Facebook hired Burson-Marsteller to run a negative whisper campaign against competitor Google. This is not wildly surprising if anything in the movie about the competitive Mark Zuckerberg is even closely related to the truth.
While reporters are digging further into this story, the debate over ethics in PR is heating up.
Do ethics matter in a PR agency? Yes, absolutely.
Trust is a very fragile commodity, learned at an early age and built up over time. If you don’t believe me, try promising a dessert to your five-year old and then not delivering on it. Think of how often you have purchased a product but were disappointed when the brand failed to deliver on its promise.
When looking for a PR firm, companies often ask about industry experience, media relationships, and measurement and accountability. In light of this week’s news, perhaps questions about ethics should be part of the vetting process.
PR relationships are most productive when associates are an extension of your staff. In addition, PR representatives often are the first line of contact between your company and the media. Shouldn’t your agency then be held to the same standards of integrity as internal employees?
We think so. In fact, we have an ethics clause in all our contracts. We’re successful because reporters know they can trust us to provide them truthful and accurate information. A client that provides us faulty information puts our entire business at risk.
It appears Burson-Marsteller has learned this the hard way.