Plagiarism: This Crisis Pro’s Words Look Exactly Like Mine
Brian West—co-lead of the global crisis communications practice and managing director of reputation management in Asia Pacific for PR giant FleishmanHillard—was quoted as saying the following today in an article on Marketing Interactive:
“When a crisis strikes, many attorneys have the same instinct: to clamp down on corporate communications and make the fewest number of public statements possible (if any at all). That’s because an attorney’s primary job is to minimise future financial payouts and, in cases of criminal wrongdoing, to reduce a company’s culpability in any future legal action,” adds West.”
A second passage in his comments, although not lifted word-for-word, also seemed heavily inspired by that same post. I sent Mr. West (@westoweather on Twitter) an email asking why he had plagiarized my work. He responded by claiming his innocence and offering one of those lame “if/then” apologies:
“Did I? I did not intend to and if I did I apologise and I will have the record amended. Which bit are you referring to?”
He then wrote back again, claiming the plagiarism wasn’t his fault:
“While I produced most of the material for the story, it was not all in one go and when I was travelling a member of my staff handled other some follow up questions.”
Here are a few facts:
- Mr. West receives my email newsletter.
- This excerpt was sent out in my newsletter on October 17, 2013.
- Mr. West clicked on that link.
- No one else from FleishmanHillard is on my email list.
It’s possible that Mr. West is telling the truth, that he is an innocent victim of someone else’s plagiarism. In order for that to be true, of course, it means that he allows other people on his staff to submit on-the-record comments to the press without checking them first. I’ll give Mr. West the benefit of the doubt that that’s possible.
Either way, the regional head of reputation management for a major global PR firm is responsible for the plagiarized content that appeared in his name. At the very least, it would have been nice to have received a genuine apology.
UPDATE: MARCH 10, 2014, 11:20am
I just received this email from Brian West:
I take full responsibility for the use of copy from your book, without attribution, that then appeared as a quote from me. For that I sincerely apologise. I want to share the reasons with you but it is not for publishing as there is no excuse – it was my mistake and I will have to live with that; the material was supplied subsequent to my original contact with the journalist. It was researched and supplied by a member of my staff and the staff member did not realise the journalist would take everything supplied as a quote from me. The second mistake was that it wasn’t correctly attributed.
I am distressed this has happened and on both fronts I acknowledge my error and will ensure it does not happen again. I am happy to discuss this in person if you would like me to call you.
UPDATE: MARCH 10, 2014, 10:40pm
Thank you to Marketing Interactive, which just corrected the attribution of that quote from Mr. West to me. I appreciate their commitment to looking into the facts and correcting the record.
What do you think? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.