It isn't just Yelp, now the object of a class-action lawsuit, that's accused of manipulating those supposedly spontaneous grass-roots reviews popping up all over the Internet. Public relations companies are working overtime to shape online, word-of-mouth marketing to benefit their clients. The arena is becoming a battleground as companies strive to quash bad reviews and multiply the good ones, the Washington Post reports.
Dozens of PR firms offer to monitor—and shape—brands' online image, often paying for good reviews or contacting those who wrote bad reviews and offering freebies in return for a change of opinion. Analysts say many people who trust online recommendations often don't realize how much influence marketing departments have over the field and fail to read the fine print on sites like Yelp, where companies can pay to have the most positive review displayed first.
(Read more Yelp stories.)