Nichols/Dezenhall, a "brass-knuckled, Machiavellian" PR firm that specializes in attacking critics of its corporate clients, is profiled in the June 29 National Journal. "Corporations live in mortal terror of being seen as ungentle," says company founder Eric Dezenhall. "They live in fear of a nun with a guitar showing up at their annual meeting to protest something. But that nun isn't always innocent." Clients of Nichols/Dezenhall have included Motel 6, the Foundation for Biomedical Research, the American Chemistry Council, the Meat Industry Council, and Browning-Ferris Industries.
"We've believed from the start that the perception of these negative items has been overstated," PR Week reports WorldCom CEO John Sidgmore telling shareholders at the company's June 14 annual meeting. "We must convince customers, employees, and investors of that fact." Sidgmore, who took the CEO job in April, was referring to WorldCom's growing debts, stock price plunge, and recent layoffs.
"Phony earnings, inflated revenues, conflicted Wall Street analysts, directors asleep at the switch--this isn't just a few bad apples we're talking about here," writes Fortune magazine. "This, my friends, is a systemic breakdown. Nearly every known check on corporate behavior--moral, regulatory, you name it--fell by the wayside, replaced by the stupendous greed that marked the end of the bubble. And that has created a crisis of investor confidence the likes of which hasn't been seen since--well, since the Great Depression." And the crisis hasn't even peaked yet.
Gary Winnick, the Global Crossing founder/chairman who is trying to raise $1 billion to rescue his once-mighty company from bankruptcy, has hired Rubenstein and Associates, the PR firm that specializes in "reputation management" for clients such as Rupert Murdoch, Donald Trump, Leona Helmsley, Adnan Khashoggi, Kathie Lee Gifford and the state of Israel.
"CEOs, once admired as the bastion of ethical leadership, are today in decline and disgrace," writes PR counselor Fraser Seitel.
"A series of revelations of corporate malpractice and number fiddling" have destroyed investor faith in Wall Street, reports the Economist. "Investors have not only lost patience with corporate America's greed and its inability to do what it says it is doing; they have also lost confidence in Wall Street's ability to act as an honest broker between them, the providers of capital, and the corporate users of it.
Maryland Public Television has hired PR crisis manager Levi Rabinowitz in an attempt to counteract the bad press it has gotten for firing Louis Rukeyser from its program, Wall Street Week.
A "PR makeover," explains communications consultant Fraser P. Seitel, is when "a caged and cornered public figure attempts a complete identity reversal." Seitel examines recent makeover attempts by FBI Director Robert Mueller, Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, and New Jersey Senator Robert Torricelli. "Changing one's image depends on a shocking release, startling revelation or completely unanticipated declaration - to confess to past lapses and promise future change," Seitel says. But are any of these conversions genuine?
"After months of headlines about abusive priests, the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles has engaged Sitrick & Co., a prominent and expensive public relations firm specializing in high-profile clients with big troubles," reports the Los Angeles Times.
Hill & Knowlton, the PR firm that "managed communications" at Three Mile Island and worked for the government of Kuwait to spin the war in the Persian Gulf, has now been hired "to salvage Enron Corp.," according to O'Dwyer's. Howard Paster, the White House lobbyist for former President Clinton, is working on the account with a variety of other H&K staffers with ties to both Republican and Democratic politicians.