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We’re on the road and face to face at Counselors Academy’s annual conference for PR leaders, where we’ll be doing the next two shows.
Joe leads off this week’s discussion with: the Burson-Marsteller / Facebook imbroglio.
Gini recaps her blog post and sets the scene. BM had been working with media and bloggers to create a whisper campaign against Google and its social media platform. The PR firm did not disclose the client. After much speculation, Facebook admitted they were behind the program. BM issued a statement saying the initiative contravened its policies but did not come out and apologize. PRSA was quoted in a story saying that since only 14 people in the agency are members, they’re the only ones who can be held responsible for the ethics breach.
The story reminds Martin of a classic ‘50s film, The Sweet Smell of Success, with Tony Curtis as a less than honest press agent who conducts a whisper campaign of his own.
Joe says this is a challenge any firm faces. The story affects all PR and communications employees as well as the image of PR as a whole. What he finds most disturbing about BM’s response, is that they use misdirection to colour the perception of who’s responsible for the information.
Tom Garrity discusses the issue of reporters who jump over to PR. He suggests this is a good reminder to re-analyse how we look at and respond to social media in the marketplace. He references a survey his firm conducted in New Mexico that ranks PR and journalist as the lowest trusted professions.
Johna Burke asks what this invokes for agency proprietors as we create partnerships with clients and knowingly or unknowingly get caught up in the 24/7 news cycle. What can we do internally to resolve and manage situations like this?
Joe responds that an ethics code is not good enough. Ethics should be job one, the core of an agency’s culture, how we treat ourselves and how we treat the outside world.
Martin tries to look at it from the other side: how a call from a high profile client could colour a firm’s perceptions of the assignment, and that it’s important to hold onto your ethics and beliefs and not get caught with stars in your eyes.
Gini wonders when your defences come up and you realize something like this is a lot like Watergate.
Lisa Gerber references the point at which a crisis is inflamed or diffused and how a minority can make the majority look bad. She thinks PRSA should come out with a stronger stand and not simply focus on its members.
Gini would like to see our profession held accountable like other industries. Martin talks about how an industry-wide code of ethics that all organizations could sign would help establish professional standards… then gets off his high horse.
And that’s where this week’s podcast ends. We’d love to hear your comments on our topic, or any questions you may have.
Please send us an email or an audio comment to [email protected], join the Inside PR Facebook group, leave us a comment here, message us @inside_pr on Twitter, or connect with Gini Dietrich, Joe Thornley, and Martin Waxman on Twitter
Our theme music was created by Damon de Szegheo; Roger Dey is our announcer.
This week’s episode was produced by Kristine Simpson.