Tag Archive: Radical Transparency


 “All I’m saying is that the idea that there’s one set of rules for us and another set for everybody else is true.” – Former President William Jefferson Clinton

What is it about that Clintons that draws elite media into their gravitational pull?

Last year, we learned that Brian Williams’ (remember his heroic military exploits?) NBC News provided Chelsea Clinton with a $600,000 annual salary for four news reports. Wonder why Chelsea of all people landed this big-time six-figure job with the left-of-center network?.

This week (no pun intended), we read that ABC’s chief anchor and This Week host George Stephanopoulos made three donations to the Clinton Foundation totaling $75,000, but did not report these contributions to either the brass at ABC News or more importantly to his hundreds of thousands of viewers.clintonstephanopoulos

Why not disclose that you were ostensibly assisting the 501 (c) (3) foundation in championing AIDS prevention and battling deforestation, George? You do care about these subjects, right George? Is the Clinton Foundation the only non-profit addressing these issues? Why not write checks to other NGOs?

PR pros have long urged clients to adopt a policy of radical transparency. They would urge you (George) to be fully transparent in your financial contributions to your former employer, William Jefferson Clinton. Instead George, you took the stealth route until you were indeed caught by news aggregator, POLITICO.

In the aftermath of disclosure by the media, Stephanopoulos issued the de rigueur apology and ABC circled the wagons and defended their guy, but the damage was already done.

Can we now reasonably expect that ABC News will fairly and accurately cover the Clintons, including probable Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, when its chief anchor and former Clinton disciple knowingly hides his contributions to the massive Clinton Foundation?

Keep in mind, the Clinton Foundation is not your grandfather’s 501 (c) (3). It is not even the Carter Center. Instead, it does some good on the surface while deep down it is an avenue for those who need “advice” and cherish “access” to and through the Clinton’s, and make a nice donation to save Haiti as well.

ABC, NBC …

Power corrupts, and absolutely power corrupts absolutely.” – Lord John Dahlberg-Acton

Guess that absolute corrupting power applies to the ultimate gatekeepers, big-time media.

Almost DailyBrett questioned the decision of NBC’s brass to hire Chelsea Clinton for the outrageous sum of $600,000 per year, even before the Brian Williams implosion. Chelsea departed NBC prior to her mumsy throwing her proverbial hat into the presidential ring. Still the questions persist: Why Chelsea? Did NBC practice “checkbook journalism”? And once again, can we now reasonably expect that NBC News will fairly and accurately cover the Clintons, and by extension the Clinton Foundation?chelseanbc4

Another question that comes to mind as the presidency is an open seat in the 2016 quadrennial cycle is whether the networks and other left-of-center media can be expected to even be remotely fair and objective in covering the Republicans.

Whattyathink George Stephanopoulos?

Whattyathink Brian Williams?

Whattyathink Dan Rather?

ABC and NBC are not the only sinners in this drama. CBS lost its objectivity virginity when it comes to favoritism of the Clinton’s favorite political party with the infamous 2004 Rathergate and the phony military documents about George W. Bush’s National Guard duty. The documents were exposed as forgeries; Bush was re-elected and a bitter Rather decided to spend more time with his family.

This week, we learned the University of Virginia is suing Rolling Stone magazine for deliberately doctoring a photo of Associate Dean Nicole Eramo to make her appear to be a villain in the now-retracted 2014 “A Rape on Campus” story.rollingstonestory

The sensational account that came after the deliberate attempt to target a wealthy fraternity on a rich campus has been labeled as “impact journalism” by the Washington Post.

One must wonder what other forms of “impact journalism” the media elites have in mind.

Can hardly wait to check out the coming plethora of stories that “objectively” cover the Clintons.

Wonder if there will another standard of reporting for those who dare to disagree with Bill, Hill and Chelsea?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/wp/2015/05/14/george-stephanopoulos-donations-to-clinton-foundation-immediate-crisis-for-abc-news/?wpisrc=nl_popns&wpmm=1

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/15/us/politics/george-stephanopoulos-discloses-gifts-to-clinton-foundation.html?smprod=nytcore-ipad&smid=nytcore-ipad-share&_r=0

http://www.politico.com/blogs/media/2015/05/george-stephanopoulos-discloses-contribution-to-clinton-207120.html?hp=rc1_4

https://nonprofitquarterly.org/philanthropy/24491-the-philanthropic-problem-with-hillary-clinton-s-huge-speaking-fees.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/wp/2015/05/13/lawsuit-against-rolling-stone-claims-doctored-photograph-cast-dean-as-villain/?wpisrc=nl_opinions&wpmm=1

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2015/05/02/lying-to-the-new-york-times/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/06/22/chelseas-nbc-600k-tv-gig-and-aspiring-journalists/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2015/02/25/youre-so-vain/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2015/02/15/its-like-deja-vu-all-over-again/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/impact-journalism/

http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/l/lordacton109401.html

http://rove.com/articles/585

 

 

“When I first contacted the Clinton Foundation, they denied any such meeting ever took place. And when we told them we have already talked to the head (of Kazatomprom), who not only told us all about the meeting but actually has a picture of him and Bill at the (Chappaqua) home, that he proudly displays on his office wall, they then acknowledge the meeting had taken place.” – New York Times reporter Jo Becker clinton-giustra.jpp

Tell the truth.

Tell it fast.

Tell it all.

Move on.

The above are the four cardinal principles of crisis communication or any public relations for that matter.

What did mumsy tell you about always speaking the truth and not lying?

You would think the Clinton Foundation or any well-respected organization would not boldly outright lie to the New York Times, let alone a Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist Jo Becker … and yet it happened.

Worse off, it was so tantalizingly easy to establish the truth, and out the lie.

And what really did happen in 2008 at the Clinton Chappaqua mansion, which revolved around Kazakhstan uranium, a Canadien multi-millionaire, and a subsequent $30 million donation to the Clinton Foundation?

Was it worth permanently ruining a spokesperson’s personal reputation for integrity and lowering the esteem and trust in the charitable organization with it?

Somebody or many somebodies decided it was worth the risk, particularly with Hillary Clinton running for president.Clintoncash

“Minimal Tax Adjustments”?

Back in 1988 serving as the press secretary for California Governor George Deukmejian, our administration proposed a series of “minimal tax adjustments” that were marketed as being more efficient and revenue neutral.

After all, we had a five year-record of not raising taxes on the people of California to maintain. Unfortunately, the media stated categorically that we had just lost our no-tax increase virginity.

The events during that period of time turned ugly. The media accused the administration, and certainly the individual serving as the chief spokesperson (that would be the author of Almost DailyBrett) of telling deliberate lies to obscure and deflect the truth.

What made this unfortunate period even worse were the attacks from our right flank, including Republican political pro Ed Rollins. The governor recognized this dog was not hunting and beat a tactical retreat, withdrawing the minimal tax adjustments.

Having made this wise move, the damage to the perceived integrity of our press office was done. Yours truly will someday (hopefully not soon) go to his final resting place in the waters of the Willamette, and will still be convinced that he never lied to reporters, editors or any other media. There may be some reflecting on those not-so-great days of 1988, who to this day take a contrary view.

“Right to Lie”

The late Carter press secretary Jody Powell admitted telling a bold face lie to protect “Operation Eagle Claw,” the failed April 1980 rescue mission to extract the 52 American diplomats held hostage in Iran.jodypowellwhitehouse

In his book, The Other Side of the Story, Powell argued that press secretaries should be told the entire truth, and nothing but the truth. And if required, Powell said chief spokesmen are obligated to lie to protect the national interest and literally to save American lives. By fully informing the press secretary, she or he can devise the most artful non-truth possible. Neither categorical imperative Immanuel Kant nor anyone’s mumsy would be pleased, but in these extreme circumstances not coming clean is understood and expected.

Does the 2008 meeting between former President Bill Clinton, Frank Giustra and a high-ranking official from the state-owned Kazakhstan uranium firm, Kazatomprom, rise to the level mandating telling a lie to the woman (Jo Becker), who won a Pulitzer for her reporting on former Vice President Dick Cheney?jobecker

Considering that Clinton later brokered the deal for Giustra’s Uranium One to be bought by Russia’s atomic energy agency, Rosatom, and with it control of up-to-half of America’s uranium supply, there may be ample reasons why the Clinton Foundation was not enamored with being on the up-and-up when it comes to “business” meetings at Chappaqua.

The non-disclosure of less-than-coincidental donations to the Clinton Foundation and related speaking fees for the Clintons reaching the $750,000 mark per address also adds to the distrust.

The public relations industry has embraced the notion of radical transparency in this eternal era of 24/7/365 instantaneous digital transmission anywhere, anytime in literally seconds. Do you really think anything that is typed into any database, photographed or videotaped is not going to be discovered and revealed?

Heck the evidence may be in analog form, hanging on the wall of some government official in Kazakhstan.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/24/us/cash-flowed-to-clinton-foundation-as-russians-pressed-for-control-of-uranium-company.html?_r=0

http://dailycaller.com/2015/04/23/clinton-foundation-caught-straight-up-lying-to-new-york-times-reporter-video/

http://freebeacon.com/national-security/nyt-reporter-clinton-officials-lied-about-a-meeting-taking-place-unaware-of-photo-evidence/

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/30/us/politics/canadian-partnership-shielded-identities-of-donors-to-clinton-foundation.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jo_Becker

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/the-right-to-lie/

http://www.mrctv.org/blog/clintons-caught-another-lie-photo-evidence-bills-meeting-frank-giustra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After nearly three decades in the political, association, corporate and agency trenches of professional public relations, and the last four years intensely studying an increasingly complex industry from academic settings, Almost DailyBrett is ready to take a stab at the 17 essential qualities of the consummate PR practitioner.

Please note the list is not meant to be exhaustive and undoubtedly some vital characteristics will be missing. If that is the case, please let this humble blog know your thoughts. For better or for worse, here are the Top 17 attributes of the super-star public relations professionals in alphabetical order:

1. Attuned to the World 

Even though it is impossible to capture everything that is happening on this quickly changing planet, the best PR professionals are well versed even in cases in which their knowledge is one-mile wide and one-inch deep. They don’t know everything; they are not afraid and their ego will allow them to simply state: “I don’t know.” Having said that, they are good at getting to the bottom of an issue quickly, and then presenting the answer in the best interest of their employer/client. 

atlas2.“Be Quick, But Don’t Hurry”

The famous John Wooden quote definitely applies to super PR practitioners. Sometimes it is best to buy time. You may suspect you have the right answer, but your instinct guides you to seek out more. This is especially true in crisis situations. A great PR pro is quick, but never hasty. She or he instinctively knows that a rushed answer or editing of a vital document may result in a wrong response. The best counsel may be to quietly recite: “One Mississippi, Two Mississippi,” before offering a response. That little extra time can make all the difference in the world. 

3. Communications Choreography 

Similar to a producer or director of a Broadway play, the 21st Century PR star knows how to ensure that all the dancers, actors, actresses are in the right place, the lines are perfectly delivered and the music is on key. In the case of public relations, the research has been completed; the messages are composed; the communications are ready to be delivered, and the follow-up evaluation is set to be undertaken. It is without a doubt: Message-Candidate-Campaign in that order.

4. Confident Presentation Skills 

Glossophobia (e.g., fear of public speaking) is not in the vocabulary of the effective public relations professional. She or he responds with a smile, while deep down inside sneering at reportedly the number one fear of most people, public speaking. The great pro doesn’t seek out the stage, but doesn’t shy away for it either. Once there, the message is confidently delivered and questions are coolly answered.

janis

5. Constructive Listening 

Two of the most effective public relations professionals the author of Almost DailyBrett ever had the privilege to meet, are two of the best when it comes to constructive listening: Janis MacKenzie of MacKenzie Communications in San Francisco, and Bruce Entin of Silicon Valley Communication Partners. For both of them, the issues and concerns of you the client or you the subordinate are the only topics on their minds, even though in reality there are always many competing demands for their mental bandwidth. The point is they made time for you. They care. They are ready to help.

Entin

6. Cool Under Pressure

Did someone mention the word, “cool?” We are not talking about being smooth. Instead, we are focusing on a skilled communicator that stays composed when others are losing their heads. Is the company stock down five points? Does a product need to be recalled? Is the CEO being terminated? At least the Bay Bridge is not in the water (remember being told, just that). The sun will come up in the morning. The birds will chirp. The bees will buzz. Life will go on. 

7. Doberman, Not A Cocker Spaniel 

A Cocker Spaniel PR practitioner is simply proficient in providing necessary information to the conventional and digital media. A Doberman PR pro is just as knowledgeable, but even more to the point is also an impassioned advocate and will fiercely guard and protect the reputation and brand of the client/employer. If getting into a fight with a reporter/editor/analyst is deemed necessary, then that is what the job requires. The cheap-shot stops here.

8. Expansive Vocabulary 

A winning public relations professional is a well-read/versed professional. This practitioner is skilled in the use of English, the lingua franca of international business. Knowledge of a second or third language is highly desirable in our digitally flattened global village. It is not just a matter of knowing the words and the meanings behind them, but the right words at the right time in the right settings.

9. Fiduciary Responsibility & CSR 

It has become de rigueur for a public relations professional to advocate corporate social responsibility (CSR) or “doing good.” The best PR practitioners balance CSR with fiduciary responsibility or “doing well.” Fiduciary Responsibility and CSR are not mutually exclusive. PR pros, who understand this undeniable truth, have a better chance of being invited to sit at the boardroom table.

10. Great Student/Lifelong Learner 

What is the next killer app? What is the next “destructive technology?” How is social, mobile and cloud driving technology? What is the next driving mantra in global communications (e.g., radical transparency)? How can we best show (e.g., infographics) as well as speak and write? These are all questions that are constantly pondered by the student, lifelong-learner, PR pro.

11. Honest, Ethical, Reliable 

The first two of PRSA’s core values are “responsible advocacy” and “honesty.” Public relations practitioners are not Switzerland. They are not neutral. They are advocates. Some contend that PR pros cannot be persuasive advocates, advancing a well-researched set of arguments, and maintaining the highest standards of integrity at the same time.

Au contraire!

12. Offensive Without Being Offensive 

Being able to passionately debate crucial points and not make it personal with those who differ is a vital skill, not in great supply. Can you be offensive without being offensive? The best PR pros know, the most important public relations are personal public relations, and that includes interactions with work colleagues and teammates.

13. Qualitative and Quantitative

In our increasingly complex digital world, we cannot escape numbers and statistics. As Chris Roush of the University of North Carolina wrote in his Show Me the Money, behind every number is a story. The superb PR pro, particularly those in corporate public relations and investor relations, can build relationships (qualitative skills) with those closely following publicly traded corporations (e.g., investors, analysts, employees, suppliers, distributors). They are just as adept in reading income statements, balance sheets, cash-flow statements and interpreting the psychology of global markets (quantitative skills).

hoar

14. Refined Sense of Humor

One of the legendary public relations professionals in Silicon Valley history (i.e., Apple, Fairchild, Miller/Shandwick Technologies) was also one of the funniest, the late Fred Hoar. As he was fond of telling anybody and everybody, “that’s Fred, spelled F-R-E-D.” Every year, he served as the master of ceremonies for the SIA (Semiconductor Industry Association) Forecast and Award Dinner, and brought down the house each time with his “hick and stick.” Yours truly was charged with determining whether Fred’s humor met the standards for mixed company in a business setting. Guess you win some and lose some. Regardless, Fred was a crack-up and delightful to know.

15. Superior Judgment

The best PR pros instinctively know the difference between being “bright” and being “smart.” They are not the same. The latter is much more valuable than the former. Sometimes rocket scientists are best being left on the launching pad or maybe just at their workstations. Some are good at stakeholder relationships; some are not. That is why smart PR pros, who can provide sage counsel to those of infinite wisdom, are the best and the brightest in our profession.

16. Tech Savvy 

The 21st Century public relations practitioner is digital, not analog. As Thomas Friedman wrote in The World is Flat, the planet has been made measures of magnitude smaller by the ones-and-zeroes of binary code. All brands and reputations are in 24/7/365 play as a result of instantaneous digital publishing. The Genie is not going back into the lantern. Forward-looking PR professionals embrace new technology communications tools, and are always looking to the horizon for the next destructive technology force. During the course of my career, no PR pro was better in studying engineering and technology than Howard High of Intel, now with life sciences company, Fluidigm Corporation.howardhigh

17. Thought Leader 

Not only do the best PR pros advocate thought leadership by clients, who have proved standing on critical issues of public interest, they also use digital (i.e., blogging, social media, infographics) and conventional tools (i.e., presentations, commentaries, contributed articles etc.). They are always learning and as a result, they have wisdom to share and sage counsel to provide … particularly as it applies to instantaneous world of communications.

Editor’s Note: As the former SIA director of Communications, Janis and her firm served as our PR counselor. Fred was everyone’s friend, and the “Valley” is not the same without him. Howard was the chair of the SIA Communications Committee and provided invaluable counsel as the industry was finally able to open the Japan market. Bruce was my first superior during my decade at LSI Logic. He was the best boss in my career, and now is an even better friend. Naturally these are not the only PR super-stars on the planet, but they are fine examples of the species.

http://www.prsa.org/aboutprsa/ethics/codeenglish/#.VI4DuZU5BCo

http://www.mackenziesf.com/about/janis-mackenzie/

http://siliconvalleycom.com/Bruce_Entin.html

http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Frederick-Hoar-Silicon-Valley-master-of-PR-2831416.php

https://www.linkedin.com/pub/howard-high/12/aa6/b06

Is Ghost Blogging Kosher?

Is undisclosed ghost blogging ethical even in cases in which the stated executive author concurs with the content and approves the posting of the blog in her or his name?

What’s the problem? Barack Obama doesn’t write his speeches? Everyone knows this.

ghost

More than 70 percent agree that ghost writing an executive blog is no big deal.

And yet there is a sizeable minority with qualms.

Isn’t blogging the development of personal relationships by means of digital two-way symmetrical conversation?

You can ghost write speeches. Ditto for op-eds and commentaries. But can you effectively “outsource” your conversations?

Isn’t undisclosed ghost blogging the antithesis of the public relations industry movement toward “radical transparency?”

Maybe this question isn’t so easy?

Arriving on the University of Oregon campus in fall 2010 after my nearly four-year tenure at Edelman Public Relations, I remember discussing the Edelman/Wal-Mart debacle with School of Journalism and Communication Assistant Professor Tiffany Gallicano.

edelman

The 2006 Wal-Mart/Edelman controversy revolved around the use of non-Wal-Mart employees “Jim and Laura” to blog about the pleasant working conditions at the retail giant. This “astroturfing” deception resulted in banner headlines and embarrassment for both Edelman Public Relations and its client Wal-Mart.

Essentially, Edelman hired “ringers,” one a Washington Post photographer and the other a U.S. Department of Treasury employee, to play for the Wal-Mart management team and everything was fine until they were caught. What made this caper all the more embarrassing is that Edelman participated in the formulation of disclosure standards for the blogging industry Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA).

To Richard Edelman’s credit, he visited virtually all Edelman offices to apologize and all Edelman employees were mandated to take training in online disclosure. Richard is a major proponent of “radical transparency” and one can surmise the Wal-Mart experience plays into his evangelizing on this issue.

mackey

Similar headlines and rebukes were directed in 2007 against Whole Foods co-founder John Mackey, who blogged incessantly under the alias “Rahodeb” (an anagram on his wife’s name, Deborah). His posts found a litany of faults with rival Wild Oats, a company that Whole Foods was trying to acquire. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was none-too-pleased.

As Tiffany and I discussed the Edelman/Wal-Mart and Whole Foods cases, we realized that while the issue of undisclosed ghost blogging was not new, it was far from settled. The question: Is there a consensus among the public relations community about the ethics of this issue? We quickly became indebted to Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) for allowing us to circulate a quantitative survey of its membership on this subject. Nearly 300 (agency, corporate, public sector and NGO) practitioners responded.

PRSA has adopted an ethics code that all of its members should be “honest and accurate in all communications” and to “avoid deceptive practices.” The trade organization makes no distinction between communications that are traditional in nature, such as newspapers, or digital, such as blogging and podcasting.

Soon it was time to analyze the results and we were glad to have the assistance of quantitative Wunderkind and Ph.D candidate, Toby Hopp, to assist us. The study was declared valid, but the results were not clean-cut. This point was magnified when Tiffany and yours truly presented our results at the International Public Relations Research Conference (IPRRC) in Miami in spring of 2012.

We made several presentations, each starting first with the professorial types nodding their heads, but quickly arguing with each other. Tastes great! Less filling! No Disclosure! Disclosure? It was a sight to behold.

First, the easy part. Is it okay for an organization to list executives as blog authors even though they were written by others (e.g., PR types) as long as the ideas come from the listed executives and they approve the message: 71.1 percent, agreed; 20.7 percent disagreed.

Seems easy.

Next we asked is it okay for an organization to NOT disclose a PR agency’s assistance in writing blog posts under a client’s name? This is where the Radical Transparency movement first exhibited its influence: 44.7 percent concurred; 37.9 percent did not. Interesting.

The third question: “As a standard practice any ghostwriting of employer executive or client executive blogs should be publicly disclosed?” 37.1 percent, affirmative; 40.9 percent, negative. This was getting too close for comfort.

When it comes to staffers writing executive responses to reader comments (provided the ideas come from the executive and she or he gives approval), 56.3 percent believed this practice was acceptable, while 35.4 percent disagreed.

Finally, there is the question of a PR staffer writing an executive’s comment on subjects posted on some other blog, even with the ideas coming from that exec and she or he giving approval. The results revealed a reversal in sentiments: 42.6 percent approved; 44.0 percent disapproved.

We were pleased to receive the Jackson-Sharpe Award from the IPRRC in March 2012, and our research was published earlier this month by the PRSA’s Public Relations Journal. The Institute for Public Relations has created a Social Science of Social Media Research Center (SSSMRC). Our study will be available there as well.

Looking back at our research, a strong majority of industry practitioners see ghost blogging as essentially the equivalent of ghost writing a speech or op-ed. Everyone knows that Obama tinkers with his speeches, approves them but does not have the time to write them. That is largely true for CEOs as their time is precious.

speech

Isn’t it the job of PR practitioners (e.g., in-house corporate, agency) to assist executives in telling an organization’s story? Sure.

But is a blog the same as a speech or an op-ed/commentary? Speeches are two-way asymmetrical. Blogs are two-way symmetrical. Blogs invite conversation. Blogs benefit from comments.

Can you effectively outsource your digital conversations and still lead torch-light parades behind the banner of Radical Transparency?

The question of undisclosed ghost blogging does not lend itself to easy answers or quick consensus. Let the arguments continue into the night.

http://www.prsa.org/Intelligence/PRJournal/

http://www.prsa.org/Intelligence/PRJournal/Documents/2013_Gallicano.pdf

http://www.instituteforpr.org/scienceofsocialmedia/

http://www.businessweek.com/stories/2006-10-17/wal-mart-vs-dot-the-blogospherebusinessweek-business-news-stock-market-and-financial-advice

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/12/business/12foods.html?_r=0

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