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Burson Marsteller

Burson Backlash Continues on the Firm’s Facebook Page

The backlash against Burson-Marsteller‘s botched media campaign for Facebook continues today with commenters piling on negative responses (in a variety of languages) on the firm’s Facebook page. Appropriate.

Comments not only express acrimony over the effort against Google, but also about news reported on Wired.com that a negative comment posted on Burson’s Facebook page had been deleted. According to a spokesperson who talked with Wired, the post will be put back and the page has received “a lot of profanity.”

The question now is how long the backlash will continue and who it will impact. Burson is an award-winning firm with lots of top international clients (including some controversial clients). But this episode has really angered a lot of people, including many in PR, largely because of how it reflects on the entire industry.

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The Many Layers of the B-M/Facebook Smear Story

The news that Burson-Marsteller/Facebook whisper campaign story unfolded before our eyes this week. And as it did, there were so many details that added so many layers that reaction, understandably, has been tremendous.

At this point, Facebook and Burson are no longer working together, The New York Times reports. And, The Daily Beast writes (h/t to PRWeek) that  the two Burson publicists that handled the campaign, former CNBC reporter Jim Goldman and former political writer John Mercurio, will receive another copy of the firm’s code of ethics (along with everyone at the firm) in order to get a refresher course on right and wrong. Interesting that two former reporters couldn’t clearly see the impropriety of this from the beginning, but we digress.

Reaction from the PR industry has been both critical and exasperated, with many on Twitter expressing a “you know better than that” tone with both the situation and Burson’s statement in response.

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B-M Says Facebook Assignment “Should Have Been Declined”

News broke last night on The Daily Beast that the client behind Burson-Marsteller‘s bungled Google “whisper campaign” was Facebook. A Facebook spokesperson confirmed the social network hired B-M;  The Daily Beast writer Dan Lyons says that B-M refused to say until Facebook confirmed the information.

A statement PRNewser received via email from B-M this morning reads:

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B-M Pitch on Behalf of Unnamed Client Raises Ethical Questions

USA Today reported this morning on a “whisper campaign” launched by Burson-Marsteller on behalf of an unnamed client that targeted Google’s Social Circle feature for Gmail. (The USA Today article and this one from Business Insider has a bit of detail about the feature, which taps into your info to make “social connections.”)

Citing consumer privacy concerns and Google’s issues with the Federal Trade Commission, two of Burson’s high-profile publicists — former CNBC anchor Jim Goldman and former political columnist John Mercurio — sent a pitch to reporters suggesting an op-ed slamming Google. One of those pitched reporters, Christopher Soghoian, a former FTC researcher and blogger, posted the pitch online. And, actually, according to the email, Mercurio said, “I’m happy to help place the op-ed and assist in the drafting, if needed. For media targets, I was thinking about the Washington Post, Politico, The Hill, Roll Call or the Huffington Post.”

USA Today says Goldman was in contact with them about the story. And the paper writes, “After Goldman’s pitch proved largely untrue, he subsequently declined USA TODAY’s requests for comment.”

We were in touch with the firm to find out if this is standard practice and how the firm will address the obvious ethical issues this situation raises. We received this statement from the firm: “The situation that led to the USA Today story is highly unusual and does not represent standard practice at Burson-Marsteller. We regret that it was not handled well and we are reviewing it thoroughly.”

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B-M Announces New U.S. Digital Lead

Michael Bassik has been chosen to lead Burson-Marsteller‘s U.S. digital practice as MD and practice chair. He will be based in New York, reporting to Pat Ford, the firm’s U.S. president.

Bassik was previously SVP at Global Strategy Group, where he was a leader in the public affairs division. While there, he worked with clients including Google, Al Jazeera English, and O, The Oprah Magazine. Other prior clients include John Kerry for President, Hillary Clinton for President and Obama for America.

It was just announced that Dallas Lawrence has been selected as B-M’s chief global digital strategist. Like Bassik, Lawrence also has a strong public affairs background.

Lawrence Appointed B-M Digital Strategy Leader

Dallas Lawrence has been chosen as Burson-Marsteller‘s chief global digital strategist. He was previously MD of digital public affairs, a role he assumed in May 2003 when he joined the firm from Levick Strategic Communications. He was also a member of the comms team during the presidency of George W. Bush, serving as the director of the Office of Community Relations and Public Liaison for the U.S. Defense Department.

In his new role, he will report to CEO Mark Penn.

B-M Throws a Birthday Party

Burson-Marsteller celebrated the 90th birthday of namesake Harold Burson at Guastavino’s in New York City on Tuesday. (Beautiful space, BTW, if you’re looking for a new place to host an event.)

Among the distinguished guests we saw: Mark Penn, Karen Hughes, Kelly Cutrone (who like our funky-fresh bird sweater!), Julia Hood, and, of course, Mr. Burson himself.

A couple of other snapshots after the jump.

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B-M UK Launches Be More

Burson-Marsteller UK has launched Be More, the firm’s brand marketing practice led by managing director Philippe Pendaries. The practice team is composed of 20 members including traditional consumer practitioners, digital specialists, content creators, and designers. Recent additions include Joe Sinclair, head of digital and Dan Humphries, director of audiovisual comms. The practice is looking for new hires.

Accounts include Sony Ericsson, Activia, Shell, and De Beers. And recently, the practice was awarded the Ford consumer business, according to PRWeek UK.

Research: ‘Fortune’ Global 100 Tweeting More Often

Burson-Marsteller has released the findings from its Second Annual Social Media Check-Up, finding that the Fortune Global 100 are relying more and more on Twitter to directly engage with their audience.

According to the study, 67 percent of these top companies are using Twitter to speak with consumers or mention other users, and 57 percent are retweeting content from their corporate accounts. This is more than a 75 percent increase in both of these activities.

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Burson’s COO Heading to Bloomberg

Richard Powell Jr., Burson-Marsteller’s worldwide COO and chair of the firm’s global corporate practice, is heading to Bloomberg to serve as that company’s chief communications officer.

Powell will oversee Bloomberg’s comms strategy and infrastructure as it expands in both new and existing markets. He will report to Bloomberg’s head of government relations and public affairs, Kevin Sheekey.

Burson’s statement, which talks about who will be handling Powell’s responsibilities, is after the jump.

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