NEW YORK: Burson-Marsteller is sticking by the individuals involved in the botched Facebook anti-Google campaign, instigating extra training, and reinforcing existing ethics policies.
Two of the individuals involved in the campaign - former CNBC tech correspondent Jim Goldman and former political journalist John Mercurio - joined Burson-Marsteller in senior positions after long careers in the media.
“We have talked through our policies and procedures with each individual involved in the program and made it clear this cannot happen again,” said the agency's USA president and CEO Pat Ford. “We especially need to provide additional training for senior people who have come into our profession from outside PR.”
Ford also reiterated that Burson-Marsteller publishes well-established ethics policies on its intranet that were signed by all employees two years ago. “We will redistribute and reemphasize these now and there will be no exceptions to this in the future,” he added.
Representatives of the WPP-owned PR giant pitched opinion-formers and interested parties about writing think pieces on the privacy implications of Google's Social Circle service, which the agency said it would then attempt to place in high-profile media outlets.
The agency didn't initially disclose who it was working for, but it emerged the client was Facebook after one of the writers pitched - Chris Soghoian - posted the email approach he received from the agency online. Facebook and Burson-Marsteller are no longer working together.
Burson-Marsteller said in a statement it shouldn't have accepted the assignment on the terms it did. Ford conceded that the lack of disclosure was not only a clear violation of its own polices, but also of ethical guidelines laid down by industry bodies such as the Council of PR Firms and the Arthur W. Page Society.
“It was an isolated incident and not the way we typically operate,” he added.