Posted by Kailey Astor Wednesday, October 18, 2006
I’ve always often found it a little disconcerting that so many leading intellectuals, statesmen and captains of industry possess such naïve faith in the power of public relations. Perhaps it’s faith that sustains us as an industry, maintaining those high valuations so important to Wall Street. But truth be known, the PR industry seems like a vast, dysfunctional family that has kept a lid on its secrets for decades. Only now, thanks to the plunderous effects of the blogosphere and its near irrational call for "transparency," our magical spells are laid bare for all to see.
Yet, blind faith still abides in many quarters. The latest acolyte to declare his devotion is Daniel Pipes, a scholar of Middle East history, a counter-terrorism analyst, and neo-conservative op-ed columnist. Pipes recently contributed an essay to The New York Sun entitled “The West Must Learn the Public Relations of War,” in which he bemoans the fact that a nation at war, such as the United States, can no longer count on the support of its population.
"The solidarity and consensus of old have unraveled. This process has been under way for just over a century (starting with the British side of the Boer War in 1899–1902). As I wrote in 2005: 'The notion of loyalty has fundamentally changed. Traditionally, a person was assumed faithful to his natal community. A Spaniard or Swede was loyal to his monarch, a Frenchman to his republic, an American to his constitution. That assumption is now obsolete, replaced by a loyalty to one's political community — socialism, liberalism, conservatism, or Islamism, to name some options. Geographical and social ties matter much less than of old.'
With loyalties now in play, wars are decided more on the Op-Ed pages and less on the battlefield. Good arguments, eloquent rhetoric, subtle spin doctoring, and strong poll numbers count more than taking a hill or crossing a river. Solidarity, morale, loyalty, and understanding are the new steel, rubber, oil, and ammunition. Opinion leaders are the new flag and general officers. Therefore, as I wrote in August, Western governments 'need to see public relations as part of their strategy.'"
NEW YORK – Popular PR industry trade journal Strumpette today declared Richard Edelman and Steve Rubel to be “enemies of the blogosphere,” and demanded their immediate resignations.
“To live up to its premise, to fulfill its promise, the Me2Revolution must be prepared from time to time to correct its course,” declared Amanda Chapel, managing editor of Strumpette. “Richard Edelman and Steve Rubel have committed numerous acts of abject betrayal that, under any revolution worth the name, would have resulted in their execution in the public square. Edelman and Rubel hurt us, hurt blogging, and
hurt PR as a whole."
Their offenses primarily revolve around Edelman PR’s increasingly disastrous representation of the discount retailer Wal-Mart. Within the past year alone, Edelman has:
• Engaged in secretive dialogues with carefully selected bloggers with the intention of slipping uncredited, Wal-Mart-approved spin into their seemingly spontaneous utterings;
• Offered unspecified emoluments to a consumers’ right website in return for their agreement to “stop writing about our companies," including Wal-Mart;
• Surreptitiously sponsored a blog by two seemingly ordinary Americans of their vacation tour of Wal-Mart’s parking lots, neither of whom disclosed their ties to Edelman.
“Where I come from, three strikes and you’re out,” Chapel said. "This is not going to stop until they are removed."
"Edelman’s crisis and issues counselors work with a client’s senior management team throughout the crisis to provide guidance, to develop strategic plans, to defend reputation and to implement recovery initiatives. We partner with our clients to develop the most effective responses to crises using our international network of strategic counselors, quickly assessing the situation and charting a course to minimize the reputational and business damage to the client, its brands and its operations."
"But you can't spin the web," Chapel said. "The truth is going to come out."
Indeed that’s ultimately what happened yesterday. In a public statement Rubel said, "I would give up my blog (MicroPersuasion) before I gave up working for them (Edleman)."
One commentor uniquely captured the public's reaction, “Those are perhaps the saddest words about the matter. It is boilerplate old-school PR and disregards everything that Web 2.0 and the blogosphere has championed about all of us as individuals. This is the people's revolution. If you don't understand the ground rules and the speed at which things move by now, it's time to take yourself out of the game. Their apology is empty. OK, they admit to screwing up but there's an even bigger problem now. It's time to explain how this could even happen."
In the spirit of transparency, Strumpette also called upon Edelman and Rubel to “open the books” of its social media practice so that the PR industry can determine for itself if Edelman has engaged in other faux-blogging programs for other clients, and/or if Edelman in fact has any clients besides Wal-Mart for which social-media tactics are being used.
"There has always been an inherent contradiction between what Richard Edelman and Steve Rubel practice for Edelman clients, and what they preach to the rest of the PR industry,” Chapel said. “They have misled countless other PR practitioners into believing the public relations industry has a role to play in the blogosphere, when all the empirical evidence shows that the blogosphere utterly rejects PR, and becomes immediately suspicious whenever a seemingly independent blog appears that promotes the cause of a corporation, candidate or issue."
"The fact is, in an environment where the public only trusts ‘people like me,’ public relations professionals have zero role to play. The sooner the industry admits it, the better for everyone," Chapel added.
On Thursday, March 8, 2007 at 7:41 AM, Ronn Torossian, President and CEO of 5WPR, emphatically promised that he was going to sue us. No real reason, he was just irritated by our teasing him about getting in bed with pornographer Joe Francis. Anyway, Ronn gave his obscenity-laced word that we'd see the complaint in 72 hours. It's now late by
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