps see why we thought this story was correct beyond The People's 'report'... but it looks like we were wrong.


The recent string of stolen laptop stories, computer virus stories, 180% of business execs leave their mobile phones in cab stories.......yeah, I wonder where those stories originate from?!

Anonymous said...

Ha ha that's funny. Actually, I quite like him. After all, it was Goodwins and Illet involved.

Joe Banks said...

I can't believe I'm having to say this on a blog frequented mainly by PRs, but these stories 'originate' from the keyboards of journalists, who've made the decision that they're of sufficient interest to their readership to be published. We offer comment - we don't stand there pointing a gun at their heads (much as we may sometimes want to).

Unless of course you think that Johnson King itself is nicking all these laptops...

....the world's leading.... said...

Joe...I don't think anyone's claimed that any other stolen laptop stories are untrue...or, indeed, questioned the fact that Moorepay did actually have one of its laptops stolen.

The question is, should Johnson King have been more thorough in checking the facts behind a story in The People, rather than simply assuming it to be true? And - as I think you've already admitted - the answer to that question is 'yes'.

There's been a recent strong of Facebook stories in the press...but that doesn't mean that we should take the News of the World's front page exclusive this Sunday about John Leslie using it to tempt young ladies to his home to engage in deviant sexual acts as the gospel truth (should it run such a story), does it?

You've been silly and you know you have.

Joe Banks said...

Wrong, yes, silly, never ;-)

The question you raise is an interesting one - but are you really suggesting that we should have been on the phone to Moorepay or Prince Charles before issuing comment?? Come on...

We're certainly not the only agency that does this kind of rapid response PR, but the idea that everybody else is triple-checking their sources before getting comment out (when time is often of the essence) is frankly, well, silly.

So yeah, we ended up with egg on our face this time, but getting all pious about it just feels a tiny bit hypocritical.

Anonymous said...

Joe makes a fair point. Much as I like to have a go at fellow PRs (anonymously, of course), the worst offender in this case is the publication who ran the story without verification.

I've always taken the view that press releases should provide journos with the basis for their own stories - not become the story in themselves.

You don't need to be a 'journalist' to simply print PR stories verbatim.

anon said...

>>The question you raise is an interesting one - but are you really suggesting that we should have been on the phone to Moorepay or Prince Charles before issuing comment?? Come on...<<

Yes. If you are getting material from the People, I'd have thought checking it somewhere would be a good idea.

Or perhaps don't offer comment to business publications based on loopy tabloid stories.

On the other hand, an encryption-related comment on this week's People scoop "Spice girls at war" might be quite entertaining.

You decide.