PR firm plays shady games on the internet – is this a bad thing?

Before starting things off, a disclaimer: I am no expert on public relations or ethics. I have never taken classes or studied extensively the nuances of either subject. I will probably miss a point, and you, my internet superheroes, must aid me in finding it. Or simply point out my sheer dumbness – that usually works, too.

Sultans of Spin (and other catchy, derogatory names for PR practicioners)

Before getting down and dirty with the nitty-gritty of an all-out thinking-things-like-a-grown-up spiel, I’d like to present my personal interpretation of common PR function as I’ve seen it as the outsider to the field I am:

I like to visualize businesswomen in those old-school shoulder pads, but this comic is about the message, not the fashion. Pay attention!

This is basically it. Granted, the first chapter of our text made me realize PR folk do more than sweep up corporate messes, but even so. I still have this pretty solid image of picking at a mass description of a company with a Wite-Out pen and omitting all the nasty words capable of making a consumer crinkle his/her nose. It’s not lying, per se, but it’s certainly not being wholly honest. That’s how I feel.

And recent news on high-stakes internet fights doesn’t exactly give me much to change my mind.

The Internet is serious ethical business

Look, here: Facebook hired PR firm Burson-Marsteller to get negative press published against Google’s new Social Circle feature. Worse (but most likely not the firm’s fault) was the fact FB kept their name out of it, claiming the goal was public awareness rather than sticking it to one of their greatest rivals:

“No ‘smear’ campaign was authorized or intended. Instead, we wanted third parties to verify that people did not approve of the collection and use of information from their accounts on Facebook and other services for inclusion in Google Social Circles, just as Facebook did not approve of use or collection for this purpose,” a spokesman said. “The issues are serious and we should have presented them in a serious and transparent way.”

Is it true? Is it a lie? Who even knows! I don’t! I highly doubt everyone hearing about this takes time out to check up on this firm’s reputation. Judging from its website, Burson-Martseller’s more into bringing us Swedish goods and making Transitions lenses look way more exciting than they actually are.

So was this Facebook’s fault for getting the ball rolling, or the folks at Burson-Martseller for rolling with it? Was it ethical?

Well, the Public Relations Society of America’s famed Code of Ethics gives me a mixed message. On the one hand, the very first point presses the need to “protect and advance the free flow of accurate and truthful information.” It says nothing of positive or negative; telling folks about the privacy aspects of Social Circle is a-OK. It’d be ethical to do so, I think! At least…It’d be ethical for Google to have said so in the first place.

On the other, I scroll and see another set of points – “code guidelines.” And this, as point number two:

Reveal sponsors for represented causes and interests.

Granted, whenever I hear “guidelines,” I hear that guy in “Pirates of the Caribbean” when he’s called out on breaking the pirate code: “The code is more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules…”

Also, who’s to say Burson-Marsteller even signs onto this code? All I see on its site is an adherence to the WPP Code of Business Conduct, which does indeed protect the privacy of a client…but doesn’t that clash with PR ethics?

Lofty ideals or low blows?

Facebook was never named as this little whisper campaign was making its way through top-tier publications. Actually, it was only revealed when one of the bloggers approached refused and posted the email pitches!

Like I said at the start – I’m no expert on this. I do understand, however, that codes and guidelines are not rules – rather, good advice to follow in the field if you’d like to be not considered a jerk. Our text touches on this troubling balancing act, complete with handy visual aid on page 182. There are situations where one has to consider their own ethics, their employer’s and their client’s simultaneously.

There’s also talk of a “contingency theory,” wherein practitioners sometimes have to back their client 100 percent (p. 183) out of moral obligation. Was pointing out Social Circle’s new features something falling into this vein?

I’ll tell you what I think. I think if Facebook truly holds the belief in their claimed cause – that this was a case in the cause of social awareness about a hot-button topic – their name should have been public from the get-go. Burson-Martseller shouldn’t have been involved – at least, not in the whole hey-USA-Today-I-got-some-dirt-for-you-nudge-nudge-wink-wink way it seems to be reported as.

Then again, historically, perhaps this isn’t that bad? I mean, back in the day, there was a whole progression of thought in PR pertaining to the public’s right-to-know. Dr. Shannon A. Bowen points this out in her history of ethics in public relations.

But that’s back in the day. Bowen covers well beyond Ivy Lee’s principles of public knowledge of long ago, presses on about how vital ethics has become as the profession expanded and changed. She notes a dire lack of ethics training in younger PR practitioners, which could, perhaps, account for this shady little misstep.

And to be honest, I haven’t heard any buzz about this little drama. I had to dig to find it. It leads me to believe this isn’t too new or unusual – only the scale and prominence of the two web lords makes it the story it is. Who’s to say this kind of thing isn’t practiced regularly, perhaps under the assumption of public interest. And money.

Like Aladdin said: You’re only in trouble if you get caught.

But, hey. Nobody’s perfect! Thank goodness for butt pats like this one from the Wakeman Agency, right? If anything, Burson-Marsteller can at least rest assured their staff is potentially more ethical than a veterinary student.

So, did I learn anything?

I don’t think the PR firm lied about anything. I think what they did was shady in a childish sense – catty, even. Like kids at recess elbowing each other and passing around rumors. Don’t say where you heard this, but Jimmy eats glue! Except someone got paid a lot of money to tell everyone about Jimmy eating glue.

I’d like to think this firm is better than taking money from such a digital behemoth like Facebook, but I have to be honest. Dollar signs are very important. I don’t doubt dollar signs swayed the decision to go with this plan – what company decisions aren’t about money in some form, anyway?

But it still leaves me with a sour feeling. My feelings on PR remain closer to the cynical side in light of this case, though I am aware there is much more to the profession than playing telephone with rival companies.

I can only wonder, though…had that blogger not posted his emails as proof, what kind of story would this wind up being? Would Burson-Martseller have kept quiet? I hope not.

-Laura Laurain

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31 thoughts on “PR firm plays shady games on the internet – is this a bad thing?

  1. I definitely agree with your depiction of the stereotypical PR firm, and in a way, that IS their job – to make a company/product/person look amazing despite any shortcomings. The fact that Facebook hired a PR firm to talk down Google’s attempt at social networking comes as no surprise. In a way, I kind of relate to FB – they were the first ones to make a social networking site this in-depth, and it’s obvious the only reason Google even made Social Circle was to compete with FB’s awesome idea.

    I don’t buy the whole “this isn’t a smear campaign” business – that was obviously the reason Facebook got involved. Even if they were mildly interested in exposing the privacy issues of Social Circle, this would only be in response to their own privacy issues. “Well, so what if I used to eat glue? The real problem is Jimmy, he didn’t learn from MY mistakes! Take down the glue-eater!”

    I don’t think it’s unethical to expose another company’s faults, even if it’s for money. In fact, I think that’s how the game goes – you make money any way you can, which often involves taking down the competition. It’s hardly “unethical” to point out another product’s shortcomings. Toilet paper commercials do it all the time. “We’re more absorbent than THIS toilet paper!” In a way, that could be a privacy issue, right…? It IS the bathroom tissue.

    I agree that Facebook should have been upfront instead of obviously lying. Sometimes, good PR involves stretching the truth…but this only works when it’s BELIEVABLE. And saying that they outed Google’s privacy issues for the “good of the public” is hardly believable.

    Your pirate video was a little unnecessary but definitely added a laugh. Great post (:

    • I also get that “I did it first” vibe from this drama. It does make me wonder if that wasn’t part of what pushed FB to remain in the shadows as B-M made its push – that, perhaps, the public would only perceive it as one big company trying to bust another’s balls.

      That doesn’t make what they were trying to make public any less TRUE, though, so really. One way or the other, they come out kind of rank. This ‘alleged’ smear campaign doesn’t make them look as noble as the intent they claim, in any case.

      And FB really doesn’t have much room to talk, what with plastering folks’ phone numbers on their site now. And all the other privacy gunk they’ve been sloshing around in for years…

      Also, pirates are always relevant and necessary. ALWAYS…

  2. Hello Laura, great post. I do have some questions that just sort of popped up in my head as I was reading your very entertaining blog. In regards to the Public Relations Society of America, do you know if PR firms and other practitioners have to register with them? Sort of like if a lawyer wants to practice law they have to be a member of the ABA? I ask this question because, say there was some foul play on the part of Facebook and Burson-Martseller, who would stand in front of the PRSA ethics board? Would Facebook share any responsibility in disciplinary action at all being that they are not a PR firm but simply hired a firm to do their dirty work?

    -Orlando Bailey

    • Thanks, Orlando!

      Check out the content in Dr. Bowen’s article on ethics and public relations I have linked in the post – scroll to the bolded section entitled “Current State of Ethics in Public Relations: Codes of Ethics.” Many PR organizations do offer membership, but lack the authority to really enforce things like codes of ethics – in fact, many believe rather that their code is there for EDUCATION, rather than for punishment, and have no systems in place to penalize.

      Inside a company, however, I assume there are tiers where punishments are allotted for certain infractions, but…that’s all on a company-by-company basis. PR workers aren’t licensed, so there isn’t an all-encompassing structure for these sorts of things like there are in other fields.

  3. Laura,
    In my opinion what Facebook did was a low blow, but a brilliant one! An attempt to put bad press on Google. Instead of denying the fact that those were not their intentions they should have owned up to it! I look at it as a court case. Who wants to go to court without a lawyer? We hire lawyers to fight our cases and prove our points. It’s not always about proving my case, but as simple as presenting the flaws within my opponents! Don’t get mad at the lawyer, it’s his job! That’s exactly the part that Burson_Marsteller’s played: the lawyer! What’s competition without real competitiveness? Right? Code of ethics is simply being courteous. It’s nice to abide by it, but not mandatory! Where’s the tough skin?

    • I kind of see where you’re going, but I’m still a little unsure of the analogy. The key difference here is visibility — a lawyer doesn’t represent a SECRET client, everyone knows who’s being represented! In this case, B-M refused to reveal their client at the get-go. Why?

      Customer confidentiality is one thing, but I’m not sure it should apply to this. I don’t believe Facebook was being philanthropic about trying to get this info about Social Circle out. I think they were butthurt about yet ANOTHER social media site trying to infringe on their field and used a secondary source to start conversation. Conversation which, in essence, is never a bad thing! But I think it was gone about all wrong, and I do believe B-M’s gotta own up to their part in this ordeal.

  4. One thing that I’ve learned from witnessing and working is PR is that it can be quite difficult to maintain certain ethics, and still be “on top of your game.” I think that what the people at Facebook did was kind of shady, but they definitely seemed to have planned it and seemed well prepared to deny any dishonesty on their part.

    By saying that their actions were simply for the public’s best interest was a smart way to to draw more attention to their website, although it may have tainted the image of the Google social circle.

    I definitely agree with when you mentioned that “that codes and guidelines are not rules – rather, good advice to follow in the field if you’d like to be not considered a jerk. ”

    I also took another look at the PR code of ethics just to brush up on my knowledge of the Code, and realized some interesting things. It says to “Protect and advance the free flow of accurate and truthful information,” which may or may not have been what Facebook did; and it also says to “Work to strengthen the public’s trust in the profession. ” which could be the argument that Facebook uses when faced with the question of ethics.

    Shady or not, Facebook can still use the Code to back them up

    • And that in of itself seems kind of jerkish to me. One way or the other, FB’s stance on this is tainted solely by the fact of who it is as a business. It is a social media juggernaut. Whether or not it actually meant to shell out information for the sake of the public, it can be easily interpreted as simply a sore jab to try and stifle its competition.

      The push for this exposition of information simply could not come from FB without it looking bad. I remember when Google Buzz (Google’s first attempt at a catch-all social site from last year) was first launched – recoil came immediately from USERS and BLOGGERS rather than opposing companies, and THAT push, to me, felt more genuine. To me, at least.

      It’s just too easy to believe the worst in a company – especially one with more than its own fair share of dirty laundry on the line.

  5. Laura,
    I found your post to be amusing and extremely thought provoking. Your sources are relevant as well as fun and easy to follow. I’d like to say that I was completely unaware of this issue in the PR world, but that is a lie. Ethics is a two-way road in my eyes. I feel as though you must have good intentions from the PR firm and client in order to produce ethical results. Yes, we have “codes of ethics” and “guidelines” but who’s to be the mediator when it boils down to these issues. Especially if we can all be caught in this sticky web of being “ethical or not.” You have to mean well from the beginning. Apparently, Facebook hired Burson-Marsteller with the intent to use them as an avenue to tear down Google. For whatever reason, we may never know. Though as a result they showed the ugly side of their company. Not a good look at all Facebook.

    – Sheheriana

    • “I feel as though you must have good intentions from the PR firm and client in order to produce ethical results.”

      That’s a great point; I definitely see what you mean, and I agree. I don’t know what the ratio of ill-intent was between both partners, but there has to be enough to spread around to both.

      Of course, I don’t doubt the public will only have its eyes on Facebook; B-M may not have to sweat this one AS much. But I assume any top-tier client debacle’s going to look kind of icky on a portfolio, yes?

  6. Laura,

    First of all, I love your drawing right at the beginning. When I think PR, that is what I think too. Perhaps that is because we are not elbows deep in PR studies yet to really know the difference?

    I have to say though, the articles presented about Facebook and Google in regards to the smear campaign seems so high school teen drama to me. I have to agree with the comment in the “Facebook Denies ‘Smear’ Campaign Against Google” article referencing Facebook’s fear that Google may become more “powerful.” Why else would they decide to go through all of this trouble than if they were scared?

    However, the stance on who to believe, who not to believe is not really the question you posed. You posed the ethics, and ethically, I am going to have to agree with your statement that, yes, Google should have been the one to say something about the privacy or potential lack there of. I am going along with the same ethics that were presented by the PRSA.

    Information pertaining to the users privacy should have been clearly stated before assuming every user wants to network. Perhaps it is though, somewhere in the very fine print of the online contractual agreement for signing up with GMail. But, I can’t remember, and to be honest, I don’t even know if there was one when I signed up for mine because I had to get one for my droid phone. So, assuming, that there wasn’t anything, ethically, there should have been one because as was pointed out in “Google deflects PR firm’s attack of GMail’s privacy”: “Users have a very high expectation of privacy in their e-mails,” says Kimberly Nguyen. I would whole-heartedly agree with that statement. In comparison, most people have an understanding from the very beginning that FB is very public and nothing is private.

    Now, assume that something is stated about the GMail privacy, perhaps they should consider making it more clear in some way shape or form.

    However, if you really wanted to spin this around, you could say that FB’s PR ‘smear’ campaign, did unknowing gmail users a favor by notifying them of GMail’s open networking with your profile. In that sense, it would be ethical for FB to say something. It may not be the way that users want to find out about it, but it could be considered information that one needs to know and the information should be out there to the user.

    All in all, in this case of questionable ethics, I think it is hard to pin down because this could be seen either way. Should Google have been the one to say something, yes. Should FB say something since Google didn’t is debatable, but to some, perhaps yes. It could have been presented in a different and better way without the dirt slinging.

    Dayna M.

    • I definitely agree with you re: Google stepping up with their dirt in the first place. It reminds me – have you ever heard of Google Buzz? This Social Circle thing is definitely not their first rodeo in email privacy issues.

      Here’s an overview of the drama/subsequent lawsuit: http://bit.ly/b6XMla

      But like you said, it does water down to the fine print. Google, if I remember correctly, does retain the right to adjust its terms and conditions as many times as it wants; I remember reading somewhere during the Buzz drama Google indeed modified terms to include user inclusion into mass-networking tools being developed. It caused a lot of…well. Buzz. Just not the kind intended.

      Gmail hasn’t been the most private of accounts for a long time…The company’s been digging through our emails at LEAST as long as those personalized ads at the top of the inbox have been active.

      • I have read some articles, similar to the one you linked, pertaining to Google’s lack of privacy. It seems to be popping up ever so often in the news. But, I haven’t been a Gmail user for very long, it’s really only because i have a Google phone that i have an account in the first place, so the Buzz only sounds vaguely familiar. But it is interesting to note.

  7. Laura,
    I loved your post because it really helped open my eyes to PR with a solid story with lots of facts. I have always heard things about PR like what you said “It’s not lying, per se, but it’s certainly not being wholly honest” and I guess I had never been a person to really look for any evidence but just took it for what it was worth. I feel like facebook trying to keep their name out of the story and having B-M publish negative press just seems really shady like you said. Without the blogger who posted those email the truth might not have been uncovered. With facebook leaving there name out of the press I feel like it did keep it from looking like they were the driving force behind B-M which is very fishy but also by keeping their names out of it made it not as political for them. Either way it is fishy but I’m sure someone thought it was the best way to go or Facebook wouldn’t have done something like this.

    Ashley Counterman

    • Thanks, Ashley!

      I think face-value is definitely not something one should stop at when it comes to public information from businesses. Public information, in my opinion, is more often than not the bare minimum a company must provide in order to keep their butts out of the frying pan. If a company can get away with not airing their fouler-smelling aspects, they will, but if they must, then PR must be there to provide a fresh, friendly scent.

      I’m sure it’s not always that cynical a world, but…this Google business doesn’t help.

  8. PR Ethics or ethics in general is one of the most interesting subjects to me, and I am glad that you wrote about it from a journalist point of view ☺ The problem with studying ethics though is that it’s very hard to actually define it! What does the word ethics mean anyways? Most people will say it is a set of rules of what we should or should not do in which others will observe as appropriate! Sure, I’ll agree with that, but according to whom, when, how and why?

    I find it very hard to lay down a set of rules and call it ethics without being bias. You mentioned that FB’s act was maybe unethical because they were trying to defame their opponents! But isn’t that what the business world is all about; winning over competitions!

    If we would call what FB did unethical then we should call every business advertising or press release unethical. Does Jimmy Jones really has the best sandwiches in the world as they claim? Does that L’Oreal product really make you hair like that girl you see in the commercial? Do companies that claim they are environment friendly really care about the environment? Obviously the answer is no to all the previous questions.

    Office supplies stores don’t really care about the environment when they tell you “do you want a bag or you want to go green,” they want to save that ten cents that they pay for the bag. Grocery stores don’t really care about saving mother earth by recycling and using solar power, they want people who think that others who don’t do that are bad companies to come and shop at their stores. We have changed in the way we think, we act and we observe things, and so do companies, they also changed to adapt to the NEW WE consumers.

    Even when it comes to journalism and news channels that suppose to be nonbiased, they are 100% bias. Different political parties, different views! All of which try to show their opponents as the worst. Have you ever seen “attack ads” in which politicians show their opponents as the worst people ever? Is this ethical?

    I think PR professionals are just like any other professionals, they are just doing their jobs, following their companies’ rules and regulations and doing the best they can to represent their clients in the best way possible.

    – Mohamed A.

    • I totally understand. Ethics is such a subjective concept, and it changes from circumstance to circumstance, culture to culture.

      And I don’t have a problem with ethics being labelled a bias, so long as that bias is plainly spoken and all parties are aware of it. Of COURSE one business wants to look better than the other, but finger-pointing and secret press-pushing? Why not just…BE better? I guess that’s a bit too idealistic.

      I do have to disagree with your percentage of journalism bias, however. Naturally, it’s impossible for any human to be completely objective, but the business of journalism is the presentation of facts regardless of viewpoint. If that means a writer fails to disclose more scintillating details about a story, that does prove a bias, but good journalism seldom falls on the shoulders of a single writer. A story will expand, especially in this internet-driven news world, and be touched upon by mindsets very different from its original. In that way, I see the presence of bias less and less in news media – given that the story is saturated enough.

      There’s always exceptions to things, however, and bias IS a presence to a degree in everything. That much is undeniable. But typically, political parties/views stick to the editiorials.

      I don’t believe “just going with the flow” and following regulation is the best way to go, PR or not. Personal and company values have their roles to play, and continual communication about all of it can only make things better (slower, perhaps, but -better-). I don’t think it was wise for this PR company to agree to FB’s wish for pushing poor press against Google without making it clear who was pushing the information. I think my own ethics aren’t business-minded enough to really settle well with whatever ethics okayed this deal…

      • I really like the way you write Laura, I already can see your journalistic talent in all your writings. Your arguments are for sure valid in their own concept but unfortunately the reality is totally different.

        The reason I said ALL news are bias because the media are after all a group of businesses that seek profit like any other for-profit institution. They are driven by what they believe in, and this is what they will show to us. Specifically when it comes to politics. They might not be bias when they are telling us that a new bakery has opened in town, but if an opinion is merely required, you will notice that it will be for sure bias. But again, the same question forces itself in this situation or any other situation. Bias according to whom?

        For me as a democrat, Fox News for example is beyond any one-sided news agency I have ever seen in my life, but for any republican, Fox News is a great agency!! After all, Obama said the right thing when he mentioned that we are not republicans and democrats, we are America. So beautiful, but unfortunately will never be true.

  9. Laura,

    First of all, I am surprised this didn’t get more publicity. I’m not going to lie, I don’t regularly keep up on national news, but I will say I get sucked into the local crap that’s not really important. However, this topic is something that appeals to many people, obviously to us as PR students, but also as college kids.

    The social networking era is huge and seems to just keep growing. I can also see both sides to this story. Google is a beast, meaning, it cannot be stopped and keeps progressing as a company. Therefore, I can see why Facebook could feel a severe threat. Facebook is the king of all social networking and if another organization is threatening their success, why wouldn’t they search for a weak link in their possible competitor?
    I
    would like to think that when I’m working for a firm my morals will shine throughout my work. However, the world is a competitive place and only the strong survive. Just because something is not a “set in stone” rule, doesn’t mean that ethics shouldn’t be used when promoting an organization.

    Pointing out that codes aren’t the same as rules was an interesting little tid-bit. I think Facebook hiring an outside source to do their dirty work made them look even worse. In my opinion they would have been better off sharing the information themselves. Facebook could have angled the dilemma in a positive way, by displaying their sense of concern for social networking users.

    Oh and by the way, I love your drawing! Very fitting.

    ~Taylor Maguire

    • I was disappointed by the low-key buzz, too. :\ This is pretty important information, especially for Google/Gmail users, even if it was brought to light in a questionable way!

      I agree, too, that the way this was done only makes FB look bad, too. There had to be a better way of going about this, crusade or no. A sense of genuine, publicly displayed concern, like you mentioned…That probably would’ve steered things toward better opinions in their respect.

      And you’re right. Sometimes what you feel is right just doesn’t cut it in the dog-eat-dog nature of competitive business. But I guess that’s the line you have to cross on your own when you get there; is it worth compromising your personal code to get that extra paycheck?

      Also, thanks!

  10. Laura,

    Four –Way Test for ethical decision making includes the following:
    Ethics is concerned with how we should live our lives…focuses on questions of what is:

    Is it fair to all concerned?
    Is it the truth?
    Will it build goodwill and better friendship?
    Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

    Putting this argument against the four-way test – how does FB hold up?

    Gina

    • I’m not sure about the fairness level. Is Google supposed to be included in “all,” despite being competition? If so, then no, it wasn’t very fair.
      It was also unfair to the writers/bloggers approached to write the bad press. Leaving the main source of the prod undisclosed makes it seem as though the writers themselves are holding the grudge, starting the investigating, etc, when they’re only told to report what a secret source has said.

      I doubt any good will was felt by users from both companies, though I don’t believe too many frequent FB users will suddenly drop service in disgust. Google, however, has pulled this kind of garbage before with their privacy tweaks. But did FB make friends by pushing this campaign? I don’t know. I don’t see a lot of response along the lines of “Good on you, FB! Nice catch!” in the face of the way they’ve done this.

      Benefits went to no one, I think. FB’s not going to walk away from this with any gold star stickers for behavior. I think this was a fairly bad choice, by your test, but the height of scandal isn’t so much as it could be, so perhaps a company as big as Burson-Marsteller isn’t too phased?

      Even so, bad press…

  11. No one like competition no matter what your status is in life. For some people being number two is never an option for them. Having that mindset is fine as long as there more actions than words involved. The act of working to keep your place or position solid. I was always taught let your actions or work speak for it self. It is obvious that Facebook is insecure about something or they would having gone to great length to hide their involvement. You can always expect to have clean hands if you want to play dirty.
    If Facebook felt that this other company could possible be a treat to their success or popularity. Then fb should have taken the time to size up their competition see what they offer and compare and contrast to what they offer. The move forward with making the necessary improvements need to remain at the top or for them to feel secure.
    As far the pr company involvement they were asked to do a job and they did what was asked of them. The fact that is company was complete in left field when it came to the services they offer; shows Facebook need a job executed a certain way. That way being shady. Ethics is Ethics but you tend to just slap a person hand when they “make a mistake” that is clear out of their expertise.
    Sadly money was involved and with that money has the power to talk, influence, and produce unethical products.
    no doubt their were ethics ignored.

    -DEE

    • I definitely see where you’re coming from. It’s just sad, in the PR company’s respect, that they simply “did as told.” I don’t doubt there were pros and cons considered before agreeing, but red flags HAD to have been raised when they realized they’d be representing a social media site trying to one-up ANOTHER social media site without being mentioned, you’d think?

      I’m sure the dollar signs were the ultimate decider, as you said. That kind of thing can sway in ways personal ideals seem to fail in the business world…

  12. The opening image is a perfect description of corporations as PR officials basically act like kids when its time to clean a dirty room by throwing everything in the closet and hope mother America never calls them out on it. But I couldn’t have spoke my opinion better. Facebook was obviously lying and was called out on it. This is a very good post and really nothing makes me happier then seeing corporations being called out on their b.s when it’s seen

    • Thanks so much! I agree; it’s satisfying to see someone caught with their hand in the cookie jar, juvenile as it seems. But then, this act in of itself is a bit juvenile, you think?
      (Also, you’re logged into the class account – you should probably log in with your own or drop your username to get counted!)

  13. Ok! According to the “Code of Ethics,” and referring it back to the whole Facebook vs. Google spill, there was some unethical behavior that transpired. But honesly, according to the PR system in general, everyone’s not an angel. When I say this, I am not talking down upon PR practicianers, but as it was stated in a previous comment from a student, it is their JOB to spill the beans on another company that is seen as a threat.
    This has a lot to do with protecting the company, destroying its competition to grow into a more successful website on its own, and exposing the negativity of the competing tool. I am sure that you have thought about all of these statements, which could be seen as true or not. But what other reason honestly would Facebook go to the extreme of hiring a PR person to to their “dirty work.” This brings more controversy to them and their business as a whole.
    Greed is seen as the motive to their unethical behavior. But is it only seen as unethical because they broke some of the PR codes, or because their strategy seemed alittle sneaky? It could be both!
    I’m not saying that Facebook was wrong or right, but looking at both ends of the stick, a company will do whatever is necessary to grow and detroy all those that are in their way, in this case Google. However, the way they went about it was unethical because when confronted they denied any involvement. Honesty is the key to any successful business, and this brings more controversy to them as a whole. I also believe that on Facebook’s behalf it was really unprofessional to deny any allegations when their were clear facts that stated their involvement. I wish you could have got ahold to those emails. That would have been a great assett to your blog but overall great job in exposing the proclaimed innocent, harmess social networking company and website LOL.
    -Martise WIlson

  14. Great! Great! Post ..
    Its crazy because Google is capitalizing off all of it’s competing opponents mistakes and its hitting there pockets hard, and they HATE it!
    I can see why because now that the traffic of low and high profile users are diminishing from Facebook to check out Google Plus(googles newly founded social site) I would be upset as well being the CEO of that company. But you have to have your business hat on at all times, and thats what they don’t get.-Google does though.Google has bought out Motorola, it the Smartphone Android production underwing, anything else you name it! Perfect social site dominance.
    This underhand tactic of tattle tail reminds me of another childish play of marketing that i just read up on for my blog presentation. Yes, another article on way to bring upon Googles demise! *twiddles thumbs* Ill send you the link so you can check it out.
    -Ashley Coleman

  15. I will first apologize for taking so long to post a reply, IM SORRY! Second, I love watching this from the outside. It’s so silly to me that big-wig companies who are, yes, vying for our attention, our time, and our money, are whining, complaining and tattling. Facebook hires this PR firm in order to put on a “professional” spin on their little gossip story. I picture some creepy figure in the dark rolling his finger’s together quoting Mr. Burns’ “eeeexxccellent!”

    But I can’t help but keep asking why? You stress the word ethics in your blog, and I understand that some companies just don’t run things ethically, but why does someone have to “smear” their opponent, rather than just stay ahead of the curve and ensure yours is still the best. Like Prof. Luttrell always says in class “never indulge in the negative, always promote the positive.” Never mind that there is a possible competitor in your field, just do what it takes for you to remain the best.

    I wonder if they even thought about maintaining the trust and loyalty of the customers or users that they already have. Did they stop to consider that maybe reading these statements and articles could cause some of those customers to jump ship? A lot of people base their social decisions based on the integrity of their source or in this case their media outlet. An example of people jumping ship because of compromised integrity is with Netflix right now.

    http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/daily-ticker/respect-reed-hastings-netflix-qwikster-split-bad-customers-160148340.html

    In this case, it’s not a matter of any childish behavior, but tough decisions being made that ultimately cost Netflix. They were so popular with their low price for instant online streaming and their dvd by mail with no late fees. Now, they are forced to raise prices, and split into two different services, no longer under the same package.

    They are two scarcely related stories, but I will sum up my point as quickly as possible, its another case of what may be “best” for the company, may not be the best for it’s customers.

    -Dan Williams

  16. Laura,
    I loved the disclaimer in the beginning. I felt it was humorous, but at the same time, it had a serious twist to me. It was like saying, “hey, these are my thoughts, I am not an expert, so don’t overanalyze.” I also love that you gave us more than one link to look at and read and how your link was able to prove your point. I also need to say that in no way am I grading you or saying that this is how you feel (as you later on read my comments). You have sparked a lot of questions and ideas in my head that are in a general sense.

    With that said, I thought it was very interesting how, in the the article given about Google’s Social Circle, one of the main people mentioned is a journalist. Goldman, a fomer anchor for the CNBC, was one of the main representatives of the PR firm that aided in the whisper campaign. To me, that didn’t make the field of PR look bad, that made him look bad.

    Maybe because of who I am, I take in the view that just because one person does something, doesn’t mean everyone should take the fall for it. Let me use your example: If our whole class found out that Jimmy eats glue, and my friends were in the corner talking about it (but I wasn’t), should I take the fall because he heard some whipsers from our direction and told the teacher? That’s exactly how I look at PR. You were absolutely right about the Code of Ethics not being law, because it’s so true. You can find it everywhere you look, even in our field. Can you honestly say that every single journalist adheres to the SPJ code? I know of some instances where it wasn’t used.
    Something that was sort of confusing was where does FB come in? Maybe it’s me, and this has happened so many times before (my own little disclaimer, so excuse me now 🙂 ), where something was RIGHT in my face and I didn’t see it, but I honestly did not see anything about FB. In the beginning, I was planning on reading about some kind of web war between the two, but really, the article was outlining Google Social Circle and the whisper campaign, and the two main people mentioned were Goldman and the cartoonist. Then about the little spiel about how the latter tried to get some kind of article out and the man he sent his information to flat out turned it down. So I was wondering, as stated earlier, where does FB come in as being the one behind this?

    And the last thing that I thought was very interesting was the fact that you had mentioned that you had to dig to find this stuff out. Which one, led me to believe that the world is in dire need of some good journalists with detective sense, because this is what we should have known upfront and it really doesn’t seem like a problem with PR, rather than the privacy issue. To me, if my private information was indeed in some type of danger with using this social networking system, no matter where it came from or how it came out, I would be grateful. This is just my opinion. Nevertheless, I am not overlooking the campaign. I thought that was childish and unprofessional.

    I know I sound like I’m all over the place with my ideas; my stance is neither good nor bad. I’m not condoning, neither accepting. If I take any type of stance, it’s the fact that no one should look at one aspect of anything and assume it to be true all accross the board.

    Basically put, as embarassing as this is to find where people are not using good ethic in any situation, you can pretty much find it everywhere in any situation.

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