Anheuser-Busch's United Kingdom division, InBev, employed a lobbying firm to edit the Wikipedia entry about its Stella Artois brand of lager to delete a negative reference to the brand. Portland Communications, a lobbying firm run by a former adviser to Tony Blair, deleted the term "wife-beater" from the Wikipedia article about Stella Artois, reportedly to "challenge any connections between the brand and domestic violence." Stella Artois, one of the biggest brands of lager in the UK, in recent years has earned the nickname "wife beater" because of its high alcohol content and apparent popularity among rowdy soccer players. The changes on Wikipedia were made by a user named Portlander10, who had an IP address traceable to Portland Communications. Portland maintains that the changes were made openly and within Wikipedia's rules. In the wake of this revelation, though, a meeting has been scheduled between the Chartered Institute of Public Relations and Wikipedia to give PR professionals guidance for working on Wikipedia, and to develop a code of conduct for PR professionals to help minimize attempts to mask the true identity of PR pros seeking to edit the site.
Contrary to most press accounts, there was a decisive winner in the Iowa caucuses last night, and it was neither Rick Santorum nor Mitt Romney. The "winner" was the so-called "Super" PACs (political action committees), the mutant front groups for political candidates that were "created" in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 decision that unleashed corporations and billionaires to spend unlimited money influencing elections.
This report exposing the deceptive tactics of the American Petroleum Institute was originally posted at Greenpeace.
Recently, Greenpeace got a rare look behind the curtain at how Big Oil stages citizen support for huge oil companies, when activists got inside a TV commercial shoot in Washington DC. The American Petroleum Institute(API), and their PR firm Edelman, were filming a new series of TV commercials that we learned API plans to air nationally on CNN starting in January. The ads, aimed at the 2012 elections, will aim to demonstrate authentic citizen support for the oil industry's agenda.
As Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's new policies restricting protest in the Wisconsin capitol take effect in advance of the anniversary of 2011's historic labor uprisings, the controversial governor has enlisted a new spokesperson to sell the rules, a 28-year old protégé of Karl Rove and new political appointee of the governor.
The Water Environment Federation (WEF), the sewage sludge industry trade group that invented the Orwellian PR euphemism "biosolids" for toxic sludge in 1991, is now "rebranding" sewage treatment plants as "water resource recovery facilities." The PR spin conveniently glosses over the toxic sewage sludge removed from the water and then heated and dumped on land for crops and grazing as "fertilizer" or misleadingly called "compost." The toxins in sludge can then bioaccumulate in the meat and dairy we eat and be taken up by the food plants that feed us.
The Public Relations Society of America, the trade group for the American public relations industry, and Jack O'Dwyer, who has specialized in reporting on the PR industry for over 40 years, are at war, and the battle is getting heated -- and harmful for PRSA.
Why should people care about this obscure fight? Because the conflict is a microcosm of the battle against the unethical and harmful PR trends that are hurting this country.
Synagro Technologies is the latest big corporation trying to ditch a scandal-ridden past by re-branding itself. In an August 10, 2011 press release, the company announced it is launching a new website as part of a "rebranding initiative." The press release says the initiative "is a reflection of the enhanced and growing service and solution offerings that have resulted from organic growth and recent acquisitions." Of course, the press release fails to mention the back-to-back scandals that have plagued Synagro since 2008 as well as earlier controversies.
Synagro is in the business of marketing sewage sludge as "compost," or, as the company's new, PR-approved website puts it, "Transforming natural waste challenges into sustainable, planet-friendly solutions." The company is a subsidiary of the Carlyle Group, the largest private equity firm in the world. Carlyle is also a sizeable part of the military-industrial complex with ties to numerous national politicians, including former British Prime Minister John Major, Alice Albright (daughter of former Secretary of State Madelyn Albright), and both George W. and George H.W. Bush.
Almost two years ago, former health insurance PR executive Wendell Potter published his tell-all book, Deadly Spin, about the deceptive media campaigns and PR trickery the health insurance industry uses to beat back meaningful health care reform in the U.S. Potter pointed out the striking similarities between the insurers' tactics and those the tobacco industry applied for decades to delay regulation and confuse people about the health hazards of smoking and secondhand smoke. These manipulative PR tactics held off meaningful tobacco regulation for over 40 years, and also proved highly successful for the insurance industry, which used the same strategies to defeat true health care reform. Now Al Gore is pointing out that the energy, steel and utility industries are applying those same, tricky and time-worn PR strategies to confuse people about global warming and delay efforts to address it.
It's our responsibility as journalists to let the public know who is paid by what corporation, or if they're representing the government. Otherwise, it's unforgivable. The media is our lens on the world. And it is absolutely critical we trust the media. Because, ultimately, when people are terrorized, when people are targeted, when people are marginalized, that does not make any of us safer.
- Amy Goodman, interview in "Programming the Nation?" documentary