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PUBLIC RELATIONS CONTROVERSIES

PR industry finds itself in a public relations disaster of own making

By our News Team | 2022

New York PR agency secretly owned an ‘independent’ industry news website and used it to promote itself and bash its competitors.

The American public relations industry – which spends much of its time helping clients to avoid PR disasters and unwanted controversy – has suddenly found itself embroiled in its own reputational disaster.    

So much so, that the powerful Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) has publicly condemned a leading PR industry professional and the agency he owns for a breach of ethics. “Cowardly”, “blatant violation” and “a stain on our profession” are phrases that have been bandied about.

At the heart of the controversy is Ronn Torossian, founder and CEO of the 5WPR agency in New York and the – until now – secret owner of a supposedly independent PR industry news website called Everything-PR.

Apparently Torossian bought the website in 2014 and then began using it to promote his company, while bashing rival PR firms. He has since admitted that he owns the site and has apologised for his actions.

Public Relations Controversies

Ronn Torossian. Photo via LinkedIn

“At that time, I mistakenly and regrettably did not reveal that I operated the site,” Torossian said. “I was wrong. Everything-PR was a personal initiative.” 

Ethical lapses and errors in judgement

He added: “Almost 20 years ago, at the age of 28, I started a company out of one room. While building a business, I have made many mistakes and have had missteps including ethical lapses and errors in judgment. I apologise.” 

But the board of directors for the New York chapter of the PRSA has not been so forgiving. 

“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 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.”

The publication PR Week quotes Andrew Graham, immediate past president of PRSA-NY, who sits on the board of directors, as saying: “I feel as though everybody on the organisation’s board and who sits on industry associations outside of the PRSA all have an obligation to call out unethical behaviour and poor practices where we see it.”

He added: “Our industry spends so much time and energy rallying around solutions to disinformation. Now we find out that a fairly major player in the PR field has been running a disinformation operation for years. It is wild to see this.”

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