Final thoughts on Ketchum

Well, after Jay Rosen's post yesterday on PR Bloggers being MIA, the PR blogosphere went into overdrive mode ... pinning the blame on Ketchum, on the associations for not speaking up, on not being a PR blogger but a blogger that is in PR and writes on other issues ... well, everything but thinking, hey, you know what, we should take a stand.

Poytner also picked up the story - it was the top story for Romenesko - and that lead to more action. Plus, Lisa Stone aka Surfette (she sorta does look like Smurfette) wrote another piece on the subject for PressThink, aggregating the views of various PR bloggers.

Us nouveau PR professionals - the ones that have embraced the blogosphere, and see the importance of citizen journalists - have more of a responsibility to take a stance. Doesn't our embracing of the grass roots nature of the blogosphere mean we should use the grass roots nature for own our causes? Shouldn't we say, "hey, the buck stops here" (so, be unlike Ketchum and take responsibility), and not pass the buck to the organizations?

As already noted, PRSA put out a tepid response against Ketchum, the Council of PR firms defended Ketchum ... and IABC said nothing. These are the three biggest PR associations, but they are not doing it for PR.

Now, IABC is just surprising. The chairman of IABC, David Kistle, has a blog. The Ketchum story broke two weeks ago in USA Today, but Kistle's most recent blog post reads like a church newsletter. We have new accredited PR people! We're doing a webinar! Aren't we neat!

The chairman of IABC has a venue, a forum to speak out on industry issues. Why didn't he use that venue to speak out against the first big issue affecting public relations in 2005?

I once belonged to IABC Phoenix, but never rejoined. I joined because I thought IABC would be a rallying force to showcase Phoenix PR to the Arizona business community - there is no need to go out of state for top-notch PR. I was told that that's not what the local chapter is about; the organization had shown through its silence that it was not about communications.

If the national IABC organization cannot come out with a statement on the issues of today, what is the organization really about? Ketchum/Williams case is about business communications - and since Omnicom is international, it's an international issue - but IABC stayed silent.

IABC should be a voice for all chapters, and if some disagree with what is said, that's too bad. The chairman of IABC should be setting agendas, putting out position papers and statements on the Ketchum/Armstrong Williams incidence.

But, if they are not, then us PR bloggers - even those PR bloggers that don't blog on PR issues - should fight to keep PR alive, to keep it ethical. As bloggers, we have a venue to have our voices heard, and we have a venue to expose the improprieties in the industry.

1 comment
  1. Spot on re: setting agendas. Isn't that what an advocacy group, especially one that accredits practitioners, agencies and educational institutions supposed to be doing? Yes.

    Set the guidelines. Then, defend the guidelines... like a 'watch dog' should. PR bloggers as watch dogs? That is what the associations are supposed to be doing.

    Their relative silence is the most disturbing aspect of this case study.

    The government will deal with the corporations. Maybe. The damage to the profession, however, is going to continue as long as the issue is not addressed - aggressively - by the PRSA, IABC, CPRF and any others. If hearings do occur, it will be devastating.

    You left IABC. I'm wondering why I'm still with PRSA. Now, how many other people - also dealing with the other controversies (in-house) that PRSA - alone - has stirred up, are thinking the same thing?

    It is very 'disheartening', to coin a 'Judith Phair' phrase. But, I must give her some credit, she's said more than most. Certainly more than David Kistle.

    By the way, Jeremy, didn't you hear? Kistle has apparently lost the password to his blog due to lack of use. :o)

    He finally found it on January 16, 2005, only to post this late breaking news: "It’s a New Year!" Oh, nothing gets by those guys!

    Makes you proud to be a communications pro, doesn't it! :(


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