PR pros let down by smooth Y2K transition

NEW YORK: During the days leading up to Y2K, hundreds of gung-ho PR pros fanned out across the globe, eager to prove just how well-trained they were.

NEW YORK: During the days leading up to Y2K, hundreds of gung-ho PR pros fanned out across the globe, eager to prove just how well-trained they were.

NEW YORK: During the days leading up to Y2K, hundreds of gung-ho PR

pros fanned out across the globe, eager to prove just how well-trained

they were.


In the end, however, they had to settle for a quiet evening in front of

the computer, as few problems - and even fewer that required the

know-how of PR professionals - reared their heads.


Attending a black-tie millennium ball, Hill & Knowlton Los Angeles GM

Ron Hartwig had pager and cell phone close at hand. 'I waited all night

for that one beep or bell that would set me off, and I was sort of sad

when it never came,' he said. 'You never want something bad to happen,

but part of you can't wait to get that crisis call.'


For some, ordinary Y2K pressures weren't enough. With 6,000 engineers in

the field, EDS wanted everyone in the world to know how well prepared it

was. 'We invited the media into our war room,' bragged spokesperson Reed

Byrum. Among those who took the company up on its offer were The Wall

Street Journal and CNBC.


Burson-Marsteller, with a global network of 19 Y2K command centers and

five backup sites, also spared no expense. As midnight rolled over into

each time zone, real-time reports on everything from the results of

horse races at the Hong Kong Jockey Club to mock-frantic calls from BBC

personnel who couldn't find any hot water for tea filtered back to the

agency's HQ.


'We got a chance to share 26 separate New Year's celebrations,' said

Burson's Philip Murphy, who added that many staffers actually

volunteered to work that night.


Not everybody, though, was thrilled with the deja vu quality of the Y2K

monitoring.


'The charm of New Year's Eve wears off after you celebrate it for the

eighth or ninth time in a row,' said GCI manager of firm development

Brandon Borrman, who was dispatched to San Francisco on behalf of client

Visa.


'One hundred and twenty hours of nothing to report.'


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