Mega PR Firm Plays Role In School Reform

"Civic Progress, a St. Louis-based group made up of the heads of the region's largest corporations, is paying Jay Lawrence, who is co-chairman of Fleishman-Hillard's corporate reputation management unit, to play a behind-the-scenes role in the city school reform effort," O'Dwyer's PR reports. "The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said the 54-year-old Lawrence, who is a senior VP at F-H, was paid $80,000 for his services to the school board.

The paper said Lawrence, who has been at the school board's side at every public appearance since the end of June, has been coaching board members through an almost daily barrage of criticism, setting up media interviews and offering tours of the district's antiquated and much-maligned warehouse.

F-H is also donating the equivalent of two full-time PR staffers to the board for the next several weeks.

The paper said the St. Louis Public Schools already spends $314,000 annually for PR. That includes the salary of a director, a coordinator, a secretary and a student intern, plus printing and other costs."