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Gini Dietrich

Astroturfing Is WORSE than Spin!

By: Gini Dietrich | April 8, 2009 | 
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As one of the leaders in the fight against destructive spin within the public relations community, I am astounded to see Dewey Square Group astroturfing for one of their clients.

What’s astroturfing, you ask?

It’s a political, public relations, or advertising campaign designed to create the impression of being spontaneous, or grassroots, behavior (hence the reference to artificial grass).  According to Wikipedia, the goal is to “disguise the efforts of a political or commercial entity as an independent public reaction” to an event, product, or service.

In other words, in the case of Dewey Square Group, someone within their organization wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper, urging their readers to contact their Congressman about the Medicare Advantage program.

When the newspaper investigated and called the person whose name signed the letter, the man had no idea what they were talking about. A few days later, the newspaper received a call from a person claiming to be the man who signed the letter and, when pushed about it, the person hung up.

The reporter then used this cool new technology called CALLER ID and discovered the call came from Dewey Square Group. Read the full story here.

I’m disgusted.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

6 comments
Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich

Brad - This is EXACTLY what got Edelman and Wal-Mart in trouble a couple of years ago. It was with a paid blogger, but it's the same idea. We have to be transparent. We have to be authentic. We have to be honest. And we have to know which ethics are out of bounds. Companies, people, and brands that ghost profile anything will have their credibility hurt in a way that no one has ever experienced.

Brad Farris
Brad Farris

In a slightly different context, how do you feel about "ghost profiles" in recruiting? See this story about NFL team using fake FB profiles to gain access to players profiles. http://bit.ly/3Rbp3

Gini Dietrich
Gini Dietrich

Ghost-tweeting IS another form of astroturfing. I agree with you. I read an article in Ad Age the other day that said that clients should set the strategy for social media and agencies should execute.

UM...NO!

Agencies can help set the strategy, teach clients how to fish, provide new ideas, help monitor and measure, but they CANNOT execute tweeting.

mh106
mh106

Isn't "ghost-tweeting" just another form of "astroturfing"? Seems deceitful to me to take something as spontaneous as twittering and leave it up to a PR firm.

I'm disgusted.

Arment Dietrich
Arment Dietrich

Thanks Nick!

In a world that is quickly turning toward full transparency and authenticity, instances like these will take down people, clients, and companies.

Nick Lucido
Nick Lucido

First of all, I'm really glad to see a PR blog by a shop that cares about honesty and ethics. Props!

A similar case happened up near MSU. A PR practitioner (not a member of PRSA, mind you) went to a city council meeting to express support for funding for a project. The project was paying this practitioner and she wasn't even a resident of the proposed development area. Where's the disclosure?

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  1. […] our job to educate our clients and leaders on what is right and wrong. We must take a stand against astroturfing, whisper campaigns and other media manipulations. Not sure if you’re facing an ethical […]