Media strategist Ryan Holiday recently released his new book, Trust Me I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator. Holiday wields an impressive résumé working for big-name clients such as “fratire” author Tucker Max, Linkin Park and high-profile clothing brand American Apparel. He coins himself as a “media manipulator” and is infamously quoted as saying:
“If you were being kind, you would say my job is in marketing and public relations, or online strategy and advertising. But that’s a polite veneer to hide the harsh truth. I am, to put it bluntly, a media manipulator. I’m paid to deceive. My job is to lie to the media so they can lie to you. I cheat, bribe, and connive for bestselling authors and billion dollar brands and abuse my understanding of the Internet to do it.”
When I began to whittle down the gist of Holiday’s (unethical) book, it discusses publicity strategies to create buzz in the blogosphere. A particular dark-art promotion strategy he used for Tucker Max’s film, I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, was to place anti-Tucker Max stickers on billboards and around the community. Holiday then proceeded to e-mail pictures of his sneaky-sticker-bandit deed to feminist blogs while posing under a pseudonym. Consequently, his wily “stickering” strategies eventually went viral and then snowballed into this, this, and this.
Holiday’s sticker-phantom maneuver represents how easily it is to exploit new media. Unfortunately, it means that traditional news sources can be easily swayed by these manipulation tactics as well. Trust Me I’m Lying definitely highlights how inside sources and facts for news stories might not be fully accurate nowadays — especially if they originate from bloggers.
Holiday’s confessions regarding how easy it was to dupe online media reflects urgency for the public to understand that when there’s a lack of fact-checking and an “old-school” editor in place (as in the case in most blogs), information can easily be manipulated for “infotainment” purposes. And ultimately, liars like Holiday can evade media’s accountability.
Stephanie Mishler is a recent Rollins College graduate and served as assistant account executive at Linda Costa Communications Group. She is an avid blog reader and feels crushed that Gawker might be half-accurate … or a quarter at least.