On today’s InsidePR, Martin Waxman, Joe Thornley, and I discuss how Netflix screwed up in Canada. There were a few American news items about it, but I didn’t realize the severity of the issue until they had me read some Canadian stories about it.

The gist of it is that Netflix hired PR and marketing firms to help them launch in Canada. Reasonable, right? But one of the firms (and we’re hearing that it was not the PR firm) hired actors to pretend they were Netflix customers. These “customers” roamed the streets and did interviews with media, as if they were truly excited about the brand’s availability in the country. Of course, the media discovered these people were actors and Netflix had to do damage control, as well as issue this apology. Not fun when you’re launching a new service and you end up in crisis mode.

I think Netflix handled the apology well by coming clean: “We blew it.” But it blows my mind that, in today’s day and age when all we do is talk about transparency, that this could even happen. I don’t care if the firm is marketing, advertising, PR, or direct, all of us should know this is a HUGE no-no. If anything, take lesson from Edelman when they hired a blogger to trek the country visiting Wal-Mart stores, as if he were a customer. The fact that you’re not a PR professional is not an excuse. Don’t hire actors and pretend they are customers. Ever. This issue is at least four years old. Don’t do it. You will be found out, you will cause a client to have to do damage control, and you likely will lose that client. And for those of you who are clients? If your external resources are recommending a tactic like this, DO NOT APPROVE IT!

You can listen to us discuss this issue – with the Canadians being nice and defending our industry and me calling them out on it – on InsidePR today. The name of the game is transparency, transparency, transparency. Edelman knew better. Wal-Mart should have known better (and does now!). Now Netflix knows better.

What do you think?

Image courtesy of Fast Company

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Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

View all posts by Gini Dietrich