Facebook Nets Google Exec to Fix Poor PR

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2008-05-06 Print this article Print


Ben Ling. Gideon Yu. Ethan Beard. Sheryl Sandberg. Now, I give you Elliot Schrage. Facebook is increasingly beginning to look like Googlebook. Have this many high-profile Microsoft employees gone to Google?

I've covered Facebook's poaches of Googlers from time to time, sometimes with a wow and sometimes with an eh. But the latest coup involves something a little closer to home than programming or ad sales.

That's right; the big PR. Elliot Schrage, Google's vice president of global communications and public affairs, or to journos like myself the top gatekeeper to what Google corporate information I can access and when, has joined Facebook in the same capacity, according to a letter from CEO Mark Zuckerberg posted by AllThingsDigital here.

"In this role, he will be responsible for developing the key messages we want people to understand about our products, our business and the growing global importance of social networking and what we do," Zuckerberg wrote.

"The goal here is to help people understand how the Internet can strengthen people's relationships. Elliot will direct our efforts to work with users, media, governments and other entities around the world to ensure that Facebook's policies are transparent, responsive, effective and are recognized as being those things."

That is a nice, warm breath of fresh air.

Schrage will try to turn around what to most has been a subpar public relations effort. Schrage could have been invaluable in staunching the Beacon nightmare that had users and media screaming for answers like they were blood. When Beacon blew up, Facebook had no single public spokesperson soothing users and courting the media.

Facebook kind of hid behind the programming and said it was working on the problems. That's unacceptable.

Granted, Facebook is not a public company, but it needs to step up and have a better showing in public, not just to defend itself in the face of outraged consumers but to hand-hold the media in its information dissemination.

I'm sure more than one journalist has read about Facebook events and news and wondered why just the celebrity bloggers, wire services, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal attended or got the skinny first.

Facebook tends to hide behind a satellite PR firm for its PR. But I ran into an actual Facebook PR rep (they do exist!) at an after-hours party at Web 2.0 Expo a couple of weeks ago.

The guy was on the ball and when I made a joke about Facebook having, like, four PR people for the whole company, he said that was about right. I said I hoped that would change.

Hopefully, that will change under Schrage. Google has north of 60 PR people at least and because of that has the ability to be really responsive.

It doesn't hide behind one of those satellite firms that throw darts against the Berlin Wall of journalists in the hope something sticks, and when something is controversial it doesn't stick its head in the sand or go dark the way Facebook did with Beacon until Zuckerberg popped up to apologize and say it was fixed in a blog post.

Schrage gets how the PR game is played, and now Facebook will, too.

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