"We needed a firm that could provide strategic counsel immediately," says Lt. Col. Kenneth McClellan, explaining the Pentagon's decision to hire the Rendon Group as its PR firm during the bombing of Afghanistan. Norman Solomon reviews the firm's background and clients, including the trade agencies of Bulgaria, Russia and Uzbekistan, the Monsanto Chemical Company, the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation, the CIA and the Iraqi National Congress.
University of California professor Ernest Partridge, who served until recently on the "public advisory panel" of the American Chemistry Council (formerly the Chemical Manufacturers Association), has written a memoir of his experiences. The public advisory panel, which brought together distinguished academics to advise the industry on safety and environmental issues, was part of the chemical industry's "Responsible Care" program, which was established to allay public concerns in the wake of the chemical plant disaster at Bhopal, India.
"Public relations companies wrote all those news releases that helped inflate the Internet bubble, so perhaps it's only fitting that they feel the effects of its collapse," observes CNET News.com. PR firms like Edelman are laying off staff and closing offices as money dries up from collapsing dot.coms.
The Columbia Journalism Review has published a largely uncritical story about Adrianne Foglia, a former NBC news producer who now serves as press aide to Colombian President Andres Pastrana. CJR notes that Foglia has been hugely successful at influencing news coverage of Colombia: "One Foglia assistant said the office organized upwards of 80 percent of visiting journalists' agendas," which in turn has helped win foreign support such as a $1.3 billion U.S. aid package for Colombia. (More aid is bound to follow, now that U.S.
The Pentagon has hired the Rendon Group, a well-known Washington public-relations firm, to help it explain U.S. military strikes in Afghanistan to global audiences. Rendon will be paid $397,000 over the next four months to monitor news media in 79 countries, conduct focus groups and create a counterterrorism Web site. Rendon's help is needed because "we are clearly losing the 'hearts and minds' issue," said one official involved in the administration spin effort.
Newsday columnist Sheryl McCarthy had a queasy feeling as she watched President Bush with D.C. school children promoting his newly created America's Fund for Afghan Children. "I get nervous when public officials trot out the children. What president whose country is involved in a dicey war, what mayor whose approval rating is down doesn't look good when flanked by a group of earnest and trusting kids?" McCarthy writes. "The children's fund is pure public relations.
The UK Independent reports, "A senior government 'spin-doctor' was under pressure to resign after seeking to take advantage of the terrorist atrocities in America to 'bury' embarrassing stories." An adviser to the UK Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions sent a memo to senior colleagues saying, "It's now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury. Councillors' expenses?" The memo was sent within an hour of the second hijacked plane hitting the World Trade Center. On September 12, a proposal on new expenses for local councillors was released.
O'Dwyer's PR Daily columnist Frasier Seitel writes, "In the war on terrorism, PR is key. And in the coming days, as they wend through the shadowy thicket of Bin Ladenesque aggressors, President Bush and his associates might consider the following prescription for wartime PR strategy." Seitel's prescription includes the following points: build grassroots support; lead with goodwill; communicate, communicate communicate; and don't play fast and loose with the truth. Seitel says the last point poses a critical PR question for the Bush administration.
Saudi Arabia hired PR giant Burson-Marsteller on September 14 according to O'Dwyer's PR Daily. B-M will place ads and provide "issues counseling and crisis management" the Saudi government. Craig Veith, chairman of B-M's media practice in Washington, D.C., said B-M has placed ads for the Saudis in The New York Times expressing support for the U.S. in its time of crisis.
Peace Action is no new kid on the block. This very serious and well established group dates back forty years to the 'ban the bomb' movement of the 1960s, and led the fight in the 1980s against Ronald Reagan's nuclear build-up. Now, it tackles the current crisis in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.