By Michael Erwin
Tsk Tsk! The fallout continues after last week’s PR snafu involving Facebook and Google.
For those out of the loop, Facebook found itself in an embarrassing situation after it hired PR firm Burson-Marsteller to approach news outlets with negative stories about Google’s privacy practices on its “Social Circle” site. One of the journalists approached went public with the conversation.
Facebook denies the goal was to run a smear campaign against the Internet search giant, but admitted it had concerns about how Social Circle collects and uses personal data.
The issue has turned to an ethical one not only for Facebook, but for Burston-Marsteller as well.
The PR firm has vowed to retrain the the two employees at the center of the scandal. In addition, a code of ethics will be redistributed to all employees.
But is there really evidence of wrongdoing? While attempting to create negative press for Google could appear shady, these types of attempts are not uncommon. We see similar behavior in the political world constantly.
It appears the main ethical issue here is Burson’s failure to disclose who it was working for. The Public Relations Society of America’s Code of Ethics calls for members to “reveal the sponsors for causes and interests represented.”
Burson’s lack of transparency is being criticized, though it is not the first (nor the last) PR firm to withhold such information. The problem is, Burson-Marstellar got caught.
… and as part of damage control, the firm is doing the right public thing by admitting wrongdoing and taking steps to rectify the situation.
That’s what good PR is all about, right?!