Bad Day in PA

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:
  1. Fleishman and the LA DWP
  2. Ketchum and the Karen Ryan VNR for DHHS
  3. Ketchum and the Armstrong Williams plugs for NCLB
  4. Fleishman and the Drug Control Office
  5. Qorvis and Saudi Outreach and radio ads
These are just the ones I could think of off the top of my head.

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.

  1. Jeremy,

    You're going to have to give up the VNRs, etc. The PR world is going to get spun on its head this year, just like journalism is.

    You're ahead of most of the game, so you can leverage that in your business to get ahead/stay ahead/get further.


  2. I believe the NY Times broke both the Karen Ryan and Armstrong Williams stories, so lets give Big Media some credit.

  3. I'm not certain who broke what story first, all I was writing was that I first read the FOIA story on O'Dwyer's, which was on its Website, and I blogged soon thereafter.

    But, this is neither here nor there, but taking away from the bigger issue - the hit that PR is taking from this.

  4. USA Today broke the Armstrong Williams story, with a copy of his contract, which they obtained via a Freedom of Information request. One of the big questions left hanging: Who told them what to ask for? Such requests usually require a high level of specificity, which means they essentially had to know what they were looking for when they asked for it. Particularly, since Williams was paid as an independent contractor working for Ketchum, so his name wasn't on any general budget documents..

  5. The main stream media missed that this practice goes on a lot in B-to-B. PR firms have really blurred the lines between editorial and advertising. The NY Times has yet to do a piece about this.


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