GPY&R sex scandal story may be a beat up but it still has implications

So is this morning’s expose of the online activities of GPY&R a beat-up? Of course.

But for anyone working for an agency that does work for any organisation or brand that might get into controversy it still has implications. If you say or do anything online you may get dragged into the spotlight.

And the filter won’t be whether you do or say anything outrageous – it will be whether you do or say anything that could be turned into a story by a tabloid paper.

In this case, much of the story’s weaponry comes from Tiphereth Gloria’s Tumblr blog. For those unfamiliar, Tumblr is often driven by reposting stuff that you like or amuses you. In some ways it’s a glorified Facebook ‘Like’ button. But reading today’s News Ltd story, a casual reader would assume the contents of her Tumblr blog – “images of women in compromising situations, pornographic photos and other material” had all been created by her.

For Zac Martin, i’s an even tougher one. I’m sure one of the reasons he got the job at GPY&R in the firts place was by being interesting – and engaging – online. (Thankfully, the journalist didn’t uncover Zac’s splendid Cumbrella spoof of 2009). It’s probably not reasonable to expect him to stop having a personality once he’s on staff.

But that’s not the game.

The Skype scandal was a big story. The moment GPY&R was called in to conduct a review (some would say that looked like something of a cosmetic PR exercise, but that’s another story altogether), it was part of the story.

And the journos went hunting.

And of course everybody who is active on social media leaves a footprint that out of context will make a great story.

I can think of plenty of people in big jobs, who could be turned over tomorrow if they got unlucky. Senior people. Marketers and corporate comms people in  big roles.

If you’ve got a corporate job, and are on social media, this demonstrates: it isn’t about whether you behave reasonably – it’s about how your behave could be presented through a tabloid lens.

I hope GPY&R doesn’t sacrifice any of its staff over this one. This could have been almost anyone.

Tim Burrowes


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