Recently the New York attorney general’s office conducted a year-long sting to find people who are posting fake reviews online in exchange for money.

What they found is there were 19 companies paying anywhere from $1 to $10 per positive review posted. They fined the organizations a combined $350,000 for the unethical work.

Michael Lasky, an attorney who specializes in PR firms, wrote about the undercover operation and provided four lessons for PR professionals, in a recent PR Week column.

The warning is clear: While the sting only looked at SEO firms, PR could be next.

So what does it mean for PR firms?

We already know Wikipedia is adamant against PR professionals posting anything in there on behalf of their clients, unless it’s clearly disclosed. And, ProPublica just came out against the New York Times for not disclosing who helped them with the President Putin editorial (hint: It was Ketchum).

So where is the line?

We know what is black (fake reviews, astroturfing, whisper campaigns) and we know what is white (honesty, transparency, disclosure). But what about the grey?

Say you work for a multi-national company that has offices around the globe. You write a blog post and ask your colleagues to share it on their social networks.

Is that ethical?

Or you have clients who produce content and you ask your team to comment on it and share it.

Is that ethical?

Is it realistic to expect the New York Times or the BBC to disclose the PR firms they worked with on the stories that had some outside influence?

This week’s episode covers these issues and how to tow the grey line.

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We’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Inside PR is produced by Kristine D’Arbelles and Ashlea LeCompte.

Comments

  1. Natalie Bovair

    I’m with you Ginny. Many are doing an admirable job at disclosure but it’s probably time to rethink the requirement to post corporate PR or client posts. To my mind, there’s a clear line between freely offering social support from a base of knowledge and passion for the business and doing so based on a condition of employment.

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