Inside Fb memo sees outgoing VP of comms Schrage take blame for hiring Definers

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TechCrunch has obtained an inside memo revealed by Fb’s outgoing head of public coverage Elliot Schrage during which he blames himself for hiring PR agency Definers. He admits to having the corporate push unfavorable narratives about rivals, however says Fb didn’t ask or pay Definers to publish pretend information. COO Sheryl Sandberg left a touch upon the memo, saying it was by no means Fb’s intention to play into anti-semitic theories about George Soros.

The memo features a Q&A concerning factors raised by a New York Occasions article detailing how Definers labored to unfold unfavorable publicity about Google and different tech giants to make Fb look higher, and that the agency’s staff additionally revealed biased articles bashing Fb’s rivals and critics by means of a information web site known as NTK Community that’s affiliated with Definers.

Within the memo, Schrage justifies using opposition analysis, and chastizes Fb staff for permitting inside finger pointing surrounding its troubled previous two years to develop into public. He additionally notes that his substitute, Fb’s new head of world coverage and former UK deputy Prime Minster Nick Clegg shall be reviewing its work with all political consultants, which might flip up extra skeletons.

Fb’s former head of coverage and comms Elliot Schrage (left) assembly former President George W. Bush. [Image publicly shared by Facebook’s Andrew ‘Boz’ Bosworth]

Schrage introduced in June that he’d be stepping down within the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, however would keep on to assist discover a substitute. Many have requested who, if anybody, can be fired for placing Fb in cahoots with Definers. As TechCrunch beforehand reported, Schrage was atop the chain of command right here. Given his intensive expertise in public coverage, was probably nicely conscious of the character of Definers’ work. Schrage taking the blame offers a handy answer to the difficulty, as he’s already on his means out.

“Duty for these choices rests with management of the Communications crew. That’s me. Mark and Sheryl relied on me to handle this with out controversy” Schrage writes. “I knew and authorised of the choice to rent Definers and related companies. I ought to have identified of the choice to broaden their mandate . . . I’m sorry I allow you to all down. I remorse my very own failure right here.” This rationalization serves to guard Zuckerberg and Sandberg from further blame, at the same time as Sandberg strives to indicate she’s not passing the buck by noting “I wish to be clear that I oversee our Comms crew and take full accountability for his or her work and the PR companies who work with us.”

Schrage’s protection of his bosses offers further cowl for Zuckerberg’s feedback from a CNN interview that ran tonight during which he mentioned he received’t step down as Fb’s chairman and hopes to proceed working alongside Sandberg for many years to come back. The memo might have been geared toward quieting inside unrest about Fb’s chief lobbyist Joel Kaplan. His ties to the GOP, help for Supreme Courtroom Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and involvement with Fb’s newest PR troubles had led some staff to query his employment. Now Fb has another person to take the warmth.

Schrage is successfully leaping on the grenade right here.

The memo and remark could be discovered beneath:

Inside Fb Memo By Elliot Schrage

A lot of you may have raised questions on our relationship with the Definers consulting agency. We’ve been wanting into this and although it’s near a vacation for a lot of of you I needed to share an replace on what we’ve discovered and the place issues stand:

Why did we rent Definers?

We employed Definers in 2017 as a part of our efforts to diversify our DC advisors after the election. Like many corporations, we would have liked to broaden our outreach. We additionally confronted rising strain from rivals in tech, telcos and media corporations that need authorities to manage us.

This strain grew to become notably acute in September 2017 after we launched particulars of Russian interference on our service. We employed companies related to each Republicans and Democrats — Definers was one of many Republican-affiliated companies.

What did we ask them to do and what did they do?

Whereas we’re persevering with to overview our relationship with Definers, we all know the next: We requested Definers to do what public relations companies usually do to help an organization — sending us press clippings, conducting analysis, writing messaging paperwork, and reaching out to reporters.

A few of this work is being characterised as opposition analysis, however I consider it will be irresponsible and unprofessional for us to not perceive the backgrounds and potential conflicts of curiosity of our critics. This work can be utilized internally to tell our messaging and the place acceptable it may be shared with reporters. This work can be helpful to assist reply to unfair claims the place Fb has been singled out for criticism, and to positively distinguish us from rivals.

Because the strain on Fb constructed all year long, the Communications crew used Definers increasingly. At Sheryl’s request, we’re going by means of all of the work they did, however we’ve discovered that because the engagement expanded, extra individuals labored with them on extra tasks and the connection was much less centrally managed.

Did we ask them to do work on George Soros?

Sure. In January 2018, investor and philanthropist George Soros attacked Fb in a speech at Davos, calling us a “menace to society.” We had not heard such criticism from him earlier than and needed to find out if he had any monetary motivation. Definers researched this utilizing public info.

Later, when the “Freedom from Fb” marketing campaign emerged as a so-called grassroots coalition, the crew requested Definers to assist perceive the teams behind them. They discovered that George Soros was funding a number of of the coalition members. They ready paperwork and distributed these to the press to indicate that this was not merely a spontaneous grassroots motion.

Did we ask them to do work on our rivals?

Sure. As I indicated above, Definers helped us reply to unfair claims the place Fb was been [sic] singled out for criticism. In addition they helped positively distinguish us from rivals.

Did we ask them to distribute or create pretend information?

No.

Who knew about this work, and who signed off on it?

Duty for these choices rests with management of the Communications crew. That’s me. Mark and Sheryl relied on me to handle this with out controversy.

I knew and authorised of the choice to rent Definers and related companies. I ought to have identified of the choice to broaden their mandate. Over the previous decade, I constructed a administration system that depends on the groups to escalate points if they’re uncomfortable about any venture, the worth it is going to present or the dangers that it creates. That system failed right here and I’m sorry I allow you to all down. I remorse my very own failure right here.

Why have we stopped working with them?

Mark has requested us to reevaluate how we work with communications consultants. It’s not about Definers. It’s about us, not them.

Mark has made clear that as a result of Fb is a mission pushed firm, he needs to carry us to the next commonplace. He’s uncomfortable counting on any exterior agency to make choices about how one can make our case about our mission, insurance policies, rivals and critics till he can develop into comfy with our administration, oversight and escalation.

The place are we now?

Many individuals throughout the corporate really feel uncomfortable discovering out about this work. Many individuals on the Communications crew really feel beneath assault from the press and even from their colleagues. I’m deeply disenchanted that a lot inside dialogue and finger pointing has develop into public. It is a critical risk to our tradition and skill to work collectively in troublesome occasions.

Our tradition has lengthy been to maneuver quick and take dangers. Many occasions we’ve moved too rapidly and we at all times be taught and preserve making an attempt to do our greatest. This shall be no exception.

What occurs subsequent?

Our authorized crew continues to overview our work with Definers to know what occurred. Mark and Sheryl have additionally requested Nick Clegg to overview all our work with communications consultants and suggest ideas and administration processes to information the crew’s work going ahead. All of us wish to be certain that we, our advisors and consultants higher replicate Fb’s values and tradition.

Remark On The Memo From Sheryl Sandberg

Thanks for sharing this, Elliot.
I wish to be clear that I oversee our Comms crew and take full accountability for his or her work and the PR companies who work with us. I really consider we’ve a world class Comms crew and I wish to acknowledge the large strain the crew has confronted over the previous yr.

After I learn the story in New York Occasions final week, I didn’t keep in mind a agency known as Definers. I requested our crew to look into the work Definers did for us and to double-check whether or not something had crossed my desk. A few of their work was included into supplies introduced to me and I obtained a small variety of emails the place Definers was referenced.

I additionally wish to emphasize that it was by no means anybody’s intention to play into an anti-Semitic narrative in opposition to Mr. Soros or anybody else. Being Jewish is a core a part of who I’m and our firm stands firmly in opposition to hate. The concept our work has been interpreted as anti-Semitic is abhorrent to me — and deeply private.

I do know this has been a distraction at a time if you’re all working onerous to shut out the yr — and I’m sorry. As I mentioned on the All Fingers, I consider so deeply within the work we do and really feel so grateful to all of you for doing a lot day by day. Thanksgiving looks as if the best time to say a giant thanks as soon as once more.

Extra reporting by Taylor Hatmaker

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