The Practice of “Astroturfing”

When someone says the word “astroturf,” many think of the artificial grass used on many sports fields, but it means something completely different when relating the term to public relations. When talking about public relations, the term “astroturfing” means displaying an idea or campaign in a way that makes it look like it has more support than it really does, therefore, making it more appealing to a larger group of people.For example, the American Stop Smoking Intervention Study (ASSIST) did a form of astroturfing when they started this program and made it look like many concerned citizens were a part of it.

Astroturfing is in violation of the code of ethics of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and other associations around the globe. According to the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), astroturfing is, “falsely creating the impression of independent, popular support by means of an orchestrated and disguised public relations exercise….designed to give the impression of spontaneous support for an idea/product/company/service.”   Honesty is a big value of these organizations and they would not want that to be compromised by astroturfing because they want to maintain the public trust. Although this is the view of astroturfing is displayed by these associations, many companies utilize this practice, such as, Proctor & Gamble, General Electric, and Chevron. In the world of PR, honesty is the best policy.


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