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May 11, 2011

PRSA Quoted in PRNewser About PR Firms' Ethical Lapses

PRSA is quoted extensively in a March 10, 2011, PRNewser article examining reaction and fallout from a USA TODAY article that exposed unethical practices by public relations firm Burson-Marsteller (B-M) on behalf of a secret client. Keith Trivitt, PRSA associate director of public relations, commented on the breaches to the PRSA’s Code of Ethics that B-M employees had engaged in by not disclosing the firm's client, nor disclosing the client's intentions.

Below is a full recap of Trivitt's comments to PRNewser regarding the matter:

We asked Trivitt about this situation, and he said the lack of transparency over who Burson’s client is is the big issue here.

“Not disclosing the client, that sets [Burson-Marsteller] up for questioning down the line,” he told us. “That’s just being transparent from a communications perspective and a business management perspective.”
By not disclosing the client, the story ended up being about the firm, Trivitt said, rather than about their client. “That’s not the intent of any firm,” he added, saying the journalists are “rightly asking questions about why [is B-M] doing this and who is the client.”
Trivitt also sent us a line from the PRSA’s Code of Ethics that states that PR pros should:
“Reveal the sponsors for causes and interests represented,” (i.e. a client whom the firm is operating on behalf for a specific campaign) and that they should “avoid deceptive practices.”
However, Trivitt said, revisions in 2000 eliminated enforcement from the organization; rather these are “advisements of best practices and ethical standards.”
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