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Truth in Marketing

by Marcia Yudkin

A woman who showed me a press release she wrote said in it that she'd gone from cleaning toilets to owning the largest janitorial service in Delaware. Casually in conversation with me, she mentioned that her company wasn't actually anywhere close to the largest. I suggested that she change her materials accordingly. She didn't.

An aspiring author showed me a tearsheet from an adult education catalog that claimed he'd published "numerous" books. The catalog cited him as author of a book title that had never been published. I said he was jeopardizing his reputation to make up credentials. I don't think my advice sank in.

Last summer I presented these (true, though disguised) scenarios to the subscribers of my free weekly email newsletter, The Marketing Minute, and asked whether these examples counted as acceptable exaggeration or stank of lying. In a year when dishonesty in politics and journalism had created turmoil, I was startled at the unanimous response I received. Of more than 100 replies, every one condemned these two marketing miscreants as beneath contempt.

Here are a few of the comments I received. If you're ever tempted to fabricate credentials, reread this column!

If building a business (as I've learned) is about building relationships, a cornerstone of good business relationships is trust. Lies destroy trust. - Mary Pat Messina

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Fame and money are fleeting. Integrity is forever. White lies are for saving someone's feelings - a peaceful endeavor. Filthy lies are for cheats - a destructive endeavor. - Yocheved Golani

Personally, I don't want to have to remember who I've told what, or worry about who might find out what. You never know whose conversations you might be brought up in! - Melissa Vickers

I would not hire these people. If they lied to me once, then they will most definitely lie to me twice. - Chris S. Merriam-Leith

Besides showing poor self esteem and strong personal insecurity, the inflated claims you describe are unethical and will do more damage than good in the long run. Most customers aren't stupid. - Don Weidner

Integrity is important and shouldn't ever be muddied. Surprising how many times lies are exposed, and the word always travels. - Sal Towse

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If they NEED to lie about their achievements, it becomes obvious that they HAVE no achievements, so it is better to find someone who represents what they have become through their hard work, rather than what they wish they were through their fantasies. - Davis Fiedler

This is not 'positioning', 'putting in a positive light', or 'tuning,' these are lies. Integrity is where I place my bets every time. - D A Raynor

A half-truth is a whole lie. Lying is never good for business. - Alan Sharpe

Copyright 2000 Marcia Yudkin.  All rights reserved.

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