In Fall 2007, on behalf of a kitchen and bath design company, I created an off-the-beaten-path media campaign that newsjacked Oprah Winfrey's hosting of a campaign fundraiser for then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama.
Tying in elements of my client's business, Pamela Polvere Designs, I did on-the-street surveys asking people's preferences of such things as whom, from among five famous men and five famous women, they would most like to dine with.
You can see the results, delineated by respondents' age and gender, here at Pamela Polvere Designs' website.
It was sheer frivolity, of course. But it was all in the service of parlaying a hot national news item into regional media attention for the Elmwood Park-based firm. An hour-long segment on WGN Radio, the Chicago Tribune and a kitchen-and-bath magazine were among those who devoted coverage.
Through it all--and for months afterwards--I kept all of the survey responses that formed the basis for the statistics that we conveyed to the media. Although highly unlikely that any reporter would ever ask to see "proof" of the surveys, it's something that I might have done during my career as a journalist.
After all, what's stopping someone from completely fabricating something so random and unmeasurable in any standardized way?
There are four common areas where people fib to the media--and usually without getting caught: military service and/or decorations; academic background and credentials; business history/successes; and athletic accomplishments.
Men, I have found in my own investigative career, are much more likely than women to pull a hamstring stretching the truth of their athletic feats. When I hear someone talking about some advanced level of skill in sport, it's only a matter of time before I go digging to see if I find details that confirm or dirt that convicts.
One recent example came after learning about the business success achieved by Dean and Marcie Whalen. They are newly qualified Amway Diamonds, within the World Wide DreamBuilders (WWDB) organization.
A pivotal part of their story is that, before launching their business, Dean had planned to try his hand at professional basketball overseas. My initial thought, "Was he really that good?"
Some online checking provides a strong answer to that skeptical query: Dean was Most Valuable Player of the University of Alberta basketball team during the 2005-2006 season. He led the Golden Bears in scoring, at 17 points per game, and he was their most prolific three-point shooter.
Clearly, his hoops pedigree is legit.
Whether your are running for political office, celebrating an anniversary of being in business or otherwise trying to shine a light on an endeavor you have embarked on, be ready to provide proof of the claims you make along the way. Otherwise, you risk incurring a serious blow to your credibility.
For more on how to detect and expose false claims, see my July 3, 2009 Chicago Marketing & PR Examiner piece, Beware of four hot spots for tall tales.