Ketchum has issued a statement about the Armstrong Williams imbroglio, to explain how the company is taking steps to avoid such controversy in the future.
Last week, Armstrong Williams was identified as a paid advocate for the Department of Education (DoE), and criticized for not disclosing the payment in on-air commentary and columns. Ketchum, under contract with the DoE, arranged for the payment. Ketchum has repeatedly said that Williams should have disclosed the payment, but that the agency was not required to do so. The firm also said Williams was not contractually obligated to disclose his payment.
In the statement, Ketchum reiterated its ethical standards, which the firm requires every staff member to sign upon joining the firm.
Ketchum said it was installing new steps to supplement its current standards, including instituting a new policy for signing and authorizing contracts with spokespeople, created a number for staff to call if they have any questions, and developing a new process by which the firm deal with subcontracts.
"In short, all subcontractors will be expected to abide by the agency's ethical standards," the statement read.
In response to questions surrounding its work for the Department of Education, Ketchum issued the following statement:
Ketchum is committed to adhering to industry guidelines and to high ethical standards in every aspect of its business practices. Ketchum has its own Code of Business Ethics, which includes a commitment to present our clients' products, services, or positions truthfully and accurately. Every new Ketchum colleague is asked to sign this code upon joining the firm.
In working with the Department of Education to create advertising for its No Child Left Behind Act, Ketchum contracted with the Graham Williams Group. Long before he entered a contract with us, Mr. Armstrong Williams, principal of this advertising/public relations agency and also a commentator, was an advocate for the No Child Left Behind program, which he strongly supported during a number of television appearances.
We should have recognized the potential issues in working with a communications firm operated by a commentator. Mr. Williams repeatedly has acknowledged that he should have disclosed the nature of his relationship with the Department of Education. We agree. As a result this work did not comply with the guidelines of our agency and our industry. Under those guidelines, it is clear that we should have encouraged greater disclosure. There was a lapse of judgment in this situation. We regret that this has occurred.
We are taking this matter very seriously and have the following steps underway to make sure that we always meet the existing guidelines of both the agency and the industry.
We are putting in place a new policy for the signing and authorization of contracts with spokespeople.
In agency-wide communications we have underscored our guidelines about how our people should represent our client work to the media.
We have established a central number for our people to call if they have any questions.
We are developing a new process by which we deal with subcontracts. In short, all subcontractors will be expected to abide by the agency's ethical standards.
Over the past ten days we have worked with external legal counsel to investigate the facts associated with our contract with the Department and the Graham Williams Group.
While our review of the situation is still underway, we wanted to let you know where it stands at the moment and reiterate that we would never encourage this type of behavior. We certainly are not pleased by this turn of events and are committed to working with the government and our industry in addressing this situation.
Ketchum has been in existence for more than 80 years. We are proud of our heritage and more importantly we are proud of our values. We have always acted with the highest integrity and are committed to ensuring our colleagues understand and abide by the guidelines under which we operate.