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Posts Tagged ‘John Mercurio’

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 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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Burson-Marsteller Hires Veteran D.C. Reporter John Mercurio

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Burson-Marsteller has hired John Mercurio, executive editor at the National Journal’s Hotline, as a director in the agency’s media practice.

In another sign that “content creation” continues to be one of the big trends in the PR industry, see Burson vice president Josh Gottheimer‘s quote in the release:

John’s political expertise and judgment will add even more depth to our newsroom.

Mercurio has previously served as political editor at CNN and campaign reporter at Roll Call.