The social network secretly hired a PR firm to plant negative stories about the search giant, The Daily Beast's Dan Lyons reveals - a caper that is blowing up in their face, and escalating their war.
But the key lesson here, as the saying goes: It was worse than a crime, it was a blunder
It's informative to read the original pitch, and see the often implicit dealing made explicit:
I wanted to gauge your interest in authoring an op-ed this week for a top-tier media outlet on an important issue that I know you’re following closely. ....
I'm happy to help place the op-ed and assist in the drafting, if needed. For media targets, I was thinking about the Washington Post, Politico, The Hill, Roll Call or the Huffington Post.
That is, a PR firm is contacting someone they hope will act as a "front" for a nominal "opinion" piece, which is really part of a mudslinging campaign by a business rival (let us pause to remember how, e.g. Net Neutrality is a grassroots effort for freedom and liberty, right ...). The "front" will get attention, the rival will get credibility for their attack.
And we get only got this peek into the inner workings because it was a rookie error:
The two Burson operatives who ran the campaign - Jim Goldman, a former CNBC tech reporter, and John Mercurio, a former political reporter - are both former journalists new to Burson and new to PR. Their biggest mistake: reaching out to a blogger they didn't know with an email pitch that contained embarrassing information, including the offer to help write an op-ed bashing Google.
People don't believe me when I talk about how much agenda-setting is done by, well, those with agendas :-(.