About 100 years ago, I was at an annual Counselors Academy spring conference when rumblings about a whisper campaign between two major companies surfaced. I remember it vividly because I was among my peers and we were all a thither.
“For years, Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, has extolled the virtue of transparency, and he built Facebook accordingly. The social network requires people to use their real identity in large part because Mr. Zuckerberg says he believes that people behave better—and society will be better—if they cannot cloak their words or actions in anonymity,” This was from The New York Times on May 13, 2011…right before all of this came to light.
Enter Burson Marsteller.
Most of you already know the story. The global PR firm was hired to create a “whisper campaign” about Social Circle, the optional feature of Google search that used publicly available information from social networks to personalize search results.
The story goes that two very high-profile and former senior reporters turned PR pros worked with media and bloggers to begin digging into Social Circle and writing negative stories about it. When pushed to reveal their client, they refused and a blogger from the Daily Beast published their email exchange.
As the group of communicators watched this all unfold, there was serious conversation about the need for PRSA to ban Burson Marsteller—and any other organization that acts against its Code of Ethics.
It’s an interesting conundrum. PRSA is a membership organization so it’s not really their role in the industry to ban people or organizations. At the same time, there is a Code of Ethics all communicators abide by—member or not—and every one of us should be held accountable for upholding them.
Enter the 5WPR founder and CEO, who has recently been on the hot seat for his, shall we say, salacious behavior. This is what we’re going to discuss on this week’s episode of the Spin Sucks podcast.