External PR

January 30, 2006: 9:23 am: External PR, Helpful Hints

How do you know when you’ve gone too far — and how do you keep from getting there?

That’s really the question posed by Peter Himler in today’s post on “The Flack.” (Peter brings his A-game every day, and is on my short list of must-reads.)

Today, he looks at the cycle of bad decisions surrounding the Peace Mom, Cindy Sheehan.

Without getting all-political, her message started to dilute itself when she got off the “peace for peace sake” bandwagon, and onto the “Elders of Zion Bush puppet regime and anything else I can come up with” path. Peter rightly points out that her latest visit to Venezuela’s “Mr. Smiles and Sunshine” Hugo Chavez stands to get in the way of connecting with any average American again.

My comment actually started sounding more like a post in and of itself so I brought it here — but I invite you to go to Peter’s blog and carry the conversation there. And bookmark him.

Peter, is it just me, or does it seem like every time the Democrats catch lightning in a bottle, they break the bottle?

A grass-roots agent drops right in their laps, one that by far comes across as more human and real than anything they could create — and they destroy her with packaging.

She would have been far more valuable over the long run if they hadn’t burned her out and used her up. She hit her sixteenth minute about, oh, 16 minutes in. Her handlers have devalued her as a human being — she is now a symbol. “Cindy Sheehan” the human is long gone and deceased. Her bones are now in a modern day Ark, being carted around by “The greater cause.”

Lesson: when you start treating your clients as objects and props, your message becomes self-parody.

January 26, 2006: 1:28 pm: External PR, Helpful Hints

A sundae with everything, including instant culpability.

A Delaware woman has filed suit against a McDonald’s franchisee, on the grounds that her son’s sundae had blood drizzled on the top.

According to court documents, Jara bought food, including four hot fudge sundaes, at the restaurant’s drive-thru window on Dec. 30, 2004.

Her son, now 13, dug into his sundae and “recognized the taste of blood and, upon careful inspection, noted a red substance on the side of the sundae cup as well as mixed into his ice cream,” the lawsuit claims.

Jara then went into the store and spoke to a swing manager, who confirmed that it was blood, according to the lawsuit. The manager, Joshua Ferrell, said the employee who prepared the sundae had an injured, bleeding finger, and told Jara that he had advised the employee to keep a bandage on his finger, according to the lawsuit.

Here’s where it gets interesting:

Michael Meoli, owner of the McDonald’s franchise, said the claims are unfounded, and that strawberry syrup probably had clogged the sundae machine.

Ferrell, who no longer works at the restaurant, should not have said the substance was blood, Meoli said.

What is he, a botanist? No, he’s a 21-year-old assistant manager who saw her screaming in the lobby and said ‘whatever you say lady.’

I’m lovin’ it! There may still be some issues in court (or more likely in settlement) because of that statement, as someone in management ought to know better than to make a statement like that.

Two lessons here:

  • Don’t say things like the kid said, for legal reasons.
  • Do say things like the franchisee said — short, to the point, and even somewhat aggressive when warranted.

Meoli was also right to end with this…

“I hope she gets the same thing the Wendy’s lady got,” he said, referring to a woman recently sentenced to nine years in prison for planting a severed finger in a bowl of Wendy’s chili to extort money from the fast-food chain.

…if for no other reason than to remind the public that many of these claims are unfounded.

Bonus look-see: Will McDonalds address franchisee issues like this on its brand-spanking new “Corporate Responsibility Blog?”

January 21, 2006: 5:35 pm: External PR

Here in the South, college football is king… and no other sport is even worthy to join the court. (Unless you are Kentucky, and it’s not been a great basketball season thus far by Big Blue standards.)

The big storyline going into the bowl season was hyped up as the USC Trojans attempted a “three-peat” as national champions. ABC promoted the Game of the Century. ESPN asked if this USC dynasty was the greatest of all time, with fans picking the outcome against legendary undefeated teams. So you could understand how a few folks might get their knickers in a twist over being “left out.”

Take LSU fans, for instance. The Bayou Bengals won the 2003 BCS championship over Oklahoma, while the Trojans got the AP media vote. Yet it was as if LSU’s championship had been blown out by Hurricane Katrina, never to be seen again.

Enter “Onepeat” — the mad mixture of LSU alumni, UCLA fans, and a Mobile, Alabama, ad agency with a soft-spot for lost causes. The goal of Onepeat is to raise $10,000 to buy a billboard, smack in the middle of Trojan-land. “Shouldn’t dynasties win more than one?”

It didn’t take long to raise the $10,000 — and any additional funds collected will go to the American Red Cross designated for Hurricane Katrina relief activities.

From the site:

We do not possess hatred for USC. The media’s constant “three-peat” hype had just gone too far. As we’ve said time and time again — we are here to set the record straight. Simple as that. And as for our chosen location, where better to gain national media attention than near the USC campus? {smirk}

It just goes to show that if you force your message hard enough, you might trigger a gag reflex. Forget “blogs” and “citizen journalism” and the like. Today’s media consumer is empowered to use traditional media and shed the “pajama guerilla” label.

January 19, 2006: 3:12 pm: Birmingham, Scrushy

You can buy a paper for fifty cents… but buying the content will cost you a whole lot more.

It appears now that part of Richard Scrushy’s PR campaign has surfaced. While his unspoken strategy was well-documented and transparent, what wasn’t so well-known was the people on the payroll:

Audry Lewis, the author of those stories in The Birmingham Times, the city’s oldest black-owned paper, now says she was secretly working on behalf of Scrushy, who she says paid her $11,000 through a public relations firm and typically read her articles before publication.

Documents obtained by The Associated Press show The Lewis Group wrote a $5,000 check to Audry Lewis on April 29, 2005 — the day Scrushy hired the company. The head of the company, Times founder Jesse J. Lewis Sr., is not related to Audry Lewis.

The firm wrote another $5,000 check that day to the Rev. Herman Henderson, who employs Audry Lewis at his Believers Temple Church and was among the black preachers supporting Scrushy who were present in the courtroom throughout.

Audry Lewis and Henderson now say Scrushy owes them $150,000 for the newspaper stories and other public relations work, including getting black pastors to attend the trial in a bid to sway the mostly black jury.

Scrushy is denying personal knowledge, and the prosecutors say this doesn’t warrant action. After all, while it may be unethical, it isn’t illegal — and they are satisfied that the jury wasn’t swayed by news coverage anyway. Reporter Jay Reeves described Scrushy’s reaction to the news about the news about the news:

In an e-mail response to questions from the AP, Scrushy denied authorizing payments to Henderson or Audry Lewis for any work on his behalf.

Scrushy said he “hit the ceiling” when he learned that the PR firm had paid Henderson but added that he had considered Audry Lewis to be “a nice Christian woman that thought we had been treated badly and she wanted to help.”

Now he said he knows they are both “about the bucks.”

Thoughts, people?

: 7:48 am: External PR

William Shatner at the Emmy awards in 2005

The next time you think about “going to great pains” to get noticed, don’t undertake that enterprise literally.

Our friends at Golden Palace have once again added a pop-culture treasure to their vast vault of auction bounty:

Captian Kirk’s kidney stone.


As painful as that sounds, it’s actually a win-win-win.  Shatner gets another boost of weirdness to attatch to his re-invigorated career.  Golden Palace once again gets not-entirely-free-but-worth-more-than-they-paid-for publicity.  Habitat for Humanity (supported by the cast of “Boston Legal“) walks away with $25,000, and the free publicity generated by this Bermuda Triangle of medical-waste disposal.

(Sorry.  I just couldn’t pass this by.)

January 18, 2006: 12:46 pm: External PR, Helpful Hints

…but only if you are aware it is there to begin with.

Browncoats misbehavin'This is the cast of Firefly, a wonderful show that the fates of television dealt a losing hand.  The characters and storyline were recently resurrected in a theatrical release, Serenity.  The creator, Joss Whedon, has hinted that it might come back if someone will back it.

Well, now the “browncoats” are “aimin’ to misbehave,” and it appears a couple of them have.  The pair from San Diego started a website pitching for donations to raise the millions of dollars it would take to finance a miniseries or a new season.

With little buzz, the site raised less than $1,000 in two days before shutting down collections and returning the money.  Could it be that Whedon didn’t like what appeared to be a weak posture, and asked them to stop?  Or maybe the thought of raising a substantial sum but not getting quite enough would be awkward?  Either way, there were a lot of ways this could reflect badly on Whedon, and not very many good outcomes.  (This is what I preach, trying to stay in a Positive Position.)

Companies with a reputation to maintain need to monitor the internet, and it doesn’t just end with the public relations department maintaining a clip file.  The above case was scuttled in a matter of days, avoiding a lot of potential embarrassment — even from those who are well-meaning.

We faced a similar circumstance recently within the American Red Cross:  a producer made a public pledge on national television that he would give 100% of the profits from the sales of certain videos to benefit Red Cross Disaster Relief.  When you’re faced with a billion-dollar project, that kind of news is welcome.  Unless the gift is coming from Joe Francis, the entreprenuer behind “Girls Gone Wild:

“Year after year the city of New Orleans and its citizens have welcomed us with open arms, and we have looked forward to our yearly trip to the Big Easy. The utter destruction of New Orleans and many parts of the Gulf coast truly saddens us,” said Joe Francis, founder and CEO of Girls Gone Wild, in a statement.

The Mardi Gras-themed DVDs and videos include such titles as “Mardi Gras 3-Pack,” “Mardi Gras 2K4,” and “Girls Gone Wild Doggystyle” with rapper Snoop Dogg.

With friends like that, your reputation doesn’t need enemies.

January 14, 2006: 8:12 am: Birmingham, Scrushy

One would certainly hope that Richard Scrushy is truly following his heart.

If not, he is certainly following his public relations rehab prescription to the letter:

The Anniston-Calhoun chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference lists “Minister/Evangelist Richard Scrushy” as special guest speaker at its 4 p.m. MLK program. The church’s pastor, Rev. N.Q. Reynolds, is the group’s president.

Scrushy will be accompanied by the Trinity Broadcasting Network, which is filming a documentary on Scrushy and his faith.

His spokesman, Charlie Russell, said Scrushy will speak on the topic “Creation vs. Evolution” and “how God moves man to speak God’s word and make it reality.”

Maybe God moves man to speak by humbling him before federal judges, and stripping him of his worldly desires.

I’ll say this… I certainly hope and pray at this point that Richard and Leslie are sincere about their faith. Because if they aren’t, keeping up an act for public appearance’s sake is its own hell. This is the equivalent of O.J. running around with a magnifying glass and a sidekick, actually looking for the “real killer.”

Hat tip again to Wade, for reading the paper more thoroughly than I do.

January 11, 2006: 5:16 pm: External PR, Rants

Public relations professionals have a hard enough time getting people to accept messages, even the ones that are incontrovertibly true. For many people, the idea that we are paid to pass along information immediately makes the truth value of the message suspect. Now, we have another threat to our effectiveness — a declining standard of truth.

It’s now coming to light that “A Million Little Pieces” author James Frey played fast and loose with the truth of his account of addiction and redemption. (Think “VH1 Behind the Music,” without any actual, you know, music.)

While Smoking Gun ferreted out the truth, questions about the book go back to 2003, and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

(From Editor and Publisher): “Twin Cities public relations executive Jon Austin said he was hardly surprised when he read about the Smoking Gun findings this week in USA Today. ‘I remembered that there were problems about the veracity of his story when the book came out,’ said Austin, a former spokesman for Northwest Airlines.’

“In July 2003, shortly after the book was published, Austin told the Star Tribune that ‘no way, no how, nowhere’ would Frey have been allowed to board a commercial jet covered in blood and vomit, with a hole in his cheek and four front teeth missing, as the author claimed in the first paragraph of ‘Pieces.’

What is most troubling is Frey’s blatant disregard for criticism over his tomfoolery.

At the time, Frey brushed aside questions about his book’s accuracy. ‘I wrote what was true to me,’ he told the Star Tribune. ‘If people want to pick apart the facts, they can.’

What. Was. True. To. Me.

Is there no objective standard of truth anymore?

Well find out in the coming days. The book is part of Oprah’s club, and website has not yet acknowledged any of the controversy. And it damned well better, because far too many people will take a cue from Oprah that “feelings” are more important than “facts.” In that nightmarish future, no amount of truth will save a PR practitioner as long as people “feel” their employer is evil or unfair.

Maybe she can flash “Writer’s Embellishment” underneath Frey like Letterman used to do.

Update: Random House is offering refunds for people who bought “A Million Little Pieces” directly from them. Other retailers may follow suit.

January 6, 2006: 5:42 pm: Big Blunders, External PR

I’ve been fighting a nasty virus for the last few days, and have missed out on the chance to pipe in on the West Virginia mine tragedy, and the media disaster that followed. So here are a few opinions before I get to my take:

The Flack: “Should we blame the messenger? I don’t think so.”

Mason Cole: “In a chaotic situation, it’s terribly hard to get a good grip on the steering wheel. The more that can be done, though, the better the communications process usually work, and the more everyone affected can have assurance about what they’re dealing with. “

Kami Watson Huyse: “Clearly the International Coal Group, the company who ownes the mine, did not have an adequate crisis communications plan.”

Jeri Cartwright: “If nothing else, this tragic event should remind every CEO and PR person to assign someone to develop a communications crisis plan.”

Scatterbox: “There is no question that International Coal Group violated every standard of crises management. The company’s lack of preparedness and incompetence in managing communications both within and outside the unfolding tragedy will unfortunately be studied by PR and management executives for decades to come. But much of that lesson will focus on the increasingly understood possibility that competing news interests will run with miraculous but unconfirmed headlines like a raging herd of snorting, blind buffalo.”

Jeff Jarvis: “But now, in our age of instant news and ubiquitous communication, the public sees this process as it occurs. It’s not the news that’s live; it’s the process of figuring out what to believe that’s live.”

(Most of the above are found in my “Sez WHO?” reading list to the right. If you are one of those authors and I haven’t told you so, you guys are great.)

Let me now share my perspective.

During the initial aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, I was working 18-hour days (In my Red Cross capacity.) I was literally chain-phoning, and the vast majority of my communication was incoming-external, to media. The remainder was internal, tracking down the latest information to feed those requests.

I am not a techno-boob. I was using Blackberry and e-mails to push as much information as possible. We were pushing media to a webpage, updated hourly with new shelter information. I was posting actualities and e-mailing them to radio stations, and that worked like a charm. I was leveraging everything I had.

What I couldn’t do was monitor everything that was going out. And sure enough, when a reporter (more likely a disc jockey) went crazy with imaginary information, it took me a while to find out about it. And it will drive you crazy, doing hours of interviews explaining why you can’t accept in-kind donations, only to find out a radio station is telling people what items to bring to your shelters.

Reporters will run with what they have — and many of them will do so based on their feeling that they “have enough.”

I’m not absolving the owners of the Sago mine for their lack of preparation. Lord knows there have been enough mining accidents to get national attention to prompt one to create a better plan. I am wondering, though, if preparation would have made a bit of difference in this case. Yes, the families had three hours of false hope. Do you think the media would have cared if it had only been an hour? Only 15 minutes? The “crushing heartache of false hope” still would have been the lead.

Had Sago corrected the issue promptly, there still would be the same criticisms going on right now. (Notice that no one is looking on this affair and saying “thank God it didn’t stretch to six hours.”) It’s unfortunate. Let’s learn from it. Let’s be prepared.

And God rest the souls of the lost, and the left behind.

January 3, 2006: 2:28 pm: External PR, Rants

If nominated, I will not run… but I will absorb the free publicity that comes with it.

Master media manipulator Donald Trump has done it again.

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Donald Trump is considering running for governor, a leading Republican said Friday. Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno on Thursday suggested that a big-name candidate could be flirting with entering the 2006 contest. On Friday, he confirmed to News Channel 10 in Albany that he had been referring to Trump.

This sounds like the sort of trial balloon that a proto-candidate would float. Not that anyone could ever prove that he did such a thing overtly.

No matter… within a period of two-and-a-half hours, the entire thing was blissfully reversed.

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The Donald does not want to be the governor.

Donald Trump, mega-developer and star of NBC’s “The Apprentice,” said he has no interest in running for governor of New York this year.

“I’m not going to run for governor because I’m having too much fun doing what I’m doing now,” Trump told the New York Post.

Trump — who also told the New York Daily News that “I have no interest in running for public office at this time” — didn’t immediately respond to a telephone message left Tuesday at his New York City office by The Associated Press.

If Donald does end up running, it will only be after being dragged kicking and screaming by the “good people of New York” who have “begged” and “pleaded” with him to “sacrifice himself” for the “sake of the Empire State.”

(That way he doesn’t have to spend only his own money on the campaign.)

While we’re at it, I do have one question… Why is the second photo darker than the first photo? Shades of O.J.?

December 24, 2005: 12:14 am: External PR, Rants

‘Tis the season to jack up some free publicity, using an attorney, timing, and hungry journalists.

The days in and around Christmas are bad for newspeople, because most of what they cover and do dries up. If you’ve got anything that might merit attention, you can maximize it by dropping it in the dead zone from Christmas to New Years.

That’s what Jews for Jesus has apparently done.

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Christian evangelical group Jews for Jesus is suing Google Inc., saying a Web log hosted through the Internet search leader’s Blogspot service infringes its trademark.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in New York on Wednesday, seeks to force Google to give Jews for Jesus control of the site as well as unspecified monetary damages.

“We have a right to our own name and Google has allowed the use of our name on Blogspot without our permission,” said Susan Perlman, associate executive director with Jews for Jesus.

“Our reputation is at stake,” Perlman told Reuters.

Yeah, their reputation is certainly at stake. The guy who had the site had a whopping three posts on there, all between January and June. Apparently, the organization contacted him a while back about getting the rights to the blog name. Funny that they should wait until almost Christmas to file the suit…

Actually, there is a pretty substantial legal issue here: Do corporations and organizations have the right of first refusal when it comes to the naming of subdomains? If I suddenly have an infatuation with Jennfier Aniston, can I be prevented from storing my pictures at http://jenniferaniston.positiveposition.com?

December 23, 2005: 8:40 pm: Birmingham, External PR, Scrushy

I hereby apologize for setting in motion the chain of events that got Paul Finebaum sued.

(Thanks Wade, for bringing this to my attention.)

We’ve documented Richard Scrushy’s legal battles — not so much for the courtroom fireworks but instead looking at his stated goal: repairing his civic and corporate reputation. Having won an acquittal from a jury in his HealthSouth fraud trial, the founder and CEO has been keeping fairly low on the second part of Operation Renewal. For the most part, he’s even heeded the advice I laid out months ago.

Now, he has filed suit against both the Birmingham News and radio talk-show host Paul Finebaum, for separate statements and allegations he feels are false and damaging.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Libel suits filed by former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy accuse The Birmingham News and Alabama radio personality Paul Finebaum of defaming him in reports or commentary about his relationship with a black church that he joined.

Scrushy’s wife, Leslie, is a plaintiff with her husband in the suit against Finebaum.

In both suits, Scrushy, who is white, accuses the defendants of unfairly portraying his decision in 2003 to leave his longtime church in Vestavia Hills and join the Guiding Light Church, a predominantly black church in Birmingham. Scrushy changed churches while under criminal investigation.

A November 2003 story in the News quoted a legal expert as saying that by changing churches, Scrushy was “laying the groundwork for endearing himself to African-American jurors.”

The suit claims the statement was libelous because it “made Scrushy sound like a devious hypocrite and heathen.” McPhillips said Scrushy changed churches as a result of his “own faith walk with the Lord.”

The Scrushys’ suit against Finebaum, who also is a sports columnist for the Mobile Register, cites a radio show in which Finebaum and his callers discussed who might play Leslie Scrushy in a movie about the couple.

“Who is the fakest actress in Hollywood? I mean the one with the fakest smile — that would be Mrs. Scrushy, wouldn’t it?” Finebaum said during a radio show in February.

According to the lawsuit, Finebaum “publicly described Mrs. Scrushy as plastic, as a gold digger, as a fake, as a phony, and as an air head.”

Three years ago, when the SEC was trying to clamp down on Scrushy’s assets, I was a regular contributor to Finebaum’s show. During a long segment on a slow news day, Paul asked me how the reporters stayed awake with little to do. I told him how we were already casting the Scrushy movie, and gave a few examples. (Andy Garcia as Richard Scrushy, Courtney Cox as Lesley, Samuel Jackson as Donald Watkins…)

Who would have thought it would come to this?

December 15, 2005: 1:11 am: Birmingham, External PR, Helpful Hints

More signs that Media Relations people need to update the old models…

…with a tip of the hat to Corante‘s ‘Rebuilding Media‘.

First, a great media shift is already underway. 2005 saw the end of more than 2,000 newspaper jobs in the United States (including several folks down the street at the Birmingham Post-Herald.)

Combine that with the recent announcement that the Pulitzer committee is now accepting online content submissions, and the new president of the Society of Professional Journalists teaches online media at the University of Florida.

When the dudes with inky hands are filling out job applications, and the internet dudes are running the guild, and the dudes who hand out the hardware are changing the rules… maybe it’s time to take a hint.

B.L. Ochman’s mantra: the traditional press release is dead. It won’t happen tomorrow, but the “traditional press” is slowly heading that same direction. If you’re still promoting yourself the same way you did five years ago, you might still be okay. If you’re not looking for new ways to engage your current and future customers, you’re making a big mistake.

December 7, 2005: 4:32 pm: External PR, Rants

Everyone can be a spin doctor — just be prepared for your past to jump into someone’s web browser.

A little exposure for Jennifer Aniston? Who’duhthunkit?

While most people are reading about the “Friend Next Door’s” newest nudist nuisance suit, let’s look a little closer at the “innocent paparazzi” who says he didn’t break any laws.

Brandt denies he broke the law, and claims that the incident took place at Aniston’s Hollywood Hills home three weeks ago, and not at her more secluded residence in Malibu, as some accounts have suggested. He claims he was standing on a public street, about 300 yards from her house, hoping to get shots of Aniston with Vaughn, who is reported to be dating the actress.

“She has no fences around her backyard,” he said. “I did not trespass.”

“When I saw her come out topless, I go, ‘Oh, God, this is not what I want, this is not what people want to buy anyway,’” he said.

What a nice guy Brandt is. Not your garden-variety slug. He really feels sorry that he accidentally sent those topless shots to those magazines that wouldn’t print them anyway. Really. Really sorry. But he didn’t do anything illegal.

But even now, after Aniston filed a lawsuit, Brandt says he’d be within his rights if he wanted to publish the topless photos. “I didn’t think I did anything illegal,” he said.

“She exposed herself to everybody in the neighborhood,” he said. “I happened to have a camera so I wouldn’t have had a problem.”

Brandt’s celebrity photos have appeared in People magazine and the New York Post, among other publications. He says he once worked for The National Enquirer, but he says he’s grown to loathe paparazzi photographers.

“There is a group out there today who are extremely aggressive and I hate them, I’ll say that to you,” he said. “They have made the so-called paparazzi business as it is, the worst that it’s ever been.

In the publicity circles of yesteryear, this would qualify as a victimless crime. Aniston wins by finding out how much her nude layout would fetch without risking her reputation to openly ask. Brandt wins by being a nice slug.

Only, now there’s this internet thing, which totally destroys Brandt’s credibility.

It has been said that members of the paparazzi enjoy a lucrative trade. Candid celebrity photos can be sold to gossip mags like National Enquirer – which sells over two million copies a month – for between US$150 ($268) and US$150,000.

Or, sometimes, millions of dollars, as in the case of the late Princess Diana and her boyfriend Dodi Al-Fayed.

Small wonder that one infamous lensman, Peter Brandt, was willing to part with US$15,000 to trail Noah Wyle on a private beach holiday.

He said: ‘I get triple that amount (after selling the pictures).’

Slug, indeed. So much for your image makeover, Pete.

December 3, 2005: 8:43 pm: Big Blunders, External PR

Months after the Armstrong Williams debacle, the Bushies are getting slapped for a Pentagon program that is designed to influence Iraqi media.

There is a key difference, though. The article describes the plan as “propaganda,” and rightly so. However, this CNN article dances a little around the notion that we are somehow throwing money at Iraqi reporters:

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, R-Virginia, said the program, which pays to plant favorable stories with Iraqi journalists and newspapers, is a serious problem.

The idea of “paying to plant stories” is made out to be the equivalent of moral bankruptcy. Yet, isn’t that what businesses and governments do to the tune of billions of dollars every year?

Setting aside any partisanism — this article sets a bad precedent for the modern PR practitioner. Why would firms bother keeping track of media hits if it wasn’t part of their job to effectively place stories?

One of the companies involved — the Washington-based Lincoln Group — has at least two contracts with the military to provide media and public relations services. One contract, for $6 million, was for public relations and advertising work in Iraq and involved planting favorable stories in the Iraqi media, Defense Department records show.

If we stashed cash in the hands of Iraqi reporters and editors, then shame on them and shame on us. Given the newfound freedoms after decades of being a state-run media, it frankly wouldn’t even surprise me to see the opportunism rear its ugly mug. But looking at what was written in this piece, I don’t even see this as an allegation.

Paying PR professionals to do there what they are free to do here is not a contradiction. We are long past the day of the bomber dropping leaflets — fax machines and e-mail are the smartest bombs of all.

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