WASHINGTON: A report from the inspector general at the Department of Education harshly criticized the department not for paying a commentator to promote administration policy, but for failing to get a good return on its investment.
Released in the late afternoon on Friday, April 15, the report stated, "Full ad production costs were billed and paid by the department, even though the department only received two of the eight ads it was supposed to receive under both requests."
Ketchum, which facilitated the deal between the DoE and commentator Armstrong Williams, was largely spared blame in the report. Nonetheless, the firm unveiled its first-ever guidelines for disclosure last week.
The guidelines were developed in response to the DoE controversy, as well as to last year's legal dust-up over a Medicare VNR and "the changing media landscape," noted Barri Rafferty, director of Ketchum South.
Rafferty said that the guidelines include several of the agency's existing best practices, as well as new ideas. In an apparent reference to the Medicare VNR controversy, in which a subcontracted PR pro used the phrase, "This is Karen Ryan reporting," the guidelines state that in a VNR, "the narrator will not ... refer to himself or herself as a reporter."
Ketchum employees in North America have already undergone training involving the guidelines.