• Tobias Smith

Elliot Schrage: Defending Giant Corporations from Themselves

One Professional’s Rise and Fall

By: Tobias Smith

Elliot Schrage Speaking next to Facebook Founder, Mark Zuckerberg
Schrage Speaking next to Facebook Founder, Mark Zuckerberg (Kainaz Amaria/NPR)

I am not a PR professional. Not yet at least. And, as I look at different job paths, I’ve come to find some PR pros that have had more than interesting careers. One prominent PR figure that stands out, though not necessarily for the best reasons, is Elliot Schrage, the former vice president of global communications, marketing, and public policy at Facebook.

The Early Life

When Elliot Schrage was growing up, he was nothing short of bright. From a little boy born to a Jewish family to being one of the best at Harvard Law School, Schrage’s early rise to corporate success was nothing short of inspiring. Since graduating from the university, he had been invited to return on several occasions as a guest speaker, talking about his career and how he had advanced in it following his education. But before he got to that point, he was starting off his career at Sullivan & Cromwell, where he worked with mergers, conducted complex business transactions and worked on a financing project with the Euro Disneyland theme park. After several other legal jobs, Schrage took a giant leap in his career and made the move to work as the vice president of global communications and public affairs for Google.

Schrage Meeting Former President George W. Bush
Schrage Meeting Former President George W. Bush (David Guttenfelder/AP Photo)

One Small Step

Schrage was immediately thrown into the deep end at Google. When he inherited the position, he also inherited its problems. The main one being that the company was involved in a controversy over censoring search results for users in China. Schrage’s legal experience came in handy as he was required to testify in front of the United States House Committee on International Relations for Google on the topic of the company’s alleged censorship in China. Following this large controversy, Schrage decided that he was ready to take on the next obstacle and soon left Google for another media giant, Facebook.

Blood In The Water

Upon taking this new role, Schrage was successful in helping to take Facebook to the next level in regard to its public image and privacy policies. However, this time the controversy surrounding the company came internally, from Schrage himself. The PR professional was under scrutiny for allegedly hiring outside PR firms to slander the competitors of Facebook. Not only that, but Schrage’s team was investigated for conducting private research on a financial investor, George Soros, adding to the unethical behavior. After the actions of slander and investigating the private life of the investor, it was deemed unwise to retain Schrage on staff at Facebook.

Elliot Schrage was the epitome of potential. From attending Harvard Law School to continuing his education at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris, France, Schrage could've achieved whatever he set his mind to. But, his ethical lines began to blur. His series of poor decisions led to his downfall and made him an example of what not to do as a PR professional. I learned that it is better to take the more ethical path in working toward a goal, even if it is more difficult than the latter. Better to learn from someone else’s mistakes than your own, right?

About the Author

Tobias Smith is a journalism student at the University of North Texas. He spends his time writing, taking photos, and watching sporting events.