Sunday, February 13, 2005

Read This 

The Sunday, Feb. 13 New York Times has a lengthy feature story on the PR business (Subscription required). The story, "Spinning Frenzy: PR's Bad Press," is even-handed despite the headline. The writer, Timothy L. O'Brien, was careful to note all sides.

The story quotes leaders in the field, all of whom have interesting things to say about the future of PR. Disappointingly, the one firm missing from the article is Ketchum, the company most associated with the hidden payment problem, other than Armstrong Williams. There is a passage at the end of the article, which throws Ketchum's reputation into a harsh light.

"We would assume that the commentator-pundit would disclose," said Lorraine Thelian, Omnicom's head of North American operations in a January interview with PRWeek, a trade publication. "That's an assumption that you make."

"It's not like we were pitching him to other media as a spokesperson," Ms Thelian added, "Whatever he did once that contract was put together, he did on his own."

Since Omnicom made this statement, it and Ketchum have remained silent, a risky tactic given that public relations wisdom traditionally holds that staying quiet during a crisis only prolongs media scrutiny and creates an appearance of culpability.

"They should have come clean right away and not tried to pin all of this on Williams," said Paul A. Argenti, a professor of corporate communications at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. "It's an example of the same kind of bad advice they give their client everyday."


Update: Alice Marie Marshall of Presto Vivace, Inc. found a free copy of the article here. Thanks, Alice.


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