Over the last few weeks, we’ve all read our share of posts criticizing Burson-Marsteller and Facebook over the smear (or, if you prefer, whisper) campaign. We’ve also seen the posts that have tried to legitimize the smear.
Let’s get one thing straight:
You (yes, we’re even talking to you – I don’t care if you’re an intern or own the place) DO have to opportunity to speak up and say you will not be unethical.
And that doesn’t just mean in public relations. It goes for being in the media, in the medical field, or in retail. You can not tell me that it is acceptable to lie or twist the truth.
Jeremy Pepper recently blogged on the issue. In part he states:
“You see, this is just a standard operation in public relations; It’s even more common in public affairs. It’s called spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt to deposition a client. A whisper campaign is just what it sounds like – you call up a few people, meet them in person, and feed them information in that Bourne way you know you always wanted to do.”
We disagree wholeheartedly. This is NOT standard operating procedure in PR. If it is, then I’m in the wrong field. I have never been asked or participated in spreading fear, uncertainty. Ever.
With very minor exception you should never fear a member of the media asking you “Who do you represent?” while pitching them (even if they don’t know you’re pitching them). Will you need to lie or bend the truth sometimes – maybe sometimes. In those rare instances it will be the lesser of two evils and the answer will be plainly obvious (e.g. not releasing information regarding a crime to prevent fake calls, being mum on medical survey results as required by the FDA, etc.).
If a supervisor asks you to take part in a smear campaign, spread fear, or do anything else that just doesn’t smell right, beef up your cv and get out of dodge. They don’t value you as a PR professional and they certainly don’t value ethics.