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May 12, 2011

Roundup: PRSA Quoted in New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, USA TODAY & The Telegraph on Ethical Lapses in PR

Following revelations that public relations firm Burson-Marsteller failed to disclose that Facebook was the client it was representing in an alleged "whisper campaign" against Google, Rosanna M. Fiske, APR, chair and CEO of PRSA, was quoted in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA TODAY, The Financial Times, The Telegraph (UK), The San Francisco Chronicle, MediaPost, German newsmagazine Der Spiegel and paidContent, commenting on the ethical implications this incident will have for Facebook and the public relations profession.

The Wall Street Journal online news show, "Digits," also featured PRSA's commentary in a segment recapping news and and industry reaction (mention at 1:17 in program).

Speaking with The New York Times technology reporter Miguel Helft, Fiske said that both Facebook and Burson-Marsteller should have been upfront and disclosed who was behind the campaign.

“It’s simple," said Fiske. "They [B-M] took the road of misleading and not disclosing who they were representing. In the essence of the public relations code of ethics 101, that’s a no-no.”

Fiske is quoted in The Wall Street Journal as saying that, "Burson-Marsteller's lack of disclosure is 'deceptive' and violates [PRSA's] ethical standards.

"When you are following misleading practices, the message is tainted," said Fiske. "Consumers 'wonder what else have they done that perhaps I shouldn't trust.'"

In USA TODAY, Fiske says that, "This incident brings light to a number of issues: disclosure, privacy and ethics among them. It's time for the technology companies to put aside their competitive drives to one-up each other and consider the consumer and the broader public, who deserve accurate and truthful information."

In an interview with The Financial Times, Fiske said that B-M's activity was “unethical and improper," and that companies  have to disclose where [they] stand on things."

Speaking with Emma Barnett, a media reporter at the UK's Telegraph, Fiske described the incident as “an embarrassment” to both Facebook and Burson.

“This reflects poorly upon the global public relations profession," she told The Telegraph. "On the whole, public relations practitioners are highly ethical professionals, and our profession’s success and growing value to the business community reflects that. But in this one instance, Burson made a significant ethical lapse.”

paidContent quoted from Fiske's May 11 PRSAY blog post that laid out PRSA's stance on the ethical implications of this incident:

Once BM’s full pitch was revealed, big figures in the PR industry starting questioning the ethics of these tactics. “Oh no, say it ain’t so,” wrote Rosanna Fiske, CEO of the Public Relations Society of America, in a blog post responding to the scandal.

The San Francisco Chronicle referenced PRSA's Code of Ethics when it wrote that, "The ethics policies of the Public Relations Society of America state that members shall: 'Reveal the sponsors for causes and interests represented.'"

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