NEW YORK: The head of a Florida PR firm had to apologize to USA Today earlier this month after his client lied to him about his history, and those lies wound up in the newspaper.
The paper published a profile of Larry Twombly, CEO of Hat Trick Beverage, on August 8 in which the writer discussed Twombly's Harvard education and minor league hockey career.
USA Today then ran a follow-up story on August 11 in which it stated that Harvard had no record of Twombly's attendance, and there was no record of a minor league hockey career.
Jerry Jennings, CEO of PR firm Emerson Gerard Associates, told USA Today he'd unwittingly passed along the erroneous information his client supplied.
"We were misled and apologize for any misunderstandings," Jennings told USA Today in its follow-up story. "We have no reason to doubt our clients."
The agency then distributed a press release on Wednesday apologizing for the error.
Jennings declined to discuss the situation or if he remained associated with the client.
Peter Himler, independent media consultant, said the situation provided an interesting case study for PR professionals.
"It begs a question that [agencies] must grapple with," Himler said. "If your client knew something to be false and asked you to communicate it, it's cause for you to resign the account."
Himler said that while the firm likely won't be aversely affected by the deception, the PR industry cannot afford such missteps.
"The culpability lies mainly with the company that created the fabrication," he said. "But as PR strives for greater legitimacy, it's imperative for us to ask all these questions of our clients."