A PR lesson – don’t lie.

October 31, 2007

We thought this one, which might have been missed in London, was worth a look. Pat Philbin the External Affairs Director for the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) learnt a valuable lesson this week… PR is about media management, not about lying.

A FEMA a news conference was called in Washington last week to discuss the response to the Southern California wildfires. The briefing was called at very, very short notice, making it impossible for journalists to attend.

However when the press coverage was screened Vice Adm. Harvey Johnson, the deputy administrator of FEMA was seen fielding numerous questions from the ‘press’. The journalists in the audience turned out to be FEMA employees pretending to be journalists offering up simple questions for their boss.

FEMA later issued an apology.

Quite how the PR team thought they would get away with such a scandalous abuse of trust is another matter, but Philburn who was due to become director of public affairs for National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell last Monday, has been politely told he is no longer required.

Remember, journalists may be bad-tempered, but they’re not stupid, and are more than capable of spotting their colleagues [or not] in a crowd.

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