Public Relations Firm Criticized

By Marissa Brostoff

Published July 24, 2008, issue of August 01, 2008.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Is all fair in love and PR? Some public relations industry observers say that 5WPR, the firm that represents the embattled kosher meat company Agriprocessors, crossed an ethical line when an employee apparently impersonated Agriprocessors critics online.

The controversy over 5WPR is, in the context of Jewish affairs, an odd spin-off of the ongoing saga of Agriprocessors, which has been much criticized and defended within the Jewish community since the company’s main plant was raided by a federal immigration agency in May. After years of fending off attacks largely by declining to speak to the press, Agriprocessors hired 5WPR, which also lists a number of Jewish organizations as clients, in June. But the PR firm may be creating more fires for the company than it’s put out.

In mid-July, Shmarya Rosenberg, who reports on the Orthodox world on the blog FailedMessiah, claimed that he had traced suspicious comments appearing on his blog posts about Agriprocessors to 5WPR’s New York office via the firm’s IP address.

5WPR CEO Ronn Torossian later said in a statement that “my IT department investigated accusations which we have now learned to be true,” and that a senior staff member had taken responsibility.

Experts on public relations ethics said that 5WPR seemed to be out of compliance with industry standards on ethics.

“Based on what I’ve read, including Mr. Torossian’s admission that the accusations leveled against 5W were true, I’m concerned that these practices are in opposition to our code of ethics,” said Bob Frause, chairman of the Public Relations Society of America’s board of ethics and professional standards.

Frause said that he had never before encountered allegations of a public relations firm impersonating people on the internet.

In response, Torossian wrote in an e-mail, “Considering that the EVP and #2 of 5WPR is on the Board of Directors of the Public Relations Society of America’s New York chapter we continue to follow all ethos of the PR industry which accounts for our continued growth and success.”

Of the Jewish organizations listed as clients on 5WPR’s Web site, two groups, the Zionist Organization of America and the networking organization Aish New York, told the Forward that they would continue to work with the firm.

“I’m sure whatever happened had nothing to do with Ronn Torossian,” said Mort Klein, the president of the ZOA.

Shannon Stairhime, the editorial content manager of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association, a trade association that has a set of guidelines on digital marketing ethics, echoed Frause’s comments.

“As soon as people start going out and pretending to be people they’re not, it muddies the waters of the entire industry,” Stairhime said.






Find us on Facebook!
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.