‘Why let the facts get in the way of a good story?’ is the not-entirely-joking mantra for tabloid journalists on the look-out for the next exclusive.
But can the same be said when it comes to PR?
If the past three years have taught us anything it’s that if you’re promoting a personality – especially if that personality is yourself and you lack any sense of shame or self-awareness – there’s a very high chance you can wing it.
All you have to do is sell your acolytes the message they want to hear, even if that involves lying through your teeth.
It’s a strategy that has worked well for Donald Trump. Now it is being put to the test by incumbent Prime Minister Boris Johnson – the ‘hilariously gaffe-prone patriot and all-round decent bloke’ to those inclined to see him as a breath of fresh political air. ‘Liar’ to those less convinced of his motivations.
Fact checkers have already racked up a raft of ‘alternative truths’ that have helped Johnson sell his unique brand to the masses. But what if he’d been promoting an actual product instead of ‘brand Boris’?
Many a campaign has come unstuck when the fiction of its sales pitch has been discovered, from sneakers that help you lose weight, to cancer-beating supplements, to ‘long-life’ computer batteries whose longevity is based on not actually using the computer.
The reputations of brands as solid as Skechers, Kellogg’s and Hoover have taken a serious dent when the messages used to sell products were based on white lies and falsehoods.
So perhaps it’s worth remembering Boris Johnson’s highly vaunted Garden Bridge project, which for all the braggadocio and celebrity endorsement involved, turned out to have the substance of a dandelion clock.
Time will tell whether ‘brand Boris’ proves to be similarly insubstantial in the long term.