'Muddled' PR strategy does little to protect IBM from book claims

ARMONK, NY: Reputation management specialists have criticized IBM for mishandling the swathes of negative publicity surrounding publication of IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance between Nazi Germany and America's Most Powerful Corporation, a new book by Edwin Black.

ARMONK, NY: Reputation management specialists have criticized IBM for mishandling the swathes of negative publicity surrounding publication of IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance between Nazi Germany and America's Most Powerful Corporation, a new book by Edwin Black.

ARMONK, NY: Reputation management specialists have criticized IBM for mishandling the swathes of negative publicity surrounding publication of IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance between Nazi Germany and America's Most Powerful Corporation, a new book by Edwin Black.

The book claims that tabulating machines and punchcards designed and serviced by IBM during the 1930s and 1940s were created with full knowledge that the Nazis would use them to identify, locate, transfer and exterminate 12 million Jews and other Europeans.

Carol Makovich, VP of IBM's worldwide media relations, refused to comment on the book's accusations and a subsequent federal lawsuit, except to say the company takes the allegations seriously.

IBM issued a press release condemning 'any actions which aided unspeakable acts (by the Nazis).' The press release also asserted that IBM made surviving wartime records public many years ago and that Nazi use of IBM equipment has been known for decades.

Jeff Ansell, who heads the Toronto-based firm Jeff Ansell & Associates and teaches the course 'Dealing with an Angry Public' at Harvard University, said IBM should study examples of other American companies confronted by war-era accusations. 'IBM can learn a lot from Chase Manhattan Bank, which was accused of manipulating Jewish accounts during the war,' said Ansell. 'Its chairman said it would do an investigation and set up an account for reimbursement.'

Ansell, who was a Nazi-hunter in the US and Canada after the war, also refuted IBM's argument that there is no new information about their Nazi involvement.

'I didn't know about this, and I know quite a bit about the subject,' said Ansell. 'IBM has a responsibility to root out the truth in one of the most horrific events in history.'

A second reputation specialist, Bill Patterson, president of Reputation Management Associates in Columbus, OH, agreed, adding that IBM's PR strategy seems muddled.

'Why put out a press release and then refuse to comment to media?' asked Patterson, who added that he thought the IBM-Nazi link sounded like a good story on a slow news day. 'The only possible way to make this a crisis is to continue to say 'no comment' and anger the media or the Jewish community.'



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