Gee, thanks Burson-Marsteller for giving the entire PR industry a black eye with your sleazy work for Facebook.
In case you haven’t heard, Facebook has admitted it asked Burson-Marsteller to plant negative news stories about Google. The smear campaign was designed to attack Social Circle – Google’s most direct challenge yet to Facebook – by claiming the service will collect and release data without user authorization. Burson-Marsteller’s claims on behalf of its secret client Facebook that Social Circle violates people’s privacy was determined to be “exaggerated” and “largely untrue.” (See The Daily Beast’s account) The whole thing backfired when it was exposed earlier this week.
Trying to do damage control, Burson-Marsteller quickly apologized and admitted it should have never accepted the job to begin with. While this might help the PR firm to hang on to its other clients, it is not going to turn around the negative perceptions now being attached to the entire PR profession.
Public relations is rooted in building long-term partnerships based on mutual trust. This means that delivering on promises, doing what you say you will do, aligning actions with words, saying what you mean and meaning what you say are vitally important behaviors. In my opinion, once you lose trust, you also lose the ability to communicate and lead among a public that’s increasingly intolerant of unethical public relations. Therefore, “walking the talk” is paramount for PR practitioners in terms of public trust.
Burson-Marsteller knows this. Which is why the agency’s actions are infuriating and inexcusable. Those of us in PR who conduct ourselves ethically and professionally are now left to clean up the bad taste Burson-Marsteller has left behind.
Explain and apologize all you want, Burson-Marsteller. Good luck in getting anyone to believe you.
What do you think? Will it be business as usual for Burson-Marsteller once this “blows over”?
True PR is about helping to create positive, mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics (internal and external). Media relations is just one of many ways of doing this. If you’re limiting your PR efforts to media relations, then you’re not getting the full benefit of PR – or your money’s worth for that matter.
Effective PR, like marketing, starts with a strategy and a plan. You’d be surprised to know there are PR “experts” out there delivering four or five bullet points of advice and calling it a PR plan. I don’t think I’ll ever forget one that I saw that was a creative brief being passed off as a PR plan.
A PR plan should include:
- an assessment of the external environment
- a view of the industry
- background and history about the organization
- analysis of the product/service/issue
- a look at promotions, including past successes and failures, competitors’ activities, and ad/PR/marketing strategies, themes and campaigns
- a look at market share
- a review of the competition
- available resources, including current attitudes and opinions that are beneficial
- a SWOT analysis
- a thorough breakdown of public profiles
- specific, measurable, time-bound objectives to support the accomplishment of a goal
- a selection of communication channels and tactics for reaching each public
The news media is just one option that’s available. It’s certainly not the only one and, depending on the plan, it may not be the best choice. Staged events, workplace communication, social media networks, tv, radio, video, billboards, blogs, landing pages, and mobile communication are some of the other many PR channels that are available. Solely relying upon media relations, or leaning on it too heavily, probably won’t achieve the best results possible as far as desired stakeholder responses. A posting last summer on the Mopwater blog explains this well:
People so often say “get me on CNN” or “get me in the New York Times” without thinking it through…it’s like why? Why do you need to be on CNN? How does that fit into your strategy? How is that helping you meet your goal? It’s just an empty wish you think you should have because everyone says you should have it. UNLESS you think CNN is the key to showcase all the work you’ve done up to this point and you’re ready to move to the next place.
So make sure the PR advice you’re getting has examined all of the options – and don’t confuse PR as simply news coverage.