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No, JCPR / Edelman, I'm Not Taking That iPhone Sex Appeal Story Down

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We see strange things happen in the PR (and yes, also the technology) industry all the time, but this one takes the cake. This morning, I noticed a press release hit the wire carrying the sensational headline “Men With iPhones Are More Attractive to Women”.

Glancing over it, my built-in bullshit alarm went off straight away. So I wrote a post essentially mocking the survey which reached the conclusion in said headline, and particularly its apparent source, mobile phone retailer Phones 4U.

Laughs all around, on to the real news.

Then I get this peculiar email from a PR flack at some agency, neither of which I know:

Hi there,

There is a press release on your website (here: http://techcrunch.com/2010/04/21/54-of-women-more-likely-to-date-men-with-iphones-says-iphone-retailer/ ) which you have sourced from PR Newswire. However, this press release has not come from Phones 4u, nor us, and as such has been removed from the newswire.

Would you be able to remove the story from your site?

We didn’t publish the press release, however, nor was it removed from the newswire as this person claimed (and still isn’t). Weird. Why would anyone lie about that?

Update: looks like it was removed now.

So evidently, I replied asking who this person and the agency that employs him is and why they think I would remove an article upon simple request, without further background information. I also asked whether they happen to be working for Phones 4U, and that if there are problems someone from that company should contact me directly.

In response, I get an email from the flack’s coworker instead:

Hi Robin

I work on the Phones 4u team here at JCPR and firstly wanted to apologise for the team not making this clear in our initial communication with you.

The press office team here at JCPR issue ALL press releases for Phones 4u, however have nothing to do with the release that has been picked up today. We have forwarded your details to our client who will send you an email explaining that this was not issued by us and that we were not aware of the survey.

If we can work together to resolve this as both Phones 4u and Apple are not happy that this story has been issued without their consent. We obviously want to find a solution that works for both TechCrunch and Phones 4u. With the story factually incorrect we are kindly requesting that all sites please remove it.

So it gets better. Now Apple apparently caught wind of the survey and would like to see it removed, too. Yeah, right. And someone really issued a press release on PR Newswire on behalf of Phones 4U without their consent or knowledge? And paid for it? Yeah. Right.

Sounds about as plausible as the fact that 54% of women are more likely to date men with iPhones. But ok, stranger things have happened.

Other publications are getting similar emails and phone calls.

Then finally, I get an email from Phones 4U’s PR Manager, who tells me:

Hi Robin,

I understand that you’ve been speaking with JCPR regarding a press release that was issued on the newswires today entitled ‘Men with iPhones are more attractive to women’.

I just wanted to reiterate that as per your discussions with JCPR, that this press release is NOTHING to do with Phones 4u. We did not issue any such press release, nor were we even aware that a press release was being issued. The first we heard of it was seeing the article published on the web.

Phones 4u have also not carried out any research that the press release claims we have. We have no association with the press release whatsoever, neither do Apple who are keen, as are we, that this story be removed from the websites that have so far published it.

The story currently on your TechCrunch website is false, issued unfortunately by a bogus source and is entirely factually incorrect. As a result, we’d like to ask you to remove the story from the website so that it does not continue to mislead TechCrunch readers.

I hope you will consider our request and remove the said story as soon as possible.

Many thanks,

Update: PR Newswire confirmed to Webuser.co.uk editor Ben Camm-Jones that the release came from “a valid source, one of Phones 4u’s comms agencies”. And I thought JCPR issues “ALL the press releases” for the company.

I wouldn’t want to mislead you, dear reader, but I’m not keen on removing anything on TechCrunch as long as edit buttons exist. You can read, and I updated the original story with a link to this post, so consider yourself no longer misled. Done.

In the event someone actually did decide to pull a fast one on Phones 4u by paying for and issuing a bogus press release on PR Newswire, my apologies to the retailer and JCPR / Edelman. But please work on your communication skills, however ironic that may seem.

And let’s put out a search warrant for that mysterious bogus source.

Final update: they found ‘em! From Phone 4U:

Hi Robin,

I totally understand your confusion surrounding this story, but can now clarify the situation.

We’ve now established that Phones 4u’s Digital Marketing agency, StickyEyes, this morning issued a press release on behalf of Phones 4u without Phones 4u’s knowledge, consent or approval.

StickyEyes conducted research via a third party, again without prior consent from Phones 4u and issued a press release detailing its findings without Phones 4u’s knowledge.

To confirm, Phones 4u had no knowledge of any said survey, nor did Phones 4u consent to or approve of the press release StickyEyes issued to PR Newswire and the information provided within the said release is factually incorrect.

What a mess.

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