The eight page weekly is the only PR newsletter on LEXIS/NEXIS.
Edition, Jan. 26, 2005, Page 1
'LAPSE IN JUDGMENT.'
Ketchum said it regrets what the firm sees as a "lapse
in judgment" regarding disclosure of the contract it
worked out between the Dept. of Education and commentator
a statement distributed to the media on Jan. 18, Ketchum
said paying Williams to promote the controversial No Child
Left Behind Act did not comply with the firm's business
ethics code or the guidelines of the PR industry.
prior to the Williams imbroglio, the firm had a "code
of business ethics" in place, which each staffer was
asked to sign upon joining the firm.
said it "would never encourage this type of behavior"
associated with the Williams contract and should have recognized
potential issues in working with his PR firm, adding the
conservative commentator should have disclosed his relationship
with the Dept. of Education.
Omnicom unit said it is putting a new policy in place for
signing and authorizing contracts with spokespeople and
has underscored its guidelines in internal firm communications
for how PR staffers should represent client work to the
has also set up a phone line for staff to call with questions
and is developing a new process to require subcontractors
to abide by the firm's own ethical standards.
firm also revealed it has talked with external legal counsel
to investigate the facts of the contract.
ROTH SUCCEEDS BELL
Michael Roth, who was named chairman of Interpublic in July,
has taken the CEO reins from David Bell, who becomes co-chairman.
Roth is a lawyer by training and had headed The Mony Group.
He believes his lack of agency experience will be a plus.
"It's good to take an outsider's view once in a while,"
Roth told The New York Times. "You re not inbred."
Roth will concentrate on engineering IPG's financial turnaround,
while Bell focuses on client work.
Al-Jazeera, the Arab
satellite TV network, is looking to hire a PR firm
in a bid to overcome the perception that it supports terrorism
and insurgents in Iraq. The broadcaster plans to launch
an English-language cable public affairs program in the
F-H GETS LEGAL WIN IN
A lawsuit against Fleishman-Hillard and its former Los Angeles
office head Doug Dowie should be moved out of L.A. County,
a Superior Court judge ruled on Jan. 19, scoring a victory
for the firm and PR exec whose lawyers argued they couldn
t get a fair trial in the city.
The city's daily papers have devoted considerable coverage
to overbilling charges leveled against F-H by City Controller
Laura Chick, especially as a mayoral race has heated up
and the F-H name is bandied about on a daily basis among
candidates and their various supporters.
Judge Mary Thornton House agreed with F-H's argument noting
extensive news coverage, the fact that city residents (inevitably
jurors) are customers of the Dept. of Water and Power which
the firm is accused of overbilling, and that F-H is based
in St. Louis with less than two percent of its total revenue
coming from L.A.
F-H has said it cannot substantiate $652K in billings questioned
by the controller, a figure far less than the $4.2M Chick
has accused the firm of overbilling.
Former F-H exec John Stodder was indicted last week on
11 counts of fraud charges.
The firm has renewed its offer to settle the matter in
mediation, a gesture which was not answered previously by
Attorneys for F-H and Dowie have requested a trial be moved
to Ventura County, but House had not decided on a locale
by press time. Dowie's attorney has called the charges against
him "frivolous" and has demanded they be dropped.
PHAIR TO LISTEN
TO CHAPTERS ON APR.
PRSA president Judith Phair said she will be guided by the
chapters on the issue of decoupling the national board from
the APR requirement.
Phair, in a 20-minute interview with this NL Jan. 21, said
neither she nor the board will take a leadership role on
dropping the 32-year rule that bars non-APRs from holding
She said the board is considering an Assembly teleconference
followed by fax voting which would be legal under New York
State rules that bar associations from passing bylaws via
contines on page seven)
Edition, Jan. 26, 2005, Page 2
ACCESS TO SOURCES
Frustration is growing among journalists over limited access
time to sources by overzealous PR pros, editors of four
top women's magazines told an Entertainment Publicists Professional
Society crowd of about 110 at Thirteen/WNET in New York
"Access time is shrinking," Sarah Bailey, deputy
editor-in-chief of Harper's Bazzar, said of celebrity
interviews being curbed by publicists. "It's depressing
that a standard interview these days is an hour."
Bailey pointed out restrictions put the onus on the writer,
who is forced to reach back to previous interviews and add
"warmed over" material to a story.
David Carr, who covers the magazine beat for The New
York Times, but is "switching up" to become
a general culture reporter, said a reason he made the switch
to writing for newspapers was because the "level of
what can and cannot be asked is shrinking and it began to
make me sick."
Carr, who moderated the sold-out event, said restrictions
are often over the top to the point of PR pros becoming
overprotective and wanting to "sit in the lap"
Sue Weiner, celebrity editor for InTouch Weekly,
said restrictions by publicists often aren t warranted or
necessary. She said writers often end up spending much more
time with a subject when a PR person originally said the
interview would have to be an hour. "A publicist will
say don t ask this question, but then the celebrity will
bring it up," she said of reps being out of tune with
"The precious resource we have is column inches,"
said Carr, "but the precious resource you have as publicists
is celebrities time."
Jessica Blatt, entertainment editor for Cosmo Girl and
former editor for Food and Wine, did note that the
mission of a magazine is different in this sense than that
of a newspaper because there's more of a mutual interest
in the story being somewhat positive. "Why spend tens
of thousands of dollars in photography on a person?"
she asked rhetorically, calling it more of a "collaboration."
Responding to an audience question, Carr noted a high correlation
between "who advertises and who shows up" in many
magazines. "It's almost one for one, quid pro quo,"
Bailey of Harper's Bazaar said the most successful pitch
is when a client is made available and open to something
interesting. She prefers face-to-face meetings, rather than
e-mail or phone pitches. "We can have a conversation
and it's in those conversations, it's only out of a meeting
of minds and needs and agenda, where things can happen,"
said the recently transplanted U.K. native.
Bailey noted the U.S. is "more heated" than the
U.K., where she sees more of a sense of openness. Carr added
that in a recent trip to London for an interview, a company's
PR representative greeted him, introduced him to the executive
he was to interview, said "Brilliant, carry on then,"
and left Carr to conduct the interview one-on-one.
PENTAGON RAPS HERSH.
Pentagon spokesperson Lawrence DiRita issued a statement
on Jan. 17 blasting investigative reporter Seymour Hersh's
story about the Bush Administration's plans to invade Iran.
Hersh contends that U.S. commandos are currently operating
in Iran, scouting targets and looking for weapons of mass
A Pentagon source told Hersh that Iran is part of a "global
free-fire zone," and that invasion will be pitched
as a key element in President Bush's "war on terror."
DiRita says Hersh's New Yorker article is "riddled
with errors of fundamental fact" that destroys its
Hersh's sources fed him "rumor, innuendo and assertions
about meetings that never happened, programs that do not
exist, and statements by officials that were never made,"
according to DiRita.
The Pentagon spokesperson, however, did not refute the
basis of Hersh's argument that U.S. special forces are operating
Said DiRita: "The Iranian regime's apparent nuclear
ambitions and its demonstrated support for terrorist organization
is a global challenge that deserves much more serious treatment"
than Hersh's article.
LC LANDS CAFEPRESS.COM.
Landis Communications has picked up online customized merchandise
portal CafePress.com, following a review that began early
last fall. LC is believed to have been among three finalists
for the account. Merritt Group PR has most recently handled
PR work for the company and GolinHarris worked on the account
two years back.
CafePress, which has earned ink for marketing popular custom
products like "Free Martha" t-shirts drew considerable
media attention for its various political offerings during
the presidential campaign, from "I Love Bush"
shirts for people and pets to stickers noting: "Somewhere
in Texas, a village is missing its idiot."
The San Leandro, Calif.-based company has been a profitable
dot-com for four years and claims a network of two millions
members, noted David Landis, president of San Francisco-based
LC. Major accounts for CafePress include Dilbert, the ASPCA
and This Old House.
"We told them that they are the new Faith Popcorn,
that they could be the new arbiter of pop culture,"
he told O'Dwyer's of LC's pitch to the company.
Jennifer Parson, A/S, and senior A/E Tami Iskovics head
the account, with oversight by Landis.
DETTMER JOINS CATO.
Jamie Dettmer, a veteran journalist, has joined The Cato
Institute as director of media relations.
He is charged with boosting Cato's influence and media footprint
in key public policy debates, such as Social Security reform
and foreign affairs.
Recently, Michael Tanner, director of Cato's "Project
on Social Security Choice," wrote a report advocating
changing Social Security from a "pay-as-you-go"
system to one based on savings and investment.
Cato also published a book, "Exiting Iraq: Why the
U.S. Must End the Military Occupation and Renew the War
against Al Qaeda.
The Washington, D.C.-based Institute says it is committed
to "individual liberty, limited government, free markets
Dettmer joins from the New York Sun, where he covered
the presidential race.
He also worked at The Times of London, Sunday
Telegraph, Bonnier Media Group, Washington Times
and the BBC.
Dettmer says he signed on at Cato because it is a "think
tank that actually thinks."
Edition, Jan. 26, 2005, Page 3
FREEBIES FOR WRITERS
Almost every conceivable industry is practicing "giveaway
marketing," according to a report by Donald Weddle
that ran in the Jan. 16 edition of The Los Angeles Times.
Kelly McBride, ethics group leader at the Poynter Institute
in St. Petersburg, Fla., said the rise of swag culture is
"Corporations are spending a higher percentage of
their annual budgets on marketing, and larger portions of
those budgets are directed specifically at journalists,
because marketing executives realize that ink on any given
product is better than advertising," she told Weddle.
"It's much more effective to create the elusive buzz
about a product that everyone's after," she said.
Susie Dobson of the L.A. firm Susie Dobson Global PR told
Weddle that when she holds an event, magazine editors call
to ask her if there is going to be a gift bag.
Anne Rokahr, director of Red PR in New York, said a magazine
writer offered to promote her clients products on a TV morning
show if Rokahr would pay her.
Kim Marshall, who runs a PR firm, the Marshall Plan, which
organizes "press trips" for luxury resorts, said
she expects at least half of the writers on a trip to get
stories into print. Those who don t are not invited on her
next trip, she said.
"Ethicists argue that the proliferation of swag has
undercut the integrity of the press, blurred the lines between
advertising and editorial and encouraged some publications
to mislead their readership," said Weddle.
Jeffrey Seglin, an associate professor at Emerson College
in Boston, who writes a weekly column on ethics for The
New York Times, said publications should disclose their
policies on freebies in the table of contents or masthead.
HEALTH CLUB MEMBERS.
The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Assn,
a non-profit group headquartered in Boston, which represents
more than 6,500 fitness clubs worldwide, will begin publishing
Get Active! magazine in May 2005.
The bimonthly magazine will offer articles and advice on
exercise programs, nutrition, and beauty tips, as well as
ways for readers to reduce stress and live happier, healthier
lives in general.
The magazine, which will target more than 15 million fitness
enthusiasts, will be distributed for free at more than 1,000
gyms throughout the U.S. Initial circulation will be 400,000
Basic Media Group, the Los Angeles-based custom publisher
that specializes in health-related magazines, will publish
the Get Active! for IHRSA.
Ketchum's San Francisco office, which handles PR for IHRSA,
is also handling Get Active America!, the health club industry's
national, month-long health promotion campaign in May.
Publicists can get a media kit containing information about
the magazine from Matt Redd at 603/672-5545, ext. 205.
Mark Spellun, editor-in-chief and publisher of Plenty,
believes his new magazine is "on the cusp of a global
revolution of green, eco-friendly products and services."
Plenty's second issue continues to highlight some of the
up-and-coming trend setters, technologies and lifestyle
choices for eco-conscious consumers.
Publicists are urged to pitch managing editor Sarah Rose
information pertaining to a range of topics including technology,
policy, food, home decor, architecture, cars, clothing,
outdoor recreation, and leisure activities.
Rose can be reached at 212/757-3447 or e-mail: [email protected].
The magazine's offices are located in New York at 250 W.
57th st., suite 1915.
HACHETTE TO TEST
Hachette Filipacchi Media will publish a test issue of a
new home magazine themed around author/designer Chris Madden
A total of 400,000 copies of the first issue will be available
on newsstands, and J.C. Penney, which sells the Chris Madden
furniture collection, will make an additional 50,000 copies
The how-to magazine will be called "Chris Madden at
Home," or "At Home with Chris Madden."
Separately, the publisher will move For Me, its
new, low-cost title which was published as a test issue
in November, to a monthly frequency starting with its May
has begun a new Spanish-language edition with a comprehensive
overview of automobiles and the auto industry.
ElCarroConexion.com will offer news, reviews, buying guides,
weekly tips, complete auto show coverage, and more.
The Miami-based site is published and edited by Greg Sanchez,
who can be reached at 880/401-4071.
Conde Nast's Style.com
has begun a separate website devoted solely to men's fashion
Men.Style.com will feature fashion, gear and entertainment
news, a buyer's guide, features on fashion trends and pop
culture and coverage of the men's runway shows in Milan,
Paris and New York.
Jamie Pallot, who currently edits Style.com, will edit the
DM News has opened a new
online Video Center, which features sponsored paid for profiles,
breaking news and analysis.
Tad Clarke, editor-in-chief of DM News said "DM News
Interviews the New Leaders" will highlight the marketers
and suppliers who are creating new technologies and business
models and "reinventing the business."
Video webcasts will be offered free and will be supported
by sponsorship dollars and paid supplier profiles, a model
similar to the one being used by several other media outlets
such as Forbes.com, ABCNews.com and WashingtonPost.com.
(Media news continued
on next page)
Edition, Jan. 26, 2005, Page 4
DOW JONES NAMES
NEW BEAT REPORTERS.
Jessica Hodgson will join Dow Jones Newswires in March as
media correspondent for the United Kingdom, and Michael
Wang as new senior mergers and acquisitions reporter for
Hodgson, 33, who is currently media and retail correspondent
at the U.K. Sunday newspaper, The Business, will
replace Ben Winkley, who left the company.
London-based Wang, 42, starts in his new position immediately,
succeeding Jack Grone, who is leaving DJN after nearly nine
years to take a career break.
Since 2002, Wang was assistant news editor responsible
for coverage of energy and resource stocks across Europe,
Middle East and Africa.
EDITOR OF 1TO1 MEDIA.
Ginger Conlon has joined Peppers & Rogers, a management
consulting firm in Norwalk, Conn., as editor-in-chief of
1to1 Magazine, as well as several online publications.
Conlon was previously editor of CRM magazine, and managing
editor of Sales and Marketing Management magazine, where
she also was technology editor and web supervisor.
The magazine, which provide readers with a mix of strategy
and hands-on tactics, reaches more than 200,000 business
executives each month.
PRISON JOURNALIST GOES
Wilbert Rideau, a self-taught prison journalist, is a free
man after serving 44 years of a life sentence for killing
a bank teller in 1961.
He was found not guilty of murder in his fourth trial for
the killing on Jan. 15. The jury convicted him of manslaughter,
which carries a maximum sentence of 21 years, effectively
Rideau, 63, was editor of The Angolite, an award-winning
magazine he started for inmates in the Angola, La., prison.
Rideau, who began his journalism career in prison as a
news clipper, would like to continue as a journalist.
previously deputy business editor, was promoted to business
editor of The New York Post. He replaces Jon Elson,
now the media and marketing editor at The New York Times.
47, a syndicated columnist for The Washington Post
who wrote profiles on Washington, D.C.'s most powerful people,
died Jan. 16. Her husband, Timothy Noah, is a writer for
formerly the editor of Mediaweek, was recently named
managing editor of Sync.
Jenny Feldman was
promoted to fashion news editor at Elle, replacing
Nicole Phelps, now at Style.com.
previously the news editor at In Touch Weekly, was
appointed news director at Star Weekly magazine.
who was news editor, was promoted to editor of eWeek,
a business technology magazine.
previously executive editor at Golf magazine, recently
joined Golf Digest as senior editor.
34, was promoted to director of communications of Business
DISCLOSE OR BE DISPOSED.
Morris Reid, a frequent guest on news talk shows and managing
director of Westin Rinehart, a Washington, D.C. and New
York-based PR firm, said the crisis engulfing Armstrong
Williams is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
"Everyday, I and hundreds of pundits fill the airwaves
commenting on or debating important issues, but do we all
disclose who we are really championing? Should we?"
The former Clinton administration official believes times
are changing and pundits need to beware.
"Politics is plain and simple: left, right or center.
But within those categories lies many levels of issues and
agendas. More often than not those issues are privately
funded or pushed by lobbyists seeking to influence the public,"
The pundits championing those issues should fully disclose
their agendas and or financial supporters, said Reid.
PR CONFAB TO FOCUS
ON MEDIA CHANGES.
Plesser Holland Assocs., a New York-based PR firm, will
hold a two-day conference next month for corporate communications
executives to look at how a changed news distribution universe
is shaping corporate reputation and public attitudes.
Andy Plesser said Impact 05, which will be held in
Vieques, P.R., March 4-5, will examine the impact of new
and emerging information platforms including video news
on demand, mass text messaging, TiVo, social networking,
blogs, 3-G phones and direct satellite.
Speakers include Paul Argenti, professor of corporate communications,
Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth; Jason Pontin, editor-in-chief,
Technology Review; Shoba Purushothaman, CEO/president
of The NewsMarket, and Joe Trippi, MSNBC commentator and
former Net guru for Howard Dean.
Additional information about the conference is available
online at plesser.com/impact/invite.htm.
The Washington Post
Co. has completed the acquisition of Slate, the online
magazine, from Microsoft Corp. The deal was first announced
on Dec. 21.
NBC Universal has agreed
to a multi-year product placement deal with Volkswagen
to use the automaker's products and brand in its film, DVD,
theme parks, and other entertainment properties.
Oil & Gas Financial Journal will be published
monthly beginning in Feb.
Robert F. Kennedy
Jr. has joined the PBS weekly newsmagazine NOW
as a regular contributor.
Kennedy, a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense
Council, is expected to appear as a regular guest when environmental
issues are in the news.
Other new contributors to the series include Christine
Whitman, former administrator of the EPA and New Jersey
Governor; Constance Rice, civil rights attorney, and Angus
King, former Governor of Maine.
John Siceloff is executive producer of the program, which
airs Friday nights at 9 p.m. (ET).
"A Current Affair"
is scheduled to return this spring on the Fox owned-and-operated
The half-hour syndicated program will be hosted by Tim
Green, Fox Sports commentator, author, columnist, lawyer
and former NFL defensive end.
Peter Brennan, who is the executive producer, said the
new program will cover "fascinating stories no other
program will unveil."
The International Herald
Tribune in Paris has begun distributing a daily English
edition of Phujadkam, a business paper in Thailand, in its
Asian edition, and opened a bureau in Frankfurt to expand
its coverage of Germany.
CNN MAKES NEWS
Headline News will get a new nameHeadline Primealong
with two new soft-news shows, including a one-hour entertainment
news program called "Showbiz Tonight" at 7 p.m
(ET), and "Nancy Grace," a one-hour legal affairs
program starring the former Atlanta prosecutor, at 8 p.m.
Both new shows will start Feb. 21.
Meanwhile, the corresponding hours on CNN will be counter-programmed
for hard news, a departure from the mix of news, features
and entertainment that airs on "Anderson Cooper 360"
and "Paula Zahn Now."
Elena Kornbluth, formerly articles editor at Interior
Design, has joined O at Home as articles editor.
the White House correspondent and national political reporter
for Business Week,
was elected 2005 president of the National Press Club in
Edition, Jan. 26, 2005, Page 7
Phair will listen to chapters
(con't. from one)
But she said the board
doesn t plan such a meeting until May or June, which would
be too late to affect this year's nominating and election
Del Galloway, 2004 president,
last year asked chapters to lead the way to decoupling the
Assembly after a board-led move failed in 2003.
Christopher Lynch of PRSA/Cleveland
led the 2004 move, rounding up support among other chapters
and making an address to the Assembly.
"If the membership
wants it (decoupling), it will happen," said Phair.
The chapters have to "come forward," she added.
Asked why the Society
doesn t switch its corporate charter from New York to Delaware,
which allows association members to vote by e-mail or teleconference,
Phair replied that there are "a lot of problems to
such a move."
Delaware has told this
NL that it will enroll an association over the phone for
$89 "in five minutes" with paperwork to follow.
The state said it wants groups to modernize governance.
New York says groups can cancel charters via the State website
as long as taxes are paid. Cost is $60.
Press Conference on Ketchum/Williams
Asked why she and PRSA
directors did not hold a press conference on Ketchum/Williams
Jan. 13-14 when the board was in New York, Phair replied
that she didn t see any need for a conference and that no
other media except this NL asked for one.
She said she dealt with
the New York Times and other media on a one-to-one
Phair had not seen a copy
of the Ketchum/Williams contract, which was posted on the
USA Today website Jan. 7.
This NL faxed it to her
and PRSA staff, who also had not seen the contract. The
Council of PR Firms also had not seen it and it was faxed
to CPRF president Kathy Cripps.
of Kotcher, Thelian Unlikely
Phair wouldn t discuss
the possibility of PRSA expelling the two Ketchum executives
most probably involved in the contract, CEO Ray Kotcher
and senior partner Lorraine Thelian (who is APR).
Phair conceded that, "Yes, Ketchum made a mistake,"
but wouldn t go into the matter of the individuals involved
in the mistake.
Phair's two public statements
on Ketchum/Williams have used neither the name of Ketchum
Ketchum is the PR firm
most honored by PRSA, having won 89 Silver Anvils, the Society's
highest award. Anvils, which recognize the corporate or
team effort of PR programs, are given to clients and their
PR firms and not to individuals.
Ketchum, while paying
$300,000 to the CPRF in membership dues from 1998 to 2004,
with another $50K owed for 2005, cut its PRSA memberships
from 81 in 2001 to 22 in 2004. It paid just under $70K in
PRSA dues for its employees from 1998-04. Thirteen of the
employees were APR in 2001 while eight were in 2004.
Phair said there is a
"lot of wiggle room" in the section of the PRSA
bylaws that says the board "shall have the power"
to "expel" members who have been "sanctioned
by a government agency."
Ketchum was criticized
by the General Accounting Office last May for its role in
distributing VNRs promoting the new Medicare law allegedly
without proper identification. The GAO said the VNRs were
"covert propaganda" and federal law was broken.
The FCC and Education Dept. are investigating whether "payola"
provisions of the Communications Act were broken by the
Blog for Phair
Phair saw no need for
herself to have a "blog" (website providing opinions
by the author with opportunities for response by readers).
IABC chair David Kistle has a blog.
She was asked to explain
the apparent low status of the public and media in PRSA's
The Code, under "Fair
Play," says, "We deal fairly with clients, employers,
competitors, peers, vendors, the media and the general public."
Asked why the public is
last and media next to last, Phair said, "It's just
a list and all parts are equal." PRSA's 380-word "Statement
on PR" puts "media relations" as words 329
Five percent of the questions
on the new APR multiple choice exam, created over four years
for $250K, are on "media relations. In its first full
year ended last June 30, 41 PRSA members passed it. Results
are unavailable for the second half.
Expert on Board?
Asked why there isn t
a financial expert such as a CFO, CPA or Chartered Financial
Analyst on the PRSA board (required for public companies
and a policy followed by many associations), Phair replied
that director Steven Lubetkin, formerly with Bank of America
but now in his own firm, "is one of the most experienced
in corporate finance because he has held positions with
She also cited Anthony
D Angelo, director of marketing, communications and training,
Carrier Corp. Replacement Components division, and treasurer
Rhoda Weiss, who is "acting CEO of a company in Hawaii
and is also very experienced."
to Show Deferred Income
Asked why PRSA's balance
sheet does not reflect deferred income equal to about six
months dues (as is done by the IABC, Amer. Soc. of Assn.
Execs., Amer. Bar Assn., Amer. Medical Assn., AICPA national
and chapters, and other associations), Phair said she saw
no need for this.
She rejected a proposal
that PRSA, in the interests of openness and clarity, provide
the more popular type of balance sheet while keeping its
unusual presentation as the official balance sheet.
A deferred dues account
of about six months of dues income would add about $1.5
million to PRSA's liabilities. Payables were $973K as of
Sept. 30, 2004.
Internet Edition, Jan.
26, 2005 Page 8
The genesis of the
mess Ketchum and Fleishman-Hillard are in now is
the dot-com bust of 2000 and 9/ll of 2001 that cut deeply
into the revenues of many PR firms and forced them to go
after government business as never before.
The hefty government contracts of many firms have been
jeopardized by these two incidents.
One problem with such business is that it is conducted
in the glare of the mid-day sun instead of in private like
so many corporate PR accounts. There is public bidding and
public airing of terms.
The documents exposed
so far in L.A. are voluminous with much more to come
while the surface has yet to be scratched in D.C. Also,
such contracts can become political footballs.
Public officials paint themselves as guardians of the public
treasury and defenders against political corruption. The
press eats it up. Democrats in D.C. now have the Republicans
in a toe hold with Ketchum/Williams. Complaints are being
made about the way Social Security reform is being sold.
Why is Armstrong Williams
getting so much heat, being forced to personally apologize,
losing his syndicated column, and being banned from "America's
Black Forum" (67 million possible viewers) while no
one at Ketchum, PRSA's most honored PR firm by far, is taking
CEO Ray Kotcher and senior partner Lorraine Thelian had
to know about the $948K contract. PRSA is so timid it won
t even say "Ketchum" or "Thelian," who
is an APR. It is firmly against sin but won t name the sinner.
The Council of PR Firms has the same stance.
There's a lot of illogic going on here. PRSA, recognizing
that PR people practice as a team, only gives Silver Anvils
to corporate entities (Ketchum having won 89). But when
something bad happens at a PR firm, PRSA suddenly says only
individuals are members and only they are subject to any
When the Jayson Blair scandal broke at the New York
Times in 2003, there were initial denials and posturings
and then resignations by editor Howell Raines and managing
editor Gerald Boyd.
Before PR firms pay $350 per entry for the Anvils this
year, they should study the rigid rules that demand that
three-quarters of the entry emphasize research and strategy
and one-quarter, execution.
Gray and Co., one of the leading D.C. firms in the early
1980's (180 employees, 148 clients, $20M), was heavily dependent
on U.S. and foreign government contracts. It ran into huge
PR problems involving charges of government corruption in
Spain and was found guilty of violating the Foreign Agents
Registration Act in 1985 for not labeling VNRs for Morocco
and Japan as propaganda. The firm, hurt by the scandals,
was sold in 1986 to the JWT Group (of WPP Group).
Kotcher at first gave
an exclusive statement to the PR Week website
after snubbing other media.
He blamed Williams and "political divisiveness"
in D.C. PRW carried the statement without asking any questions,
thereby turning itself into Kotcher's PR firm. To her credit,
PRW editor Julia Hood told the NYT that it's "an extraordinarily
dismal situation" that "reinforces many of the
worst perceptions of the industry."
Other media, such
as USA Today, which broke the story in early January
and put the K/W contract on its website, had to quote PRW.
The media storm forced Thelian to admit "a lapse in
judgment" (by what people, we d like to know?) while
the CPRF backtracked on its view that only Williams was
at fault and condemned "pay for play."
A Thelian statement to PRW said the agency was not "pitching"
Williams to other media as a "spokesperson." But
the contract said Williams was to "utilize his long
term relationship with America's Black Forum, where he is
a guest commentator, to encourage the producers to address
the NCLB Act..." The ABF jettisoned Williams.
PRSA inveighed against any "paid endorsement that
is presented as objective news" and said its code requires
"open, honest communications." Under the code,
PRSA members responsible for miscommunication, if "sanctioned
by a government agency," can be expelled by the board.
President Bush, asked by USA Today if it was a mistake
for the Education Dept. to "pay Williams to endorse
NCLB in his broadcasts," answered, "No."
He then added that the story brought up "serious concerns"
and "there needs to be a clear distinction between
journalism and advocacy."
Two other things about
this amazed us. Frank Rich wrote a lengthy piece
excoriating Williams, especially Williams alleged posturing
as a "media ethicist" on CNN, but failed to mention
Ketchum by name. He referred to "a private p.r. firm."
How can a public relations firm be private, especially when
it is owned by a public ad agencyOmnicom?
Neither PRSA's PR staff, PRSA pres. Judy Phair, nor the
CPRF had a copy of the K/W contract although it has been
on usatoday.com since Jan. 7. PRSA's value system is obvious
in its list of who deserves to be treated fairly: "Clients,
employers, competitors, peers, vendors, the media and the
general public." At the end are the public and media.
The 2005 board should re-write this and put the public
first, ending doubt about PRSA's priorities.