French Kissing with the Dark Lord of Blogging PR

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Remember the exhilarating, confused, and naughty feeling you had the first time you french kissed?

You didn’t quite know what happened but you were anxious to um…refine your skills?

I felt that way when I finished Ryan Holiday’s book “Trust Me. I’m Lying”.

Ryan is a colorful, crafty, irreverent, genius. He’s the marketing chieftain at American Apparel where he turned provocative advertising into an art-form and profits. Out of college he become Robert Greene’s research assistant then moved on to be a sh*t-storm artist for Tucker Max. You can look up his handiwork on Google but make sure the kiddies aren’t in the room.

In Trust Me, I’m Lying, Ryan introduces readers to the dark art of PR in the blogging age. I’m not talking about Social Media Examiner or Spin Sucks but the behemoths that hijack millions of eyeballs a day like Gawker, TechCrunch, Boing Boing and the Huffington-Post. Ryan has made a living out of manipulating these giants into running stories that benefit his clients.

  • He’s bought billboards, defaced them, and sent the pictures to local LA blogs to create a viral firestorm
  • He’s hired porn stars to model American Apparel’s new clothing line
  • He’s intentionally offended gays, lesbians and bisexuals and sent them anonymous tips on where to protest.

…and that’s just the stuff that I feel comfortable writing about.

You Will Be Offended…

Ryan exposes the unethical and sloppy modern muckracking that blogs call journalism. He also teaches how to use these same tactics to get millions of dollars in free press. In any system where there’s money to be made, there will be a secret playbook for manipulating it. Trust Me, I’m Lying is that playbook.

Here’s why I want you to put this puppy on your Kindle, grab a glass of warm kool-aid and take notes. Ryan shows that when done right, breaking the rules is profitable. In the second-half of the book, he details the lines that you shouldn’t cross and how to cozy up to that line while keeping your soul.

For 40% of the bloggers out there who need to make a dollar from their content – traffic, attention, and pageviews are critical. It makes sense to know how the Arianna Huffington created a behemoth that sold for $350,000,000. It’s smart to understand how Gawker analyzes traffic, search keywords, and trending Twitter topics to create real-time editorial calendars.

Turn up your nose if you like, but read and take note first.

My Take…

I love this book. I dig Ryan Holiday. I won’t be using most of the tactics he revealed but… I will be using a few. I never did like the rules.

P.S. If you want some less naughty and controversial tips to getting blog readers then go here.

About Stan

Stan Smith is the Managing Director of Pushing Social a content marketing consultancy for aggressive, results-focused organizations.

7 thoughts on “French Kissing with the Dark Lord of Blogging PR

  1. Stanford Post author

    Mike, thanks for your comment.
    Here’s the thing…
    I am a fan of dialogue even contentious dialogue. Pushing Social’s job is to arm bloggers with information that they should be aware of. As the publisher I offer my opinion.

    Trust Me I’m Lying is absolutely a book worth reading because it offers a sober look at how the blogging industry is run.

    Ryan is a fascinating personality. Is he noble? I’ll leave that up to you to decide. This is a blog not a church pulpit.

    Do I respect people who after reading the book decide that they want nothing to do with the people, industry, or strategies talked about in the book? Yep.

    Do I respect the opinions of anyone who pass judgement on the book without reading it first? No.

  2. Mike

    “And there is no harm in reading Ryan’s book and you will even be armed.”
    Except that you’ll be putting money in the pocket of an admitted liar who has abused the system and resources we rely on, and thrown the rest of us, as writers, bloggers, and PR people, under the bus of suspicion.

    “And these kinds of controversies will surely make anyone bigger in the blogging world.”
    Yeah, and consuming 10,000 empty calories a day will make us bigger in the real world, but that won’t be healthy either.

    I sincerely hope that people who espouse and use these tactics – and those who condone / justify them as well – become much, much, much smaller in the blogging world. I know that I have lost a lot of respect for those who have promoted and/or condoned this particular person and his work, and will no longer have anything to do with them.

  3. Trent Dyrsmid

    I think Stanford is right. For scientists/researchers to know the cure somebody should have had the virus first. And there is no harm in reading Ryan’s book and you will even be armed. You may or may not use what you have learned but at least you know that other people are using it and you now know how to defend yourself from it.

    And these kinds of controversies will surely make anyone bigger in the blogging world.

  4. Stanford Post author

    Ryan, thanks for stopping by. When I read the book I knew in my gut that it would be a lightning rod for controversy. In many ways the book reminded me of Dr. Cialdini’s book – Influence. Even though the book was positioned as a guide for resisting persuasion, legions of marketers have used it as a playbook for influencing – even manipulating their customers. I would rather know about the tactics you explained rather than being in the dark. I feel I am a smarter, even more ethical, blogger after reading the book.

  5. Ryan Holiday

    Hey Stanford, just wanted to say how fair I thought your article was–especially because I didn’t expect that when I saw the headline on Twitter.

    I think the reaction to the HARO stunt (mentioned above) is sad. The people I criticize in this book have every reason to try to marginalize me, to undermine my points. I regret giving them the ammunition I did with the HARO thing–which is ironic, because if anyone should have come out looking bad their it was the reporters who couldn’t even be bother to GOOGLE the source they were quoting.

    When you attack sacred cows and the backlash ensues, you see who your friends really are. It was a shame that Copyblogger reacted that way because I was much more proud of that post than pretty much anything else I wrote to promote the book. I apologize to Brian, obviously, for any unintended blow back but whatever.

  6. Stanford Post author

    Hey there Monica. I agree lying to your audience isn’t cool or profitable. In the book, It seems Ryan comes to this conclusion too. I would still recommend reading it. Think of it as a vaccination against an unethical disease. You have to get a little of the virus into you to be able to get the cure.

  7. Monica Miller Rodgers

    Stanford, I’m just starting out with my own blog, and I’m really enjoying your posts about all things blogging. I’ve read many times in blogging advice not to be afraid of controversy. However, as a PR professional, I find Ryan Holiday’s methods completely unethical. I’m not against reading material that is controversial in the industry; I believe as a practitioner, I need to know and understand views against PR. I’m currently debating reading Holiday’s book or not for this very reason, but I won’t use tactics that come about by lying to my audiences or media members. In my view, experiment or not, this behavior ruins any credibility Holiday may have had. Case in point, he actually had a good post about research on copyblogger (, but it was removed from the homepage when Holiday was called out for his tactics in this book (

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