If you’re unfamiliar with the popular social news site Reddit, chances are you have no idea what my headline suggests. For nonusers, Reddit’s functionality is relatively simple. Users post content, whether it be pictures, news articles, memes or gifs, then registered Reddit users have the option of upvoting or downvoting content based on how funny, interesting, creative or relevant each submission may be. The best content on the site will normally acquire a lot of upvotes, which in time will push the best content to the front pages of Reddit. Each post is divided into subreddits, which essentially are categories where similar content is posted. If your post is meant to be funny, (most aren’t) then you would post it to the r/funny subreddit.
Now that we have the nonusers up to speed, I want to bring up an issue within the confines of Reddit that is smearing the reputation of publicists, press agents and the public relations industry as a whole. The subreddit, IAmA, or Ask me Anything, gives Redditors the opportunity to interact with celebrities, thought leaders, musicians and anyone with a great story to tell by asking them questions on a live feed within the subreddit.
A great example that comes to mind is comedian Louie C.K’s recent IAmA, which can be found here. His genuine responses went over well with the Reddit community, and his honesty and integrity with each reply shows how much he values his fans. If used correctly, the platform is a great way to gain exposure by nontraditional means.
But if you ask Morgan Freeman or Woody Harrelson how their appearances on Reddit went, they may have different stories to tell. These men are two excellent actors, but the way they handled their AMAs resulted in a PR shit storm when it was all said and done. Each of their lazy, thoughtless responses to fan’s questions made it seem like a publicist was on the other end churning out bullshit response after bullshit response with genuineness nowhere to be found.
The worst part about it is we will never know if a publicist is acting unethically by doing these AMAs on behalf of the actual celebrity or musician involved. Either way, it’s hurting both parties involved. The actor catches flack for dishonesty and an overall lack of transparency, and the public relations industry suffers because there are publicists out there with terrible morals who ruin it for those of use who work with a sense of integrity.
If we ever want to be respected and trusted as an industry, these practices need to stop. We have a code of ethics for a reason, and it needs to be followed and enforced for the long-term stability of our profession.