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May 13, 2011

Roundup (Part 2): PRSA Comments on Ethical Lapses in PR in New York Times, Daily Beast, New Statesman, Advertising Age and PRWeek

Following revelations that public relations firm Burson-Marsteller (B-M) 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, provided commentary regarding the ethical implications of this incident in published articles in The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Globe and Mail and UK newsmagazine New Statesman, as well as industry trade publications Advertising Age and PRWeek

PRSA's Code of Ethics was also cited in a Newsweek/The Daily Beast article.

Fiske was also 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. Click here for a roundup of that commentary.

According to The New York Times, "Rosanna M. Fiske, chief executive of the Public Relations Society of America, said it was wrong for Facebook to insist on anonymity and for Burson-Marsteller to agree to it. “In the essence of the public relations code of ethics 101, that’s a no-no."

The New Statesman quoted Fiske as saying that the incident represented a "'significant ethical lapse' on the part of [Burson-Marsteller]."

Fiske told Advertising Age that, "Facebook will recover despite ongoing regulatory and privacy issues: "It'll recover even though this whole PR story probably brought to light more of a regulation issue related to regulatory agencies, privacy, and data scraping."

In a roundup of industry reactions to this incident, Fiske wrote the following for PRWeek:

“Campaigns waged against a competitor can be conducted ethically, but in order to do so, all cards have to be laid out on the table. That includes the client's name, its motivations/interests, all of the facts — not assertions or opinions — that are being called into question by the client and other pertinent details that ensure the public's best interest remains intact. Campaigns that fail to do so could be deemed unethical, and more broadly, 'smear campaigns.' As PR professionals, we not only have an ethical responsibility to protect the free flow of accurate and truthful information, but to do so in a responsible and forthright manner.”

Newsweek/The Daily Beast technology editor Dan Lyons, who broke the news that Facebook was B-M's secret client, cited PRSA's Code of Ethics in a May 13 follow-up article. Lyons noted that "The Burson flacks pitching the story would not tell reporters who their client was—something that rarely happens, and which violates professional guidelines set out in the Code of Ethics of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), a professional association for PR people."
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