Public Relations Issues

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Deception, Deceit and Dilemmas amongst Public Relations : 

Deception, Deceit and Dilemmas amongst Public Relations

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“PR firm admits it's behind Wal-Mart blogs” A PR firm, Edelman, was found to be making fake blogs for Wal-Mart, one its clients. These blogs were written by three employees from Edelman and were intended to bolster Wal-Mart’s reputation in a grass-roots way. Another blog, separate from the Edelman, also depicted a fake story of a traveling couple that stayed in their RV on Wal-Mart’s parking lots across the country. This story was also fabricated by companies in cooperation with Wal-Mart. It is said that other corporations, besides Wal-Mart, have used blogs in the past as well but it is unknown whether stories have been fabricated to bolster their reputation. It was noted that Wal-Mart, after the blogs, rose in the New York Stock Exchange 1.5 percent. “Corporate blogging: Wal-Mart's fumbles” More than three dozen of FORTUNE 500 companies now produce blogs. CEOs of these corporations claim that they deserve the same voice that public has and will continue to blog. Why? Blogs allow the public to put a face on corporations and ultimately decide what they personally think; however, this allows corporations to fabricate an image that often times neglects major ethical issues.

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“'Puppets' Emerge as Internet's Effective, and Deceptive, Salesmen” There is a current trend in creating meat puppets, fiction characters, to pass as actual people on Facebook and other internet sites. These puppets create accounts and gain everyone else’s email address and information for marketers. This deceit has created concerns and cries for legal actions. “Sony Confesses To Creating 'Flog,' Shutters Comments” Another PR firm, Zipatoni is said to be creating fake blogs or flogs in an attempt to promote the Sony PSP. Sony and Zipatoni admitted to the fabrication but offered no explanation other than its intent as a marketing tool; moreover, they downplayed the seriousness of the issue even after its subsequent ethical issues.

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“AOL apologizes for release of user search data” AOL recently created random search logs over 658,000 AOL users for public view. Though actual names or user IDs were not given, identification numbers were made so that these identities could easily surface. Ten days later AOL pulled the log and offered an apology to its users. Other internet sites such as AltaVista were reported making identification logs six years ago. “MySpace Glitch Gives Hackers Teen Data” In 2006 it was found that MySpace was hacked by unknown sources. This allowed users to view other users' private pictures and postings for several months. MySpace claimed to fix this problem but blogs have arisen that offer other ways of hacking profiles. This ultimately translates to a war with social networking and sex offenders that prey on profiles of adolescents under the age of 16.

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“FTC fines Xanga for violating kids' privacy” The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act was violated by Xanga, an internet social networking website in 2006. This act originally required a parent’s consent for children under the age of 13 to join the website. Xanga was charged $1 million for the crime and hired a new Chief Safety Officer. It was said, however, that children often fake their age to avoid the parental consent requirement or age restrictions in rival sites such as MySpace. “Snack companies fined $185,000 for violating kids' online privacy” Hershey Foods and Mrs. Fields Cookies have been fined $85,000 and $100,000 for obtaining children’s private information on their website in 2003. This is illegal without parental consent and violates the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. Hershey and Mrs. Fields were also ordered to delete the information they obtained; they vowed for no further violations and allowed the FTC to monitor and make sure this doesn’t happen again.

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“Malibu Banana Boat Contest Backfires, Contestants Cry Foul” The Thomas Collective, a PR agency for Malibu Rum, was accused for rigging a contest to earn $25,000. The contest was to create an advertisement for their new Banana Boat Rum that would be decided by voters on YouTube. After a winner was selected people argued that finalists weren’t even chosen, moreover, that the winner worked for the alcohol company. Ron Klineschmidt, the winner, said the others were sore losers. “Chevy Tries a Write-Your-Own-Ad Approach, and the Potshots Fly” The latest trend in the advertising industry is to allow user-generated advertisements. Chevy opened this up for their SUV Tahoe, however, the ads that surfaced on YouTube attacked its low gas mileage capabilities and portrayed the car as destroying the Earth. Chevy was said to “accept the good with the bad.” Other companies like Converse and MasterCard used this new trend and actually found success, though they also received harsh critical ads as well.

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