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September 15, 2011
PR Tactics Mired In Duplicity
This one is certainly beyond the pail — that's right, pail. The one the Central Basin Municipal Water District of California will be using to bail out its reputation after paying nearly $200,000 in taxpayers' money to finance phony "news" stories. A too-clever-by-far PR firm, Coghlan Consulting Group, is affiliated with the NewsHawksReview.com web site, which publishes promotional stories "written in the image of real news." The water authority thought that was a neat idea. To practically everyone else, it wasn't. Google removed the News Hawks site from its Google News searches when the story broke in The Los Angeles Times.

A tactical ploy by a firm that should know better. And here's another upsetting, if not so blatant, one. We attended a social media conference in Harrisburg, Pa., yesterday where a PR rep (from a different firm, Pavone) saw no problem with her agency researching and writing blog posts under the bylines of clients who are "too busy" to do that themselves. (A corporate post is one thing, a byline another.)

Add these examples to Ketchum's recent lasagna-stuffed imbroglio with bloggers, and you've really got to wonder why the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) has stopped enforcing its ethics code. (A PRSA board member in Los Angeles has, however, expressed disgust with the water district's gambit.) Why would professional leaders want their craft to appear to sink further into a manipulative mire? That's a perception that dogs PR. Don't its leaders understand that?

(Illustration from Ragan's PR Daily coverage of the California situation.)

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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