Anyone who has watched the Netflix documentary Fyre Festival: The Greatest Party That Never Happened will be wondering about the ethics of PR people who knowingly peddle lies. And any PR person worth their salt will know that’s not how we roll.
The documentary gave us backstage access into the promotion of the Fyre Festival in the Bahamas, with promises of fancy villas, delicious, local food and non-stop partying with celebrities and social media influencers over two weekends in 2017.
It turns out festival organiser Billy McFarland and his coterie of supporters were engaged in mass delusion and fraud.
While the documentary focused on McFarland’s deception of investors, it also showed those who aided and abetted his criminal activities, including his PR team.
The hard-working hacks pumped out social media posts and press releases to generate excitement about the festival, knowing full well that they were doing more than stretching the truth. They saw the train wreck unfolding but kept going at full speed anyway.
What happened to their sense of judgement? What about professional standards of ethics? What about their personal reputations? What about their self-respect?
As a communications professional, it beggars belief to watch these people indulge in such delusion.
It’s true we are paid to advocate for our clients, and we are loyal to them. But that doesn’t mean a licence to tell lies and defraud people.
Our job is to offer frank and fearless advice to our clients to protect their interests and to avoid harm to the public interest. If we are ever asked to flagrantly ignore these principles, then it’s probably time to walk away.