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When reality becomes perception

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Reputation and brand: Facebook strikes a blow — against itself

I blogged about social media and a potential backlash to use of private information in “Three digital considerations for the year(s) to come”.  In an interesting twist, “Facebookgate” is a signpost of what not to do on the road to establishing great reputational capital for companies. Not only is use of private information important but immoral tactics employed to “go negative” against competitors reveal the emperor as naked and scared.

Facebook was trying to expose Google for privacy issues through public relations firm Burson-Marsteller. Considering Facebook’s own past issues regarding users’ privacy concerns, the hypocrisy of this tactic is thick and hard to digest. Equally hard to digest is Burson-Marsteller’s use of tactics that have been described as “shadowy”. Burson-Marsteller’s former UK chairman says executives involved in the escapade acted like “backstreet spin merchants”.

Terence Fane-Saunders, ex of Burson-Marsteller UK, soundly criticised his old employer on his company blog, aptly titled:  “What on earth has happened to Burson-Marsteller?”

Obviously, grubby tactics  like those displayed in the Facebookgate case have done a lot of damage to the public relations industry in the past. Such tactics as those employed by Burson-Marsteller have led to the portrayal of public relations practitioners as hacks.

Amazing that such tactics still see the light of day. Facebook is now left with its brand highlighted in the media beside such less-than-brand-enhancing labels as “furtive”, “smear campaign” and “creepy” to list but a few. Not exactly words that most companies would revel in being associated with.

And, of course, every mention of Facebook adds mention of Burson-Marsteller’s involvement and bad public relations practices.

Companies would do well to pay attention to the fallout from such tactics. Perception may be more important than reality, but, in the case of Facebookgate, reality has had an enormous impact on perception. The problem is, in the Facebook case, reality was far worse than almost anybody perceived.

Video:

Blogger Soghoian speaks about Facebookgate

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