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Reuters Has Some Ebola Crisis Advice for Burson-Marsteller

Texas Health

Pic via Mike Stone/Getty Images

Late yesterday, a writer at Reuters responded to the news that Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital had hired Burson-Marsteller with some very healthy skepticism…directed not at the firm but at its client.

Steven Brill, founder of both Court TV and American Lawyer magazine, notes that hospitals are generally “terrible at dealing with the media,” and he has some not-quite-friendly suggestions.

His basic points:

  • While most of the public has good impressions of hospitals, most don’t realize that this one and its executives make a lot of money, that very little of its revenue (1.3 percent) comes from charity, and that it is “among the most successful businesses in northern Texas”
  • No one seems to know whether a quality-control committee reviews the number of patients who contract infections — Ebola or otherwise
  • The hospital’s position on nonpayment (which obviously applied to the late, uninsured Ebola patient Thomas Harris Duncan, who was sent home after his first trip to the emergency room) has not been made clear

Brill’s suggestion is that “we’re sorry; mistakes were made” statements can only do so much and that Texas Health will have to go far beyond playing basic defense. He even encourages reporters to seek out hospital employees who will address these issues if the organization’s designated spokespeople do not.

We doubt the org will be so open, but for the record we hope journalists on the scene take his advice. Millions of people will be watching.

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Burson-Marsteller Will Help Handle the Texas Ebola Crisis

burson-marstellar-logoWe would have left this bit of news for today’s “Spin the AOR” post, but it’s a big one: a New York Times article shared by our friends at Everything PR revealed that Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital has hired Burson-Marsteller to improve its admittedly poor response to the Ebola crisis.

Note the line near the bottom of the article: “On Friday, the hospital hired Burson-Marsteller, the global public relations firm, to help tell its side.”

While the health org has repeatedly admitted that mistakes were made on both the operational and messaging fronts, news that a second worker has been diagnosed with the condition ensures that the story will only continue to grow.

For reference, the org’s handle has been tweeting links to related resources. The account also released a statement from Nina Pham, the first employee to be diagnosed with Ebola, two days ago:

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Americans OK with Big Business….As Long As It Stays Out of Politics

LOBBYISTS GO HOME

Today we learned of an interesting survey conducted by Burson-Marsteller and CNBC. Its main conclusion: Americans don’t inherently distrust your “Big Business” clients. They just want them to stay the hell out of the political process.

A bit late for that, though…

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Why the Redskins Lost PR Points by Hiring Burson-Marsteller

redskins_facepalmFULL DISCLOSURE: I am a proud former Burson employee.

That said, the Washington Redskins lost whatever integrity they had left when they hired Burson-Marsteller yesterday. Don’t get me wrong, the hire made sense. If B-M is known for anything, it is a powerful one-two combination of public affairs and crisis communications.

Those are two things that team and its thick-headed owner sorely need.

The problem is that Redskins owner Daniel Snyder didn’t hire them to help his football team do the admirable thing. He hired B-M to help his team continue to do the wrong thing.

And there goes his credibility, swirling down the drain.

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More on White House ‘TV Whisperer’ Joining Burson-Marsteller

Dag VegaThanks to Politico, we had the news about former White House “TV Whisperer” Dag Vega leaving the Obama administration to go the PR route several days ago. Now we have the press release.

First: Vega will be managing director of Burson-Marsteller’s Washington, D.C. office effective August 4th, and he will report to Ann Davison, U.S. Chair of Public Affairs & Crisis Practice who joined the firm last month, as well as Jano Cabrera, worldwide executive vice president.

Thanks to a Politico exclusive, we also know that Friday will be his last day at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and that he will take a vacation in Puerto Rico before starting the new gig.

What did Vega do at the White House?

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Politico, Burson-Marsteller Discuss the Future of Journalism

In a perfect world, would the answer to the question “What does the future of journalism look like?” include the word “Politico?”

We’re not sure as we don’t live in a perfect world. But this related conversation between King of Poli-Blogs Mike Allen, Burson-Marsteller’s Worldwide Chair/CEO Don Baer and Alan Murray of the Pew Research Center is still interesting, particularly in the wake of White House “TV Whisperer” Dag Vega’s move from politics to corporate PR. A couple of key quotes from Baer:

“The vast majority of journalists and news organizations still think of themselves as content producers…I think you’ve got to turn that upside down and say ‘what service am I providing you, the reader?’”

And Murray:

“Being provocative to the point of being hostile gets you noticed.”

While we certainly don’t disagree with Murray, we have to wonder whether this is really a good thing (if it means Kara Swisher being bolder in her reporting, then yes. If it means more hyper-partisan op-eds, then no). And if you speculated as to whether political coverage would, in general, grow more or less partisan in coming years, this interview serves as an unfortunately definitive “yes.”

Agency Owners: Does Size Really Matter?

David and GoliathI have been blessed in my career. I cut my teeth at an uber agency — second largest in the world, as a matter of fact. Working and growing there provided me with priceless experience. During that time, life changed and I became a daddy.

Okay, so I’m a big sap and that changed everything. I determined that 85 to 90 percent travel was not going to be a welcomed addition for fatherhood so I was honored to become part of a team a boutique agency, where I have been for the last five years. Needless to say, it was a good choice.

That said, size did matter.

Does it for clients, employees and the media as well? Here are a few things to consider when working with or hiring one sized agency over the other:

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Donald Baer to head Burson-Marsteller; Mark Penn to Microsoft

Donald A. Baer, who served as White House communications director under President Bill Clinton, has been named global chief executive officer of Burson-Marsteller. Baer joined the public-relations firm four years ago and has been serving as vice chairman and chief strategy officer. He succeeds Mark Penn in the top spot at B-M, which boasts 73 offices worldwide.

Meanwhile, Penn, who has been CEO of Burson-Marsteller since 2005, is set to join Microsoft as corporate vice president, strategic and special projects. He has served as an adviser to Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, and was also senior strategist for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

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Tommy Bahama Adds B-M to Its List of Firms

Tommy Bahama has chosen Burson-Marsteller as its international AOR, raising awareness for the company as it expands across Asia in 2012 and 2013. Stores are planned in Macau, Hong Kong, and Singapore, with an additional store/restaurant planned for Tokyo.

B-M regional MD Jackie Prince, based in Hong Kong, is leading the account in Asia. MD Danny Phan is a senior rep in Singapore. B-M has been beefing up its consumer roster recently.

Tommy Bahama has 96 locations in the U.S., but these are the first abroad. The company is working with DKC for the launch of its new New York location, which also includes a restaurant and a bar. And Los Angeles-based Orsi PR has been the company’s domestic AOR for14 years.

B-M Names Tech, Consumer Practice Execs

Sabrina Guttman (right) has been named Burson-Marsteller‘s U.S. technology practice chair. She joined the firm in August 2011 as deputy tech practice chair. She’s also the lead on the company’s SAP account.

Guttman went to B-M from Ruder Finn, where she spent a few short months as that firm’s tech and innovation practice leader. She had previously worked at B-M between 2005 and 2007.

The firm has also named Michelle Stevenson MD of the U.S. consumer and brand marketing practice. Her focus in the position will be on sponsorships, celebrity spokespeople, events, and overall brand building. She’ll also be leading the Saban Brands U.S., The San Diego Zoo, and Konami.

Stevenson was previously SVP and global co-chair of Fleishman-Hillard’s FH Entertainment practice where she led the North American communications for Tourism Australia. Her prior experience at The Lippin Group included work with the Emmy and People’s Choice awards. She’ll be based in Los Angeles.

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