The Impact of Disclosure for PR and Media

A bit of scandal has hit the PR world this past week. It’s now been discovered that 5WPR CEO Ronn Torossian secretly bought industry news site, Everything-PR – and ownership was not disclosed for years. What’s worse, the site – which positioned itself as an industry news site – often published bylines touting 5WPR while bashing rivals. 

Although the site has now been scrubbed of these distasteful and misleading bylines, the damage has been done. On Friday, PRSA New York publicly condemned Torossian’s behavior:

“In addition to being a cowardly and blatant violation of PRSA’s Code of Ethics, [Torossian’s] actions are a stain on our profession and undermine our role as guardians of facts and integrity for those we serve,” the PRSA-New York board of directors said in a statement. “We strongly condemn his and his firm’s direct role in perpetrating disinformation while pretending to be a legitimate industry news site.”

We asked current PR Club leaders their thoughts on this situation, and here’s what they had to say: 

“Public relations as an industry has fought to overcome the negative connotations of being ‘flacks.’ And so much of that is centered on the ethics of transparency and disclosing relationships,” said Amanda Fountain, PR Club President and Digital Engagement Lead at LEGO Education. “Following a code of ethics – or at a minimum focusing on transparency – helps build trust and credibility. And that is vital to protect the people alongside you.”   

“It’s always a sad day when a PR practitioner – especially one who owns and runs an agency – reinforces negative stereotypes about our industry,” said Sofia Giovannello, President-Elect for PR Club and Account Supervisor at FleishmanHillard. “This brings up major discussion around ethics and transparency, particularly for leaders, and in my book, honesty is always the best policy and the truth will always prevail. I empathize with anyone who was inadvertently affected and reputations that have been tarnished because of this unfortunate situation.”