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Gini Dietrich

Coghlan Consulting Group Run By Morons

By: Gini Dietrich | November 22, 2011 | 
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Oh this is good! You’re going to love this one.

A nice little PR train wreck on the Tuesday of your short week.

You may have read a couple of months ago about the Coghlan Consulting Group and their practice of setting up fake news sites on behalf of its clients.

Yes, they created fake news sites in order to make it look like their clients were getting loads of coverage.

They made the sites look so real, in fact, that Google News was indexing them.

The  first time it was for the Central Basin Municipal Water District of California, who has since ordered Coghlan to remove stories from News Hawks Review…the fake site.

According to the LA Times:

News Hawks’ coverage of Central Basin began after the district hired public relations consultant Ed Coghlan last year. Under the deal, the district agreed to pay Coghlan’s firm (upwards of $170,000) in exchange for services that included producing positive stories and placing them as news articles on Google News.

But it’s just gotten better.

Now the LA Times is reporting, in fact, that none of the “reporters” at News Hawks exist.

Take Mike Adams. There were more than 20 stories that had his byline on them. His bio stated he had a degree in construction services from Westminster College in Salt Lake City.

But there is no such program at the school.

Then there was the issue of his photo (since removed, but shown here), which was lifted from Flickr. Sources in Adams’ stories say they never met or talked to the man.

More from the L.A. Times:

The site also claimed its award-winning general assignment reporter, Hannah Grimm, was a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism. But Bill Santin, of Columbia’s Registrar’s Office, said no person of that name has graduated from the school in the last 100 years.

Adams’ stories are now credited to “publisher” and, upon further investigation, it was discovered Tony Marino is the publisher. Marino defended News Hawks when this all broke a couple of months ago, but now he has no comment.

Could he be fake, too?

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

106 comments
Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

This is Andrew Breibart worthy stuff! This is where I am ok if they guy gets punched in the face. Twice. Lots of people make money be pond scum. Very sad.

AmyMccTobin
AmyMccTobin

Wow. Just Wow. I thought PR firms were supposed to clean up messes, not create them.

Stephanie Barnes
Stephanie Barnes

The craving for acquired constructive information exposure eventually constrain this kind of deeds.Stuff like this is horrible.

Latest blog post: 1300 numbers

Ben Johnston
Ben Johnston

I suppose stuff like this is part and parcel of search engine optimisation and PR becoming closer.

Spend enough time in the SEO game where content is used to leverage rankings and you'll come across a lot of things like this. This isn't new and it does contravene Google's guidelines, but it works (just by way of clarification - this is not how I do SEO, but I do know that it happens. I’m also not saying that tactics like this should ever be used for PR purposes). Perhaps off the back of the closer SEO/ PR integration, a lot more companies seem to be being caught for pushing fake news/ content like this – I’m not sure whether it’s because A) more people are doing it (probably) or B) the people doing it just aren’t very good at it.

In this case, it's definitely the latter. Epic fail!

ryancox
ryancox

This is wonderful. haha Sooooo much effort to do bad work. They should win an award for being the biggest doofuses!

ElissaFreeman
ElissaFreeman

The thirst for controlling/obtaining positive news coverage ultimately drives this sort of behaviour in the first place. While I agree it's reprehensible of Coghlan to engage in this behaviour, there was a client who condoned the behaviour in the first place. I'm not sure who's worse?

shelholtz
shelholtz

Astounding, indeed. Neville and I reported on these guys when they first made news a few months ago, then did an update on the FIR #625 (from Nov. 14). The more PR people call out this kind of bad behavior in our own ranks, the better our public image will be.

jenzings
jenzings

Wow. Just...wow.

I wonder how many are out there like this?

bdorman264
bdorman264

I.am.appalled. Not really, but should I be? It seems like so much stuff like this becomes the norm and it is so far from the truth, but most of the time nobody really cares. Where does it stop? When do we say enough is enough and 'out' people who continue to work this way?

katskrieger
katskrieger

I want to be shocked by this, but I'm not. I am shocked by the herculean effort in creating the actual deception. One would think they could have spent the time getting actual press.

CMMoffitt
CMMoffitt

@ginidietrich It does make me wonder what the heck they were thinking. Who thought that was a good idea?

ryancox
ryancox

Where did all of my pts go?

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

@KevinVandever Triple like! I cannot believe this post was written without the word douche canoes. In the headline!!! LOL.

Elyse_D
Elyse_D

@ginidietrich Agreed! For all that effort, they might have been able to get legitimate press coverage. But.... nah that would be too smart.

_davidhorne_
_davidhorne_

@ginidietrich crazy. why do people insist on taking the low road? the high road sure has a lot less traffic

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@CMMoffitt I think they told the client they'd agree to be paid by placement. And they got placements. Ha

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@Elyse_D I'm willing to bet they did pay for performance. And the measurement was Google indexing it as news.

bdorman264
bdorman264

@ginidietrich I knew you would come to the rescue, but that's because you are special like that..........:)

CMMoffitt
CMMoffitt

@ginidietrich Wow, way to focus PR activities on helping accomplish the client's business objectives, not!

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