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What PR professionals can learn from Netflix

As you might have already heard, recently Netflix came under fire for paying extras to act as enthusiastic fans at their launch event in Toronto last week. So what’s the big deal? Not only were the fans misleading, they were also given direction to talk to the media about their Netflix gusto, leaving many uneasy about Netflix.

So what can PR professionals learn from Netflix’s mistake?  Creating false fanfare is unethical and dishonest. People appreciate honesty, and do not want to feel mislead. While having extra people at a launch event may look good to the press, it is deceiving.

The best PR is transparent. Clear and consistent messages are always the best way to keep customers informed and happy. It will take some time for Netflix to regain credibility amongst its customer base; like any other relationship, when someone lies, people feel uneasy about trusting them moving forward.

This sets a bad example for PR professionals and marketers. As a graduate student in public relations and advertising, ethics is a recurring topic in every one of my classes. While ethics is important in all professions, it is especially important in PR, where questionable practices can damage a brand’s reputation, sometimes irrevocably.

What Netflix did right:

After taking heat for paying people to act as customers, Steve Swasey, the VP of Communications at Netflix came out with a statement titled “We Blew It.” This statement appeared in multiple outlets including the official Netflix blog, and acknowledged the fact that Netflix made a mistake and apologized for the lack of sincerity and authenticity. When you made a mistake like Netflix did, the best way to repair it is to be honest and admit you were wrong. People respond better when you put your pride aside and admit you made a mistake.