Wednesday, August 11, 2010

First requirement to fool the media world: one sexy woman

Yesterday, a web site catering to guys called TheChive.com tricked some of the most respected news organizations by posting a photo montage of an attractive woman named Jenny holding up white boards quitting her job without another one and sticking it to her boss Spencer.

It was innocently entitled: "girl quits job on dry erase board, emails entire office."

While on the face of it, the 33 photos were an amusing waste of 30 seconds to view, some news groups were taking it quite seriously.

I first saw it on NY Times' blogger Nick Bilton's Twitter feed: "Quitting your job & calling your boss a jerk via dry erase board, then e-mailing the company = awesome! http://j.mp/9mbyHm"

Also taking it quite seriously were New York magazine's Daily Intel, Mashable, The Atlantic, The NY Post, TechCrunch, and Jezebel ("Woman Quits Her Job, Becomes a Hero").

Except Jenny looked like a fake. The whole thing looked like a fake. And not subtly either.

Jenny holds up each white board with a pose right out of acting school. When she says her boss Spencer gave her "all the codes" to his computer accounts so she could see how he spent time, the alarm got a little louder. She broke down his time into trading stocks, reading TechCrunch and "drumroll please," I was waiting for her to hold up a card with the name of some kinky porn sites. No, it was boring old Farmville.

Then Jenny removed her glasses and let down her hair in the last three photos -- a classic scenario out of every 1960's businessman's secretary fantasy. Even Thomas Dolby had a scene like that in his "She Blinded Me With Science" video ("
Good heavens, Miss Sakamoto! You're beautiful!").

That was the big red flag waving for me -- there was no way this was real! Seemed very obvious to me. Too neat, too staged.

And perhaps it was the post that same day of animated woman's buttocks that should have been a major clue?

Or the fact that TheChive.com unasahamedly calls itself "Probably The Best Site In The World?"

Only AllThingsD's Peter Kafka contacted TheChive.com's owners and promptly got evasive answers, which smelled even more suspicious (One owner: "This one is to be determined. People are kind of making up their own stories").

Of course, predictably, Jenny magically reappeared this morning to announce the whole thing was a hoax. A pretty thin and palpable one too.

The only site that updated their story that this prank was The Atlantic. No updates or corrections from anybody else, or admissions of guilt so far.

Is all it takes to fool the media world and get lots of press coverage one sexy woman?

If "Jenny" were "Jim" -- a guy quitting his job, holding up white boards about how low office morale is, that his female boss was spending loads of time trading stocks and shopping for clothes and shoes, would this have received the same amount of attention? If "Jim" removed his shirt in the last few photos, would that photo montage been convincing enough to warrant massive news coverage, proclaiming them a working class hero?

Bravo to TheChive.com to luck out and become infamous for a day for a plain-as-day stunt. I admire the nice touch of "Spencer" reading TechCrunch 5.3 hours a week, guaranteed to get the highly trafficked news site to write about you ("It's Official: The Best Bosses Read TechCrunch!").

As a public relations professional, this stunt has inspired me to change my approach to the media from now on. I am cutting out photos from the latest issue of Maxim and pasting them on top of all my press releases from now on.

In the meanwhile, let Bob Dylan show you how white boards should really be used...

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