LOS ANGELES: The Boeing Co. last week went on a PR offensive to fend off charges of unethical business practices that could impede its bid for a multibillion-dollar Air Force contract.
Boeing is alleged to have used proprietary information from competitor Lockheed Martin to win a $1.88 billion contract in 1998. The issue has sparked a criminal investigation by the Justice Department and the Air Force, as well as a lawsuit from Lockheed Martin. Consumer and taxpayer groups across the political spectrum have also taken a stand on the issue, asking Congress to delay the Air Force contract until the issue is resolved.
Boeing last week took out a full-page ad in five national newspapers featuring a letter from CEO Phil Condit, stressing the company's commitment to integrity and ethics.
The letter was widely covered by the media, giving Boeing the opportunity to further its two core crisis messages: That unethical behavior is not tolerated at the company, and that the use of the documents was an isolated incident by three employees, said Boeing launch and satellite services director of communications Dan Beck, who is spokesman on the issue.
The letter and the messages were developed in-house by a team of PR staff from across
different Boeing divisions.
"Some people seem to be trying to equate the wrongdoing of a very small handful of Boeing employees with the entire Boeing Company," he explained, denying that the timing of the letter was tied to the Air Force contract. "Unethical practices are not tolerated, and that was important to communicate to our customers in government and to our employees."