Public Relations

Wendell Potter: How Corporate PR Works to Kill Health Care Reform

September 14th I addressed a gathering at the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC and delivered these remarks:

It is easy to think of efforts to influence lawmakers as the exclusive domain of K Street lobbyists. Much has been said and written about the millions of dollars the special interests are spending on lobbying activities and the hundreds of lobbyists who are at work as we speak trying to shape health care reform legislation. Very little by comparison has been written about the millions of dollars that special interests are spending on PR activities to accomplish the same goal and that are vital to successful lobbying efforts.

One of the reasons I left my job at CIGNA, where I headed corporate communications and was part of the Legal & Public Affairs division, was because I did not want to be involved in yet another PR and lobbying campaign to kill or gut reform. I finally came to question the ethics of what I had done and been a part of for nearly two decades to influence decision-making and bill writing on Capitol Hill.

TIME Features Wendell Potter, Obama Quotes Him

"Wendell Potter may be the ideal whistle-blower. The former head of corporate communications for health-insurance giant Cigna, Potter turned against his old colleagues in June to testify before a congressional committee about what he viewed as the health-insurance industry's 'duplicitous' behavior in the current health-reform debate. ...

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Thanks to the Plastics Industry, Big Tobacco's Lobbying Tactics Stay Fresher, Last Longer

The plastics industry has launched a $10 million PR blitz aimed at stopping the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from re-evaluating its declaration that a widely-used plastics additive called Bisphenol A (BPA) is safe.

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Republicans Criticize Big Pharma -- for Its Obama Ties

Senior Obama adviser David Axelrod's public relations and ad industry ties -- which received some scrutiny during the presidential campaign -- are again being questioned. Opponents of health care reform (mostly Republicans) are criticizing the "huge ad buys" that pro-reform groups are making through Axelrod's old firm. "Two separate $12 million ad campaigns advocating Obama's health care plan ...

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PR: War by Other Means

"The PR race is not that different from the arms race," writes John Feffer. "Russia, for instance, recently paid nearly $3 million to Ketchum for a six-month media blitz to promote the country's leaders and policies. Georgia has retained Public Strategies, Inc. at $50,000 a month.

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British Spinners Queuing Up for Parliament

After a year in which numerous British politicians have resigned or been publicly embarrassed by revelations over expense claims, the major UK political parties are promising new faces for the next election. However, Marie Woolf notes that "more than 50 prospective candidates chosen by the main parties are already working as lobbyists and public relations executives and are deeply enmeshed in the world of spin and politics.

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Honduras Tries for a PR Coup

The negotiating team representing Honduras' coup government "rarely made a move without consulting ... an American public relations specialist who has done work for former President Bill Clinton," reports the New York Times. Roberto Micheletti heads the "de facto" government of Honduras, which took power after the military coup against elected president Manuel Zelaya.

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Tech Upstarts Avoid Scrutiny on the Web

The "new world of promoting start-ups in Silicon Valley," California, is "where the lines between journalists and everyone else are blurring and the number of followers a pundit has on Twitter is sometimes viewed as more important than old metrics like the circulation of a newspaper," observes the New York Times. Instead of angling for "mentions in print and on television," publicists for new tech companies "court influential voices on the social Web." This means that "P.R.

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