PR Makes Me Sick

You Make Me Sick from“Find out what the client wants and give it to them” – that was the mantra of my ex-boss (mentor?) who was a particular type of PR animal. We were aggressive publicists unencumbered by analysis of the news we were flogging or the real intentions or motivations of the client. The client, really, was beside the point. The point was that if you wanted to keep your job and move up the ladder you better get your client in the news.

Burson’s efforts to discredit Google on behalf of Facebook are not shocking. Bigger PR firms represent countries that kill their own people (Libya) and companies that are complicit in oppression and even murder (Blackwater).  Burson’s sudden attack of morality and conscience in repudiating its actions really makes me sick.

They do not say what their policies on transparency are, or how they would change in the future. A vague ‘PR statement’ is not what is needed here. Who does Burson’s PR? Aren’t they supposed to be specialists in ‘reputation management’? Well, their reputation right now is in the toilet. I would like to hear a full-throated, unencumbered apology and a line-by-line accounting of how they intend to change. Isn’t that what you counsel a client to do? Sometimes, PR makes me sick.

See Sleazy PR Firm Throws Scummy Facebook Under the Sordid Bus in TechCrunch.

Now that Facebook has come forward, we can confirm that we undertook an assignment for that client.

The client requested that its name be withheld on the grounds that it was merely asking to bring publicly available information to light and such information could then be independently and easily replicated by any media.  Any information brought to media attention raised fair questions, was in the public domain, and was in any event for the media to verify through independent sources.

Whatever the rationale, this was not at all standard operating procedure and is against our policies, and the assignment on those terms should have been declined. When talking to the media, we need to adhere to strict standards of transparency about clients, and this incident underscores the absolute importance of that principle. Burson Marsteller Statement


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