Thursday, February 17, 2005

Personal PR Spinning - Or, Vetting Client Bios

Tunheim Partners - a very well respected PR firm in Minneapolis - has been caught between a rock and a hard place.

Why? According to O'Dwyer's:
Tunheim Partners is handling damage control duties for client Reggie Fowler after an embellished draft copy of the millionaire's biography was distributed to reporters by the firm in his bid to buy the Minnesota Vikings football franchise.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune and other local media debunked several claims in the draft bio issued on Monday, causing Tunheim to issue a clarification on behalf of Fowler, who said in that statement that he regretted that the draft was issued.

The original bio was issued with a news release announcing Fowler's signing of a purchase agreement for the Vikings, pending approval from the National Football League. The erroneous bio also went to all the league's owners.

Among the items corrected was a statement that the businessman played in the Little League World Series (it was actually a Tucson Little League All-Star team) and played for the Cincinnati Bengals of the National Football League and the Calgary Stempeders of the Canadian Football League (he attended training camps for the teams but didn't play in games). His degree from the Univ. of Wyoming was in social work, not in business administration and finance as the original draft noted.
With more than 200 articles noting the bio "correction," this is embarassing for the agency. The agency took the bio that Fowler provided from Spiral, Inc - his company in Arizona - and accepted it at face value.

Here's the twist - as PR people, we accept the truth in the bios that we receive from our clients. In this instance, it would have been very easy to verify the information on the bio - particularly in the era of Google and the Internet. Claims to have played in the NFL and CFL are very easily verified.

But, as a PR person, you want to believe that those bios are the truth. But, just look back at the dot-com era and the executives laid off for fake bios. Two recent examples that I could remember where Nirav Tolia leaving Shopping.com and Kenneth Lonchar resigning as EVP and CFO from Veritas.

At the end of the day, trust and sloppy work sometimes bite us in the butt. The lesson here is to always do a bit of background research on executives to make sure nothing is going to come up. It's too bad, though, that this might kill Fowler's chance to become the first African-American NFL team owner.
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