9/11 anniversary subdues comms industry

NEW YORK - Media relations operations largely ground to a halt at companies nationwide last Wednesday, as the news industry focused on commemorating the attacks of 9/11, and PR pros observed the anniversary.

Most PR agencies counselled clients to hold off new-product announcements and promotional efforts for the week around 9/11, working only reactively on accounts with a clear connection to the topic at hand.

Airlines and energy firms scrambled to stay on top of media demand. Delta Airlines' corporate communications staff found itself managing a deluge of news crews snooping for anxious passengers at its airport terminals, while attempting to carry out internal programs bringing together airline staff and senior executives.

The communications staff at Dallas Ft. Worth airport steered executives through a busy schedule of media appearances and interviews.

Proactive pitching and planning took place weeks before, when news outlets put together much of their commemorative coverage. "We realize the sensitivity of this week," said Jennifer Lipari-Stalzer, a senior associate in the media practice of Burson-Marsteller.

Meanwhile, most firms provided staff with the flexibility to commemorate the tragedies as they saw fit, allowing employees to take the morning off, visit places of worship, or work from home. Many observed moments of silence marking the time of the attacks. New York companies in particular took pains to cushion what was for many a painful time.

Many media relations pros said they expect a flurry of activity this week, as "9/11 fatigue" leaves consumers hungry for less serious fare.

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