A few months ago, I wrote about Jason Hope of JAWA and his alleged text messaging scams on the now-retired Valley PR Blog. I bashed The Lavidge Company for their involvement, but nothing came of it. Now, after what I think were attempts to bribe me to remove the posts and the Facebook, Google and Burson-Marsteller scandal, I figured it was time to share a bit more. I backtrack a bit in the first few paragraphs.
In case you forgot, Jason Hope, CEO of JAWA and client of Lavidge Company, has been accused of text messaging scams, most notably Hamid’s many accusations on his AZDisruptors blog and now a court case that sided with Verizon. Hope has also seen to it that any press release about him donating to charity is posted on many, many websites in what looks like an attempt to whitewash search results. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure I’m not.
After my first article, I was called the next day by Lavidge, who corrected a few errors that I’d made in the Jason Hope article and I inquired about the amounts and the specific offices that donations of his would be going to. I was told that they don’t disclose amounts, which made me suspicious.
You see, his alleged pledges were always announced immediately following public charges or other such negative press for Hope. The timing made it seem like they were trying to cover something up, but I have no proof of that. I let it go for a few days and received a few emails about Hope with more information about his past and a plea of sorts that I keep writing about him.
And though I’d never met this guy, I really didn’t like him. The cease and desist and response was quite funny, but I thought I was out of the situation until I received an email from a Susan Ricardson using a yahoo.com email address that didn’t immediately strike me as spammy.
“She” inquired if I’d be willing to remove posts I’d wrote. I said that yes, I’d entertain it.
Then Susan asked if I had control of my posts on ValleyPRBlog. I said that I did, and she asked how much it would cost to remove two posts on VPRB.
She said that she didn’t want to lowball me and then offered $500 each.
You have to be f***ing kidding me. Listen, if I’m going to cave to pressure and remove a negative post, it’s going to be for a helluva lot more than $1000. Considering Jason Hope’s alleged text messaging scams netted him enough money to build a huge house here in AZ and throw outlandish parties, a grand seems like a small price to pay.
But money really isn’t the issue here. The issue I face, and everyone in the PR/Marketing industry does as well, is one of an ethical nature. It seems that too many PR companies shift their ethical standards based on context, the client and the amount of money they will be paid. Hell, the recent Facebook scandal was termed as STANDARD PRACTICE by London-based Hillgrove PR.
I realize that most PR companies would never admit to spreading rumors, nor would they attempt to cover up borderline illegal behavior by their clients by releasing announcements claiming to help charities and then not release how much, when and who they actually wrote a check to (Lavidge will not reveal any of these things).
After reading many of the comments on my first article and even more on the Techcrunch article about this Facebook and Burton-Marsteller mess, it’s become obvious that few if any PR agencies give a flying f*** about how their industry is perceived. They don’t speak out against bad behavior, they don’t publicly condemn companies CAUGHT DOING IT and they certainly don’t want their business name associated with any kind of negative situation.
This is extremely disappointing. You’d think that an industry chock-full of high-quality communicators who have hopefully been educated about what’s right and what’s wrong would immediately see an opportunity to not only do the right thing, but also the chance to be seen as heroes of sorts for taking a stand against such wrongdoing.
But alas, this is not the case. Perhaps it’s for similar reasons that no one is able to take over the Valley PR Blog: there’s just not enough time, not enough money and not enough want to help change things for the better. It’s hard work to stand up for something and it’s even tougher to expect those around you to adhere to the same standards we claim to hold ourselves to.
But no matter what PR people say or do, it’s pretty tough to outrun the truth. And that’s why, thanks to advice from guys like Peter Shankman and help from Brian Clark’s Scribe SEO, that my Valley PR Blog post about Hope’s alleged scams still ranks near the top when Hope searches for his name.
It only takes one person to expose the truth, but it takes a lot more people to change things for the better. I wonder if the Phoenix metro PR community gives a shit about doing so.