Public Relations

A Banana Republic Once Again?

(Part two of a two-part series)

bananasIn the first part of this series, the Center for Media and Democracy reported how the 2009 coup d'etat that toppled Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was successfully maintained not through the use of force, but through the power of lobbying and spin. That tale, whose details were revealed through Wikileaks' publication of diplomatic cables and research into lobbying activities, had some echoes of the role PR played in an earlier "regime change" in the region. Here is the story of how the Chiquita banana company successfully used PR spin to help topple Guatemala's left-leaning government in 1954, and how they may have done it again in Honduras, 2009.

Honduras' PR Coup

Part one of a two-part article. (Go to part two).

Wikileaks recently published documents suggesting that PR spin helped determine the final outcome of the June 2009 Honduran coup. At the same time that a July 2009 diplomatic cable from the U.S. Ambassador in Honduras to top government officials confirmed that the Honduran president's removal was illegal, professional lobbyists and political communicators were beginning a PR blitz, eventually managing to manipulate America into believing the coup was a constitutional act.

The Worst PR Year for McDonalds

Mechanically separated chicken?First, a weird photo of thick, pink, gooey sludge appeared on the Internet that was purported to be the raw material that chicken nuggets are made of. Then, in April, New York photographer Sally Davies purchased a Happy Meal, set the burger and fries on a plate in her apartment and photographed them every day for six months as an art project, only to discover that the Happy Meal looked exactly the same six months later -- no mold, no decomposition, nothing. Her "Happy Meal Project" started garnering attention from the media and time lapse video of it appeared on YouTube. The project led to speculation about the meal's composition, nutritional value and health effects, and put McDonalds in the unenviable position of arguing that its food can grow mold. Then in September, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine ran a gruesome anti-McDonalds "Morgue Ad" that advocated vegetarianism. Finally, in November the City of San Francisco effectively banned Happy Meals after it passed a law prohibiting restaurants from offering free toys with meals that contain excessive amounts of calories and fat. All in all, McDonalds took what some call its worst PR beating ever in 2010.

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"Deadly Spin" Coming November 9

CMD's Senior Fellow on Health Care, Wendell PotterThe Center for Media and Democracy's Senior Fellow on Health Care, Wendell Potter, has a new tell-all book coming out November 9, Deadly Spin: An insurance company insider speaks out on how corporate PR is killing health care and deceiving Americans. The book details disinformation campaigns that health insurers use to cover up their misdeeds and manipulate public policy, reveals insurers' public relations tricks, like commissioning bogus scientific studies, working through fake "grassroots" organizations, and disseminating rhetoric designed to scare the public. (Think phrases like "socialism" and "death panels," that Wendell reveals were created by health insurance companies.) Wendell tells about the methods insurers use to "dump the sick," discusses the skyrocketing premiums and high deductibles that are putting health care out of reach for working people, and discloses the outrageous salaries that insurance companies executives make while denying care to patients. As the former head of Corporate Communications for CIGNA, Wendell is uniquely to qualified bring this important information to the public. The book, published by Bloomsbury, can be ordered at Amazon.com.

Lauria Quit Cigarettes, But Now He's on the Bottle

Tom LauriaOld tobacco industry PR flacks don't go away, they just defend different products for money. So it is with former Tobacco Institute spokesman Thomas Lauria, who is now defending bottled water.

Seems benign enough. After all, fighting for water -- albeit in an over-commercialized, overpriced and polluting form -- instead of cigarettes would seem to be an improvement for Lauria. But just as he battled efforts to educate people about the health hazards of secondhand smoke, Lauria is now battling efforts to educate people about the hoax that is bottled water.

Can PR Fix This End Run?

Tiki Barber (Source: AP)Tiki Barber, a former running back for the New York Giants, has hired the 5W Public Relations agency in New York to try and repair his image after he left his wife, who was eight months pregnant with twins, for a former NBC intern. 5W Public Relations is the third PR agency Barber has hired to try and burnish his image.

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