Readers of RollonFriday(RoF) will no doubt have been amused by their lead story last week catching out a recruitment consultancy for fabricating the number of staff it had.

The ever eagle-eyed RoF discovered that Dawn Ellmore Employment listed nine members of staff on its website but that two of them, Aaron Sims and Josephine Allan, were completely fictional. RoF reported that Aaron Sims bore an uncanny resemblance to a receptionist who worked at the business for six months in 2014, while Josephine Allan’s photograph was sourced from stock photo website, Shutterstock.

When RoF attempted to contact Ms Allan, a receptionist said: "She's not available at the moment", but that she would call back when she was free. The two even have LinkedIn profiles that start and end with Dawn Ellmore.

It would seem that the employment agency has been caught out by claiming to be larger than they actually are. I struggle to fathom who in the business would have ever suggested fabricating team members as a good idea. You only have to look at the comments made in the comments section below the story to see why it isn’t a good idea.

The story took me back to when I was first starting out my career and also studying for a postgraduate qualification in public relations. The course attracted an eclectic mix of PR practitioners, which as a result meant we all benefited from some real insights into many different working environments. However, one conversation has always stuck with me; One of my peers was grappling with her organisation’s inability to be honest with itself. She described it as if they had a fixed idea of what it wanted to be but had no intention of making any changes to turn the idea into reality. In one conversation she was told by a senior manager: “I don’t care what the truth is, you’re the PR person and so your job is to lie our way out of the situation we’re in.” 

I don’t recall the outcome of that conversation, save to say she spent some explaining the reality of their situation and what PR is there to do.

No matter what the situation, it is never a good idea to lie. PR cannot make a bad product or service good if that product and service isn’t good. PR is all about creating mutually beneficial relationships, and this requires transparency. PR professionals communicate a brand by shedding light on the brand’s culture, practices, services, personality, products and successes. They do not purposely cover up what you do not want your customers or clients to know. After all, you can’t make a sow’s ear out of a silk purse.

I have worked in some pretty extraordinary crisis situations over the past 20 years for a range of businesses and there really is no substitute for honesty, even if it is quite painful at the time. Short term pain, over long-term gain. Most people will forgive honest mistakes but they won’t forgive outright lies.

It will likely be very difficult for Dawn Ellmore Employment to come back from this as trust has been broken.