Astroturfing: Time to walk the talk

Last month’s anti-astroturfing initiative by Australian PR bloggers Trevor Cook and Paull Young got off to a good start with plenty of commentary in support of the idea.

The supporters list now shows the names of 32 people who have signed up to publicly support this grassroots campaign, intended to throw a spotlight on an insidious practice that is the opposite of transparency yet is dressed up as such.

Those 32 names are communicators who are bloggers, academics, practitioners and students. It includes two highly influential names – David Weinberger and Seth Godin.

The list also includes the names of four PR agencies who have publicly stated their commitment to the campaign statement – Altyris, Jackson Wells Morris, Flatiron Communications LLC, and Voce Communications.

Kudos to these four.

Conspicuously absent, however, is any of the big-name PR firms.

Perhaps Keith Jackson of Jackson Wells Morris may embarrass some of them into publicly stating their support for anti-astroturfing and this campaign.

He’s started spotlighting some of these firms by posting extracts from their vision/mission/here’s how we behave statements that convey those firms’ positions on ethics in PR, and issued a challenge to each of them to publicly support the anti-astroturfing campaign.

Keith has challenged two firms so far – Weber Shandwick Worldwide and Fleishman-Hillard Inc. More to come, he says.

One PR agency who might have a problem publicly supporting the campaign is DCI Group if reports on how they allegedly were behind the Al Gore’s Penguin Army (supposedly) viral video on YouTube turn out to be true.

Then again, here’s a great opportunity for DCI to set their ethics record straight.

I’d like to see our professional associations also getting openly involved with this. IABC, CIPR, PRSA, for example. Why wouldn’t they?