BM caught in the middle of Facebook and Google spat

BM caught in the middle of Facebook and Google spat

Claire Walker

Claire Walker

The Two—Facebook.com headline in The Metro is delectable.

The people laughing about today’s front pages are probably Microsoft, Google and a few other big global PR agencies....perhaps also thinking, “There but for the grace of God go I”. Congratulations to the agencies (not mentioned) who declined the brief on the grounds it was a bit ‘whiffy’. This issue just makes agency B-M look amateur and naive.

Competitive depositioning is not new and neither will it go away. Social media has changed the rules though, and if you run a campaign like this you must remember you are playing with fire and you must be either very subtle and round on many companies, perhaps even including your client, or better still, be completely transparent. Most importantly you have to campaign the undeniable truth.

There are public affairs firms who have code named clients whereby no-one in the agency (other than the FD and CEO) knows who pays the bill. These campaigns clearly serve a purpose for someone, and hopefully are in the public’s interest. I am sure secret campaigns like this are declining in a world where so much is traceable.

I expect Google knew about this before any media cottoned on to it. Google knows everything. How interesting and what a PR result for Google to play the victim.

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Discussion

  1. ‘Smearing’ will always go on, the issue is knowing where to draw the line. Reputation vendettas will just make a brand look daft, particularly with the transparency of new media. But ensuring that positioning is as assertive as it can be, and trying to ensure that competitors’ blunders or weaknesses are being talked about rather than submerged, is part and parcel of PR.

    I’ve just had a chat with a journalist about this. Question: should PR’s code of ethics be updated to provide clarity here, or should it be left to common sense? And does everyone read those codes anyway? Apparently 14 people out of 2,200 at BM USA had.

  2. The really dumb thing was that by blackening Google’s reputation over privacy concerns, Facebook risked provoking the regulators and public opinion to dump their load (their wrath) on both companies. They risked having the same arguments and logic Facebook asked BM to direct at Google coming back to haunt Facebook (BM should have told them as much). However, I’m not sure social media changes much… And I don’t think BM lied or cheated or even deceived, though it broke its own code of conduct and perhaps was sly. Transparency is the new opaque. It is not all it is cracked up to be…and PRs should not over-state its merits – and remain cautious – because this issue could as easily bite us in our bums as savagely as Facebook’s ill-conceived ruse against Google took a chunk out of theirs.

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