In the wake of the Enron meltdown, Business 2.0 magazine is running several articles offering "free advice for the suddenly non-credible," in which PR gurus offer their recommendations for helping clients who have been caught lying, cheating or committing atrocities. Perhaps the most interesting comments appear in the reader response section, which invites people to comment on the financial status and standards of their own companies. Most of the responses suggest that Enron is not an isolated case.
The Global Climate Coalition, a front group for the auto, oil, coal and other industries responsible for most of the greenhouse gas emissions that are changing the climate, recently announced that has disbanded, explaining that it "has served its purpose by contributing to a new national approach to global warming.
Nearly 70 percent of Americans say they do not trust corporate America, according to a recent survey conducted for the Interpublic's Golin/Harris PR unit. According to O'Dwyer's PR Daily, the surveys says that the Enron meltdown is only one of a number of recent events that have created "a crisis of confidence and trust in the way we do business in America." Industries that are especially mistrusted include: oil & gas; insurance; investment brokers; utilities; airlines; telecom; advertising; the media; PR; accounting; chemical; pharmaceuticals; and management/consulting.
The stranglehold that a dozen giant corporations now exert on media in the US will tighten even more in the wake of a federal court ruling. The ill effects of corporate media control such as mind numbing content, self-censorship to serve advertisers, neglect of minority opinions and dissent, sensationalized if-it-bleeds-it-leads news, plagiarism of PR as 'news,' are all set to worsen. Schiesel and Carter write in the New York Times, "Investment bankers, start your engines.
"As the Enron scandal progresses, opportunistic politicians are trying their best to turn the company's name into political shorthand to discredit just about anything," writes Bryan Keefer. Terms like "Enronomics" and "Enronization" have entered the vocabulary as shorthand ways of discrediting political opponents. "In political parlance, 'Enron' has now become a verb and an adjective," Keefer writes.
"Just before the last presidential election, Bush campaign adviser Ralph Reed offered to help Enron Corp. deregulate the electricity industry by working his 'good friends' in Washington and by mobilizing religious leaders and pro-family groups for the cause. For a $380,000 fee, the conservative political strategist proposed a broad lobbying strategy that included using major campaign contributors, conservative talk shows and nonprofits to press Congress for favorable legislation.
"Sherron Watkins, Enron's VP of corporate development, who in August predicted accounting scandals would destroy the company, told the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Feb. 14 that she offered a PR campaign to former chairman Kenneth Lay," O'Dwyer's PR Daily writes. "In her Oct. 30 memo to Lay, the former accountant said she outlined for him ways to handle the PR crisis and urged him to lay the blame on the company's then CEO Jeffrey Skilling and CFO Andrew Fastow. 'I was providing this to Mr.
Last week, PR industry pundit Fraser Seitel opined that former Enron CEO Ken Lay made a PR blunder by refusing to testify before Congress. "You should answer every question squarely and straightforwardly. Duck nothing," he advised. This week he thinks that Lay's partner in crime, Jeff Skilling, also blundered by the way he did testify.
"While the Bush administration was drafting its national energy policy, a leading lobbyist for Enron Corp. was plotting strategy to turn the plan into a political weapon against Democrats, according to a newly obtained memo," the Los Angeles Times writes. Washington-based lobbyist Edward Gillespie of Quinn Gillespie & Associates in a confidential April 2001 memo to energy companies and industry groups offered advise on how to paint a dour pictures of the Democrats and their energy policy.
"They called it 'the matrix,' " writes Washington Post reporter Joe Stevens, "a computer program that brought a scientific dimension to Enron's effort to seduce politicians and sway bureaucrats. With each proposed change in federal regulations, lobbyists punched details into a computer, allowing Enron economists in Houston to calculate just how much a rule change would cost.