Who would have thought that two of the most popular companies in the world would be caught in the center of a scandal? Not me. That is, until I read this article. Turns out, back in May, Burson-Marsteller, a top PR firm, was hired to bash Google in newspapers and blogs. That plan went downhill fast when the blogger actually used emails they had received from the firm to expose their plan to bad-mouth Google. The mystery client was thought to be either Apple or Microsoft, but turned out that Facebook was actually behind the whole scheme. Now you’re probably asking yourself why would Facebook want to ruin Google’s image? Well the answer lays in the fact that Facebook believes “Google is doing some things in social networking that raise privacy concerns; second, and perhaps more important, Facebook resents Google’s attempts to use Facebook data in its own social-networking service.”
This scandal brings up several important points. First off, as a public relations firm, Burson-Marsteller should have never even considered taking Facebook on as a client if their job was going to be to make Google look bad. PR practitioners are taught from the very beginning to always stay positive and not put down other brands/companies. If they didn’t want to lose Facebook as a client, I think they could have simply published articles focusing on the positive ways that they deal with privacy, rather than pointing out Google’s faults.
Secondly, social media, especially Facebook, is huge in today’s culture. By hiring this public-relations firm to damage Google’s image, it ultimately damaged their own as well. The entire situation should have been handled differently from the beginning.
In the video below, they help explain the situation and even have a quote from Burson-Marsteller basically admitting that they should have never attempted the “smear campaign” in the first place.
What would you have done if you worked for Burson-Marsteller?