PR: pointing fingers will not solve the issue.

I would like to think of Ryan Holiday as the Maleficent of PR world, the supposed evil character yet when looking closer maybe not so evil? Self-proclaimed media manipulator Ryan Holiday has pulled a stunt after a stunt shocking the publics and building his marketing success. He is best known as the former director of marketing for American Appeal and for the Planned Parenthood stunt while working with the New York Times bestselling author Tucker Max.

In 2012 Holiday made headlines (and not pretty ones) with a PR stunt that not only raised eyebrows but also got public reacting similarly to King Stephen, when Maleficent cast the spell on Princess Aurora, with utter disgust and paranoia sweeping deep into the bones. Now known as the ‘HARO stunt’ was cleverly designed to manipulate media and truly make a controversial statement. Ryan put his assistant up to monitoring the Help a Reporter Out (HARO) website and to respond in Ryan’s name to as many journalist queries as possible with or without having any sufficient information. In matter of few weeks Holliday was featured on numerous blogs and highly acclaimed respectable publications like ABC News, CBS and cherry on top New York Times. Coincidently the news shook the media that Ryan Holiday in fact had lied to numerous journalists around the same time as Holliday’s ‘Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator’ book hit the shop shelves.

When Maleficent cast a spell on the Princess Aurora the publics were pointing their fingers at her as the evil character and King Stephan’s past betrayal towards Maleficent was simply ignored or masterfully disguised. When Ryan Holliday made a statement showcasing not only the true power of PR but also proving how some journalists are lousy at their job, he was cast out as the villain. A journalist’s job is to fact check any and every source no matter where the information comes from, it is a simple responsibility towards their readers.

The King Stephan’s riff with Maleficent has greater consequences than just establishing the true offender. Princess Aurora’s wellbeing is on the line similarly while we can point fingers back and forth between Holiday and the journalists there is a greater consequence to consider – the publics. Both PR professionals and journalists are dependent on the publics. There needs to be a change! If readers lose trust in heavyweight publications like New York Times, then how can PR professionals reach those audiences? While I, as an aspiring PR professional, look up to Ryan Holliday as a true mastermind, I also fear of the destruction that his dark ways have brought.

We are all familiar with the tale of Sleeping Beauty and we know that her falling into deep sleep was unavoidable. I surely hope that just like the recent Maleficent movie showed the distraught order can be reversed.  It’s up to us as the next generation of PR professionals to make this change and leave the wicked ways of Maleficent and King Stephan in the past and pavement a new road in a cliché Disney fashion towards the happily ever after, whatever that may be will only time tell.

Originally written for Text and Contexts Year 3, semester 1 assessment submission.

Image: RichRoll, (2017). Ryan Holliday. [image] Available at: [Accessed 2 Feb. 2017].

One Comment

  1. […] management should not be the only aspect of this circus that was to concern anyone working in PR. As I have said before, if society loses trust in media then delivering a message to stakeholders and consumers becomes […]


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