PRSA chair/CEO weighs in on Burson-Marsteller ethics flap

Only 14 of B-M’s 2,200 employees are members of the Public Relations Society of America and thereby subject to its code of conduct. Is that a factor?

In case you missed it, B-M staffers—led by CNBC ex-anchor Jim Goldman and former political columnist John Mercurio—apparently engaged reporters and bloggers about the Gmail feature Social Circle, claiming a variety of privacy concerns about Google products and services that the company wasn’t disclosing to users.

In an email to former FTC researcher and blogger Christopher Soghoian, Mercurio solicited Soghoian’s interest in writing an op-ed along those lines, which Mercurio even offered to ghost write. At the same time, Goldman was pitching the story to USA Today.

Seemingly unbeknownst to Mercurio and Goldman, however, Soghoian posted online the full text of his email exchange with Mercurio—including asking, “Who’s paying for this [campaign]?” and Mercurio’s response that he “can’t disclose my client yet.”

After seeing Soghoian’s post and fact-checking Goldman’s pitch (finding large portions of it factually incorrect), the public relations firm became the story.

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