Tom MaddenTom Madden

For years the acronym ‘PR’ has taken a reputational pummeling.

Hey, is that really true?  Or is that just a lot of PR?  Good question!

When I went into public relations, which it used to be called back in prehistoric times before cell phones and cyber security, I truly felt I was joining a noble profession.

I was riding high in the late 80’s after leaving NBC and corralling PR clients like AT&T, Drexel Burnham Lambert, Met Life and the Big Apple itself before the Apple became a behemoth computer company.  

I even wrote a book titled “Spin Man” before spin became a pejorative and TV moguls like Bill O’Reilly would proudly dub his show on FOX  “the no spin zone,” meaning he wouldn’t stand for the BS known as spin.

Fast forward 40 years.

In congressional hearing rooms and on national television hearing we’re hearing Wells Fargo vowing to make things right for the thousands of customers who were given sham accounts.

In his first week on the job, the bank’s new chief executive said his “immediate and highest priority is to restore trust in Wells Fargo.”

Was that really true?   Or was that just good PR?  Or maybe spin?

Meanwhile in federal and state courtrooms across the country, Wells Fargo is taking a much different tack.

The bank has sought to kill lawsuits that its customers have filed over the creation of as many as two million sham accounts by moving the cases into private arbitration — a secretive legal process that often favors corporations.

Lawyers for the bank’s customers say the legal motions are an attempt to limit the bank’s accountability for the widespread fraud and deny its customers their day in open court.  Were they telling the truth?  Or was that just outstanding PR? 

So, what’s more telling?  Words or deeds?

Trump's PR challenge

How would you like to be the PR guy explaining President-elect Donald J. Trump’s choosing someone to run the E.P. A. who has led battles to constrain it?   Was it wise to pick someone who apparently is in climate change denial, who has deep ties to the oil and gas industry?

Was selecting Oklahoma’s attorney general to run the Environmental Protection Agency something akin to appointing the proverbial fox to guard the chicken coop? 

Actually, this PR assignment is quite tempting.  As I’m now a crisis management expert, I have to admit it produces in me something akin to what a mountain climber must feel while gazing up at an alluring snow-capped Mt. Everest, licking his chapped lips in awe of the steep challenge.

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Tom Madden, the "quintessential" spin man, is founder and chairman of TransMedia Group.