Burson-Marsteller's New PR Microtrend

Mark Penn, the CEO of the PR firm Burson-Marsteller, is embroiled in controversy yet again. Last weekend, Penn's "Microtrend" column in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) hyped "glamping," which he described as "glamorous camping." The column -- which was co-authored with E. Kinney Zalesne -- mentioned various outdoor supplier companies. An internal email leaked to Gawker media writer Hamilton Nolan revealed that by Monday B-M's Executive Vice President Josh Gottheimer "urged Burson's senior staff -- including Founding Chairman Harold Burson, US President & CEO Patrick Ford, and others, to use Penn's column as a tool to approach clients in the camping industry about business. Not only that -- he recommends that Mark Penn 'send a note' to the CEO of these potential clients requesting a meeting." The following day the WSJ spokesman, Robert Christie, told Nolan that Penn had not breached his conflict of interest conditions. "Mark has assured us that through our conversations that he's complied with his conflict of interest policy. He does not have any glamping clients nor did they target them before the column appeared," Christie stated.