The bold announcement from Advanced Cell Technology (ACT) that it had taken steps to create human embryos through cloning was more hype than reality. The methods used had already been done in animals, and some scientists insisted it wasn't cloning at all. Also, the few embryonic cells it had created had died. "This was a public relations campaign," said Arthur Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
Business has been bad all year for PR firms that represent high-tech products and internet services, and the terror attacks of September 11 made things worse. O'Dwyer's reports layoffs at PR firms including Citigate Communications, Alexander Ogilvy, Brodeur Worldwide, Cohn & Wolfe,Niehaus Ryan Wong, TSI Communications, GCI, Edelman and Ketchum.
Building "buzz" was the hallmark of dot-com PR, writes Lois Paul of the PR firm of Lois Paul & Associates. Now that the dot-coms have crashed, she says PR must deliver "real messages" and present "real companies, not personalities or 'vision.' ... The best PR people are invaluable to companies during this type of downturn," she says, because "PR today is all about reputation management."
President Bush has displayed a phenomenal memory: he has now learnt by rote entire sentences and phrases which he repeats endlessly. But the great wonder is that every word spoken by him about the war or Osama bin Laden or Al Qaeda is greeted by analysts as adding something significant to the course of events. The more cliched the president sounds, the greater the zeal of commentators to dissect his words and hold intensive discussions about the president's thoughts.
Public relations people are not all bad -- a fact that probably gets insufficient mention at PR Watch (sorry, guys). Mark Bingham was CEO of The Bingham Group, a PR firm with offices in San Francisco and New York. He was also aboard United flight 93 when it went down in Pennsylvania on September 11, and he is believed to be one of the passengers who stormed the cockpit and brought down the plane before it could hit Washington. His friends and family have established a website in his honor.
PR Week profiles the career of Charlotte Beers, once nicknamed "the most powerful woman in advertising," now overseeing U.S. efforts to improve its image overseas. Beers made her name selling Uncle Ben's rice products before going to work for ad agencies including J. Walter Thompson, Tatham-Lair & Kudner and Ogilvy & Mather.
Veal USA, representing US veal producers, is planning a national campaign to promote veal consumption and to counter concerns about inhumane treatment of veal calves. "We're also trying to put back the glamour and the elegance of veal," said Laura Vermeire, VP of marketing.
PR Week reported on October 1 that family members of Osama bin Laden went shopping for a PR firm shortly after September 11 to help distance themselves from their terrorist relative, whom they claim to have disinherited several years ago. Steven Goldstein and his firm, Attention America, was approached by one of bin Laden's brothers in late September. Goldstein, who is Jewish and pro-Israel, thinks he was approached by the bin Laden family because of his religious and political stance.
Dogged by controversies involving PR companies, the 2200-member Public Relations Institute of Australia (PRIA), has initiated a review of its code of ethics. Trouble is, some of those who have pushed for just such a review know precious little about it.
Scientists as well as financial analysts caution that gene therapies may never come to fruition. If they do, they will be probably useful only for a handful of rare diseases. A Motley Fool financial columnist tells millions of readers, "There's no reason why the average investor should be invested in biotechnology companies.