For example, dining critic John Kessler wrote a less than flattering restaurant review and many others agreed with him. However, there were some glowing reviews from users affiliated with the restaurant's public relations firm. Conflict of interest? Absolutely. Sure the firm posted a statement regarding the incident, but the damage was done. The lack of disclosing information or not being transparent can damage the reputation of the company, the brand and your own career.
The Bottom Line
Public relations practitioners should never engage in astroturfing because it is unethical. The PR Coach says online content can be influential to the public and should be presented with transparency. According to Doug Pinkham, president of the Public Affairs Council, it's always wrong without exception.
The Public Relations Society of America Code of Ethics provides guidelines for ethical behavior. Under the code, astroturfing is a deceptive practice and violates the disclosure of information principle. After all, transparency builds trust and respect for your brand and with your audience.