Public Relations

The Looming Assault on UW-Madison

Op-Ed by Steve Horn, Madison, Wisconsin -- This is a story about Scott Walker and Biddy Martin's efforts to dismantle the University of Wisconsin-Madison. To complete the corporatization of the public's university is an important piece of what is happening both in Madison and nationwide. This story must be told before it is too late to save the university that belongs to the people of Wisconsin, and while democratic momentum is still on our side at the University, in Madison, and in the state of Wisconsin. Although seemingly specific to the UW, this is a case study about the future of public college education nationwide.

EPA's Oil Dispersant Ignorance Again on Display

Back in July, 2010 PRWatch noted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's ignorance about the potential for ecological damage from BP dumping millions of gallons of oil dispersants into the Gulf to try to limit damage from the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout. Yesterday, scientists released a report that re-confirmed the EPA's voluntary ignorance.

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"Gasland" Up for Best Feature Documentary At Oscars

Oscar statueGasland, the documentary produced and directed by Josh Fox, is up for an Oscar for Best Documentary in the Feature Category.

The film put the harms associated with natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale in the national limelight and begat a propaganda campaign by Energy in Depth (EID). EID, for those who have not heard of it, is a pro-oil-and-gas drilling industry front group formed by the American Petroleum Institute.

Like their "Debunking Gasland" campaign, thoroughly debunked by Kevin Grandia of DeSmogBlog as an absurd misinformation campaign, EID is at it again, this time in the form of an idiotic smear campaign.

"Clean Natural Gas?" Not So Fast.

Acquiring "clean natural gas" and "getting off of foreign oil" are pitched as reasons to continue natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale. And yet, beyond all the problems associated with fracking, Pro Publica's Abrahm Lustgarten revealed in a January 25, 2011 article that "clean natural gas" isn't all that clean after all. Lustgarten writes,

The United States is poised to bet its energy future on natural gas as a clean, plentiful fuel that can supplant coal and oil. But new research by the Environmental Protection Agency … is casting doubt on the assumption that gas offers a quick and easy solution to climate change … Advocates for natural gas routinely assert that it produces 50 percent less greenhouse gases than coal and is a significant step toward a greener energy future …The EPA now reports that emissions from conventional hydraulic fracturing are 35 times higher than the agency had previously estimated. It also reports that emissions from the type of hydraulic fracturing being used in the nation’s bountiful new shale gas reserves, like the Marcellus, are almost 9,000 times higher than it had previously calculated …"

Environmental groups say we should be certain of the factual data about emissions and environmental effects of shale gas drilling before making major policy decisions that push the nation into dependence on methane gas obtained through drilling.

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Wendell Potter's Book Tour Visits Snowbound Madison

On Monday, January 17, over one hundred brave souls trudged through several inches of Wisconsin snow to see Wendell Potter, Center for Media and Democracy's (CMD) Senior Fellow on Health Care, visit Madison's Goodman Community Center as part of his cross-country tour signing Deadly Spin: An insurance company insider speaks out on how corporate PR is killing health care and deceiving A

Awful PR for the Public Relations Society of America

High Road, Low Road signJack O'Dwyer, who publishes a newsletter that follows the public relations industry, reports that he and his staffers were blocked from entering an assembly of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA). PRSA officials demanded O'Dwyer pay $3,825 in registration fees to enter and report on the conference, while journalists from similar organizations, like PR News and PR Newser, were let in free. Arthur Yann, PRSA's Vice President of Public Relations, said that O'Dwyer and his staffers had to pay because people from  O'Dwyer's newsletter "attended last year's conference but never wrote about it." But O'Dwyer did in fact write about the 2009 conference. O'Dwyer also reports other harassment while attempting to attend the conference, like getting an anonymous letter in which the writer threatened to beat him "to a pulp," and being set upon by a flash-mob while he was conducting an interview. O'Dwyer has criticized PRSA for withholding transcripts of their organizational assemblies over the last five years, concealing the names of their delegates and refusing to make available a PDF version of their members' directory. O'Dwyer has also exposed techniques now in wide use by big PR firms that violate PR ethics, like working through front groups and creating and disseminating fake news.

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Potter Tells Single-Payer Group to Do "PR"

Potter speaks to packed room in NYCWendell Potter, author of "Deadly Spin," told a capacity crowd of 200 in New York last night that backers of a single-payer health plan must adopt the techniques and strategies of the opponents of such a plan.

Potter, speaking to Physicians for a National Health Plan (PNHP) at the Murphy Institute for Education and Labor Studies, said the PNHP must seek allies, get "others" to tell their story, use appeals to basic emotions, and create memorable slogans.

"Special interests have kicked your butt with the skillful use of language," he said. They have been able to "demonize" single-payer, he added.

Politicians, he said, are not going to support such a health plan unless their constituents are in favor of it, he said. He faulted the single-payers for lacking a "long term strategic plan," something that he said the healthcare insurance industry excels at.

Locals Hire PR Firm in Chicken Plant Flap

ChickenCitizens of Nash County, North Carolina have hired the Raleigh-based public relations firm Campaign Connections to help stop Sanderson Farms from building a chicken processing plant in their community. Citizens call the slaughtering plant an "industry of yesterday" and say locating the plant in Nash County will make it harder to lure higher-tech businesses to the area, like biotech, pharmaceutical and alternative energy companies. Campaign Connections says citizens sought their help to correct misinformation, like the notion that they oppose bringing jobs to the area. Citizens say they aren't opposed to jobs, or to Sanderson Farms, but feel the company is not a "good match" for their community. As part of a strategy to oppose the plant, some Nash County citizens have bought stock in Sanderson Farms so they can be included in the company's Board of Directors meetings.

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A Banana Republic Once Again?

(Part two of a two-part series)

bananasIn the first part of this series, the Center for Media and Democracy reported how the 2009 coup d'etat that toppled Honduran President Manuel Zelaya was successfully maintained not through the use of force, but through the power of lobbying and spin. That tale, whose details were revealed through Wikileaks' publication of diplomatic cables and research into lobbying activities, had some echoes of the role PR played in an earlier "regime change" in the region. Here is the story of how the Chiquita banana company successfully used PR spin to help topple Guatemala's left-leaning government in 1954, and how they may have done it again in Honduras, 2009.

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