Culture of openness should not be feared

When public money is spent on communications it is natural that citizens want to know about it, just as they like to know how every penny of their tax money is dished out. That presents challenges for PR agencies who suddenly see their billing structures opened up for everyone to see.

When public money is spent on communications it is natural that citizens want to know about it, just as they like to know how every penny of their tax money is dished out. That presents challenges for PR agencies who suddenly see their billing structures opened up for everyone to see.

It was highlighted again this Wednesday during a public board meeting of the New York City Off-Track Betting Corporation (OTB), which revealed invoices of the charges for services supplied to the horserace betting organization since it went into Chapter 9 bankruptcy reorganization last year.

The OTB signed a two-year contract with a PR agency and paid it $472,625 from November 2009 through May 2010, charging a rate of $300 per hour.

This is all very interesting for the public, trade journalists and rival agencies, and the first reaction for the agency involved – in this case Edelman, but every services supplier will come up against this scenario at some time or other - may be to bury or hide such information. But it really shouldn't be a reason for embarrassment.

If a company is providing genuine services at a market rate, why should it worry about that being made public? Communications is just as valid an activity as any other and the companies that provide it are entitled to charge a market rate for their services.

The time when the PR industry felt it needed to hide its light under a bushel is well and truly over.

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