NEW YORK: Harris Diamond, chairman of the Council of Public Relations Firms (CPRF), is speaking out to clarify the Council?s position on the Ketchum/Armstrong Williams controversy.
?The Council?s position on ?pay-for-play? has always been that it is something we do not abide,? said Diamond.
Council president Kathy Cripps spoke to PRWeek last week in response to the withdrawal of agency Sloane & Company from the organization. Sloane based his decision, in part, on statements Cripps had given to the New York Times regarding the issue.
?We are sorry that Sloane & Company is leaving the Council,? Cripps told PRWeek in a statement. ?We work hard at addressing the diverse needs of member firms and welcome input from firms of all sizes on ways the Council can better assist them.?
She continued, ?To clarify previous statements, public relations is built on trust and credibility?To that end the industry must provide full disclosure to abide by clearly defined standards of practice.?
In the Times article published Wednesday, Cripps said that Ketchum?s contract to promote the ?No Child Left Behind? act by paying a commentator did not violate the Council?s code of ethics because the onus for full disclosure rested Williams, not Ketchum.
Diamond said that the practice of paying journalists to write or broadcast statements about government or commercial programs, known in industry parlance as ?pay for play,? is something not condoned by the Council.
But Diamond stopped short of condemning Ketchum?s role in the controversy, saying it is not the Council?s job to serve as a disciplinary body. But he commended Ketchum for launching an internal review of government contracts.
Dear Council Members:
In my new role as chairman of the Council of PR Firms, I and the executive committee feel it is important to state the Council's position regarding the Armstrong Williams case that dominated our industry's news while I was in Asia last week.
While the Council is not in a position to review the Department of Education contract, nor should we be, Ketchum has informed us that they are reviewing all of the issues relating to this matter. We all have high regard for the Ketchum management team, and I am confident they will take whatever action is appropriate. We want to make sure that the Council's position is clear: Payments to journalists for specific coverage ("pay for play") is unacceptable.
Our industry often works with third parties, so it is vital for our profession that the integrity of these relationships and associated channels of communication not be compromised.
Public relations firms have worked ethically and productively with government entities for decades. Outreach programs inform the public about important health issues, social programs and other activities of the government, and PR firms play an important role in those programs.
The Council's role is to identify and foster best practices. We will continue to counsel firms individually on various issues of concern. Feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss this matter further.
CEO, Weber Shandwick
2005 chairman, Council of Public Relations Firms