It’s a pity that JetSmarter chose to ignore the saying “not all publicly is good publicity” – otherwise it would’ve steered a very different course and avoided a horrific PR own goal.
Up until now the start-up had often been described as the ‘Uber for private jets’ … how it was reinventing private air travel (for those lucky enough to afford it).
But last week JetSmarter’s reputation came crashing down to earth when The Verge revealed it was demanding uncritical media coverage. And to make matters worse, it wanted journalists’ credit card details so it could charge them $2,000 if a suitably positive story didn’t quickly appear after a demonstration flight.
Unsurprisingly the story was quickly picked up by a wide range of titles, with the word ‘extort’ prominently displayed in the headlines. As one blogger observed, JetSmarter had effectively pinned a ‘Kick Me’ sign onto its back and is now wandering the Internet, gathering boot prints!
To put it simply, demanding positive media is a complete ‘no no’. If you think the media can be blackmailed into writing fluffy stories, be warned – as JetSmarter has discovered, it’s a practice that will come back to haunt you.
During my time as a journalist, I helped to organise coverage of hundreds of events ranging from media facilities with the military (eg. filming on an aircraft carrier) to booking ‘spaces’ to interview politicians, CEOs of listed companies, F1 drivers and Hollywood stars. There’s no way any serious media outlet would sign an agreement like this.
However, what has really surprised me is the number of people in start-up social media groups who can’t see any problem. In their eyes, all that’s happened is that JetSmarter’s brand awareness has been raised.
But at what cost?
I know a lot of journalists have taken exception to JetSmarter’s attempted extortion. Their reputation with dozens of media titles is now trashed and the company faces an uphill battle to get the media back on side.
Looking beyond the horizon, any future positive review about their service will be sceptically viewed by the public and the media with the suspicion that it may have been ‘bought’.
Not all publicity is good publicity.