Monday, May 16, 2011

What Happens Now for Burson-Marsteller?

It can be said for sure that Google did not “Like” Facebook’s attempt to create bad press for them recently with the help of major PR firm, Burson-Marsteller. Not only has this hurt Facebook’s reputation, but will it also hinder the firm in its efforts to recover from this very public dispute?

Burson-Marsteller was caught launching a secret campaign against Google on behalf of Facebook when they reached out to a U.S. blogger to plant negative stories concerning Google’s privacy practices. The blogger promptly denied the offer and published the email between him and the executive, even though the firm had refused to name their client.

In response to their serious faux pas, Burson states that they will not be firing the employees involved, but will be re-training them in ethics. While this situation is bad for Facebook and Burson-Marsteller, there are a few things PR professionals can take away from this…

· When pitching a reporter, (or in this case, a blogger) it may be best to pick up the phone instead of send an email when trying to pitch a story.

· Be clear in the message you are trying to send. Facebook is now claiming that they never intended to run a smear campaign against Google, and stated that they should have made their identity clear when investigating Google.

· Media outlets can run whatever they want. Burson-Marsteller also pitched the same story to USA Today and they ran it as “PR firm’s attack of Gmail privacy”.

· Most importantly, planting negative stories will only make the conflict worse. Larry L. Smith, president of the Institute for Crisis Management said it best with, “When they get in a shoving match, whoever is perceived by the public to be the bully, loses in the public eye.”

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