TECHNICAL outdoor clothing company North Face is heading for a fall after one of its PR professionals edited its Wikipedia page and put a promotional photograph on the page.

In many respects it was a naïve mistake, to think that adding a PR shot would help boost the company’s SEO rankings with Google.  It achieved a lot of brand profile but for all the wrong reasons.

The photo has been quickly removed and North Face have apologised, but the episode brings into sharp focus the competing priorities of achieving enough profile and overdoing things.

North Face claimed, in this instance, that the stunt boosted their search engine rankings and cost nothing.  Nothing that is, apart from their reputation.

Wikipedia and other news websites provide free information for readers.  Because they are freely available they are credible and trusted by many ranging from citizens, researchers, government bodies and others.

News agencies and Wikipedia make a commitment to be neutral.  They provide freely available information that is trusted and relied upon.   That demands reciprocal respect of uploads.

Business reputations, like any others, are based on shared benevolent values that your audience recognise and find resonate with their own beliefs.  To attack that is to make a direct attack on them and thereby do your own reputation irreparable damage.

Some brands are more than the product they sell.  Consumers are attracted to values such as honesty, reliability, authenticity, value for money, quality.  Short lived PR stunts tend not to be attractive.

Yes, the company did attract plenty of SEO, but it was short lived while the negative impact could be something they live with for years to come.

A reputation takes many years to build but can be destroyed in minutes. Think hard about cheap stunts, they could come at a cost you cannot afford.

For more information contact Carmel Harrison PR at carmel@carmelharrisonpr.com or phone us on 07714 708271.

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