"Did they really say that?"

The DWP has admitted making up quotes by benefit  claimants. So what we've all don it. The difference is they got caught because their quotes we so unbelievable. The DWP leaflet not only included fake quotes but fake pictures,of fake people, telling fake stories. They were caught out when a journalist asked to interview the Sarah and Sac in the photos about their stories.

Faking it may be a lot more common than you think. Take those happy smiling faces in the Housing Associations annual report, the same elderly residents appear in the business plan and who also pop up in the  promotional literature. Only they don't live in any of the Housing Associations many schemes. They are "library photos" , models. The HA used real elderly tenants in the past but they kept dying. Family and friends were distressed to see their dead parent featured in this way and the HA didn't think it sent out the right message to have a footnote to the effect the person in the photo had since died. 

As for made up quotes I have sat through many presentations summarising the out come of a consultation exercise which have been illustrated by quotes. The management consultant will say that a significant number of people expressed the same concern which is best summed up in this quote which they then display on the power point screen. Does the fact that they tidied up the remakes of several people in to one neat  quote change its significance? Same with those anonymous comments received from the staff survey they appear in quotes in the report to the senior management team are they any the less revealing for being anonymous. As for the illustrative  stories well that's just what they are away of illustrating or showing what typically happens to people. 

The problem arises when these techniques are used to mislead rather than illustration. The business report is supposed to be factual, the consultation exercise rigorously impartial unlike an advert. When you watch a double glazing advert on TV which features a couple siting in what appears to be their front room saying how pleased they are with their new windows you threat it with a certain amount of scepticism they are after all trying to sell you double glazing. 
Blair McPherson author and blogger www.blairmcpherson.co.uk 

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