PRWeb getting too much blame for Google-ICOA fiasco, says PRSA CEO

Public Relations Society of America

"I think some of the blame being heaped on PRWeb is misplaced," PRSA CEO Gerard F. Corbett writes. Corbett faults the press-release distribution site for a "tepid" statement and for not acting quickly enough after someone planted a fake press release saying Google had acquired wireless Internet provider ICOA. But whoever lofted the bogus release got around PRWeb's processes, Corbett writes. "For every technological 'problem,' there is an equal or opposite technological way to circumvent it."

Corbett's less generous toward the publications that picked up the item:

Didn’t anyone at those publications find it questionable that the deal would have valued ICOA at approximately 470 times its market value of $850,000, as Reuters reports? If that were true, as All Things D notes, Google would have been paying a premium amounting to more than 470 times its most recent price. Surely this should have raised a red flag for most experienced financial or technology journalists.

Also, neither Google nor ICOA responded quickly, Corbett writes.

The PRSA Code of Ethics requires PRSA members not only to “act promptly to correct erroneous communications for which the member is responsible,” but also to “investigate the truthfulness and accuracy of information released on behalf of those represented.”

Given the media’s fascination with Google, this whole thing could have been quashed by 10:15 a.m. As it was, most news sources took at least several hours to update their stories with news of the hoax. And by then, the damage was done.

Related: Fake press releases are "a real public service," Jack Shafer writes.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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