Corporate PR teams tend not to make waves in the murky waters
usually inhabited by corporate or competitive intelligence officers. Why
would they? The two are different departments: one generally
characterized by openness and communication, the other typically
dependent on secrecy and stealth. A corporate intelligence officer -
however much he or she may yearn to be seen as Tom Cruise in Mission
Impossible - is unlikely to want to talk to a team usually perceived as
being responsible for getting publicity for the company's work.
But the publicity over the last week for Procter & Gamble's espionage
antics ought to prompt the closer involvement of corporate communicators
in intelligence gathering and information protection.
Of course, in the P&G case even the CEO didn't know what his
intelligence team was up to, so it would have been hard to take
But by highlighting the damage that this unethical behavior has done to
P&G's reputation - and the coverage certainly makes the global giant
seem pretty malodorous - other corporate communicators might persuade
the folks at the top that they should be kept involved to prevent
similar disasters in the future.
There are many popular intelligence-gathering methods that might appear
pretty unsavory to the public. Pretending to be a student or analyst
requiring information is a popular method, and not strictly illegal.
Another ruse is to interview competitors' staff for a fake position or
interview at a rival company just to find out about them.
Corporate communications teams need to work with the intelligence
gatherers and the top table to decide whether the potential value of the
information truly outweighs the potential risk to reputation should the
intelligence team get caught executing such unethical acts.
Additionally, there's an ever-increasing role for internal PR when it
comes to safeguarding corporate information without creating
Improved awareness of the risks of corporate espionage greatly reduces a
The lessons here may seem pretty obvious - certainly Unilever's staff
might think twice before throwing three-year business plans in the
But it is down to the guardians of corporate reputation to make sure
they are learned, and to provide the conscience for those tempted by the