As the number of people sick from E. coli strain O157:H7 in Ozaukee County, Wisconsin, climbed past 150 last Friday, public officials hired the PR firm Zigman Joseph Stephenson to help with media and an anticipated crush of lawsuits. The outbreak is being blamed on children not washing their hands after visiting the petting zoo at the Ozaukee County Fair. The Ozaukee County Board's Administrative Committee approved hiring the PR firm for up to $12,000 in expenses.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former Communist Youth Leader leader turned Russian billionaire with ties to the Russian mafia, is paying APCO Worldwide to restore investors' trust in his scandal-plagued company, Yukos.
O'Dwyer's PR launches a new awards program to "recognize outstanding efforts at educating the public about issues, products or services." "We've heard complaints for some time that certain firms have come to dominate too many of the awards programs," said publisher Jack O'Dwyer. As an example, he noted that four PR firms took 18 or 43% of the 41 Silver Anvils awarded by PRSA in June out of a field of 736 entries. Many smaller PR firms have been critical of the elaborate and expensive entry process for other PR awards.
The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which reported that the New York City Police Department used improper racial profiling and which found serious flaws in the Florida voting process, is now facing criticism for spending $135,000 on public relations. The Holmes Reports writes that according to a Scripps Howard story, "payments made during the current fiscal year are more than double the amount that the panel is allowed to pay to outside consultants, according to the requirements of its 2001 spending allocation from Congress."
With fewer journalism jobs available, many reporters and editors are looking at PR jobs to pay the bills. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 31-35% increase in PR jobs, versus a 0-9% increase in journalism, which also pays less than PR. For journalists worried that flacking means selling out, PR Week advises that "many believe it's an inevitable career progression." PR Week quotes Lou Colasuonno, a former editor at the New York Post and New York Daily News before turning PR practitioner, who says, "I had accomplished all I could in [the journalism] field.
Of the many issues facing the White House communications staff, PR Week asked a few experts to sound off on how the media's treatment of President Bush's daughters should be handled. Here's what they had to say:
The National Rifle Association, one of the most powerful Washington lobbying organizations, is seeking a new communications director to replace out-going flack Bill Powers. Applicants for the job -- called the third-most hellish PR job by PR Week readers -- would look forward to handling PR for NRA president Charlton Heston and to presiding over one of the largest stockpiles of PR dollars. The group spent $100 million on PR and advertising last year. Former communications director Powers left the NRA to join The Mercury Group, the PR agency of record for the NRA.
Dalia Rabin-Pelossof will head a $12 million public relations offensive to argue Israel's case amid fears that Palestinians are winning the propaganda war. Her father, Yitzhak Rabin, was assassinated by a Jewish extremist in retaliation for signing the 1993 peace accords. PR advisors to Israel include Gideon Meir, Israel's deputy minister of public affairs, and the New York-based PR firm of Rubenstein & Associates.
Last year Michael Jacobson's Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI, also known as "the food police") received $200,000 from the pro-biotechnology Rockefeller Foundation to be a moderate voice in the raging debate over genetically engineered (GE) foods. CSPI has since made many statements very favorable to GE foods and recently called for government action against companies marketing non-GE foods. Ironically, CSPI's Integrity in Science Project criticizes and reveals the special interest funding and agendas of other nonprofit organizations.
BSMG Worldwide is representing the Movement for Democratic Change, a political party which is trying to oust Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe. The MDC, according to the Aug. 7 New York Times, is the "first party in two decades to pose a serious threat to Mugabe's grip on power." Zimbabwe currently is faced with serious economic problems, which Mugabe blames on the country's 75,000 white farmers and their supposed Western backers. He has supported actions by the National War Veterans Association, whose members have seized and squatted on more than 1,700 white-owned farms.