Firestone PR - did a lawyer promoted to PR exec influence reaction?

NASHVILLE, TN: Bridgestone/Firestone's poor response to its tire recall crisis may have been influenced by the fact that its head of PR was, until mid-1998, a lawyer.

NASHVILLE, TN: Bridgestone/Firestone's poor response to its tire recall crisis may have been influenced by the fact that its head of PR was, until mid-1998, a lawyer.

NASHVILLE, TN: Bridgestone/Firestone's poor response to its tire recall crisis may have been influenced by the fact that its head of PR was, until mid-1998, a lawyer.

Christine Karbowiak, now VP of public affairs for Firestone, was the company's general counsel, corporate and international. She served the as a lawyer from her hiring in 1992 until her 1998 promotion to head of PR when the incumbent retired.

Karbowiak joined the company as senior counsel for retail operations in Chicago, was promoted in 1994 to assistant general counsel for retail operations and, then in 1997, joined company headquarters as general counsel, according to a 1998 press release.

Karbowiak would not comment on whether her legal background influenced her PR decisions during the recall crisis. But as general counsel, she would have been familiar with lawsuits filed against Firestone prior to the recall this August.

A source close to the company said: 'She thinks like a lawyer, not a PR person.'

Larry Smith, president of the Institute of Crisis Management, said that while lawyers and PR people don't necessarily need to clash in a crisis, Firestone's attorneys knew about lawsuits involving troubled tires before the recall so they should have kept PR informed.

Firestone's legal department told PR as far back as 1996 that tire problems had emerged in Texas, but 'were not a major problem,' the source added.

When the recall hit, 'they (Firestone PR and senior management) just totally underestimated how this thing would take off.'





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