EDITORIAL: WTO: where’s the communication?

What a mess the World Trade Organization made of its communications.

What a mess the World Trade Organization made of its communications.

What a mess the World Trade Organization made of its


Guerilla PR completely seized the initiative in Seattle, and the WTO

needs a butt-kicking for its lame response and lack of preparedness.

The WTO totally failed to personalize the issues. Where were the

advocates of free trade? The only positive communication was the op-ed

piece in The Wall Street Journal by Bill Gates on the benefits of free

trade, and he’s hardly the disinterested third-party champion that such

issues need.

The WTO could have done many things to improve the situation (see Big

Pitch, below). We are told that the concept of ’free trade’ doesn’t make

for good TV visuals. What’s wrong with B-roll of companies that have

benefited from trade, especially from Third World countries like Brazil?

Instead, the TV screens are filled with unchallenged pictures of rioters

and police brutality.

As President Clinton noted, the WTO needs to communicate openly in order

to get support for its decisions on trade. Instead, it was nowhere to be


But although activists made unprecedented use of the Internet (see

Weekly Web Watch, p14), it’s not clear that the protesters did any more

to put forward their ideas than the WTO. Exposure is one thing. But did

the protests really change opinions to any real extent about managed

trade? Most Americans support it. Pat Buchanan is the only presidential

candidate who is outspoken against the WTO.

And there was another loser in all this. TV coverage of the event was

cartoon-like in its failure to examine and explain the issues to its


If the networks had devoted as much time and money to this as to the

death of JFK Jr., the world would be far richer, free trade or not.

Nielsen’s arrival to be welcomed

There’s a lot to like about the recent alliance between Porter Novelli

and Nielsen Media Research, as our analysis (p12) shows. Clearly many

questions remain. The agreement is limited in scope - one PR industry

leader calls Nielsen’s work ’a sledgehammer kind of analysis’ - and

several industry wags question whether the Nielsen data is proprietary

And if PN thinks it can keep Nielsen to itself, it’s got a nasty shock

in store.

But the important thing is that PN has brought the name of Nielsen to

the table, and if that makes marketing VPs sit up and take notice, we

will all benefit.

Best, worst, winner, dinner

There’s a lot of lists in this week’s issue of PRWeek. There’s the first

ever PRWeek Awards shortlist (p22) with finalists in 32 categories. If

you’re through to the finals, or even if you aren’t and you want to

enjoy the best PR party of the year 2000, book your tickets now, and

mark the date in your calendar. February 15, 2000, Marriott Marquis, New


The issue also comes with an unofficial ranking of PRWeek’s pick of the

best and worst PR of 1999 (p18). The focus is on publicity rather than

PR campaigns, and nicely compliments the shortlist for the PRWeek



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