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October 14, 2009
PR Needs Its Eyes Wide Open

Words have consequences. In PR (as in any other field), the need is to be accurate, not delusionary, if we want to promote better times. But "letterhead," writing on Literal Mayhem, his "anti-spin blog focused primarily on the communications profession," thinks some PR executives have been mistaken about so-called salutary effects of last October's Wall Street meltdown, and he's due a hearing.

In an article from O'Dwyer's on October 1, 2008, Manning Selvage & Lee CEO Mark Hass surveyed the financial landscape and forecasted a return to better business practices.

“The economic crisis," Hass said, "will accelerate the trend we’ve been seeing among companies to be more authentic, and that’s a good thing.”

This prompted a response from "letterhead."

"‘Authentic’ you say?" he writes. "Looking back on the past year, can anyone say that they have seen a single industry be more consistently and disastrously tone deaf to public outrage than financial services in 2009?"

"From outrageous sales junkets to executive pay to bonus madness to lack of financial transparency to their opposition to consumer protections to exorbitant fee hikes to their cavalier return to business as usual in the derivatives market to spending taxpayer money lobbying Congress to thwart regulatory reform to a dozen other thumb-in-the-eye fiascos … the industry has been Exhibit A in bad corporate behavior."

One might question just how much of a trend to "authenticity" was underway.

Michael Robinson of Levick Strategic Communications, Dave Senay of Fleishmann Hillard, and PRSA Chair Michael G. Cherenson, APR come in for some licks from "letterhead," too, and that's good. The times are too queasy, and the stakes are too large for complacent observations on momentous needs -- especially from pros who are supposed to be clear-eyed and exemplary.

Now is the time for PR spokespeople to be honest about the utterances and actions of firms on the financial front. You be the judge as to what's happening. Let us know what you're observing.

For the record, "letterhead" advises he's based in New York City and has "17 years in the p.r. business."



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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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