‘An egregious breach of ethical standards’

The Public Relations Society of America speaks out against a scheme by the Central Basin Municipal Water District of California, in which it paid a PR firm to create a fake news site with positive coverage.

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The Central Basin Municipal Water District of California seeks positive online news coverage. Its hope is that when you Google the organization’s name or other relevant keywords, readers and reporters will find positive news coverage.

There’s the old-fashioned way of making that happen, which entails earning such coverage.

Then there’s the News Hawks Review way—where, quite simply, you pay for positive news coverage on a website that looks like a real news site and is indexed by Google as such. In fact, if you’re Central Basin, you pay $200,000 of taxpayers’ money for this positive news coverage.

And the irony? They got news coverage in a major publication, all right. Positive it was not. The Los Angeles Times has a story uncovering this mess.

The News Hawks Review is affiliated with the PR firm Coghlan Consulting Group, which is under contract with Central Basin. The agreement between Central Basin’s public affairs office and Coghlan Consulting promises promotional stories “written in the image of real news.”

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