Franklin Foer looks at the rise of John Rendon, whose PR firm is working for the Pentagon in the "war on terrorism." Using techniques that he learned running U.S. election campaigns, Rendon focuses on media strategies (as opposed to "grassroots PR," which Foer suggests would be more effective at combatting Muslim fundamentalism). He has a reputation for overcharging for his services, which are sometimes shockingly inept. So why does the government keep hiring him to run propaganda campaigns in places like Panama, Kuwait, the Balkans and Afghanistan?
"The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia has paid Qorvis Communications $3.8 million since it signed a one-year $200,000 a-month contract on Nov. 14 with the 15 percent Patton Boggs-owned PA shop," trade publication O'Dwyer's PR Daily reports. "The bulk of those outlays ($2.9 million) were for advertising services to position the Kingdom as a trusted ally of the U.S. and a partner in President Bush's 'war on terror.' QC, in turn, paid its advertising contractor Sandler-Innocenzi $2.5 million for work on the ads.
Argentina's Ministry of Economy is paying Zemi Communications $300,000 a year for media relations, reports O'Dwyer's PR Daily. Meanwhile, current President Eduardo Duhalde asked the World Bank to let it delay repaying $800 million in loans that come due this week according to a New York Times article. "Zemi Communication's job is to pitch the Ministry's revitalization efforts with financial institutions and the international press," O'Dwyer's writes.
Stephen J. Hedges profiles the Rendon Group, the PR firm now working for the Pentagon in the "war on terrorism." Company owner John Rendon, who calls himself "an information warrior and a perception manager," has gotten rich working in places like Panama, the Balkans, Haiti, Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the secrecy surrounding his work makes it difficult to assess what, if anything, Rendon is actually accomplishing. "They're very closemouthed about what they do," says Kevin McCauley, an editor at O'Dwyer's PR Daily.
"The Philippines Dept. of National Defense is relying on Weber Shandwick to keep in touch with the Pentagon, White House, Congress and various federal agencies under a two-year contract worth $20,000 a month," reports PR trade publication O'Dwyer's. "The Philippines has the second biggest deployment of U.S.
Rissig Licha, the Fleishman-Hillard PR firm's executive director in Argentina, is urging businesses there to "show their hand and defend the capitalist system. Once society begins to question the system, it will be much more difficult," says Licha, whose clients have included Philip Morris and the Clarin Group, a powerful media conglomerate. The problem is that Argentinians are already doing more than "question" the system. "You know what we want to do?
"Burson-Marsteller is handling the public and media uproar over the safety of New York's Indian Point nuclear plant for the facility's owner Entergy Corp," O'Dwyer's PR Daily reports. "Activist groups and the media have criticized the safety record of the plant and its potential vulnerability to an attack by an airliner in the wake of the Sept. 11 World Trade Center tragedy. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, in its annual review of the nation's 103 reactors released last month, gave the Indian Point 2 reactor its lowest performance rating.
PR Watch editor John Stauber and Hunter College Professor Stuart Ewen recently participated in a a panel discussion on the topic of "perception management" and managed to make an impression on columnist Danny Schechter's own perceptions of today's over-spun media environment. The influence of PR, he observed, has some unintended consequences for us all. When spin doctors "drive the news agenda" with "pre-fabricated messages," rational public discourse starts to break down. "Think about the messages of the terror war or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," Schechter says.