Enron formulates future-focused PR strategy to sway stakeholders

HOUSTON: Even as it continues to weather new revelations about past

improprieties, Enron is pursuing a communications campaign meant to

convince its stakeholders that the company will be able to remain in

business once the ongoing scandal blows over.



"There is a three-part strategy," said a source familiar with the

embattled energy trader's PR efforts. "The company is going to put its

focus on the future, spend as much time as possible on the present, and

as little as possible on the past.



"The facts are going to come out, but we don't even know what all of

them are," added the insider. "Our position is that the agencies that

are conducting the investigations are the most credible sources for

releasing that information. We'll deal with the things that come up as

best as we can."



If that approach is to prevail, the first group Enron's management team

must reach is its remaining employees. On his first day on the job,

Stephen Cooper, a New York turn-around specialist brought in to serve as

interim CEO, sounded a cautiously upbeat note in a message broadcast

over the company's e-mail and voicemail systems. He told staffers that

their talent, the viability of Enron's existing business units, the

loyalty of their customers, and the cash flow brought in by asset sales

give the company a strong foundation for surviving the Chapter 11

process.



Last week, Enron also promoted two insiders to fill vacancies at

president/COO and CFO. Those executives - Jeff McMahon and Ray Bowen -

are expected to be put forth as Enron's new public face, a tactic that

one observer interpreted as part of a larger attempt to persuade the

bankruptcy court that it is not necessary to hand control of the company

over to a trustee.



"The creditors have filed motions for a trustee to be appointed, and

those motions will be heard," said the PR consultant, who has worked

closely with restructuring specialists. "There's no question that the

board does not want to be subordinated to a third party. So what they've

been doing is attempting to make it look like everything is back to

normal."



According to the observer, that business-as-usual pitch will be met with

skepticism when extended to an outside audience. "There's no way to put

a positive spin on this story," the PR veteran said. "Rightly or

wrongly, this is going to be a front-page story for months to come."



DAMAGE CONTROL: WHO'S WHO BEHIND THE SCENES



Hoping to counter allegations and salvage their once-celebrated

reputations, the trio of former executives at the center of the Enron

imbroglio have each secured personal PR counsel.



After bowing out two weeks ago, Kenneth Lay, Enron's longtime chairman

and CEO, sought the assistance of M.A. Shute, a former GM at Hill &

Knowlton in Houston, who prepped Sharon Lay for her tearful, two-part

Today interview.



Since stepping down from his term at Enron's helm last August, Lay

protege Jeffrey Skilling has worked with Denis Calabrese, a

Houston-based communications consultant and onetime aide to Republican

Congressmen Dick Armey and Tom DeLay. Calabrese now handles inquiries

from members of the Texas media, while Judy Leon, senior vice president

in charge of DecisionQuest's Washington, DC office, serves as Skilling's

national spokesperson.



Ex-CFO Andrew Fastow relies upon the services of New Jersey-based Gordon

Andrew, a financial industry veteran. He has also taken communications

advice from his superstar lawyer, David Boies, who brought Fastow to a

press conference last December to quell rumors that he had fled the

country.



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