EDITORIAL: Sometimes less PR is the best PR

Looking at Harris Interactive's second annual survey of corporate

reputation (see p. 6), it is apparent that the American public is way

more fickle than the business community (as measured by the Fortune's

'Most Admired' list, (PRWeek, February 12)). Only three companies from

last year's Top 10 are featured in the same list this year. Meanwhile,

Ben & Jerry's, Coca-Cola, Hewlett Packard, Dell, Gateway and Lucent have

all nosedived down the charts.



Amidst the turbulence, however, Johnson & Johnson sits nobly at the top,

clinging on to its No.1 rating for the second year. The most pervasive

quality of J&J's PR strategy? Its ability to tightly manage its

messages.



To the enduring frustration of journalists, it shares with Procter &

Gamble (in the Harris survey at 10, up from 22) the belief that the less

publicity about it the better. To most media relations people, the

strategy is pure torture.



But an information free-for-all is even worse if it feeds the reactive

consumer's mind.



This ethos is now being adopted by AOL Time Warner. A report on

Inside.com revealed that all PR staff must now keep written records of

every conversation they make. Again, journalists are up in arms. But as

a corporate strategy for a suddenly enormous company, which needs to

knit itself together in private before saying too much publicly, it

deserves respect.



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