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April 8, 2011
For PR's Standing, 'No Comment' Doesn't Work at Any Speed
 
Two words that give PR a bad name are "no comment." We regret seeing Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide all but using them in connection with its $9 million contract with the California High-Speed Rail Authority. "Michael Law, Ogilvy’s managing director for the western region, did not want to comment on Kopp’s claims yesterday," says a story in the San Mateo County Daily Journal. “'I can say, we are enthusiastic about high-speed rail and are looking forward to the project being completed,' Law said." This doesn't cut it when serious charges of excessive billing are being made against a PR firm, in this instance Olgivy.

Quentin Kopp was a board member and founding backer of the California rail authority until he left the board in March. Just before resigning, the Daily Journal reports, he submitted a long list of Ogilvy charges to the rail authority that appear questionable, "including $1,500 spent for someone to read news clips related to the authority for a little more than three hours in April 2010." Ogilvy should be explaining its services whenever it's asked, and should be in a position to do that proudly and responsibly. That's how good PR is generated. 

We're enthusiastic about high-speed rail, too. We wrote about it on Flack Me recently in the Amtrak context. Unfortunately, however, rail service, high-speed or otherwise, appears especially subject to attack from a variety of interests, and needs to be developed in an exemplary manner, including full, defensible accountability by its PR contractors. A good PR watchword at any time is, "Proceed each day as though you'll be questioned about your services the next day."  

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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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