DA's agency shares spotlight in Jacko case

LOS ANGELES: The PR firm assisting the Santa Barbara district attorney with answering media inquiries related to the indictment of pop star Michael Jackson on child-molestation charges has become part of the story.

LOS ANGELES: The PR firm assisting the Santa Barbara district attorney with answering media inquiries related to the indictment of pop star Michael Jackson on child-molestation charges has become part of the story.

The founder of Tellem Worldwide, a Los Angeles-based boutique with healthcare, consumer, and entertainment clients, contacted Santa Barbara DA Thomas Sneddon through mutual friends to offer pro bono media relations shortly after Sneddon's first news conference announcing the charges against Jackson.

After meeting with Tellem principal Susan Tellem, Sneddon accepted the firm's offer to help field media calls, which until then had been mostly ignored, according to Tellem.

In addition to helping craft press releases and maintaining contacts in the media, Tellem helped orchestrate media coverage of the formal filing of the charges against Jackson. That televised event was quickly followed by several stories highlighting Tellem's role. The coverage of the firm's involvement generally carried a decidedly negative tone.

"I did not expect that we would become part of the story," said Tellem.

Since the story broke, the agency said it has been busy refuting false stories about its involvement, including charges by Jackson lawyer Mark Geragos made on Larry King Live. Geragos claimed that Tellem was spreading rumors that Johnnie Cochran was taking over the defense, and that Jackson had joined the Nation of Islam. Such stories about Tellem became so rampant that the firm changed its website to address the rumors.

Despite the challenges, Tellem said her firm will continue to work on the case, possibly helping Sneddon plan a press conference around Jackson's arraignment on January 16. The firm will also continue to handle media relations.

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