Spot the PR fake

Updated on June 8, 2012

Is it Shell’s private Arctic launch party that goes wrong?

This was a private send-off for Shell’s arctic rigs (Kulluk and Noble discoverer) at the Seattle Space Needle. The rigs were visible outside the window. Incredibly, there was an obvious malfunction of the model rig that was supposed to pour drinks for guests.

Or is it press reporter Mike Elk physically blocked from asking Honeywell CEO a question during a press conference?

Elk tried to ask Honeywell CEO Dave Cote a question during a Washington, DC, event at the Capitol, which was hosted by Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.). A video, above, posted to YouTube shows someone ripping the microphone out of Elk’s hand as he attempts to ask Cote a question.

So, which one is the fake, do you think?

The PR fake is Shell’s model rig malfunction, a stunt by “groups that oppose the company’s plans to drill off the Alaskan coast” according to Shell spokesperson Kayla Macke as reported by PRNewser:

[…] Gawker did a little deeper digging into the PR firm Wainright & Shore that was said to organize the event and found ties to the Yes Men, an activist group that has previously pulled pranks on large companies, including Chevron. […] Gawker reports that the folks behind the video are trying to prolong the prank as long as possible with conversations faux-Wainright & Shore employees and tweets from the filmmaker Logan Price.

Hard though it may be to believe, the true event is the physical prevention of the reporter asking Honeywell’s CEO questions on a sensitive issue, says Ragan.com’s Kevin Allen:

[…] Elk has been reporting about ongoing labor issues at Honeywell’s uranium conversion plant in Metropolis, Ill. He was granted press access to the event in D.C., which was titled “Revitalizing America: Encouraging Entrepreneurship.” Elk says that he has never been physically barred from speaking with a source in his career. He also says no one from Honeywell has reached out to him with an apology.

The Ragan.com story also reports that Elk is pressing assault charges against Honeywell’s external communications director, Rob Ferris.

The fake stunt at Shell’s expense may amuse you and have you thinking that such actions are par for the course for any company engaged in oil exploration.

And if you park your thinking about ethics in public relations for a minute, you may have some sneaking admiration for the imagination and sheer cojones of the folks behind the stunt.

But the true Honeywell story? Assaulting a reporter trying to ask questions because you didn’t like the questions and/or the reporter? And then not seeing why this act outrages many people and puts you, Honeywell, smack at the centre of a totally unnecessary reputation-damage situation?

Shell are big boys, they can handle a fake PR stunt. But you, Honeywell? Can you handle a debacle like assaulting a reporter that wasn’t a stunt but the real thing?

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

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