"CELEBRITIES, blue-chip companies and tourist attractions are using a new breed of PR company to hide their secrets and damaging press stories in Google search results. Online 'reputation management' agencies promise to suppress negative search results by driving them down the rankings."

So opens an article in The Times on Wednesday this week. (I can't provide the link to The Times as I'm not a subscriber to its paywall, but it's syndicated here, sans paywall, to sister publication The Australian.)

On reading the article, part of me recognised this sort of capability at the same time another part of me felt very uncomfortable with it being associated directly with PR. And then I winced some more...

"[These agencies] typically use thousands of social networking profiles - set up using false names and operated using computer software to simulate the behaviour of a real person - to talk about and link to more positive results, pushing them above the negative stories."

This is NOT public relations. This is not two-way communication aspiring to foster mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics. Such activities clearly breach the CIPR's code of conduct, specifically its references to integrity and honesty. A PR professional never knowingly misleads about the nature of their representation. Read more