Separating fact from fiction: lessons from Madbird

Separating fact from fiction: lessons from Madbird

Selina Jardim

Selina Jardim

The story of how the fake design agency Madbird ensnared unsuspecting job seekers into its web has gone viral, leaving readers shocked at the façade that was created.

Can you blame these unsuspecting employees who trusted that the company they were working for was in fact legitimate? The evidence presented across all aspects of the company set-up was convincing. After all, we were in the thick of a global pandemic and relied heavily on technology (and still do). It’s become an important conduit of communication in our professional and personal lives.

I myself made the decision to accept a job offer in London and immigrate to the UK – based solely on communication and interaction through technology with a dash of blind faith. Job interviews over Zoom/MS teams have become the norm. Fortunately, I evaded becoming a casualty of jobfishing and joined an established, reputable, and dynamic European tech PR agency.   

Madbird was built lie upon lie and rotten to the core, using a technology-built façade as a blunt instrument to lure clients and employees. It created fake characters, fake imagery, fake campaigns and fake clients and it nearly succeeded. Is it possible the PR and comms industry might have fake imposters?

Let’s assume our industry is not immune to imposters – what steps can you take to flush out the fakes when looking to partner with a PR or communications agency?

Choosing a European tech PR agency

Accreditation

The first step is to establish if the agency in question is registered and has passed management consultancy standards by a notable industry body or association such as the PRCA.  The agency should be accredited and committed to the development of its own industry.

Word of mouth

Reach out to your network to see if they’ve heard of the agency or its founder and establish if they have a favourable reputation, not only in the communications industry but business circles too.

Don’t be blinded by the flash

Establish whether the PR agency you’re considering partnering with has a passion for and experience in effective communications. Any company can put together a flashy presentation that is hugely impressive, but is there substance? Will the team deliver on promises? Is the agency demonstrating a proactive and brave yet focused? Is it an agency that could align with your company’s strategic imperatives and would the team know how to translate that into a communications strategy?

Chemistry is key

Your PR agency should be an extension of your team and be able to integrate seamlessly into your company and team culture. Setting up a chemistry session (in person if possible) should quickly tell you if these are the type of people you would like to work with – do they have the right energy and could you see them building strong interpersonal relationships with you and your team? Remember to trust your gut.

Take up referrals and references

Review the case studies or work the agency has executed (and verify it if you can) and don’t be afraid to ask for referrals whether from clients or journalists.

As a communications agency whose core business is servicing technology-driven clients, Firefly has been fortunate to collaborate with many great companies, large and small, whose technology has made a strong case for impacting human lives, business and our planet positively.

Technology may be our passion and an enabler in business, but we spend as much time as we can listening mostly but talking to our clients, and talking amongst ourselves about different ways, better ways or faster way to achieve results and greater impact. Speak to the people proposed on your team, and interview them as you would any potential joiner to your business. You buy into an agency culture, but really you buy a team of people.

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