Recently Everything PR reported on the case of a female blogger who pretended to be male in order to avoid gender discrimination. Like much of the online world, I read the story with stunned amazement.
For one thing, I was shocked that such discrimination still takes place. Somehow, I had allowed myself to believe that we had moved beyond all that.
Personally, I’m against any kind of discrimination. I firmly believe that the gender of an employee or contractor (or for that matter — their race, age, religion or ethnic background) makes no difference in the quality of their work. No one should ever have to fear losing out on work or pay because of any of these factors.
By the way, in many Western countries such as the U.S. it is illegal to ask an applicant’s age, race, gender, religion, or ethnic background or to base an employment decision on any of these factors. (Of course, this doesn’t mean that the discrimination never happens.)
My thoughts went beyond that initial incident that occurred, though. I quickly realized that under different circumstances and in a completely different situation, a PR firm could be vulnerable to deceptions from less scrupulous individuals. Some deceptions could even damage the reputation of the PR firm that engaged the individual.
For example, imagine if a PR firm hired someone who misrepresented themselves in one of the following ways:
- Claimed to have education or credentials they didn’t have (such as a law or medical degree)
- Claimed to not have a criminal background, when in fact they did
- Claimed to have specific skills or experience they did not have
No one would want a fake doctor posting medical advice online or a convicted embezzler handling the firm’s finances. Such mistakes could be both costly to the firm and embarrassing.
Many organizations will fire an employee or a contractor if they find that something material was misrepresented on their application or resume. However, that action may be too late. The damage to the PR firm may have already occurred.
What can a PR firm do to avoid potential embarrassment?
The answer is simple. Do your due diligence. Know the people that you employ. Check references if possible. If an individual is being considered for a sensitive position, consider running a background check.
What about your PR firm? What precautions do you take? Share your thoughts in the comments.