Tag Archive: FTC


“I’m not a car person. Three years after ‘The Da Vinci Code’ came out, I still had my old, rusted Volvo. And people are like, ‘Why don’t you have a Maserati?’ It never occurred to me. It wasn’t a priority for me. I just didn’t care.” – Dan Brown

If Dan Brown is not a “car person,” why does he write as if he is indeed a “car person?”

For years, Almost DailyBrett has been an avid Dan Brown fan having plowed through Digital Fortress, The Lost Symbol, Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code, and Inferno. Your author also consumed the last three as movies with Tom Hanks playing an unlikely hero, Harvard University Professor of Religious Iconology and Symbology (as if there is such a discipline) Robert Langdon.

The 24-hour plots incorporate landmark buildings and masterpiece art with Langdon racing against time with the recurring theme of science against religion, notably Catholicism.

Predictably and understandably, Brown uses the Vatican, Louvre, Capitol Hill, Firenze, Barcelona as the backdrop for his find-the-clue suspense novels.

Has Brown mentioned a commercial establishment/business in his previous books? Affirmative.

No trip to the piazza (Piazza della Signoria in Florence) was complete without sipping an espresso at Caffè Rivoire.” — Robert Langdon in Inferno.

 

The author of Almost DailyBrett asked the manager of Caffè Rivoire in 2015, if Dan Brown visited the restaurant. The manager pointed to Brown’s favorite spot for espresso.

Give Brown credit for sipping espresso at favorite place just steps away from Michelangelo’s “David,” and likewise for actually driving a Tesla X.

The question is why is Robert Langdon driving the exact same model of Tesla, so gloriously described in Dan Brown’s latest novel, Origin?

Robert Langdon Driving A Tesla?

 “The windshield on Edmond’s Tesla Model X was expansive, morphing seamlessly into the car’s roof somewhere behind Langdon’s head, giving him the disorienting sense he was floating inside a glass bubble.

“Guiding the car along the wooded highway north of Barcelona, Langdon was surprised to find himself driving well in excess of the roadway’s generous 120 kph speed limit. The vehicle’s silent electric engine and linear acceleration seemed to make every speed feel nearly identical.

“In the seat beside him, Ambra was busy browsing the Internet on the car’s massive dashboard computer display …” Dan Brown’s Origin, Chapter 49, Page 217

The gushing references to Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk’s SUV EV reads more like shameless marketing spin than the text of a suspense novel.

Expansive windshield?

Silent electric engine?

Linear acceleration seemed to make every speed feel nearly identical?

Browsing the Internet?

Massive dashboard computer display?

Almost DailyBrett knows marketing copy when he reads it in Origin.

If Elon Musk gave Dan Brown one heck of a deal on his own $80,000 Tesla Model X or even compensated him for the gushing praise for the EV, shouldn’t Tesla be required under SEC and FTC rules to fully disclose the monetary/in-lieu relationship as an operating expense?

Just as important — if not more so — did Dan Brown sell his personal brand and reputation for the highest dollar? Will all his future novels also include references to chosen companies such as Tesla and Uber in Origin? If Brown did sell Robert Langdon for product placement, who blame him? … But what about the rolling eyes of his faithful readers?

Or is the blatant Tesla plug just a coincidence?

Is Product Placement Ever Wrong?

“Once you give up integrity, the rest is a piece of cake.” – Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing

Some product placement is actually clever. An example is Julia Roberts jumping on board a Fed-Ex truck as Richard Gere chases in vain in The Runaway Bride. Wherever she was going, Mizz Roberts was guaranteed to be there by 10:30 in the morning.

NBC is not so subtle with its promo for Sunday Night Football with Verizon repeatedly and shamelessly mixed into the Carrie Underwood title song.

Our world has degenerated into product placement on baseball stadium outfield walls, hockey boards, soccer and (gasp) basketball jerseys.

And now … yes now, it appears the novels that we read, and more importantly purchase, are including thinly disguised product placement.

It’s one thing for NBC to shamelessly plug Verizon; it’s another for Dan Brown to appear to be incorporating Tesla marketing spin into his latest Robert Langdon  novel and presumably more to come.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/30/books/dan-brown-origin.html

https://teslamotorsclub.com/tmc/threads/origin-book-by-dan-brown.99753/

http://theweek.com/articles/730426/dan-brown-bad-writer

http://www.rivoire.it/en/#

https://www.florenceinferno.com/caffe-rivoire/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Brown

 

 

 

 

 

The four basic tenets of crisis communication:

Tell The Truth,

Tell It All,

Tell It Fast,

Move On.

Can Almost DailyBrett add? Don’t take 937 words or more to tell your side of the story, five days late.

In this age of texting and social media, even 500 words are too much … way too much.

In the wake of Cambridge Analytica’s improper use of data from at least 50 million Facebook subscribers for political purposes, the social media company was conspicuously slow in replying.

The company’s common shares have already lost 13 percent in terms of market capitalization, two class-action lawsuits have been filed, and most likely, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has opened an investigation, and most likely Facebook’s CEO will be subpoenaed by both houses of Congress.

Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg finally stepped to the plate last Wednesday with his mammoth Facebook post/statement. Reportedly, Zuckerberg has already lost $10 billion in net worth.

Responding to Zuckerberg’s lengthy epistle about Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica affair, Kelly Evans of CNBC declared the company’s statement was TLDR or Too Long, Didn’t Read.

There was no question that Facebook needed to issue a statement from founder/CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Mission accomplished … finally.

Actually reading and re-rereading Zuckerberg’s prose, one is convinced this is a classic case of CEO statement by committee. The world’s worst news releases are those composed by six, seven, eight, nine … or more (including lawyers), each with at least one point that needs to be incorporated.

Forget about zero based budgeting (e.g., one deletion for each addition), the Zuckerberg post comes across as both agonizing and defensive.

Beware Of Too Many Cooks In The Kitchen

What does Almost DailyBrett recommend when it comes to composing a statement in a crisis situation?

First, keep the numbers of cooks in the kitchen to a minimum, no more than six people … including the principal, Zuckerberg, and the general counsel, Colin Stretch.

Second, ask who else needs to be there? COO Sheryl Sandberg? Okay who else? The determination for participation should be based exclusively on need to be there, not nice to be there.

Third, the lead public relations pro should serve as the editor for the post, coming into the meeting with a “strawman” draft, thus providing a starting point for the exercise.

Fourth, the goal of the statement should be completeness but not exhaustive completeness. The question: ‘Have we told our side of the story?’ Don’t expect to answer every question by means of a post. Make your points, and make them clearly.

Fifth, quarterback your disclosure process. Ensure your employees (e.g., Facebook, 25,105), customers (e.g., advertisers), shareholders, investors … everyone receives the message simultaneously.

Sixth, Zuckerberg’s post is “material” under SEC’s Reg FD (Fair Disclosure provision). The issuance of the post/statement requires the immediate filing of an 8-K disclosure, preferably upon the close of the U.S. markets at 4:01 pm EDT/1:01 pm PDT.

Seventh, Facebook’s communications team and hired-gun public relations agencies need to be disciplined, keeping their related chatter with business-political-trade reporters/editors to a minimum. Be deliberately boring. Don’t walk on the statement from the boss.

Looking back on the four tenets of crisis communications in the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica case:

Did Facebook finally tell the truth? Only time will tell, but it appears the company is trying to do just that.

Did Facebook tell it all? From the size of the statement, the company told it all … and then some.

Did Facebook, tell it fast? Five days for a CEO response is untenable. For a social media leader, 937 words is inexcusable (more than three Twitter posts).

Is Facebook moving on with its Sunday newspaper ads?

Facebook is trying, but this story has legs (e.g., lawsuits, congressional testimony, stock under pressure). It appears that Facebook will have to do a better job monitoring the content on its site (most likely with future government regulation), even if it comes from 2 billion subscribers.

Wonder if Mark Zuckerberg wants to go back to his Harvard dorm room?

 

Hard Questions: Update on Cambridge Analytica (937 words)

Today, Mark Zuckerberg announced measures Facebook is taking to better protect people’s data, given reports that Cambridge Analytica may still be in possession of Facebook user data that was improperly obtained. We shared more information on the steps we’re taking to prevent abuse of our platform in a post on our Newsroom.

Mark Zuckerberg

on Wednesday

I want to share an update on the Cambridge Analytica situation — including the steps we’ve already taken and our next steps to address this important issue.

We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you. I’ve been working to understand exactly what happened and how to make sure this doesn’t happen again. The good news is that the most important actions to prevent this from happening again today we have already taken years ago. But we also made mistakes, there’s more to do, and we need to step up and do it.

Here’s a timeline of the events:

In 2007, we launched the Facebook Platform with the vision that more apps should be social. Your calendar should be able to show your friends’ birthdays, your maps should show where your friends live, and your address book should show their pictures. To do this, we enabled people to log into apps and share who their friends were and some information about them.

In 2013, a Cambridge University researcher named Aleksandr Kogan created a personality quiz app. It was installed by around 300,000 people who shared their data as well as some of their friends’ data. Given the way our platform worked at the time this meant Kogan was able to access tens of millions of their friends’ data.

In 2014, to prevent abusive apps, we announced that we were changing the entire platform to dramatically limit the data apps could access. Most importantly, apps like Kogan’s could no longer ask for data about a person’s friends unless their friends had also authorized the app. We also required developers to get approval from us before they could request any sensitive data from people. These actions would prevent any app like Kogan’s from being able to access so much data today.

In 2015, we learned from journalists at The Guardian that Kogan had shared data from his app with Cambridge Analytica. It is against our policies for developers to share data without people’s consent, so we immediately banned Kogan’s app from our platform, and demanded that Kogan and Cambridge Analytica formally certify that they had deleted all improperly acquired data. They provided these certifications.

Last week, we learned from The Guardian, The New York Times and Channel 4 that Cambridge Analytica may not have deleted the data as they had certified. We immediately banned them from using any of our services. Cambridge Analytica claims they have already deleted the data and has agreed to a forensic audit by a firm we hired to confirm this. We’re also working with regulators as they investigate what happened.

This was a breach of trust between Kogan, Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. But it was also a breach of trust between Facebook and the people who share their data with us and expect us to protect it. We need to fix that.

In this case, we already took the most important steps a few years ago in 2014 to prevent bad actors from accessing people’s information in this way. But there’s more we need to do and I’ll outline those steps here:

First, we will investigate all apps that had access to large amounts of information before we changed our platform to dramatically reduce data access in 2014, and we will conduct a full audit of any app with suspicious activity. We will ban any developer from our platform that does not agree to a thorough audit. And if we find developers that misused personally identifiable information, we will ban them and tell everyone affected by those apps. That includes people whose data Kogan misused here as well.

Second, we will restrict developers’ data access even further to prevent other kinds of abuse. For example, we will remove developers’ access to your data if you haven’t used their app in 3 months. We will reduce the data you give an app when you sign in — to only your name, profile photo, and email address. We’ll require developers to not only get approval but also sign a contract in order to ask anyone for access to their posts or other private data. And we’ll have more changes to share in the next few days.

Third, we want to make sure you understand which apps you’ve allowed to access your data. In the next month, we will show everyone a tool at the top of your News Feed with the apps you’ve used and an easy way to revoke those apps’ permissions to your data. We already have a tool to do this in your privacy settings, and now we will put this tool at the top of your News Feed to make sure everyone sees it.

Beyond the steps we had already taken in 2014, I believe these are the next steps we must take to continue to secure our platform.

I started Facebook, and at the end of the day I’m responsible for what happens on our platform. I’m serious about doing what it takes to protect our community. While this specific issue involving Cambridge Analytica should no longer happen with new apps today, that doesn’t change what happened in the past. We will learn from this experience to secure our platform further and make our community safer for everyone going forward.

I want to thank all of you who continue to believe in our mission and work to build this community together. I know it takes longer to fix all these issues than we’d like, but I promise you we’ll work through this and build a better service over the long term.

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/03/21/zuckerberg-statement-on-cambridge-analytica.html

https://www.cnbc.com/quotes/?symbol=FB&tab=profile

https://finance.yahoo.com/quote/FB/profile?p=FB

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/in-search-of-another-suite-h33-kirkland-house/

 

 

 

H

“[Putin] does his own PR,” Angus Roxburgh, who worked on the account from 2006-2009, told the Daily Beast. “I can honestly think of nothing that Ketchum has ever done that has actually improved Russia’s image.”

“Our work continues to focus on supporting economic development and investment in the country and facilitating the relationship between representatives of the Russian Federation and the Western media,” a Ketchum spokeswoman told The Hill. “We are not advising the Russian Federation on foreign policy, including the current situation in Ukraine.”

That comment was made by Ketchum Public Relations after the Russian occupation of Crimea, and before last week’s surface-to-air (SAM) missile destruction of a Malaysian 747 (MH17) with nearly 300 innocent men, women and children on board.

ukrainianrebels

Here are some questions for Ketchum, a division of Omnicom, that are based on the cumulative impact of Putin’s invasion, the attack on a Malaysian 747 and subsequent cover-up activities:

When is Russia’s behavior just too much for your firm, prompting Ketchum to jettison your $55 million (and-counting) client?

Obviously an unprovoked invasion and a premeditated downing by Putin’s proxies of a defenseless airliner is not enough to trigger a termination of an agency/client relationship.

What will it take? A thermonuclear exchange?

Here’s another interrogative: What happens when a lucrative client (e.g., Russia) doesn’t give a particle about public relations? Do you still offer your best-and-brightest PR advice when your “client” will do whatever it wants, whenever it wants, PR consequences be damned?

Ketchum Has Some Explainin’ to Do?

“We must stop using the language of force and return to the path of civilized diplomatic and political settlement.” – Vladimir Putin in his Ketchum placed New York Times op-ed, Sept. 11, 2013

putin2

Ketchum is not advising Russia about foreign policy? Really? Any bridges that you would like us to buy?

A plain English reading of the Ketchum placed New York Times Putin op-ed is exclusively foreign policy, particularly the opposition to the United States’ stance toward Syria. The op-ed had nothing to do with “economic development and investment.”

Ketchum, much like its problem-child client, Russia, has some explainin’ to do.

Does the PR firm really think it’s making a difference when it comes to Russia’s brand led by former KGB-chief Putin?

Wonder how Ketchum would explain gulag re-openings, and resumption of forced deportations to Siberia? And who knows for sure that these activities are not already happening in 21st. Century Russia.

russia1

We do know from quantitative research that Russia’s brand is sinking fast.

According to Pew Research, Russia’s unfavorable views have jumped 29 percent in the United States, and by 20 percent in the European Union in the past year. Invading countries and having your paw-prints all over shot-down airliners is not good for your national brand.

It’s particularly noteworthy that Russia’s brand is down 27 points in Poland. Yes, the same Poland that suffered for decades under heels of Russian jackboots.

Cold War II?

“We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.” — Vladimir Putin in his Ketchum placed New York Times op-ed, Sept. 11, 2013

The very same Pew Research survey demonstrates a massive negative shift in U.S. respondent opinions about Russia in the past five years. In 1999, 27 percent saw Russia as unfriendly; that figure rose to 44 percent this past March (before the downing of the Malaysian 747). Five years ago, 5 percent viewed Russia as an enemy; the March 2014 result was 24 percent.

Conversely, 44 percent regarded Russia as friendly, but not an ally, in 1999; that figure plummeted to 21 percent this past March. Conceivably the result is even lower now.

Assuming that Putin is aware of these figures does he even care? Or does he want to be seen as the macho hombre that restored greatness to Russia regardless of the consequences. Does he yearn for the good ole days of the Soviet Union? Notice these questions have zero to do with “economic development and investment.”

putin

For Ketchum, which preaches a commitment to corporate social responsibility or CSR, the firm is tied to a client that is a proverbial loose cannon. Putin’s Russia is becoming America’s adversary once again. Is Cold War II already here or just around the corner? Almost DailyBrett is not big on sequels.

Yes there are international PR firms that take money from tobacco companies, despite the fact that 400,000 Americans die annually from tobacco-related diseases, more than AIDS, alcohol, car accidents, murders, suicides, drugs and fires combined according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

If PR firms can represent tobacco companies with straight faces, allowing them to participate in the marketplace of ideas, why can’t a PR firm represent invading and (indirect) missile-launching Russia?

These entities (e.g., Big Tobacco, Big Russia) pay big bucks to tell their stories, even if they really don’t give a particle about public relations.

After all, God created all clients equally.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2014/07/18/russia-has-a-major-pr-problem/?wpisrc=nl_politics

http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2014/03/17/U-S-Public-Relations-Firm-Bags-55-Million-Representing-Putin

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/03/11/ketchums-new-client-in-1938/

http://news.msn.com/world/us-outlines-case-against-russia-on-downed-plane

http://news.msn.com/world/us-vice-president-biden-says-putin-has-no-soul-new-yorker

http://www.ketchum.com/

http://www.theonion.com/articles/who-is-vladimir-putin,36515/?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=SocialMarketing&utm_campaign=Pic:2:Default

http://news.msn.com/world/us-no-link-to-russian-govt-in-plane-downing

http://www.ibtimes.com/malaysia-airlines-hired-putin-pr-agency-after-mh370-disappearance-1635740

 

 

 

 

 

NASDAQ: WEED?

“Marijuana may not be addictive, but money certainly is.” – University of Denver law professor Sam Kamin

ben

How long will it be before publicly traded marijuana-producer/seller companies are listed on the NYSE or NASDAQ?

Will pot company execs someday be ringing the bell and/or pounding the gavel on Wall Street?

Will they be issuing SEC-mandated 10-Q quarterly earnings releases (how high can this stock go?), uploading 10-K annual reports, producing material 8-K filings about mergers, acquisitions and restructurings and holding shareholder meetings?

Will there be handouts for investors?

Preposterous you say? Maybe not.

“…Advocates have waged savvy campaigns…presenting a clean-cut, besuited image worlds away from the tie-dyed stereotype.” – The Economist, “High Time.”

The argument has been made for Amendment 64 (e.g., Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act) in Colorado. Washington and other states that marijuana should be legalized, taxed and regulated.

Does that eventually include the SEC, the Securities Exchange Commission?

How about the FTC, Federal Trade Commission? And maybe even the Financial Standards Accounting Board, FASB. Will publicly traded marijuana companies report quarterly earnings using both GAAP and Pro Forma accounting?

If there are sky-high profits to be made as a result of legalization, taxation and regulation of marijuana, shouldn’t the Military-Industrial Complex crowd get its cut on the action?

marjijuana

If the trend continues toward nationwide marijuana legalization,(federal DOJ is not enforcing in states that vote for medicinal marijuana and other uses), logic dictates that after a few years in “test” markets such as Colorado and Washington, eventually companies may acquire these firms and add marijuana to their product portfolios.

Some may even decide to directly enter the production/marketing of marijuana sector, dominate market share and eventually spin out a marijuana division as a highly covered IPO.

Ready for NASDAQ: WEED?

What does this big profits specter mean to the backyard grower, who is looking to raise a few extra bucks? Has this person ever heard of the term, “economies of scale?” Once a Philip Morris … err … Altria Group, Inc. gets into the market with its legendary ability to produce and sell in massive volume could easily result in the dreams of these small growers going up in smoke.

Think of it this way, a company that markets cancer-causing Marlboros or essentially the burning and smoking of highly addictive doctored tobacco leaves is not going to have any moral qualms about the burning and smoking of pot leaves, particularly if there is a huge profit margin attached to these sales.

CNBC’s “Mad Money” Jim Cramer was posing the hypothetical question as to whether investors should add addictive “sin” stocks to their individual portfolios in 2014. Naturally, Altria Group or NYSE: MO was on the list. There was also Diageo plc (NYSE: DEO) that markets high-end whiskies, vodkas and liquors. Ditto for Wynn Resorts Ltd. (NASDAQ: WYNN) that operates gambling resorts. Could these sinful companies be persuaded to dip into the marijuana market once the legalize-tax-regulate advocates have won the day?

Is the Pope, Catholic?

There may also be a genetically modified marijuana play for Monsanto (NYSE: MON) and a counter wholesome organic effort by Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ: WFM).  Think of the marketing and branding possibilities and the competing television ads during future Super Bowls. Move over erectile dysfunction.

Marijuana is not only consumed in smoked form, but in brownies and other pastries. There may be a great opportunity for General Mills (NYSE: GIS) that serves as the custodian of the Betty Crocker brand. Will this be the time to expand the reach of the company’s markets and upgrade the brand at the same time?

Marijuana brownies would completely change the way we think of the image of Betty Crocker with her apron.

Just as the fictional Nick Naylor from Thank You for Smoking embodies the image of the fast talking PR pro for the tobacco industry, will there be female and male counterparts for publicly traded marijuana companies? The legalize-tax-regulate crowd has already proven they can win the day, at least in some states, when it comes to marijuana. Surely future Nick Naylors can artfully defend the rising top and bottom lines and expanding gross margins of marijuana companies.

NickNaylor

Tobacco, booze, gambling and other perceived sinful companies have not only survived, heck some are very profitable with decent reputations and brands. Couldn’t the same be true for publicly traded and SEC regulated marijuana companies?

There is money to be made on Wall Street. Why shouldn’t SEC regulated publicly traded marijuana companies make big-time profits emanating from a newly legalized, taxed and regulated market?

http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21593467-colorado-embarks-unprecedented-experiment-high-time

http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2014/01/economist-explains-1

http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21573135-americas-first-market-recreational-marijuana-will-be-far-free-tax-and-tax-again

http://www.stockpickr.com/rhinostocks/portfolio/sin-stocks-january-2014/

http://seekingalpha.com/article/1156521-5-marijuana-stocks-going-crazy-and-this-could-be-just-the-beginning

http://time.com/4044698/willie-nelson-pot-brand/

 

Is Ghost Blogging Kosher?

Is undisclosed ghost blogging ethical even in cases in which the stated executive author concurs with the content and approves the posting of the blog in her or his name?

What’s the problem? Barack Obama doesn’t write his speeches? Everyone knows this.

ghost

More than 70 percent agree that ghost writing an executive blog is no big deal.

And yet there is a sizeable minority with qualms.

Isn’t blogging the development of personal relationships by means of digital two-way symmetrical conversation?

You can ghost write speeches. Ditto for op-eds and commentaries. But can you effectively “outsource” your conversations?

Isn’t undisclosed ghost blogging the antithesis of the public relations industry movement toward “radical transparency?”

Maybe this question isn’t so easy?

Arriving on the University of Oregon campus in fall 2010 after my nearly four-year tenure at Edelman Public Relations, I remember discussing the Edelman/Wal-Mart debacle with School of Journalism and Communication Assistant Professor Tiffany Gallicano.

edelman

The 2006 Wal-Mart/Edelman controversy revolved around the use of non-Wal-Mart employees “Jim and Laura” to blog about the pleasant working conditions at the retail giant. This “astroturfing” deception resulted in banner headlines and embarrassment for both Edelman Public Relations and its client Wal-Mart.

Essentially, Edelman hired “ringers,” one a Washington Post photographer and the other a U.S. Department of Treasury employee, to play for the Wal-Mart management team and everything was fine until they were caught. What made this caper all the more embarrassing is that Edelman participated in the formulation of disclosure standards for the blogging industry Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA).

To Richard Edelman’s credit, he visited virtually all Edelman offices to apologize and all Edelman employees were mandated to take training in online disclosure. Richard is a major proponent of “radical transparency” and one can surmise the Wal-Mart experience plays into his evangelizing on this issue.

mackey

Similar headlines and rebukes were directed in 2007 against Whole Foods co-founder John Mackey, who blogged incessantly under the alias “Rahodeb” (an anagram on his wife’s name, Deborah). His posts found a litany of faults with rival Wild Oats, a company that Whole Foods was trying to acquire. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was none-too-pleased.

As Tiffany and I discussed the Edelman/Wal-Mart and Whole Foods cases, we realized that while the issue of undisclosed ghost blogging was not new, it was far from settled. The question: Is there a consensus among the public relations community about the ethics of this issue? We quickly became indebted to Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) for allowing us to circulate a quantitative survey of its membership on this subject. Nearly 300 (agency, corporate, public sector and NGO) practitioners responded.

PRSA has adopted an ethics code that all of its members should be “honest and accurate in all communications” and to “avoid deceptive practices.” The trade organization makes no distinction between communications that are traditional in nature, such as newspapers, or digital, such as blogging and podcasting.

Soon it was time to analyze the results and we were glad to have the assistance of quantitative Wunderkind and Ph.D candidate, Toby Hopp, to assist us. The study was declared valid, but the results were not clean-cut. This point was magnified when Tiffany and yours truly presented our results at the International Public Relations Research Conference (IPRRC) in Miami in spring of 2012.

We made several presentations, each starting first with the professorial types nodding their heads, but quickly arguing with each other. Tastes great! Less filling! No Disclosure! Disclosure? It was a sight to behold.

First, the easy part. Is it okay for an organization to list executives as blog authors even though they were written by others (e.g., PR types) as long as the ideas come from the listed executives and they approve the message: 71.1 percent, agreed; 20.7 percent disagreed.

Seems easy.

Next we asked is it okay for an organization to NOT disclose a PR agency’s assistance in writing blog posts under a client’s name? This is where the Radical Transparency movement first exhibited its influence: 44.7 percent concurred; 37.9 percent did not. Interesting.

The third question: “As a standard practice any ghostwriting of employer executive or client executive blogs should be publicly disclosed?” 37.1 percent, affirmative; 40.9 percent, negative. This was getting too close for comfort.

When it comes to staffers writing executive responses to reader comments (provided the ideas come from the executive and she or he gives approval), 56.3 percent believed this practice was acceptable, while 35.4 percent disagreed.

Finally, there is the question of a PR staffer writing an executive’s comment on subjects posted on some other blog, even with the ideas coming from that exec and she or he giving approval. The results revealed a reversal in sentiments: 42.6 percent approved; 44.0 percent disapproved.

We were pleased to receive the Jackson-Sharpe Award from the IPRRC in March 2012, and our research was published earlier this month by the PRSA’s Public Relations Journal. The Institute for Public Relations has created a Social Science of Social Media Research Center (SSSMRC). Our study will be available there as well.

Looking back at our research, a strong majority of industry practitioners see ghost blogging as essentially the equivalent of ghost writing a speech or op-ed. Everyone knows that Obama tinkers with his speeches, approves them but does not have the time to write them. That is largely true for CEOs as their time is precious.

speech

Isn’t it the job of PR practitioners (e.g., in-house corporate, agency) to assist executives in telling an organization’s story? Sure.

But is a blog the same as a speech or an op-ed/commentary? Speeches are two-way asymmetrical. Blogs are two-way symmetrical. Blogs invite conversation. Blogs benefit from comments.

Can you effectively outsource your digital conversations and still lead torch-light parades behind the banner of Radical Transparency?

The question of undisclosed ghost blogging does not lend itself to easy answers or quick consensus. Let the arguments continue into the night.

http://www.prsa.org/Intelligence/PRJournal/

http://www.prsa.org/Intelligence/PRJournal/Documents/2013_Gallicano.pdf

http://www.instituteforpr.org/scienceofsocialmedia/

http://www.businessweek.com/stories/2006-10-17/wal-mart-vs-dot-the-blogospherebusinessweek-business-news-stock-market-and-financial-advice

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/12/business/12foods.html?_r=0

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