“Just because you’re promoting a worthy cause doesn’t justify distorting the truth.” That’s the first – and probably most damning – sentence in a Washington Post article about how nonprofit advocacy group American Rivers bended facts in its most recent report on the state of national waterways.
American Rivers declared the Potomac River the most polluted in the US, but critics of the report argue there’s no scientific way to label one large river dirtier than any other. Of course, there’s political shock value in spotlighting a river running through the seat of federal government as most polluted. But when an advocacy group can’t back up its statements, what good is the PR value?
We recently discussed this principle in analyzing the Kony 2012 meltdown. Just like that post predicted future Invisible Children headlines, you can bet next year’s American Rivers “Top 10” report will invite significant skepticism, playing into their opponent’s hands – and defeating the group’s own mission to promote environmental advocacy.
Advocacy groups, take heed: lying about your cause will not make it righteous. And it’s terrible PR as well.