Hot off the O'Dwyer presses (sub required), Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington just filed a FOIA request with 22 government agencies regarding their contracts with PR firms.
This is the fallout of the recent mini-scandals affecting DC public relations and public affairs. In the past few months, we've seen fallout from:
- Fleishman and the LA DWP
- Ketchum and the Karen Ryan VNR for DHHS
- Ketchum and the Armstrong Williams plugs for NCLB
- Fleishman and the Drug Control Office
- Qorvis and Saudi Outreach and radio ads
This cannot be good for the agencies that have public affair practices in DC. We have yet to hear of any backlash against the other large firms, but maybe they have kept their noses cleaner in DC, or have been lucky. Ketchum, for one, has just begun an internal review of its DC practices, and will begin an external review of all its government contracts. Might be too little, too late for Ketchum.
One thought: is this the result of blogging, with participatory journalism and the citizen journalist? With more and more amateur newshounds with blogs digging for information, is public relations going to be forced to abandon some of its tried and true tools, like VNRs or SMTs?
The fact is public relations is changing, and we, as an industry, need to find new ways to get the message out there.