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Whoops – caught bad mouthing the opposition

Encore une nouvelle catégorie sur notre blog : « London blogging», des billets en anglais arrivés tout frais de notre bureau londonien avec le premier Eurostar du matin !


You probably know by now that yesterday’s blogs and this morning’s papers were awash with the news that Burson Marsteller (BM) was commissioned by Facebook to push anti Google stories around the use of personal data from Facebook and other social networking sites.

So what’s the problem?  Firstly BM would not identify the client they were working for and secondly the security claims were considered to be exaggerated.  The result?  One of the bloggers approached by BM posted the email trail online and all hell broke loose when USA Today published the story.

Facebook was revealed as the mystery client and the focus shifted to why Facebook – not without its own privacy concerns – felt it was necessary to take this approach and why BM were willing to handle the project.

From a the corporate communications point of view the end result could not have been worse – you’ve given the competitor’s product publicity and positioned yourself as underhand at best and fearful and untrustworthy at worst.

Raising corners over competitor’s service or product is a legitimate strategy but not revealing your identity and pushing a weak story cannot be considered best practice in any sense.

The challenge for the agency is that those journalists and bloggers who have been contacted with the ‘blind’ story will be less inclined to engage with you in the future. Plus, the client community is not going to be beating a path to your door until the negative noise has died down.

In summary, this sort of behaviour is commercial and reputational suicide.

Richard Houghton – MD Aspect Consulting London

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