Thoughts on Cambridge Analytica and Facebook and a quick look at the consequences for PR practitioners
With the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica debacle picking up steam PR practitioners are quick to offer crisis communications advice to our favorite online hangout’s CEO and COO who are both MIA. Their hiding behind statements and claim of being the real victim will indeed make for good case study material on how not to manage a crisis. Not that we needed more bad case studies as there are already tons more bad than good ones… Anyway, that’s beside the point.
What is happening here is much larger: the PR industry will soon be facing the next ‘Ethics in PR’ debate. Given that Facebook is at the center and one quarter of the world’s population can to some extent relate to it, this one has the potential to be more disruptive and damaging than the somewhat isolated Bell Pottinger case. BP was swiftly and professionally dealt with by the PRCA. I doubt this one will go away as quickly. PR tactics will yet again come under intense scrutiny, with our industry under general suspicion, either by our own doing or by association.
Some clear lines need to be drawn between micro-targeting and stone cold user/reader/viewer/voter manipulation. This has been looming since we’ve moved from broadcast to narrow-cast and what our industry leaders are going to say in the weeks to come should help clients and the public at large to separate the agency wheat from the chaff.
To clients in particular I’d like to say, look out for agencies who boast of fully integrated services but in reality have very few if any experienced digital strategists whose word matters in the boardroom. And to digital strategists and agency heads I say: there won’t be any excuses for not being able to produce compelling answers to the inevitable questions on their operative and ethical boundaries. The clock is ticking. Got to go now. More breaking news from the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook frontline.