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Posts Tagged ‘Christopher Soghoian’

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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