Holmes Report Blog

The Holmes Report blog focuses on news and issues of interest to public relations professionals. Our main site can be found at www.holmesreport.com.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Astroturf Follies: I’ve written columns in the past about the foolishness of “Astroturf” letter-writing campaigns, the kind that involve letters written by an association or interest group and made available—usually via the Internet—for supporters to put their names to and send on to their congressmen or their local newspapers.

But are such campaigns—as a letter to the Seattle Times suggests—actually unethical.

The individual who signs the letter might not have written it, but he or she presumably agrees with the sentiments expressed and supports the cause in question. And if it fits the definition of plagiarism, it’s plagiarism with the approval—the encouragement, in fact—of the plagiarized.

On the other hand, the intent is clearly to deceive—to create the impression of original effort on behalf of the letter-writer, to suggest that he or she cared enough to compose a thoughtful piece of correspondence.

But whether it’s ethical or not, it’s not especially smart. The Internet makes it almost inevitable that an Astroturf campaign will be found out and letters like this one exposing the deception undermine the author’s intent.

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