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When Good PR Goes Bad 26 August 2002 Edition
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The Internet is a utopia for those involved in PR and marketing.

With the click of a mouse you can reach a potential audience measured in millions -- if not hundreds of millions.

It's more immediate than post, trendier than TV and even cheaper than fax.

But best of all, if you mess up and make a mistake, you can quickly change things and deny all accusations of incompetence.

This is best seen in the case of online news sites, more than a few of which have been known to quickly "patch" up errors in a story without any indication that there was a mistake.

A lot of the time they get away with it -- but sometimes they're caught out.

Then there's those who simply don't seem to care that their pages are littered with misinformation and mistakes.

Take this page on the XtraMSN site for example.

Here's what it looked like when it was first published on Friday. When I checked this morning it was still unchanged.

UPDATE: as of 11:30am I see they've fixed the wording but the HTML error described later persists. Sigh!

If you read it carefully (or the copy if they've suddenly decided to wipe the egg off their faces) you'll see that they're claiming an anti-virus filter installed on August 23 had caught "1.5 million virus nasties" by August 22 -- one day previous.

Now maybe this software has a temporal time-shift module or something -- but it seems far more likely to me that whoever wrote that dross has never heard of proofreading.

Readers Say
(updated hourly)
  • The Thing That Really... - Jonathan
  • Xtra... - HT
  • I like spam??... - Jonathan
  • HTML validity... - Chris
  • Have Your Say

    "Okay" I hear you say. Aardvark makes typos and small errors all the time -- on some days this column is littered with them -- right?

    Oh yes, I'm the first to admit that this page is often less than perfect. However, in my defense, I'm not NZ's largest and richest ISP working in a joint venture with the world's largest software company to publish online content am I?

    Given that my entire budget consists of the stipend provided by the sponsor and the money/time that comes from my own pocket, some mistakes have to be accepted here.

    Of course the story I've linked to is far more spin than news. It's a clearly just an Xtra press release published under the thin veil of a news story -- which makes it even worse.

    A press release, and the way it's written, says an awful lot about your company. If you can't be bothered taking a few moments to proof-read your own press release then what does that say about your attention to detail in other areas that will most certainly affect customers?

    So, I'm being bitchy and pedantic right?

    Well I'd maybe feel a little guilty -- if it weren't for this screencap.

    Yes, it's what the page looks/looked like when viewed with Netscape's browser.

    The fault is not Netscape's -- it's a very basic HTML error in the page itself.

    So, not only are the facts wrong, but the technical presentation is also flawed.

    One can't help but get the impression that the role of writing PR and publishing it to the XtraMSN site has now been delegated to the tea-lady.

    Now I'm sorry to pick on Xtra -- they're not alone in this type of slack attitude to online publishing and, as I have admitted, I'm also not without sin. My goal today has simply been to point out that the Web should not be treated like the poor cousin to print or broadcast simply because it's a such a low cost medium.

    What's more -- if you do mess up, do fix it double-quick and, if you're brave enough, admit that the page has been changed by adding a small footnote.

    When I make a mistake, my mailbox begins filling with emails from readers within a few short minutes -- and I almost always fix up the problem straight away.

    Clearly either nobody reads Xtra's news pages or their tea lady doesn't work weekends.

    Have your say.

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    Security Alerts
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