Thursday, August 30, 2012

Not All Publicity is Good Publicity: Why You Can't Save a Sinking Ship

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, publicity is defined as "an act or device designed to attract public interest; specifically : information with news value issued as a means of gaining public attention or support." In the case of Todd Rutherford, the saying "there is no such thing as bad publicity" is a misnomer.

If you didn't catch the New York Times article this week, Rutherford is the fake book reviewer who was outed by a disgruntled customer and was caught by Amazon for posting fake five-star book reviews. His clients paid him a pretty penny to write the fake reviews, and those pennies added up to a whopping $28,000 per month. I wrote about Rutherford a few days ago and warned authors/writers to steer clear of  paid book review scammers.

The reviews are mixed about the "ethics and morals" behind Rutherford's actions. The general consensus in the book/publishing industry is that he is a swindling con-artist. Unfortunately, self-published authors are taking the heat as a result of the article's whistle-blowing; it's just bad publicity all the way around. He has literally bit (OFF) the hands that fed him at one time, and he has pissed off legitimate, ethical self-published authors in the process. And I don't blame them for being mad.

After digging around to see what I could find on Rutherford, I stumbled upon an interesting revelation via a Publisher's Weekly blog post, Paid Reviewer Goes Down Honest Path (thanks Gabe Habash for sharing this interesting tidbit). I had a sneaking suspicion that Rutherford pulled his own publicity stunt - trying to save face after he completely obliterated his business. He emailed Publisher's Weekly a press release a few days before the  New York Times article was published. In his press release, Rutherford announced the article would make a "big splash" and he was making a career comeback..wait for "book publicity".

Habash sums up exactly how I feel about Rutherford's attempt to save face with his press release. It backfired on him.
The email, meant to drum up more interest in Rutherford and his “comeback,” is a clear sign that he doesn’t think he’s committed any fault and further reinforces the image of an individual who’s only aware of his enterprises, not of his enterprises’ context or their consequences. In other words, he’s out of touch with reality (in a way that’s reminiscent of “publisher” PublishAmerica). Rutherford’s email is evidence that he doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with manipulating the system if it allows him to manipulate it. The only problem is that he doesn’t seem aware that he’s been caught.

In Rutherford's case, sometimes you just can't save a sinking ship.

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Therese Pope, Copywriter/Content Developer & Digital Buzz-icist

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