Thursday, January 8, 2009

Combat Journalism

It has been a long week. My oldest and largest client had the biggest layoffs its ever had.

Lesson 1 - as a PR person, push the point that in the age of transparency -- when we tell others that they need to be transparent -- WE also need to be open, honest and direct. If you know in advance that the shit is going to hit the fan, have a statement that puts in in perspective.

They refused to issue a statement and provide a figure of the employees cut. I didn't have the correct figures. In fact, they didn't even have the correct numbers until the CEO of the holding company created a shitstorm and insisted that the right numbers be provided because the blogs, online press and others overinflated the figures.

As a result, every article has the same erroneous figures as the first. Now I'm like a stupid dustbin trying to clean up their mess.

Lesson 2 - never underestimate the sleaziness of the press

As employees were leaving the building, the leading trade magazine sent a reporter over to the office to talk with employees on their way out. Now I understand when they did that at Lehman and others. But hundreds of companies have had lay offs. Why do that to innocent people on what is probably one of their worst days? Has our need for the ultimate human interest story taken us that low?

Now some think this was an obvious and smart way for this publication to show another side of the story. But I think it's tabloid journalism of the worst kind. In fact, it feels to me like combat journalism with no place to hide, no way to protect yourself and the shells and hits keep coming.

I need to stop taking work so seriously.

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