The Times digs in to on Gawker’s story by Hamilton Nolan about Burson-Marsteller using CEO Mark Penn‘s Wall Street Journal column to directly drum up new business for the agency, and secures what Nolan could not. A statement from Penn himself:
In a statement, Mr. Penn, who declined to be interviewed, said that he had not seen the message until after it was sent, and that “nothing was done nor likely to be done as a result of it.” He said that none of the companies mentioned in his column were Burson-Marsteller clients.
“I had no business motive in writing it whatsoever,” he said. But, he added, “We will continue to distribute the columns to friends and clients alike, and assured The Journal they will not be tied to any specific marketing efforts.”
We do agree with WSJ spokesman Robert H. Christie, who told the Times, “the reality is that freelancers do use their columns as ways of marketing themselves.” However it is telling that when asked to elaborate if The Journal was comfortable with this practice, Christie declined to respond.