FitzGerald Communications, which rode the high-tech wave, has established a "special situations" group to handle corporate messes such as accounting irregularities, management shake-ups, class action suits and bankruptcies. The unit is headed by Nicole Russell, a former employee of Hill and Knowlton, where she served as spokesperson for Sunbeam during the "Chainsaw Al" Dunlap days and Cendant, victim of the largest accounting fraud in history.
Nike has created a website offering an online virtual tour of one of its factories in Vietnam, claiming that the tour demonstrates its commitment to continuous improvement in labor practices overseas. A year in the making, the video depicts a clean, well-run factory where workers are well-treated. But according to Jason Mark, a spokesman for San Francisco-based Global Exchange, a labor rights group, "It seems more like a publicity stunt than a genuine effort to make systematic changes across the board.
Eight of the major internet search engines insert advertisements in search engine results without clear and conspicuous disclosure that the ads are ads.
Consumers Union, long a trusted name in rating consumer products, has launched the "Web Credibility Project," which will try to measure how well websites disclose business relationships with the companies and products they cover or sell, especially when these relationships pose a potential conflict of interest. "Consider ibreathe.com," explains the Wall Street Journal.
This essay looks at a conservative website called www.freerepublic.com, which uses grassroots internet organizing to "pervert public polls" and "call and email congressional representatives en masse, thus creating the illusion of massive public pressure that twists the actions of elected officials. ...
Back in the heady days of the dot-com bubble, writes Martin Kady II, "enthusiastic folks in the public relations world could really work up a lather about their tech clients. In promoting the new new thing, these publicity machines would exercise all manner of hyperbole -- and the public and business press would fall for it hook, line and sinker. " Nowadays, most of the PR pitches he receives attempt to put a brave face on disaster or invite him to write about profitable companies that are exceptions to the rule.
The elections of 2000 were touted as a coming-out party for politics on the internet. Websites with names like Voter, Speakout, Vote, Grassroots, and Votenet promised to revolutionize politics, gushing hype and dreamy, feel-good mission statements about "using the Internet to promote a more active and informed electorate" and "enabling citizens and their representatives to affect positive, democratic change." After the confetti has settled, howeer, it is painfully clear that online politics was as badly oversold as the rest of the internet.
"Very marginal" is the way Steve Lett, president of a now-defunct dot-com company, describes the result of his company's initial experience with public relations. PaperStudio.com outsourced its PR functions to a so-called virtual agency that stitches together a flock of PR freelancers. One year and $125,000 later, PaperStudio had gained a paltry 15 clips for its press kit.