Ms. Rosanna Fiske, chair and CEO of the
Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), issued a news release in response
to the News Corp. phone hacking scandal.
"News Corp.'s misguided response to the escalating phone-hacking scandal will undoubtedly become a case study for business schools and public relations professionals on the potential perils of not properly managing the reputations of all of a company's assets. In trying to make excuses for unethical actions by some News of the World reporters and editors, Rupert Murdoch has demonstrated a profound lack of understanding of how his actions and words influence the public's perception of his company and its employees."
We found the public pronouncement to be a thinly veiled news hook for the association rather than a condemnation not only of the apparent illegal activities of News of the World staffers and others in the organization but of the changing view of privacy and personal (forget professional) ethics.
It reminds us of the scene from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End where Jack Sparrow uses a gun as a scope to see the enemy sighting down the wrong end.
If this were simply a public relations crisis issue then Edelman which has suffered through its share is probably better equipped to assess the true situation and assist in responding appropriately.
We simply do not believe it is in the best interest of anyone at News Corp and beyond that the association should put out a narrowly focused pronouncement on the damage that may be done to the company's "image" or the stockholder value.
What about the damage that was done to the individuals - alive and dead - who were involved?
Image and stockholder value are minor compared to the larger, more basic damage that has been done to people.
Ms. Fiske on behalf of the association condemns Murdock for his action or inaction rather than saying fer gawd sake people this type of intrusive action is wrong on way too many levels. Perhaps it is time for us as an industry to help the global community develop/deliver more respect for organizations/individuals.
Ethics and concern begin with the individual and that doesn't include telling someone how he/she should run their business or lives.
News Corp is a closed corporation owned/controlled by the Murdocks. Ms. Fiske may not like it but it is a fact. This isn't the first shady, distasteful activity that has been brought to light and it certainly won't be the last.
If Ms. Fiske wants to scream at someone (beside Rupert) than give the board of directors hell because they are the shareholders representatives. They've got some good people on the silent board like Tom Perkins who resigned from HP's board because of the chairman's questionable ethics and dubious legality.
At this early stage we doubt that Murdock, the board or Edelman have any idea exactly what all was done and the depth/breadth of the phone hacking.
What should they say in the name of "open disclosure/transparency"? "Gee your wild speculations are as good as the solid information we have at hand!"
Yes that kinda works for us.
Look Deeper, Inward
Fer gawd sake there is a deeper issue Ms Fiske and it is the quickest way to grab/disseminate the information regardless of who or what may be damaged.
That is why hacking went from a respectable expertise to activity that disrupts business, personal lives and steals.
The Association seems so preoccupied with the people who should be in charge of social media, a fruitless effort when anyone/everyone is empowered, that it loses sight of the fact that perhaps they should focus on helping people understand their individual responsibilities as well as taking ownership of their actions and the impact of those actions.
Murdock deserves/has PR and legal counsel that might know a little more about what happened/didn't happen, who did/didn't do something and how far reaching the activity was.
Saying we're the professionals who should be constantly attached to senior management to guide them in the right decision doesn't accomplish much.
Ms Fiske and the association might serve the entire marketplace and industry by taking a couple of pointers from Mitch Joel, president of Twist Image and author of Six Pixels of Separation.
There are so many social media and Twitter Trolls out that make people a personal disappointment to us. Behind the mask of the Internet and Web they have no qualms about reaching out and stealing, striking maliciously and simply humiliating someone all in the name of "I'm right, you're wrong, ***** you."
Lead, Follow, Get Outta The Way
If the Association wants to put out a statement regarding the News Corp activities why not one that is simple, to the point - "Rupert fer gawd sake run your company as a responsible citizen of the planet!"
This kind of stuff is wrong by any moral, ethical, personal measure so why not take off the robe of nobler than thou and figure out, help ensure it doesn't happen again ... and again...and again.
In its simplest form it's ethics - personal ethics, doing the right thing - which aren't always easy or even fun but when the dust settles you feel better for it and you certainly don't have to apologize...to anyone.
Not a helluva lot of glory or "coverage" in doing that but it just might help others take a stand when they know something is just plain wrong and it might - just might - protect folks.
If the association can't take that stand then they will continue to be little more than simple - but in the heat of crisis well paid - tools management brings in to clean up after them.
Ms Fiske, PRSA board -- there aren't that many brooms, that many shovels.